Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Harrier fly-past


One of two distant Marsh Harriers, south over Felbrigg Park

Went for a quick walk round Felbrigg Park before the bird club meeting. Loads of winter thrushes – mostly Blackbird and Redwing but quite a few Fieldfare mixed in. I’d arrived at the bridge by the upper sluice when I heard a wagtail calling as it flew into the back of the wet meadow. I quickly located a fabulous winter male Pied Wagtail with very distinct breast and throat markings and a lovely pale lemon face. In the distant sky I could see a raptor of some sort, flapping and gliding south along the eastern perimeter of the park – juvenile/female Marsh Harrier I concluded before it was finally lost to view. Half an hour later I’d reached the rough grazing below the dam when a second bird flew through on almost the same trajectory. Two in one day – that’s pretty good by Felbrigg standards.

Stunning Pied Wagtail, with distinctive winter plumage 



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Wednesday 29th October


Sunset over Aylmerton parish

Having spent the morning showing a visiting birder from Nigeria the delights of Cley NWT it was late afternoon before I got out around the parish. Most of the small birds had gone to bed but I did see several Reed Buntings going to roost in the reed bed at Felbrigg Lake. Wildfowl numbers were pretty much as at the weekend with c.50 Mallard, 9 Teal, pr Gadwall, a Coot and the usual family party of two adult Mute Swan and their six offspring – at dusk they were joined by a visiting Mute Swan. In the cow field by the allotments I was surprised to see two Egyptian Geese and over the house a Sparrowhawk being ‘mobbed’ by Goldfinch.


A Touch of Déjà vu


One of two Little Egret seen together over Felbrigg Lake

The current run of unseasonably warm weather continues here, so I went for an early morning walk in the sunshine. There didn’t appear to be much happening down the lane but perhaps it was still too cool to expect much. I decided to take the ‘middle’ path to the Lake as the ‘new’ path would still be in shadow. There were plenty of Meadow Pipits in the rough grass, occasionally flying up to a solitary hawthorn bush. I watched them coming and going before another bird, in the back of the bush, caught my attention. I recognised the russet tones as those of a Brambling and sure enough, when it came to sit on one of the side branches, I could confirm the id. Not my first in Felbrigg this autumn but my first in Aylmerton parish! It showed a characteristic white rump as it flew to the alders by the Lake. At that moment I glanced up to see an egret circling over the beck – a touch of déjà vu from the other morning, only this time it was only a Little Egret. Later I watched two together circling the Lake – first time I’ve seen more than one at this site – how long before they breed here I wonder? At the dam a Grey Wagtail feeding by the sluice and three Bullfinch in the nearby hedge. Two Tufted Duck were the only wildfowl interest on the Lake. Water Rail squealing from the reed bed and three Teal on the water meadow – there were nine here on Sunday. Not a bad morning’s birding.

Brambling, first of the autumn in Aylmerton parish


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A sunny Saturday afternoon


Just back from a few days away so thought I’d better get out on the ‘patch’. Nothing of particular interest up the Loke or on my return down Mill Lane. There are a few late flowers hanging on and the mixed flock of Gulls, Corvids and Wood pigeons on the stubble fields seems to keep growing. Disturbed a big dog Fox in the rough marshy pasture by the side of Scarrow Beck. A pair of Gadwall on the Lake were new – also a very white-throated female, possibly with a bit of  mixed blood? Two Snipe on the new marsh and a Bullfinch in the hedge on the way home. Lovely to be out in the late afternoon sunshine – not for much longer I suspect.

Reynard in retreat


Part of the increasing flock of Starlings wintering in Felbrigg Park


Black-headed Gulls enjoying a pre-roost bath – spot the Common Gull


Shooting activity has increased over the past week or so – this guy was looking decidedly nervous




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Just my luck…

I looked at the weather forecast last night and saw that we were due strong westerlies with rain overnight and thought it might be interesting to get out on the patch first-thing. Up early but it was still blowing a gale and I quickly became pre-occupied with other things. By about eight it had eased off so I decided to brave it – leaving my telephoto camera behind to avoid it getting wet (..stupid boy!) Nothing of interest down the lane, nor on the path to the Lake, which resulted in me taking a couple of photos of parasol fungi, on my compact camera, for the blog. I was just talking to the woman who feeds the horses when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed an egret fly in from the direction of the dam and land on the wet meadow, above the new sluice. Little Egret are becoming more frequent visitors to the park and I’d already started to mentally draft this mornings blog, when something set alarm bells ringing – the size, shape and style of flight weren’t quite right. I had a hunch this was going to be interesting – I crept down the bramble hedge to get a better view and there, 50 metres away, was a Great White Egret! An adult winter bird with  menacing dagger-like yellow-orange bill, black legs, long white kinked neck. Almost immediately it took flight, flew up the beck and away over the trees towards the village. I did a circuit round the woods and returned half an hour later, just in case – but nothing. A very brief appearance of what I suspect might turn out to be a ‘first for Felbrigg’. (‘First’ for me for certain but I’ve already been told of at least one previous sighting – that’s the benefit of this ‘Community of interest”!)

By the time I’d fired up my compact camera this was the only shot I managed to take. Just my luck..

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Just thinking what might have been… if only I’d have taken my telephoto!


Not surprisingly, very little else to report from the mornings walk – partly because my mind was else where but also because there wasn’t much! Here though are those parasol fungi I was photographing before I was so rudely distracted!


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Saturday, 18th October


Long-tailed Tit, Felbrigg Park

Walked round Felbrigg Park in the morning with a group of friends from Gresham. Similar birds to the previous day, with winter thrushes and tit flocks most in evidence. Two adult winter Herring Gull feeding on the fields by the church and a Chiffchaff near the Hall were of interest. In the afternoon I walked the southern boundary of the parish, between Aylmerton and Gresham. The Woodpigeon flock in the stubble fields at the back of Park Hall Farm has increased to about 400 and there were plenty of gulls on the new plough off Cooper’s Lane. In the park, Teal numbers on the marsh have increased to five and a couple of Snipe came in at dusk. A Grey Wagtail was near the Lake. There was a steady movement of Chaffinch, west, throughout the afternoon – I must have seen five small flocks of 8-10 birds. Water Rail were again squealing from the reed bed and the Bullfinch were calling in The Street on my return home.

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Friday 17th October

I had the pleasure of walking round Felbrigg Park this morning with the local U3A bird group – about a dozen in all. The birding got off to a good start, with two pairs of Bullfinch, feeding in the Birch trees by the Lodge car park – although a regular species in the park they’re never predictable and often rather shy. Unfortunately the birding thereafter was rather average, with flocks of Redwing, Marsh Tit, two Snipe, Common Buzzard, Nuthatch and a couple of mixed Tit flocks being the highlights. I did see another Bullfinch up the lane, on my way home and a Sparrowhawk as I was on my way to meet the group. Oh and I also came across this fellow, by the farm buildings, along the track from the church!


 Nice eyes, shame about the ears!


At the allotment this afternoon, a late Red Admiral and a Cormorant flying over towards Felbrigg Lake.

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Winter arrivals


A sun dog over Felbrigg lake this afternoon

Took a leisurely walk around the east side of the parish this afternoon. Six Common Buzzard over Felbrigg Great Wood, several Goldcrest in the woods, a couple of Sparrowhawks, in the farm yard behind the walled garden a sizeable flock of Chaffinch with a single male Brambling – first for the autumn, but strictly speaking not within the parish, a couple of Egyptian Geese, c30 Common Gull feeding on the field by the church, 40+ Meadow Pipit – all in the same small hawthorn below the dam, Little Owl sunning itself and, on the way home a flock of 50 Redwing along the inflow.

There were several Goldcrest in the Great Wood


Although the Hornet’s nest, reported earlier, seems now to have been abandoned, there are still a few of these gorgeous insects about


Record shot of the first returning Brambling of the winter


One of about 50 Redwing, feeding on Hawthorn, along the banks of Scarrow Beck


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Tuesday 14th October

With the recent change in the weather there’s been quite a bit of bird migration taking place, with moderate numbers of Ring Ouzel appearing along the coast. With this in mind I thought this morning I’d better check out a few of their favourite haunts around the parish. Alas, I didn’t find any but I did bump into several small flocks of Song Thrush, probably 15+ birds in total – definitely an autumn influx. Best bird however was this nice autumn Wheatear, which looked rather chunky and rufous breasted – possibly Greenland race?


Other stuff of interest included a couple of Siskin, Marsh Tit in a favoured spot near the bird ‘blind’ by the Lake, Sparrowhawk, two Egyptian Geese and a few more Meadow Pipits than usual.