Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Thursday 28th May


 Roe Deer being watched by a Fox

Sorry folks for the lack of recent postings – been tied up with family and things. This mornings walk got off to a good start with a Fox and two Roe Deer in the rough grazing field down the lane. In Felbrigg Park the usual birds were on the water meadow. Nice to see that the Egyptian Geese still have four youngsters and there are at least two broods of Moorhen chicks. The Lapwing appears to still be sitting. On the Lake the Mute Swans have got four of their original five cygnets, two of which appear to be ‘polish’, suggesting that the parents are descendants of the original pair – the male of which died over the winter. Managed to get reasonable close-ups of a Treecreeper near the screen.

The only other sightings of note over the last few days, observed whilst out with the family, include a Little Grebe and the return of the Ferruginous x Tufted Duck, on the Lake.

Four Mute Swan cygnets – two appear to be ‘polish’




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Wednesday 20th May



Wood Sandpiper – Felbrigg Park

Thanks to an early morning text from Perry, I managed to get down to the water meadow at Felbrigg Park in time to see the Wood Sandpiper. A Felbrigg ‘tick’ for me and only the third record I can find since 1972. I was leading an NENBC mid-week walk at 9.00 so hurried back to gather the group of nearly twenty people and ‘march’ them down to the sluice to see if we could relocate it. As we approached a Lapwing was chasing the Wood Sandpiper around the water meadow. Fortunately it settled down again and gave good views to everyone. It was still in practically the same spot when we walked back an hour later. Nice bird!



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Monday 18th May

A busy few days doing stuff in support of the Norfolk Bird & Wildlife Fair, which was held this weekend at Mannington Hall. NENBC had a stand and were running bird walks. Nearly 60 species were seen over the two days, highlights included: Firecrest, Barn Owl, Spotted Flycatcher & Grey Wagtail. Several new members were recruited and we raised over £80 with a raffle. An excellent venue and event which deserved to be better supported. ‘Duty day’ at Cley today, hoping to get out around the patch tomorrow.

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Wednesday 13th May

Bright sunny morning with no wind – a good prospect for some birding action in Felbrigg. A slow walk round the top path to the lake, passed the water meadow, produced very little. I was pleased to see that the Egyptian Geese have managed to hang on to four young and the resident pair of Canada Geese were joined by four more visitors. There are now several pairs of Reed Bunting around the reed bed, as well as several singing Reed Warbler. As I stood on the bridge, warming myself in the sunshine, I noticed a small bird fly out and back from a distant oak. Something about it said ‘flycatcher’ but the bird quickly disappeared and I was left none the wiser. I approached the area and after a brief wait a bird flew out of the oak and into a nearby bush, ‘yes’.. it was a.. female Reed Bunting! I persevered and finally the tell-tale silhouette of a Spotted Flycatcher appeared high up in the canopy. I watched it for ten minutes or so before obtaining an acceptable grab shot.


Spotted Flycatcher are a scarce if not rare breeding bird in Norfolk now, so it’s nice to see it back in Felbrigg. Lets hope it finds a mate.


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Centenary Edition


Big Sit ‘Base Camp’ – Felbrigg Park, at dawn

Sunday was the day of the NENBC ‘Big Sit’. We had five locations in operation across our recording area, including Felbrigg Park. The basic idea of a ‘Big Sit’ is that you choose your spot and sit in it, usually from dawn till dusk, and see how many bird species you can identify. On a good day a walk through Felbrigg will produce around fifty species, so the challenge of remaining static for the entire time, albeit for longer, would suggest that we’d be doing well to see that many during the course of the day. Things got off to a difficult start at 05.00, apart from being little more than zero degrees, due to the thick mist which prevented us seeing more than a few yards in front of us. Even from our chosen vantage point of The Warren, the lake was obscured from view. Eventually, as the sun came up, things began to improve and we started adding birds to the day list. The splendid male Wood Duck was in it’s usual place on the dam wall (not that it counted towards our total, being of ‘unknown origin’). Mandarin, which does count, was soon added along with most of the anticipated water birds. Gradually we were able to add the smaller species as they were encouraged to sing by the increasing warmth of the morning sun. Then it was the turn of the raptors, as we systematically ticked off Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk and Hobby. The afternoon’s activities were mostly confined to talking to the regular trickle of curios passers-by. The evening brought a fresh supply of observers (and beer!) and the last few species were added – closing the list on 70, with Grey Heron at about eight thirty. Not a bad effort all round!

This posting brings up the ‘100th’ since I started back in September last year, covering 114 species – not a bad effort for a small parish patch!

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Friday 8th May

I was in Lincolnshire for most of the day yesterday but I did manage a quick walk late afternoon. Interesting stuff included the return of our breeding Swift to the village – there were six together over Church Road and a pair Mandarin which flew from Felbrigg over the village allotments. Quite a few Whitethroat dotted here and there, Reed Warbler are still singing in the reed bed at Felbrigg and the Egyptian Geese have managed to hang on to four young – despite the cattle which are now wandering, unrestrained, across the whole of the water meadow. Their activities has almost certainly put a stop to any possible Lapwing breeding!

Busy at Cley NWT today but tomorrow is the NENBC ‘Big Sit’ event, click here for details. I’m coordinating the one at Felbrigg. Come and find us at The Warren, anytime from 05.00 – 21.00.

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Wednesday 6th May


 Male Mandarin with Wood Duck – Felbrigg Lake

 With yesterday’s report of a singing Wood Warbler at Bayfield Estate, near Holt, I decided I’d better check out one of it’s former Norfolk strong-holds this morning at Lion’s Mouth, Felbrigg Park. As I was up early I thought I’d best go down to the water meadow to look for waders first, before the dog-walkers arrived. Alas, no waders of any description but the pair of Egyptian Geese still have five youngsters and were briefly joined by another adult. I followed the path past the Warren, the site of our forthcoming NENBC ‘Big Sit’, along the eastern edge of the lake, listening to Reed Warbler and Whitethroat singing. A quick look over the lake revealed only a handful of Mallard, a few Gadwall, Coot and Mute Swan – not even a Tufted Duck. As I rounded the corner by the dam sluice I saw a couple of ducks on the dam wall – the first was clearly a male Mandarin but the more distant bird clearly wasn’t – it was the male Wood Duck, which I’d missed whilst we were away in Scotland. What a handsome bird – despite it’s ‘unknown origins’! Eventually both birds flew off across the lake, over the wood and disappeared to the west. I continued my walk around the lake and as I emerged from beneath the tree canopy I saw three Swift drift by – my first at Felbrigg this year. Another pair of Mandarin flew across the water meadow as I made my way along the top path. A long walk up through the Old Deer Park and Great Wood produced a pair of circling Sparrowhawk a few more singing Blackcap, Whitethroat & Chiffchaff and a lone Firecrest. A slow walk back down Lion’s Mouth produced.. nothing! Oh well, one species with ‘Wood’ in it’s name was good enough.

A couple more shots of this exotic North American species



Swift – first for Felbrigg this year


Treecreeper, seen near the viewing screen 


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Monday 4th May

A quick walk through Felbrigg this evening after ‘duty day’ at Cley NWT. None of the hoped for waders on the water meadow, which looks in excellent condition for them, but a Yellow Wagtail in with the cattle – a Felbrigg ‘tick’ for me! Egyptian Geese still watching over their five-strong brood and four Lapwing present. The Cuckoo called a few times from the shelter belt but remained hidden from view. Reed Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Blackcap all singing strongly. A gloriously warm spring evening!

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Sunday evening


‘The ‘White Ghost’ hunting through the shelter belt

A quick walk round the park before supper, with youngest son Jake. A lovely evening after the rain and cloud of the morning. A few things of interest including a Whitethroat singing in the brambles at the Old Deer Park end of the top track to the lake and a Red Kite over, drifting south. Lapwings were displaying over the water meadow and the pair of Egyptian Geese were looking after their five youngsters. There were two Reed Warbler singing in the reed bed and a possible sedge at the edge under the alders. The small gathering of hirundines over the water meadow included three House Martin. There was little of interest on the lake but I did notice that the Coot are building close to the path. There was no sign of the Aythya  hybrid that I saw yesterday with the group. The ‘white ghost’ Barn Owl was hunting in the shelter belt on our homeward journey.

Early Purple Orchid


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Sunday 3rd May

Yesterday I had the pleasure of leading a bird walk in Felbrigg Park for a bunch of ‘Loose Enders’ from around Cromer. We set off from the cafe and headed up though the woods at the rear of the Hall, down across the paddock passed the ice pond, across the drive, along the top path to the lake, around the western edge, up the Weaver’s Way a bit, finally heading back to the cafe via the Warren. We saw a total of 53 birds, the highlights of which included: Swallow & House Martin, family parties of Egyptian Geese and Mallard, Treecreeper, Nuthatch & Marsh Tit and Cuckoo. We also found what I presume was Early Purple Orchid. Not a bad haul for a rather overcast and cool May morning. The group enjoyed a sociable coffee to conclude.