Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Sunday 18th February


The scene at Sustead Common yesterday, during the live broadcast on Radio Norfolk

It was the Felbeck Trust / NENBC National Nest-box event yesterday at Sustead Common. The day started with a live broadcast on Radio Norfolk and after a cold and foggy start the weather was sunny with clear blue skies throughout. We had a steady stream of visitors, managed to exceed our target by constructing and erecting over 60 boxes in Spurrell’s Wood and raised £670 for our appeal. Not a bad effort – my thanks go to all those who supported the event in any way. Although we were otherwise occupied throughout the day we did managed to get great views of a Woodcock, in the glow of the late afternoon sun – flushed when we went to instal one of the last few boxes!

The nest-box production-line, taken during a much-earned tea-break


It’s not too late to sponsor a nest-box for £20 – just email enquiry@felbecktrust.org.uk


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Friday 16th February


Blue Tit using nest-box at Sustead Common last year

It’s National Nest-box Week and we’re making final preparations for our joint Felbeck Trust / North East Norfolk Bird Club event at Sustead Common tomorrow, from ten till three. Our aim is to make and erect 50 nest-boxes in Spurrell’s Wood, hopefully raising money for our appeal in the process. Nest-boxes are a simple way to provide additional choice of nesting places for birds like Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Robin, Pied Wagtail and House Sparrow. Nowadays we keep the countryside and our gardens much ‘cleaner and tidier’, which means that there are fewer natural nest-sites for the birds. At Spurrell’s Wood, which is a relatively new woodland, nest-boxes are essential to provide sufficient places for the birds to nest. Nest-boxes are also used by birds like Wren as a places of safety to roost during the winter. At Sustead Common last year they also provided a home for Tree Bumblebee – a recent Norfolk colonist!

If you have a free hour tomorrow, come along and see us in action. We’re mid-way along the road between Sustead village green and Aylmerton Field Study Centre.

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Wednesday 14th February


Egyptian Goose on the water meadows at Felbrigg yesterday

Had my last walk out into the park with grandson Patrick before he went back home yesterday. It was still bitterly cold in the wind – more sheltered in the cafe though! Still no real change on the bird front but I was interested to see that the number of Coot on the lake has doubled – to two! The lone Egyptian Goose was on the water meadow. Normally by this time they would be breeding – Egyptian Geese have never really re-set their biological clocks since being introduced into Britain a couple of centuries ago, they must still think that they are in the Med. This one lost it’s mate at the end of last year and has obviously failed to attract another.

Coot numbers have doubled – to two!


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Monday 12th February


The Lonelyleap film crew preparing for the evening shoot

Lonelyleap film productions have been with us all week-end doing a short film about inter-generational birding for the National Trust, based on Felbrigg. There were five in the crew plus the NT photographer. They arrived on Friday night, filmed all day Saturday, until after ten at night, started again at seven yesterday morning and had finished by early afternoon. The weather was mostly overcast or raining with strong winds and Baltic temperatures. The sun did come out for us briefly yesterday at Sustead Common. They were a delightful bunch, very professional – great with Patrick and Noah. The finished article should be ready by the end of the month.

We did actually manage to see a few birds whilst doing the various shoots, including with the Loose-enders Group on Saturday morning. Mostly regular stuff, but Marsh Tit behind the Hall, Wigeon on the lake and a flock of Golden Plover over the sheep pastures yesterday, were of note. At Sustead Common, luckily, there were birds everywhere! On the way back from dropping Jake and Noah off at Kings Lynn bus station, Pat and I saw four different Barn Owl – two in the NENBC recording area. An interesting but exhausting weekend. Off for a stint at Cley NWT today.

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Friday 9th February


Adult breeding Cormorant, Felbrigg Lake. There were a lot moving west at Cley on Monday. The white flank spot and head-frosting being particularly evident on this individual

It’s been a cold, wet, wintery week here. Not bad enough though to deter the loyal band of Felbeck Trust volunteers from doing some more useful work at Spurrell’s Wood on Wednesday. I did manage to get into the park this morning – very wet under front and very few birds of note. I spent some time around the Hall looking for Hawfinch but without success. I did locate a feeding flock of winter thrush on the sheep pastures – 50+ Redwing and 30 Fieldfare. The former always less approachable than the latter – hence no photos. At the lake, the recent cold snap has had the opposite to the desired effect – driving duck off rather than attracting them in. I counted 15 Tufted Duck – including the two hybrids, the usual 70+ Gadwall and a few Teal. No Wigeon. It doesn’t bode well for tomorrows Loose-enders group walk or the National Trust filming this weekend – we’ll have to cross our fingers and hope for the best.

Optic fibre comes to Felbrigg Hall – I’ll have to see if I can tap into their cable – just joking!


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Monday 5th February


Fieldfare on the sheep pastures in front of Felbrigg Hall

There was the occasional sunny spell between sleety showers yesterday afternoon, allowing me to get out into the park for the first time in over a week. I headed towards the Hall first, to check out the Hawfinch. To my surprise, the lone female was obligingly sitting atop her usual tree behind The Orangery. I managed a few poor record shots – you never know when the next opportunity will present itself. I walked down through the sheep pastures to the Weaver’s Way and from there, down to the lake. The number of winter thrushes has definitely increased in the past week – I saw at least 150 Redwing and 100 Fieldfare in scattered groups. Not much change at the lake but the number of Tufted Duck is still creeping up – I counted 45 including the two Tufted x Ferruginous hybrids. There were nearly ninety Gadwall, four Wigeon and a few Teal – more by the time I reached the water meadow. Still no winter ‘diving duck’ yet – perhaps the cold weather this week will bring something in. I was just stood talking to Mark & Amanda, by the viewing screen bridge, when two ducks flew in low over the lake from the south. I managed to get my binoculars on them before they disappeared into the over-hanging trees by the island – a nice pair of Mandarin. My first at Felbrigg this year. Despite doing another circuit of the lake I couldn’t pick them up again.

We’re off to Cley NWT this morning, where it promises to be cold and wet!

Yet another record shot of Hawfinch – but who knows when we’ll see them next?


Not quite the American duck species we’ve been seeing over the past week in The Azores but a nice view of one of the two Tufted x Ferruginous Duck hybrids on the lake


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Sunday 4th February


Now wouldn’t this be a sight on Felbrigg Lake! Three species of American duck in one view – Ring-necked Duck, Redhead & Lesser Scaup!

We’re back after a week birding on the Atlantic archipelago of The Azores. I’ve posted a few photos from our trip on TrevorOnTour. Looking forward to getting back to ‘local patch’ birding very soon – weather permitting.