Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Thursday 21st March

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First birds of interest on our Felbrigg NENBC mid-week walk – a pair of Oystercatcher 

Yesterday was Felbrigg walks day – NENBC mid-week walk in the morning, followed by National Trust Bird Walk in the afternoon. Highlights of the first were a pair of Oystercatcher on the water meadows – my first here this year, the usual assortment of ducks – though the numbers are declining rapidly if not the variety, three singing Chiffchaff – my first of the Spring and an obliging Little Owl in the Oak at the south-east corner of the dam – eventually seen by all 25+ in the group. Over lunch I found singing Firecrest at the back of the Hall – subsequently relocated on the NT walk. Other highlights included a second Little Owl – in Oaks near the Hall, and more singing Chiffchaff. A pretty birdy day over all.

The day’s highlight – a singing Firecrest


First singing Chiffchaff of the Spring – there were three+ around the lake


Other wildlife interest included several species of butterfly – here is Red Admiral


and frog / toad spawn, which always seems to appear out of nowhere



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Monday 18th March


At last – a new bird on the patch – female Pintail, Felbrigg water meadows

After the horrible weather of last week – most of which we missed fortunately – it was good to get back into the park for an early morning walk. Most of the birding interest was on the water meadows – where the water levels remain high. The usual selection of wildfowl, but this time including a couple of the Tufted x Ferruginous Duck hybrids – one probably second generation – and a nice surprise – a female Pintail! There’s only been a handful of records of this species at Felbrigg, which is perhaps surprising given the regular wintering flock just along the coast at Cley. Other Felbrigg highlights included two Water Rail calling to each other from the reed-bed and several resident species in full song – one Mistle Thrush could be heard half way across the park. At Cley NWT the highlight was a superb male Wheatear – my first summer migrant of 2019. Supporting cast included Barnacle & White-fronted Geese still, Snow Buntings and the sub-adult Peregrine.

First generation hybrid Tufted x Ferruginous Duck – note the dusky flanks with pale edging, chestnut ‘mullet’ on an otherwise green head and the pale lemon eye


and now, what I suspect is 2nd generation – this one with a white ‘backside’ but messy front end (right-hand bird)


finally, ‘bird of the day’ at Cley NWT – male Wheatear, taken with iPhone


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Sunday 17th March


Peregrine still on Cromer church – photo courtesy of Andy Hale

We’ve been away on a mini-break, touring the West Country and South Coast, looking at National Trust properties built or renovated during the Arts & Crafts period. I’ll put a post on TrevorOnTour in the next few days, with some photos. Fortunately it doesn’t look like I’ve missed out on much nature watching here – although there have been continuing reports of Peregrine on or around Cromer church over the past couple of days! If these are just wintering birds they should really have departed by now.

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Wednesday 13th March


Captured on my phone – Red Kite over East Beckham Common

We had a good start to our Felbeck Trust work-party yesterday – click this link for a report of what our volunteers achieved. As we were parking the cars, a Red Kite drifted overhead – doing a slow waltz in the wind. This is a first record for the site since we started recording there last year.


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Tuesday 12th March


iPhone photo of Yellow-legged Gull with colour-ringed GBBG – yesterday, Cley NWT

The weather at Cley NWT yesterday was sunny but windy, making the birding cold and difficult! Geese & Gulls were the high-light, with family groups of both Barnacle and White-fronted Geese still on the Eye Field for most of the day and two colour-ringed gulls – 2nd winter? Greater Black-backed (JX118) and probable Herring (Yellow & black on r.leg) – and an adult Yellow-legged Gull. I’m bracing myself for today’s Felbeck Trust work-party at East Beckham Common – heavy rain and 50 mph winds forecast!

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Sunday 10th March


Wigeon, with Greylag – the water meadows, Felbrigg. It won’t be long before they depart

Yesterday morning I took a group of ‘Loose- enders’ on a walk around Sustead village and showed them what Felbeck Trust volunteers had been doing lately in Spurrell’s Wood. On my way there, through the park, there was the usual Spring chorus of resident birds and the regular, though diminishing selection of wildfowl. Five Wigeon and the pair of Shoveler on the water meadow, with five Tufted Duck. The lake held six more Tufted and the couple of Coot –  I assume they’re a pair. As I walked on through Common Plantation a Red Kite was ‘sparring’ with five displaying Buzzard. There was quite a movement of Buzzards on Friday – including 25 over Beeston, as per MC. Birding high-lights of the walk itself were a couple of mixed flocks, found at various points on the route, which included, in addition to the usual four species of tit, Goldcrest and Treecreeper. In a small flock of Goldfinch, near Tudor House, a lone female Siskin was feeding on Willow catkins. They’ve proved surprisingly scarce since New Year – perhaps we’ll get a late return movement next month. It’s pouring with rain at the moment so more indoor jobs in prospect.

Red Kite ‘sparring’ with one of five displaying Buzzard over Common Plantation


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Thursday 7th March


Female Shoveler – looking particularly pale against the dark background of the water meadows yesterday

I walked back from Cromer, through Felbrigg Park, on Tuesday afternoon in glorious sunshine – no birds. I had to go to The NT Woodyard yesterday morning so continued, in the cold and rain, to walk around the lake – still no birds! We’re in that gap again between most of our winter birds departing and the summer visitors not yet arriving. Accordingly there was very little on the lake or water-meadows to get excited about – a pair of Coot on the lake, a pair of Shoveler and a few Wigeon on the water-meadows was the best I could muster. Things can only improve!