Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Monday 27th November

3187.jack snipe (Adrian Foster)

No chance of a photo of the Felbrigg bird – this image is courtesy of RSPB. Jack Snipe are really quite different from Common Snipe – rarely seen well but, with experience, reasonably straightforward to identify

‘Bitter sweet’ is how I’d describe my dawn visit to Felbrigg this morning. We were away at our son’s over the weekend, helping them get straight after moving house, so I wasn’t in a position to respond to the text telling me about a Goosander on the lake yesterday! It was barely light when I got to the water meadow and began searching. Nothing there, as I’d expected, so I moved on to the lake itself, nothing there either – bother! I decided to use the time available by having a look on the rough grazing meadow below the dam, following Simon’s report on Friday of a Jack Snipe. I disturbed about eight Common Snipe as I made my way down to the fence-line and back towards the Weaver’s Way. I’d nearly reached the track when a small, dark snipe sp. shot away from me about ten yards ahead. It didn’t call and kept low before dropping back to the ground and out of view. No distinct white trailing edge to the wing and a short bill confirmed it’s identity as a Jack Snipe – my first for the year. Nothing else of interest on the walk, prior to a rather cold and uneventful day at Cley NWT.

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Friday 24th November



Found this little guy at the back gate to Felbrigg this afternoon

I had a very enjoyable walk around Felbrigg today in the late afternoon sunshine – though the air temperature was a bit on the cool side. I started by The Orangery but had no luck with the Hawfinch so, after searching behind the hall and around the carpark, I decided to do the long loop down past the church, along the footpath which connects with the bridleway running north – south to join the Weaver’s Way, then back to the hall via the rough grazing meadow and the lake. Birding high-lights were eight Common Snipe flushed from the grazing meadow – but alas I missed the Jack Snipe, reported later by Simon, Little Owl in the usual tree – later in the Oak by the gate across the dam, two Water Rail along Scarrow Beck and, finally, a couple of flight views of Hawfinch back at The Orangery. The Bullfinch were in the hedge along The Street on my way home.

Little Grebe, still present on the lake



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Wednesday 22nd November

IMG_3530 2

iPhone photo of the Iceland Gull – Cley

Monday we were at Cley – highlights included the 1st winter Iceland Gull on Simmond’s Scrape, Black Brant on the Eye field, 50+ Snow Bunting along the shingle ridge and Great Northern Diver off-shore. Yesterday we had a work-party at Sustead Common and Spurrell’s Wood, where we made a start on building the bird screen and tackled a couple of the over-grown Hazel coppice. I did manage to get into Felbrigg late yesterday but it was too dark and cold for there to be much about – certainly no sign of any Hawfinch at The Orangery. Today the entire time has been spent wrestling with internet / computer problems and creating a slide presentation for the Winter Birds Workshop, at Cley on Saturday. I hope to get out tomorrow..

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Sunday 19th November


Snow Bunting – not one of those seen at Felbrigg this morning, but taken at Cley in 2012

I missed a ‘Felbrigg First’ this morning, by three minutes – GRIPPING!! I’d done my WeBS duck count first thing – highlights included two Little Egret, Little Grebe, Water Rail and another pair of Mute Swan, which briefly put down on the lake but were quickly seen off by the resident male, before heading to the hall to look for the Hawfinch. Having had brief flight views of a single bird by The Orangery, I decided to check-out the car-park, just in case. None there but I did get good views of another single bird behind the hall. By that time breakfast beckoned and as I passed by the group of assembled birders at The Orangery, Stu Betts kindly informed me that they’d just had two Snow Bunting fly over, heading north west! Although there have been half a dozen records of birds in Aylmerton parish, this is only the second record I (now) know of in Felbrigg, the first being a female on the grass by the car park in front of the hall on 16th October 2002, and still present the following day – thanks to MT for this record. Well done SB et al, nevertheless!

On Friday attended the NWT Volunteers ‘Thank you Day’ at the Hawk & Owl Trust reserve, Sculthorpe. A couple of informative presentations and a nice lunch preceded an interesting walk around the reserve with Nigel the Warden. Yesterday it was the NENBC November Outdoor meeting to Strumpshaw Fen RSPB reserve, breaking new ground for the Club and me, as it happens – can’t think why I’ve not been there before. Seventeen people turned out and we clocked-up nearly fifty species including probably ten different Marsh Harrier, nice views of Stonechat, Bearded Tit and, putting our new-found mammal id skills to the test, Chinese Water Deer. After lunch a few of us continued on to New Buckenham, where we added another dozen or so species. Thanks to Janice for leading the group.

A nice Wigeon, seen by NENBC members at New Buckenham


Chinese Water Deer, taken at New Buckenham but also seen at Strumpshaw 


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Thursday 16th November


Hawfinch at Felbrigg – no camera with me yesterday so another rather grainy shot from Tuesday!

It was the NENBC mid-week walk in Felbrigg yesterday. Two dozen members turned out – many with the hope of seeing Hawfinch. After brief initial views of a single bird flying over the approach road to the hall, we drew a blank at both the Orangery and the car park. We headed for the church, in case they’d moved there – seeing the Little Owl in the usual dead tree and a lone Egyptian Goose in the grazing paddock. It was ‘business as usual’ at the lake – no Mandarin, which are always a crowd-pleaser, but the Little Egret was still present, roosting on the island. We wandered back towards the Orangery, where one of our members spotted a couple of birds sat up in the trees opposite – Hawfinch! We eventually saw five birds in the same area before they managed to slip away from view. On my way home I relocated the group in the trees towards the ‘hollow oak’. Another successful NENBC event and another species added to our increasingly impressive cumulative list, which includes Glossy Ibis, Wood Sandpiper, Peregrine and Spotted Flycatcher!

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Tuesday 14th November – Five Finch Fest


Hawfinch, Felbrigg Hall – one of a party of six seen near The Orangery

A relatively obliging male Bullfinch, in the hedgerow opposite Sawmill Cottage, got the Finch Fest ball rolling this morning. Once at the Hall, Gold, Green and Chaffinch were firmly ticked off, whilst waiting for the main feature to show up. It didn’t take long before two Hawfinch arrived from the other side of the Hall, to alight in the tops of a beach tree, behind The Orangery. They soon departed so I went to check-out the car park – here there was another bird sulking in the hawthorn bushes and observed eating a sloe. Accompanied by Thomas, we walked down to the church, the direction he’d seen three more fly off in from over the Walled Garden. No luck there but we did see a party of Greylag, fourteen in total, fly in from the south and land on the sheep pasture between the Hall and the lake. On the lake itself, no real change, but the Wigeon count was back up to seventeen. There were seventy five Teal on the water meadows. Back at the Hall the Hawfinch were still performing – I eventually managed to see six together behind The Orangery.

This afternoon I wandered down to Sheringham in the vague hope of catching-up with Colin’s reported Iceland Gull. No luck there but four roosting Purple Sandpipers, on the rocks below the Two Lifeboats, went some way to make up for it.

Three of four roosting Purple Sandpiper – rocks below the Two Lifeboats


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Sunday 12th November


One of two Cattle Egret at Stiffkey this weekend

We’ve had our youngest son Jake staying with us for the weekend – we picked him up on Friday morning and have been birding pretty much since then – well in day-light hours that is! We amassed a total of 119 species, seen mostly along the Norfolk Coast from Kings Lynn to Winterton. The list included a number of scarce or rare species including: Long-tailed Duck, Scaup, Crane, Cattle & Great Egret, Grey Phalarope, Caspian & Yellow-legged Gull, Water Pipit, Shore Lark, Lapland Bunting and Twite.

We did get into the park yesterday morning, to boost our woodland bird species. Nothing particular of note but Little Egret and Water Rail were nice. Cley tomorrow.

Stonechat, one of several pairs seen along the coast – this one shot against the iconic Happisburgh lighthouse


A nice covey of Grey Partridge


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Tuesday 7th November


iPhone photo of the ‘Black Brant’ – American version of Brent Goose – Cley

Yesterday was our volunteering day at Cley NWT. Still surprisingly mild for early November – I should have worn my shorts! The birding was generally good, with the highlight being Grey Phalarope in the morning on Walsey Marsh and super views of Black Brant on Keeper’s Marsh in the afternoon. A flock of forty Snow Bunting west along the shingle ridge was a bonus. Today I was back on the coast helping with the Cley – Salthouse WeBS count. A few interesting sightings, including the ‘Russian’ White-fronted Goose with 2,000 Pink-feet, winter plumage Spotted Redshank on Kelling water meadows and several mixed thrush flocks coming in off the sea. A quick whiz around Felbrigg and Sustead Common produced: Little Egret still along Scarrow Beck, half a dozen Lapwing flying over north west – there were large numbers along the coast, and an obliging Water Rail feeding in the wet woods, west of the viewing screen. In Sustead I added two new birds to my site list – the familiar sound of Grey Wagtail greeted me as I made my way towards the footbridge (long overdue), quickly followed by a Brambling in the Blackthorn thicket.

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Sunday 5th November



Male Bullfinch – The Street

We took the grand kids to see the seals at Horsey Gap this morning. On our way there we managed to find the 1st winter Caspian Gull, on the sea at Cromer – a UK ‘tick’ for Jake. After a pleasant walk along the Nelson Head track we climbed the dunes to look for seals. The first one we saw was, unfortunately, a dead pup being eaten by what looked superficially like a Hooded Crow. Closer examination left me thinking it was more likely a hybrid – nice to see all the same. At Brodgrave Farm we watched a distant group of four Crane feeding in the field.

Probable Hooded x Carrion Crow hybrid – Horsey


A rather less gruesome seal spectacle


This afternoon it was ‘business as usual’ in the park. The most interesting things were a Marsh Tit along the shelter-belt, Little Egret & Green Sandpiper on the Scarrow Beck near to Metton Carr and a Grey Heron carrying away it’s prey – which looked like a Brown Rat. On the way back up The Street, two pairs of Bullfinch.

Several Common Darter still about near Horsey


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Friday 3rd November


Three of a small flock of Fieldfare with Starling – sheep pastures, Felbrigg

I noticed them yesterday but it didn’t register that the family party of Mute Swan on the water meadow weren’t our resident birds. Today I had time to check them out properly – one family group of adults and three youngsters on the water meadow, whilst the ‘family from hell’ – all nine of them, remain on the lake. The Little Egret is still present, this afternoon commuting between the lake and the wet meadow near Melton Carr. As I stood by The Warren I could hear the familiar chucking call of Fieldfare, coming from the sheep pastures to the east. I counted nine feeding with a large Starling flock. Later, as I was watching migrant Blackbirds and a single Redwing on Aylmerton Common, another group of twenty Fieldfare flew west over Sawmill Cottage. The afternoon was incredibly mild for November but nevertheless I was still somewhat surprised to see a pair of mating dragonfly over the lake – Common Darter I think, but I couldn’t be sure.

There’s another family moved in up the way..


The local Buzzard was receiving the unwelcome attention of a Crow this afternoon


Poor light meant that it was difficult to confirm the identification of these mating dragonfly – my guess is that they were Common Darter