Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Sunday 29th January


Coot – the only one this winter, looking like black velvet in the early morning sun

I was tied up all day on Friday with a working party on Mallett’s Meadows. Despite lighting the bonfires at 10.30, we’d only burnt about half of the stuff by the time it came to pack up. We hope to finish the job this coming Friday.

Yesterday I treated myself to a days ‘twitching’ in the Midlands – a long over-due visit to Chatsworth, to see the wintering Dusky Thrush. For a brief account and photo click this link.

It was lovely and sunny for my morning walk around the Park. Nothing particularly noteworthy but plenty of birds about. The lake was partially frozen but the mixed group of wildfowl looked fabulous in the low morning sun. I counted eight Wigeon, including several males and ten Tufted Duck. The rest were Mallard, Gadwall and Teal, with the lone Coot. I did manage to find a single Woodcock in Common Plantation.

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Thursday 26th January


It’s that time of year again – when the male Mute Swan exerts his authority over the lake!

Monday was Cley day. Despite the dramatic effects of the recent inundation there were still plenty of good birds about. Bearded Tits were ‘everywhere’ – showing down to five feet near the central hides, a first winter Glaucous Gull, Twite and Greenshank on Serpentine and a probable Siberian Chiffchaff in the dyke along East Bank.

Probable Siberian Chiffchaff – Cley NWT on Monday


On Tuesday I had a productive site meeting at Sustead Common with a representative of North Norfolk District Council. Yesterday the weather was miserable but I did get down to the coast briefly – another Glaucous Gull and Purple Sandpiper at Sheringham, Mediterranean Gull at West Runton and a few other bits and bobs.

First winter Glaucous Gull and Purple Sandpiper, at Sheringham, yesterday afternoon



This morning, after watching the first Hawfinch of the day arrive at the appointed time of twelve minutes to eight, I went for a good walk around the park. Plenty of Bullfinch about – I counted at least nine, a Sparrowhawk was obligingly perched up in the shelter-belt, several Marsh Tit and a couple of Woodcock in Common Plantation, three Snipe flushed from the rough grazing meadow below the dam and the Little Owl hiding in it’s usual Ash tree. On the frozen lake, still loads of Teal, three Wigeon, three Shoveler and the usual assortment of other wildfowl.

Perched Sparrowhawk – an unusual encounter for me at Felbrigg


Little Owl, hiding in it’s regular Ash tree


Now I’d better get on and prepare my contribution to tonight’s NENBC evening presentation on The Birds of Felbrigg at Aylmerton Village Hall – doors open at 7.00, all welcome.

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Saturday 21st January


A stonking male Black Redstart on the sea front at Cromer

It’s been a busy week, with precious little time for local birding. On Wednesday we had the NENBC mid-week walk in Felbrigg. An amazing thirty three people turned up and we saw a total of over fifty species – highlights of which included, Little Owl and a super mixed flock of Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbird and Starling, feeding at close range on the sheep pastures.

On Thursday I was looking round a private small-holding at Gresham. We’d seen Woodcock, Siskin and Bullfinch on our leisurely walk round and I was just bidding my host goodbye when I noticed a bird in the hedge behind her stable buildings. One look through the binoculars and, bingo,  Hawfinch – soon joined by a second! Now what are the chances of that? Speaking of Hawfinch, the Aylmerton ‘flock’ is still present, though exhibiting less predictable behaviour. Although, it has to be said, they perform superbly for David from Norfolk Wildlife Trust, at the end of a quick wizz around the Felbeck Trust sites this morning – up to five birds showing well in their favourite trees.

This afternoon I went down to Sustead Common to finish off the work on the gates – which we started during yesterday’s working-party. Some good stuff about, including a nice flock of Long-tailed Tit, three Bullfinch and a single remaining Siskin from this morning’s group of eleven.

In between times this week I’ve managed a couple of quick trips out to see local birds – Glaucous Gull and Purple Sandpiper at Sheringham and a delightfully confiding male Black Redstart on Cromer sea-front at lunch-time.

New pedestrian gate at Sustead Common –  Felbeck Trust information notice in the background!



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Monday 16th January


An iPhone photo of Taiga Been Geese, on the NENBC trip to Buckenham Marshes

The weather over the weekend remained cold and overcast, with sleety showers. We had a very successful  NENBC outdoor meeting at Buckenham Marshes – seeing our target species Taiga Bean Geese almost straight away. The supporting cast included a nice ‘ring tail’ Hen Harrier and several family parties of White-front Geese. We went on, in the afternoon, to catch up with Cattle Egret, Hooded Crow, Bewick’s and Whooper Swan.

Meanwhile the Hawfinch have continued to show on and off for the steady trickle of admirers. A big ‘thank you’ to my neighbours for continuing to put up with the intrusion with such good grace.

Hawfinch, Aylmerton



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Friday 13th – unlucky for most

The weather overnight and this morning has been pretty dreadful but I did manage a quick walk out after the snow-fall. I’ve never seen so little birdlife on the lake, just the Mute Swan family, half a dozen Gadwall, four Tufted, two Moorhen and the Coot – everything else was sheltering up along the edges of the water meadow. A nice pair of Bullfinch were down the shelter-belt, a solitary Redwing was feeding amongst the Blackbirds at the south west corner of the dam and a Green Woodpecker flew towards The Warren.

The surprise is, that despite the bad weather, the small flock of Hawfinch remain – there were at least six and possibly nine this morning, according to Tim. There’s been a steady trickle of admirers for these stunning-looking birds, which have now become a very scarce species indeed in North Norfolk.  I still haven’t got a really good picture of them though.

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Tuesday 10th January


Two of the flock of seven Hawfinch, Aylmerton

On Sunday morning we were just getting in the car when I notice a small flock of finches fly into the trees at the back of my neighbours garden. I didn’t have my binoculars to hand and we were running late. Though intrigued by the birds, I dismissed them from my mind. Yesterday morning was a repeat. We were just off to Cley NWT when a group of seven birds flew into the tops of the same trees, but this time we had our binoculars and, to our utter amazement, they turned out to be Hawfinch! The birds remained in the area, probably feeding on the ground out of view, and occasionally flying up into the trees until mid-day at least. This morning a flock of five arrived at ten to eight, just as it was getting light.

Odd birds are occasionally seen in Felbrigg Park or along the Cromer Ridge but a winter flock of this size is really something pretty special.

Hawfinch – on the edge of Mallett’s Meadows



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Sunday 8th January


Doe Roe Deer seen on my walk this morning

It has been a few days since I’ve managed to get into the park. As I made my way down The Street there was a cacophony of bird sounds coming from the shelter-belt at the edge of the village – mostly Blackbird and Chaffinch. I assumed that there must have been a Tawny Owl hidden in the canopy somewhere but I couldn’t locate it. All the paths in the park are exceptionally muddy at the moment. Judging by the water level on the water-meadows, they must have reached their mid-winter peak by now. Still lots of Teal present with a few more Gadwall and Tufted on the lake. Shoveler numbers have risen to five. Several skeins of Pink-feet flew overhead, and a Buzzard called from up in the Great Wood. There were several noisy Nuthatch as I made my way towards Sexton’s Lodge gates. Along Red Barn Lane there were plenty of Blackbirds and a few Song Thrush but not Fieldfare or Redwing still – it can’t be many weeks before they start appearing again. On Mallett’s Meadows a group of four Roe Deer remained static until my approach disturbed them and they bounded off up the track.

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Felbeck Trust – launched today


Today sees the official launch of Felbeck Trust. Over the past nine months we’ve been busy creating a new conservation charity for Norfolk. Here’s a brief introduction:

The main purpose of the charity is to restore and manage wildlife habitats initially around the villages of Aylmerton, Sustead and Felbrigg but operating across North Norfolk – bringing nature back to our countryside.

Felbeck Trust also promotes the use of traditional skills and materials – in preference to modern agricultural practices, and believes passionately in the value of conservation volunteering to improve community cohesion and tackle rural social isolation.

Despite appearances Norfolk’s flora and fauna is under threat. The recently published national ‘State of Nature’ report makes dismal reading, with 56% of the 8000 species surveyed in decline, the pressure being most acute at coastal and heath-land locations.      1 in 10 of those species will be lost from our shores if recent changes in land management cannot be halted. Felbeck Trust is a direct response to that challenge.

Trevor Williams, the Chair of the charity said, “last summer, having been a ‘passive worrier’ for decades, I decided to act and, together with a small group of supporters, created Felbeck Trust. We have no desire to compete with national wildlife organisations like the RSPB, National Trust or our own county Wildlife Trust, who all do an excellent job for nature – but rather, hopefully, complement their efforts. Whilst the trend amongst those organisations is to think and act bigger – conservation on a grand scale, Felbeck Trust is focused on small, local sites, which, with limited resources and support from local communities, we can rescue, improve and safeguard. These ‘pocket reserves’ then, creating important wildlife corridors or stepping-stones, connecting to the bigger sites”.

The charity is working in partnership with other Norfolk voluntary groups including: North East Norfolk Bird Club, Norfolk Rivers Trust, Norwich Men’s Shed, North Norfolk Workout Group and the Norfolk Countryside Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.

The charity is already managing two sites in North Norfolk, which it intends to open for public access, and is currently in discussions regarding other locations. For news of the latest developments, to volunteer or offer support, visit the Felbeck Trust website or follow us on Twitter @FelbeckTrust.

I truly hope that, with the creation of Felbeck Trust, we can make a positive difference to the wildlife of Aylmerton parish, Felbrigg Park and beyond..



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Thursday 5th January


Whooper Swan, Aylmerton – courtesy of Tim Wright, finder and photographer

This has been a busy week, for reasons that will soon be come clear. Yesterday I spent the morning with Jonah, Norfolk Rivers Trust, visiting various locations in the area. I’d just got back indoors for lunch, when I received a message from Tim that there were two Whooper Swans on the field, opposite his house, but to take care approaching because they looked jumpy. Thanks to Tim I got excellent views, if a little distant, through his landing window. I returned after lunch to obtain some record-shots but they had disappeared! I spent the next couple of hours driving around the local countryside and walking around Felbrigg, but no sign.

This is only the third time I’ve seen Whooper in the area – the long staying bird in 2012/13, the pair last year on the lake at the end of February and these two. I’m not sure if there have been any more records – please let me know if there have been.

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Tuesday 3rd January

Nil of note on my morning walk. The water meadow and most of the lake remain frozen, with most of the wildfowl concentrated on the unfrozen margins. Three Wigeon and three Shoveler still present.

Of interest, the colour-ringed Waxwing, present in Cromer over New Year, was ringed in Aberdeenshire on 4th December 2016!