Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Friday 31st March


Egyptian Goose, Felbrigg Park

After a reasonably early morning walk yesterday – when the high-lights were a couple of Sand Martin over the lake and the return of the Great Crested Grebe, after a week away, it was five o’clock today before I got back in the park. The warm weather and southerly winds have certainly stirred things up a bit on the coast but the effects have still to be felt inland. The only birds of note tonight were the pair of Grey Wagtail on the outflow, the 1st winter Great Crested Grebe still on the lake and the return of the hybrid Tufted x Ferruginous Duck. Meanwhile, in the village, Tim & Dawn reported an early Willow Warbler, briefly, near their house. With a new month tomorrow expectations are running high for an interesting bird in Felbrigg – possibly a wader?

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Wednesday 29th March


Teal numbers were up on the water meadow yesterday – I counted thirty three

Yesterday afternoon there was a Red Kite soaring over Aylmerton Common with a Common Buzzard – my first for the year in the parish. I walked back from Sustead Common, after delivering some materials for the work-party there this morning. Nothing particularly exciting in the park but I did see my first Sand Martin of the year – five briefly over the lake, before they headed off to the north west. The female Grey Wagtail was again by the outflow. There were more Teal on the water meadow than in recent days, I counted 33, along with a male Wigeon, four Snipe and the male Lapwing. I’m expecting Blackcap any day now.

Grab-shot of one of the five Sand Martin briefly over the lake in the afternoon 


Red Kite over Aylmerton Common – my first of the year in the parish


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Monday 27th March


Stonechat, Felbrigg Park – my first in nearly ten years

I was volunteering at Cley NWT today when I got a phone-call from Phil Hall, saying he’d found a Stonechat at Felbrigg – gnash! When I got home I went straight down to the park, but despite a thorough search of the water meadow, lake area and the rough grazing below the dam, there was no sign. I did get some small recompense, in the form of a Swallow, which stopped momentarily over the lake to hawk for insects before continuing on it’s journey south. I’d just got back to the village when I bumped into Lee, who told me he’d seen the Stonechat a little over an hour ago – double gnash!! I had a swift cup of tea and returned for a second look – this time I was more successful. The 1st winter male Stonechat was sitting on the fence at the edge of the reed bed. It made several short flights around the reed bed and the gorse bushes on The Warren before being startled by the hunting Barn Owl. Rather uncharacteristically for this species it flew to the top of the Alder trees and remained hidden in the branches. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s still there in the morning. This is the first Stonechat I’ve seen in the park in nearly ten years and is my 145th species since starting this blog.

The Stonechat was eventually spooked by this hunting Barn Owl


..and the ‘consolation prize’ for missing it the first time – a Swallow, one day earlier than last year (sorry for the rubbish photo!)



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Sunday 26th March


A rather grainy shot of one of the singing Firecrest, yesterday, deep in the Great Wood

I managed a quick walk around the Felbrigg estate yesterday afternoon. On my way I called in at the village pond and was pleased to find a male Brambling near the feeders. The bad news from Felbrigg is that the Cattle Egret appears to have moved on – there have been no reports since I saw it on Friday evening. On the up side, I did manage to locate two singing Firecrest in the Great Wood. The Little Owl near the church showed well before it started calling and there was another in the usual tree near the dam. A Grey Wagtail was busy around the outflow and the Little Grebe was again near the reed bed, but the Great Crested also appeared to have departed. Two Chiffchaff were singing around the viewing screen but still no sign of any other migrants – I saw my first Swallow in Felbrigg last year on 28th, so it should be any day now!


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Friday 24th March


Cattle Egret – still present this evening, south east of Felbrigg church

The Cattle Egret was still present on the sheep fields, south east of Felbrigg church, this evening. Earlier, I was surprised to find three Grey Wagtail along the dam wall – the regular pair and a lone female. Water levels on the meadows continue to fall providing good conditions for a single Snipe and Lapwing. The two male Shoveler finding conditions to their liking as well. On the lake Gadwall numbers remain around the twenty mark, with similar numbers of Tufted Duck.

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Wednesday 22nd March


Cattle Egret this morning behind Felbrigg church

On the very morning I decide to have a lie-in, Phil Hall goes and finds a Cattle Egret at Felbrigg!  Thankfully he phoned me and I was able to catch up with the bird, which had moved from it’s original location of the rough grazing meadow below the dam to the sheep pastures south-east of the church. This is probably the same wandering individual which has been at Weybourne over the past couple of days. A ‘first’ for Felbrigg, the only other record being of a bird at Aylmerton in December 2015, which did, at one point, fly over the park. A very nice bird and thanks Phil for the call.

A couple more shots of this ‘first for Felbrigg’




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Tuesday 21st March


Pair of Grey Wagtail – Felbrigg Lake

My first early morning walk around the Felbrigg estate in nearly three weeks. I heard four singing Chiffchaff between the back gate and the lake. The levels on the water meadow are rapidly dropping, resulting in fewer wildfowl but there was a ‘territorial’ Lapwing there which generates some optimism for the coming breeding season. Coot numbers are up to eight across the lake and water meadow, whilst Gadwall and Tufted numbers are about two dozen each. I was pleased to see that the lone Great Crested Grebe is still present, slowly developing adult breeding plumage. I was even more pleased to see a summer plumage Little Grebe, swim out from the reed bed – the first I’ve seen on the lake since the autumn. As I crossed the dam I heard the familiar call of Grey Wagtail. I looked in the usual spot and was delighted to see a pair of adult birds. On my way back home there were six Common Buzzards displaying over Aylmerton Common. It’s good to be home!

Two Grebe species on the lake at the same time – Great and Little!



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Wednesday 1st March


A skein of Pink-feet head north west over the park – possibly one of the last this winter

Significant rain over night had made the paths in the park particularly muddy. There was a cacophony of bird sounds when I got to the back gate – Jackdaw and Stock Dove, Blackbird and Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and Robin singing! It certainly felt like Spring is on it’s way. A skein of 80 or so Pink-feet flew over, heading north west – an echo of the past and possibly one of the last of the winter. On the water meadows there were just three Wigeon left but one of the males was busy displaying to the female. A single male Shoveler remains. On the lake the Gadwall numbers continue to fall, I counted 16 with just eight Tufted Duck. The 1st winter Great Crested Grebe is still present. In the Alders by the viewing screen, a very noisy group of about twenty Siskin were busy feeding.

We’re off today for a few days birding with friends, normal services will be resumed on my return.