Saturday, December 30, 2006

Aylmerton - A year of Wildlife

So as the year draws to a close it seems only fitting to have a look back at the natural highlights of the past year in Aylmerton. The year was notable for being the hottest on record with a scorcher of a summer, although the spring and August were pretty wet! Birdwise it was full of excellent sightings, with a garden Year List of 84 and two new garden birds (Little Owl and Quail) bringing the garden list up to a respectable 126.
The real eye-opener for me was the moth-ing, starting at the beginning of the year I was hopeful of catching the odd nice looking beasty, but was amazed at what was actually achieved throughout the months, it really was good fun! So as one year passes, another begins, and it starts all over again...can't wait!

Pink- footed Geese over on New Years Day

The pond in January

Our Barn Owl in the 1st winter period

Snipe in Feb

And again...

One of the first moths- Spring Usher

I'ld forgotten the first day of March!

Golden Plover on 'south' fields

Couple of welcome garden visitors, Goldfinch and Siskin

Great Diving Beetle, caught in the moth trap

My first Parish Stonechat in March

Moths picking up in April- a lovely Oak Beauty

Wheatear- one of the first Spring migrants

Another Beauty, this time Pine

Ring Ouzel just before a Little Egret flew by!

Common Cranes- April is THE time to see Cranes over Aylmerton

Red Deer putting on a good show

The two Dotterel on May 5th were my personal highlight

Little Owl, at last!

Broad-bodied Chaser on the pond.

Summer of Moths

Hey-ho Happy Days

Singing Quail!!!

It was a good year for Hummingbird Hawkmoth's

Red Kite - we saw four this year

Hobby - up to three in Sept

Convolvulous Hawkmoth - super-duper migrant moth!

Merville du Jour - class!

Pink- footed Geese over Aylmerton, a year full circle.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wafer thin Mint, Sir?

After the annual ritural of gastric gluttony over the past two days, it really was time to get out, if only to get the blood recirculating again and to ensure the legs still worked!
We started off at dawn at Cley nature reserve, which had confirmed the local saying that 'eventually everything comes to Cley' by being the latest site to become temporary residence of the Black-eared Kite that we saw in Lincolnshire last month! We watched it as it came off the roost with several Marsh Harriers then promptly ponked itself on a bush in the middle of the marsh and the murk (the latter of which was a constant feature of the day!) It then showed well in flight, almost constantly being harassed by a Marsh Harrier which gave great comparisons and then disappeared over the West Bank (of Cley, not Palestine!).

Black-eared Kite (honest!)

We then headed off down to Salthouse to NOT see the White-rumped Sandpiper as usual, just a few Ruff, Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit with plenty of Wigeon, Teal and Brent geese.

Next stop was Stiffkey Saltmarsh where we were hoping for a few raptors but the whole area was extremely quiet birdwise, we did manage a couple of Marsh Harriers, a nice covey of Grey Partridge and a Little egret in every field of view. Most notable for their absence were Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl.
We then moved on to Cockthorpe Airfield where a Black Brant was showing well with some Brent. These are the American/ east Siberian version of our Brent geese and are best identified by their bigger necklace and a smart white blaze down the flanks. The presence of offspring of mixed parentage however has made the ID of pure birds somewhat trickier! We also noted rather distict white eyelids to this bird (all?)

Black Brant

Showing comparison with Dark-bellied Brent Geese

As we were watching the Brant a nice ring tail Hen harrier quartered over the fields, sending all the local birds in to panic as it drifted off west.

We finally moved on to Holkham Gap and fresh marsh hoping for a hatfull of winter birds but failed dismally, we had not forseen the hoards of doggy-walkers (an average of three dogs per family!) and fellow gutbusters trying to do the same as us ! From the Washington hide we did manage Common Buzzard, another Marsh Harrier, a white flecked Sparrowhawk, thousands of dabbling duck, 1 male Goldeneye, and four! Yes four Pink footed Geese. Also here in the fading light, a second Black Brant was seen, this one overall browner with a less distinct flank patch than the first. We returned home colder but I think I heard my arteries sigh a sigh of relief! Oh joy cold Turkey for tea!!!


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Saturday pm

With Josh having a matinee performance of the school panto, I was able to have a ride along the coast before returning to pick him up. I called into Salthouse first, with my pager alerting me to the current presence of a White -rumped Sandpiper on the flood meadow here (an American visitor that has actually been here since the autumn) Unbelievably as I arrived the birds on said meadow all took to the air in mass panic, with a Sparrowhawk speeding low over the field. I say unbelievably, because it was my motor that disturbed the Sparrowhawk sitting on a roadside post! Typical! Once gone, the birds started to drift back, and with only one small wader returning I immediately focused my scope...on a Dunlin!
I continued onto the beach carpark and just managed a very distant back end view of a Balearic Shearwater, as it had just passed close offshore! Scanning out to sea therewere many Red-throated Divers and auks and superb views of an immature Great Northern Diver as it actively (very actively!) fished in the surf under some fishing rods! Also here a couple of flurries of Snow bunting and an out of season Arctic Skua.
Carrying on, I stopped off at Cley and headed for Daukes Hide on the reserve having recently heard about (pun intended!) a loop system having been installed here for people hard of hearing or being hearing aid users. Falling in the latter category I often find that half the time loop systems are displayed as being present anywhere they don't work, but this one just worked fine and a big thumbs up to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Anyway by now the sun was quickly on its down turn from not being very high in the first place, and with the hide to myself I could take a few pics in peace.

Shoveler gaudy but gorgeous


Wintering Avocets

Wonderful Wigeon

Ruddy Shelduck... from where, nobody knows!

Marsh Harrier a first year bird

Damn you Sparrowhawk!

This year Sheringham, next year Broadway!