Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Wednesday 29th April


This afternoons pair of Ring Ouzel, Felbrigg Park

Having spent the morning cutting the grass at the allotment, whilst dodging the showers, I decided to spend the afternoon on a slow walk round the west and south of the parish. I had a vague hope that the current changeable weather would have dropped something in, so I set off to first check-out the field reservoir. Nothing obvious when I approached the bank, just one of the resident Khaki Cambell ducks and a pair of Tufted Duck. There were a surprising number of large gulls loafing on the adjacent newly ploughed field – five Herring Gull and three Lesser Black-backed. I’d just about given up hope of anything else when I noticed a small bird sat on the far bank. I went to get a better look and as I did a Common Sandpiper took off and flew to the opposite bank – the ‘small’ bird turned out to be a nice female Wheatear! Along School Lane and into Felbrigg Park, via Keeper’s Cottage, stopping to watch a couple of Muntjac on the way. Down through Common Plantation to the rough grazing paddock bisected by Scarrow Beck. I heard my first Cuckoo of the year calling from somewhere beyond the woods and a lone Snipe was flushed from the stream side. Nothing new on the lake but the number of Sand Martin has gone up from yesterday to perhaps 50. A Marsh Tit was busy around the viewing screen – the first I’ve seen here for some weeks. I spent some time on the bridge by the sluice listening to a lone Reed Warbler, ‘chuntering’ in the reed bed. A pair of Whitethroat chased each other around the hawthorn bushes but there was no sign of any Ring Ouzel in their usual spot. A Buzzard and Sparrowhawk provided the only arial interest. I was making my way home through the shelter belt when I noticed two thrush-like birds fly up into a nearby tree. To my surprise they were a male and female Ring Ouzel – different birds to those of last night. This is the nineteenth day when this otherwise rare visitor to Felbrigg has graced the park – it can’t go on for much longer, surely!

Male Ring Ouzel


Female Ring Ouzel




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Monday 27th April

I was volunteering at Cley NWT all day so it was late afternoon before I managed to get into Felbrigg for the first time since our return from Scotland. Although it was still sunny the air temperature was more like the Arctic and most of the small birds had presumably gone to roost. All except Ring Ouzel that is which, to my complete surprise, are still present in some numbers on the water meadow. I saw five together at one point but think there could be as many as eight still in the area. Interestingly they mostly seem to be immature males and females, no adult males that I could find. I saw a couple of Snipe, the pair of Oystercatcher, a handful of duck including Tufted, Mallard, Gadwall & Teal and my first few Swallow of the year, feeding over the lake, but nothing much else of note. The Barn Owl was hunting over the rough pasture at the bottom of The Street, on my way to the park.

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Sunday 26th April

Arrived back home, from our ten day birding trip to Scotland, yesterday afternoon (click here for photos) and bumped into Tim & Dawn and Lee who kindly updated me on wildlife events in the parish whilst we were away. Apparently the peak count of Ring Ouzel in Felbrigg Park reached an unbelievable 14! I also missed Common Sandpiper, Whinchat and a female Redstart, found by Tim & Dawn, in the hedge south of the horse paddock – I still need Redstart for my parish list! Oh well, all things considered I haven’t missed too much and I’m looking forward to getting out over the next few days, as Spring migration gets into full flow.

Not the Redstart I missed in the parish on Sunday but one we found in the fog a couple of days ago on Holy Island:


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Thursday 16th April



Adult male Ring Ouzel – one of three birds present on NENBC mid-week walk

Yesterday my neighbour came round before breakfast to say that they’d heard a Cuckoo at Felbrigg, whilst out walking their dogs. Just my luck as I’d decided not to go out first thing, as I was leading the NENBC mid-week walk later in the day! Not surprisingly, when we did get out in the park, there was no sign or sound of it. We did however enjoy a good walk – 22 people in total, and saw some really good birds. The highlights being Red Kite with a group of four Buzzard, a pair of Mandarin on the lake, Snipe on the water meadow and, best of all, Ring Ouzel. I was doubtful about our prospects of seeing Ring Ouzel, as it had been nearly a week since it was first reported. We had a good look on our way down to the lake but saw nothing. On our return across the sluice one of our sharp-eyed group members saw a male Ring Ouzel on the grass bank, east of the water meadow. As we watched, another young, browner, male appeared. Finally, as we walked along the top track, attempting to get better views, a female flew and perched in a hawthorn bush. Three Ring Ouzel at Felbrigg – it doesn’t get much better than that!

I’ve just come back this morning from an early morning walk. Both male Ring Ouzel are still present – that’s a whole week they’ve been here. Other birds of interest on the lake included the pair of Shelduck, two pairs of Mandarin, ten Tufted Duck and six Gadwall.

Great-spotted Woodpecker, male – taken at dawn, Felbrigg park


Pair of Shelduck, Felbrigg water meadow


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Monday 13th April

Spent the day at Cley NWT, so it was early evening before I could manage to get down to Felbrigg. Took the path through the oak shelter belt towards the lake and, to my  surprise, I quickly located the male Ring Ouzel on the opposite bank of the water meadow field. Continuing down to the lake the immature male Goldeneye was still present and two males and a female Mandarin Duck swam out from the bank by the screen. We rounded the next corner and amazingly another pair of Mandarin were disturbed from their tree-stump roost! As we approached the oak trees at the far end of the dam the Little Owl was calling. It flew to the ivy covered tree and when I took a closer look I could see a second bird. Could it be that the male’s incessant calling has finally attracted another mate! From the path above the water meadow we counted five Lapwing and a single Snipe, no further sign of the Ring Ouzel though.

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On this day..

On this day, a year ago, I found a Red-rumped Swallow in the parish! It was at Felbrigg lake, along with a mass of Sand Martin & Swallow. How different things are this year, having seen my first of the latter two species, only yesterday evening. Still you never know what’s going to turn up, or where!

Red-rumped Swallow, Felbrigg 2014


For the full account, use this link to TrevorOnTour.

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Saturday 11th April

Went back to Felbrigg park this evening to look for the Ring Ouzel – no luck this time. On the water meadow a Snipe and two Oystercatcher were of interest. Mandarin were on the lake and a second pair flew in at dusk – no sign of the hybrid Aythya though. There were three Swallow feeding over the rough grazing below the dam and five – seven Sand Martin came through, heading north. A Red Kite drifted west at tree top height near the lake. The Little Owl was calling from it’s usual tree near the dam.

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Six Thrush sp. before Breakfast!


Ring Ouzel – all six British thrushes before breakfast!

I was up early to check if the male Ring Ouzel was still in Felbrigg Park. As I walked down the lane there was a Song Thrush eating worms on the road and several Blackbird in the paddock by the allotment track. As I got near to the back gate a flock of ten Fieldfare flew over. I spent some time looking for the Ring Ouzel, where we’d left it last night – in the hawthorns north of the water meadow. Alas there was no sign so I decided to check the lake for the odd Aythya. As I got to the gate by the warren a male Ring Ouzel whizzed by me and appeared to drop onto the field behind the gorse. Again, I looked but couldn’t find the bird and then it appeared over the skyline, being chased by a male Blackbird, and landed atop a hawthorn at the western edge of the water meadow. Whilst I was watching it a Mistle Thrush flew onto the ground in front of the shelter belt. I returned again to the lake to get better shots of the hybrid Tufted x Ferruginous (following overnight comments and better views, this now seems a more plausible identification) and on my way back home I watched a large group of thrushes land on the field between the lake and the church. Amongst the seventy or so Fieldfare were a couple of Redwing – all six regular British Thrush species before breakfast!

Other birds of interest included a Barn Owl hunting through the shelter belt, two Shelduck which just flew through, a pair of Mandarin, four Snipe, two male Reed Bunting, three Lapwing and a pair of Shoveler.

When I got home and checked, it turns out that Ring Ouzel was my 100th species recorded in the parish since I started this blog back in September. A nice bird to bring up the century!


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The last couple of days


A fine male Ring Ouzel – Felbrigg Park

I’m still playing ‘catch-up’ after the Easter holiday weekend, so here’s a summary of stuff at Felbrigg over the past couple of days. I managed an early morning walk yesterday before departing to Cambridgeshire for my grandson’s birthday party and today, having been over in Peterborough all day (missing a host of interesting spring migrants along the Norfolk coast), I did manage to get down to the park this evening to see the superb male Ring Ouzel, found by Perry Hampson – first thing. Also of note, the immature male Goldeneye remains on the lake, along with two pairs of Mandarin and an odd Aythya duck – more of which later. There were a couple of Redwing yesterday in the oaks between the hall and the lake and a Fieldfare today in the same spot as the Ring Ouzel – mostly on the field and in the hawthorns north of the water meadow. The usual array of woodland birds, including Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit and Chiffchaff were around the screen by the lake.


I’ve seen this odd-looking Aythya duck at Felbrigg Lake a couple of times over the last few weeks but never really looked at it! Yesterday, probably because it was rather foggy, the Tufted Duck flock was closer to the edge than usual, allowing better views and a few rather grainy shots. In the back of my mind I knew there was something odd about it but I’d written it off as a first winter male Tufted. Yesterday it clicked, surely this is one of those notorious Aythya hybrids – but which one? Looking at various plates in my admittedly rather limited bird book library I’m inclined to think that it could be a Tufted Duck x Ring-necked Duck, but I’d welcome a more expert view if anyone would care to comment. For more photos see my other posting on TrevorOnTour.


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Wednesday 8th April

Despite the continued lack of visible migration Spring is definitely with us. On the water meadow in Felbrigg this morning three Lapwing were displaying to each other, Snipe were flying round – though not ‘drumming’ yet and the pair of Oystercatcher were observed mating. The Green Sandpiper was present early morning before flying off west and, whilst I was watching all this action, Siskin were ‘buzzing’ above my head in the hollow oak. A Shelduck did a brief fly-through – my first here for 2015, but alas it didn’t stop to have it’s photo taken. The Little Owl started calling from the oaks by the dam as I came to leave. There are plenty of singing Chiffchaff now but still no Blackcap – any day now!