Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Thursday 29th October


Grey Heron, Felbrigg Lake

I was out at dawn to look for the Short-eared Owl, reported at Felbrigg on Tuesday afternoon. By chance I bumped into my dog-walking friends from the village, who told me they’d seen a Marsh Harrier over by the Hall at 7.00 on Tuesday morning – I’m now wondering if this might have been the owl? Anyway, no luck for me this morning but it was lovely being out as the sun began to rise and illuminate the autumn leaves – which are now really beginning to fall. On the Lake I was pleased to see three pairs of Mandarin, but oddly no sign of the immature male I saw on Sunday. The flock of Tufted has again increased to 38 and there were 15 Teal, between the Lake and the Water Meadow. A Grey Wagtail was busy in the wet undergrowth opposite the viewing screen and I had my first flock of Pink-feet fly over the park. More winter thrushes are arriving, with small numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare, heading west. Also saw my first Lapwing of the autumn, a flock of 18, also heading west. A Sparrowhawk over the sheep fields was my only other noteworthy sighting.


Sparrowhawk over the sheep fields

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Sunday 25th October


A pair of Mandarin, with possible youngster in tow?

Two Little Owl were calling to each other, from the old Oaks along the central path to the Lake, this afternoon, as I made my way down through the shelter belt. At the upper sluice I noticed an up-turn in the number of Teal on the water meadow. I saw six at first and then eventually ten – together with the pair on the Lake, making a dozen in all. A pair of Siskin flew overhead. I scrutinised the flock of bathing gulls, mostly Black-headed with a few Common, but no Mediterranean today. I then spotted the pair of Mandarin Duck, which have been reported over the past week, swimming close to the wooded western edge. I then saw a third bird which, even viewed from across the Lake, I could see was different looking – an eclipse male or possibly a juvenile moulting, into adult plumage. If the latter proves to be the case then this would suggest local breeding – the first in quite a few years, I think. I wandered on to the trees around the Ice Pool but there was no sign of any small birds, let alone the Yellow-browed Warbler. A Sparrowhawk along Church Lane was the only avian interest on my return home.

More shots of these handsome birds, first the female


Now the adult male and either eclipse male or imm male? 


Post Script: From comments I’ve received I’m pretty confident this is a 1st winter male, and the first evidence of local breeding since 2009.

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Friday 23rd October

The Yellow-browed Warbler is still in Felbrigg Park this morning. It was calling loudly and showing occasionally in the Oak and Beech tress, either side of the first cattle grid, on the estate road between Sexton’s Lodge and the Hall. It was with a couple of Goldcrest and a Treecreeper.

Not much else about, on what was the first proper autumn/winter morning of the year. There were still the odd frost pockets as I made my way down to the Lake. I spent a bit of time by the reed bed but again there was no sight nor sound of Bearded Tit. There were a few Reed Buntings about and a Green Woodpecker calling from the shelter belt. Same stuff on the Lake, but I haven’t seen the Little Grebe around lately. There was a pair of Teal but I couldn’t see the female Shoveler either. Up the lane, on the way home, a Bullfinch.

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Wednesday 21st October

NENBC mid-week walk this morning – it rained or drizzled the whole time! As a consequence hardly any birds and certainly nothing of note seen. This afternoon was a scheduled National Trust bird walk – unsurprisingly there were no takers, although it had stopped raining. I took the opportunity to check out the reed bed for lingering Bearded Tits but there were none to be found. Returned to the site of yesterday’s Yellow-browed Warbler, same story. Oh well.. we’ll see what the next few days bring!

Post Script: Just noticed that it’s exactly a year ago today that I found a Great Egret on the water meadow!

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Tuesday 20th October

Taking advantage of the sunshine, I went for a walk in Felbrigg Park this afternoon. There were a few winter thrushes down the lane but few other little birds. On the Lake the number of Tufted Duck appears to have peaked – I could only see about two dozen. The female Shoveler is still present though, along with ten or more Gadwall. I met Simon, who told me he thought he’d heard Bearded Tit in the reed bed again but hadn’t seen anything. I took a stroll across the rough grazing meadow below the dam, in the hope of turning up a Stonechat but three Common Snipe was the best I could do. I’d just settled in for a stint at the reed bed when Simon called to say he’d got a Yellow-browed Warbler near the ‘ice pond’. I hurried up there and heard it calling strongly almost immediately. It took a while to get respectable views, high up in the canopy of a Sycamore tree. It called and showed periodically over the next hour or so, but never offered itself up for photos. These grab shots were the best of a bad bunch:



Yellow-browed Warbler, Felbrigg Park


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Sunday 18th October


Male Ring Ouzel (with Blackbird above) – The Street

Winter visitors are arriving in numbers. As I walked down The Street this morning a small flock of Redwing flew into the Poplar trees near the junction with Lion’s Mouth. They were joined by a couple of Fieldfare and then by a male Ring Ouzel, before the flock dropped into a Hawthorn bush in the rough grazing meadow. In that one bush there were Song Thrush, Redwing, Blackbird, Fieldfare and Ring Ouzel! There was little of note down the middle path to the Lake, where most of the usual wildfowl were still present. As I walked towards the church I disturbed a flock of Meadow Pipit feeding in the grass – around 40 birds in total. The gull flock is increasing too, with the bulk of them now Common Gull, c200 I counted. I spent some time on the Heath looking at Redwing feeding in the Rowan trees and a couple of Siskin in the pines. I’d just started down the track towards the Hall and home when a flock of Crossbill flew over, calling. I eventually managed to relocate them in pines, east of the main track – there were fourteen, including several males. This was a Felbrigg ‘tick’ for me, having failed to track them down in previous winters. On my return home I looked for the Ring Ouzel again but was unsuccessful, I did however find a late Willow Warbler feeding in the hedgerow.

Several shots of the Common Crossbill flock, The Heath, Felbrigg


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Wednesday 14th October

Redwing have arrived in considerable numbers in Felbrigg Park. Small flocks were in nearly every clump of Rowan trees, throughout the Great Wood. Difficult to estimate numbers but at least a couple of hundred I’d think. On the Heath there was a reduced number of Siskin – c35, feeding in the surrounding trees. Meanwhile at The Lake the Tufted Duck flock is creeping up – 37 at today’s count. However, there was only one pair of Gadwall and a female Shoveler, with no sign of the Great Crested Grebe, which looks like it might have moved on. Two Meadow Pipit were messing about around the water meadow – the first for me of the autumn. There’s still the odd Migrant Hawker on the wing.

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Saturday 10th October

I popped down to Felbrigg Lake this afternoon to check on the Bearded Tits. They were still there at 14.30 though, but like yesterday, they had become rather quieter and more elusive. Also on the lake, amongst the hundreds of Black-headed Gull, was an adult Mediterranean Gull. Eventually, once it had finished it’s wash and brush-up, it flew off and landed with a big group of gulls, loafing on the grazing meadow in front of the Hall. As I scanned the flock I spotted another Med Gull, only this looked more like a 2nd winter individual. I walked on up to the Heath were the only birds of interest were a large flock of Siskin, feeding in the surrounding trees. I estimate that there were at least 120.

First, a few shots of the Adult Mediterranean Gull, bathing at Felbrigg Lake. Still a very scarce bird for Felbrigg




Then a flight shot, as it heads of to the grazing meadow


Finally, the second, sub-adult bird, in the same flock, just as it took flight – the dark bill and odd black-tipped primary just visible


Post Script:

Sun Dog near Felbrigg this afternoon. ( see my post of 16th October last year!)


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Saturday’s second helpings


Pair of Bearded Tit – Felbrigg Lake

Finished my village Litter Picking duties early to enable me to get back down to Felbrigg Lake, in the hope that yesterday’s Bearded Tit would have hung around. They did and showed incredibly well, in the morning sunshine. I could only find a pair, so perhaps yesterdays thoughts of a possible family party were misplaced. Anyway, let’s not be greedy!

A few more shots of these exquisite birds!