Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Friday 30th December



Remains of a long-deceased Woodcock – cause of death unknown

It remained cold and foggy all day. A walk in the park this afternoon proved largely unproductive, with viewing conditions difficult and little change in the birdlife. Half a dozen Snipe were disturbed from the rough grazing meadow, below the dam.  On a slow walk through the area, I came across a long-dead Woodcock which, whilst I’m prepared to accept may have died from natural causes, I do wonder if it had fallen prey to the shooters?   No sign of yesterday’s Pintail on the ice but three Wigeon remain. The Kingfisher was along the western edge of the lake and a couple of Marsh Tit were by the viewing screen.

Three Wigeon, on the ice


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Thursday afternoon


Male Pintail – a Felbrigg ‘first’ for me!

The weather this afternoon was a big improvement on yesterday, with clear skies and some sunshine – it was still pretty chilly though. The water meadow had pretty much frozen over and all the ducks were on the lake. At the viewing screen I bumped into Simon  who told me he’d just seen a Pintail, but that it had gone missing in the over-hanging Willows! Pintail is a surprisingly scarce bird at Felbrigg – I know because I’m currently working on the revised Checklist of the Birds of Felbrigg, and there’s only one previously available record, from 2013. We quickly relocated to the east side where I managed a brief glimpse before it slipped back into cover. Despite extensive searching it failed to reappear. Simon walked back to the viewing screen, during which time this splendid male specimen emerged into open water. A Felbrigg ‘tick’ for me!

Another shot, taken from the viewing screen before my camera battery died


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Thursday 29th December


View across the lake – with the distant flock of 270+ Teal!

The weather was pretty dismal yesterday, with freezing fog for most of the day. Managed a quick walk around the lake, late afternoon. The water meadows, though unfrozen, contained very few birds. The lake on the other hand, which was partly iced over, was teeming! I couldn’t see the far bank, so counting the ducks was difficult but there were at least 270 Teal, plus the regular flocks of Gadwall, Mallard and Tufted. The female Pochard was still present, as were the three male Shoveler and the single Coot. There was no sign though of the previous day’s highlights of Black-tailed Godwit or the Ruddy Shelduck hybrid.

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Tuesday 27th December


Ruddy Shelduck – or is it? 

I was up before dawn to get down to the lake, more in hope than expectation, to look for yesterday’s reported Brent Goose. Disappointed but not surprised that it wasn’t there, it was always a remote possibility that it would have hung about, particular on the lake with the ‘family from hell’ Mute Swan! Lots of nice birds though. Most of the wildfowl was still present and, in the Alders by the viewing screen, a nice flock of a dozen Siskin with at least one Lesser Redpoll with them.

This afternoon I decided to go to Overstrand in search of the Sanderling that Jane had seen there yesterday. I’d got as far as Cromer when I received a text from Simon saying ‘Black-tailed Godwit and Ruddy Shelduck on the water meadow’ (Felbrigg)! Fortunately they were both still there when I arrived. The Shelduck looked good for a non-breeding adult, except on subsequent investigation, the leg colour wasn’t right. Ruddy Shelduck should have black legs whereas this guy has got pink. This suggests a Ruddy Shelduck x Egyptian Goose hybrid – bother!  However, right along-side the ‘duck’ a splendid winter plumage Black-tailed Godwit. This  is only the third record of ‘Black-wit’ at Felbrigg. As always Simon, very grateful for the call.

Black-tailed Godwit, water meadows – only the third record at Felbrigg


Another shot – showing those offending legs!


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Christmas Day


The water meadow in late afternoon sun – photo courtesy of Alex Moreton

I needed a walk out this afternoon, to work off the Christmas dinner. The mixed finch flock is still feeding on the track which leads up to Red Barn Lane. I counted 11 Chaffinch, two Yellowhammer and a couple of Bullfinch. The park was pretty quiet but looked lovely in the late afternoon sun. All the regular wildfowl were on the water meadow and the lake. At the former, it was a bit like Noah’s Ark, with two Mute Swan, two Canada Goose, two Egyptian Goose, two Wigeon and …. loads of Teal! On the lake all seemed present and correct – fifty + Gadwall, a dozen Tufted Duck, three Shoveler, female Pochard and a lone Coot. The Barn Owl was making the best of the mild dry weather, hunting over the rough grazing below the dam. There were more Bullfinch on my way back up The Street.

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Friday 23rd December


Male Bullfinch – not taken locally, but a useful reminder of the id features of the British race. 

Spent the morning showing Phil, from Gresham, around the various ‘active’ and pending Felbeck Trust sites. Plenty of birdlife to be seen, including a couple of Yellowhammer on Mallett’s Meadows, a Brambling near the Sexton’s Lodge entrance, a Buzzard – possibly two, over Common Plantation and several Bullfinch at Sustead Common – but none of the ‘northern’ race yet though! There were, however, plenty of wildfowl on Felbrigg lake, as we passed by, including three male Shoveler, female Wigeon and Pochard, 15 Tufted Duck, over fifty Gadwall and a pair of Egyptian Geese. The resident Kingfisher also put in an appearance.