Aylmerton Nature Diary


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Friday 18th October

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A Long-tailed Tit flock – Felbrigg Park

An early morning walk in Felbrigg produced little of note before the rain started. I did come across several small mixed tit flocks, including Blue, Great and Long-tailed, as well as Robin, Chiffchaff, Dunnock and Goldcrest. Plenty of gulls on the sheep pastures but restricted to just three species – Black-headed, Common & Herring. I forgot to mention in my last blog a most surprising observation whilst leading the National Trust bird walk. We were approaching the church when we saw a Rook pluck a spiking nut casing from the branch of a nearby Sweet Chestnut tree and fly off with it to the ground. We couldn’t tell if it manage to open the casing but it and another Rook certainly gave it some serious attention.

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Thursday 17th October

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There’s a nice array of autumn fungi in Felbrigg at present – including Shaggy Inkcap

It was Felbrigg bird walks day yesterday – NENBC in the morning, with nearly twenty members attending, followed by National Trust in the afternoon, which eleven people  had booked on. For the second month running it was exceptionally quiet, with almost as many people as we had on our combined species list! A skein of early morning Pink-feet and few Redwing were the the most interesting birds during the drizzly morning session. Things improved slightly in the afternoon with three different Little Owl calling towards the end of our walk – alas we didn’t see any of them! But the main purpose of the walks is to introduce people of all levels of birding ability to the wildlife of Felbrigg and to that end a number of participants saw birds which they’d never seen before, including Redwing, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Gadwall. As befits the season and the weather there were a few interesting fungi about though. There’s a good display of Parasol Mushrooms – some the size of dinner plates, a few Shaggy Inkcaps and that unmistakable smell of autumn decay coming from phallus impudicus in the woods.


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Tuesday 15th October

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iPhone record shot of a male Pintail on Arnold’s Marsh yesterday

There were a few birds of interest around Cley yesterday but it was mostly quiet. A juvenile female Peregrine flew west over Arnold’s Marsh before alighting on a fence post for a few minutes. Frustratingly it never turned around so I couldn’t see if it was our colour-ringed Cromer girl! A nice male Pintail, again on Arnold’s, and an elusive Jack Snipe on Snipe’s Marsh were the other highlights. A Yellow-browed Warbler called briefly in Walsey Hills but I failed to pin it down… again!

More record shots I’m afraid of Peregrine and Jack Snipe

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Sunday 13th October

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Record shot of a female Merlin over Felbrigg this morning – a ‘Felbrigg tick’ for me

We got back from the New Forest in time for an all-day Felbeck Trust work-party on Thursday, at our new West Beckham Old Allotments site. Before we got started a juvenile Peregrine – presumably one of the Cromer birds – drifted west across the field. A nice ‘welcome home’. Yesterday was my first opportunity to do any ‘extended patch’ birding. It was, of course, the Bird Club’s annual Coordinated Sea-watch – I was leading the Cromer East Cliffs contingent. With a gentle off-shore breeze, flat calm sea and 95% visibility it was unlikely to produce anything really good. Best birds were a single Manx Shearwater, up to forty Sandwich Tern and a small flock of Brambling ‘in off’. Two Peregrines were sat on the church tower throughout  – probably juvenile male & female -and two Siskin passed overhead as we walked back up Cliff Avenue.

It was ‘duck count’ day this morning so I waited for the drizzle to subside before finally venturing out into the park for the first time in over a week. There were no wildfowl highlights to speak of but a female Merlin, which flew fast north-east over the water meadows, was a Felbrigg tick for me! Unfortunately, by the time I’d got my camera out of it’s waterproof carrier bag the bird had nearly disappeared. There were a few gulls bathing on the lake, with many more roosting on the sheep fields between the church and the hall. With careful scrutiny of the flock I managed to find my ‘annual’ Felbrigg Mediterranean Gull. But it’s been a ‘bitter sweet’ week for Felbrigg birding – in my absence Nick managed to stumble across a splendid Snow Bunting – only the third record for the park. Well done Nick – grnaash! (I learned later that the bird had in fact been found by the Morrisons the day before – very well done Pete & Sue. It only makes the pain worse mind!)

A superb Snow Bunting this week in Felbrigg – only the third ever record. Photo courtesy of Nick Kimber

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Adult winter Mediterranean Gull with hundreds of Black-headed and Common

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Post Script: Browsing through some old photos I came across some of the Black Tern at Weybourne last year. I thought they’d make an interesting comparison with my recent encounter with it’s American cousin.

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Tuesday 8th October

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Out of county birding – the American Black Tern in Hampshire! Key id features of dusky flanks, thick shoulder patch, extensive pale fore-head and dark ‘ear-muffs’ all showing well

Well we’re staying in Hampshire so it would have been rude not to call in on the American Black Tern at Longham Lakes yesterday afternoon. Despite the pouring rain the bird showed well as it did several passes of the viewing point. Not yet a full split (by BOURC) so not the much anticipated 400th UK tick for Jane but a very nice bird all the same. Last one of these things I saw was at Covenham Reservoir, and before that the Hayle bird – before any of us knew what we were looking at!

Another view, showing the striking head pattern and the uniform back & rump

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Monday 7th October

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Raven in Hungerford – how long before we’ve got them in Cromer?

This is a little ‘off topic’ but I couldn’t resist bringing you this post. We’re on our way down to the New Forest to meet up with my brother and his wife, over from Australia. Yesterday, we broke the journey at Hungerford to get some lunch and have a mooch around the various antiques emporiums and the local food market. We’d just returned to Tescos car park when I heard a loud ‘cronking’ coming from over the wall. I looked up and there, on the roof of the Royal Mail buildings, was a Raven! Talking to a few locals, apparently they breed nearby. Earlier in the year I posted photos of the first breeding birds in North Norfolk – how long before they’re established in Cromer?

Yesterday’s early morning sea-watch off the Cromer east cliffs was a dismal affair – plenty of rain and virtually no birds. Most interesting record was a couple of small groups of Lapwing heading east.


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Saturday 5th October

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Early morning silhouette of Cormorant over Felbrigg Lake

An early morning walk in Felbrigg yesterday produced my first Redwing of the autumn – three distant birds over the Great Wood managed to escaped the camera lens. Wildfowl numbers on the lake / water meadows are creeping up, with a dozen Gadwall and a few Teal present. Wintering Cormorant numbers are also slowly increasing – there were 14 still roosting on the island, with ten flying over. There were a pair of Sparrowhawk on the edge of Common Plantation receiving the attention of several Jay, Magpie and Carrion Crow. At one point the resident female Kestrel joined in the melee. Skylark were more in evidence on the sheep pastures as I walked towards the church and the wintering gull flock – mostly Black-headed with a dozen or more Common – numbered a couple of hundred. A pair of Bullfinch and a calling Chiffchaff up the lane completed a pleasant if somewhat under-whelming walk. Today I’m leading an Autumn Migration workshop at Cley NWT – let’s hope there are some migrants to look at!