Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Friday 26th October


Little Owl at dusk, Felbrigg Park

I went back into the park on Wednesday, late afternoon. There’d been an unconfirmed sighting of NUTCRACKER over Cromer – the bird thought possibly to be heading in the Felbrigg direction! Needles and haystacks come to mind, but at least I made the effort! There is an historic record of Nutcracker in the park – back in the last ‘invasion year’ of 1968, and there has been a reported build-up of birds this autumn on the Continent, so it is possible. The only one I’ve seen in the UK was in deepest Staffordshire somewhere – the bird was so unbothered by it’s human admirers that, at one point, it walked between my tripod legs! Anyway, no Nutcracker on this occasion but I did see the Ring Ouzel on the water meadows again and, as dusk approached, Little Owl in the Oak by the dam, with Tawny Owl calling from Common Plantation and, on my way home, Barn Owl hunting over Aylmerton Common. Its been a while since I had a ‘three Owl’ day. Yesterday was given over to Bird Club stuff, culminating in our Indoor meeting and an excellent talk by our outside speaker Aldina Franco.

If you are in the park and come across this handsome guy – PLEASE do let me know! 


Photo from the internet


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Wednesday 24th October


Mediterranean Gull – 1st winter, over the sheep pastures, in front of Felbrigg Hall

Monday was a quiet day at Cley NWT. Yesterday I birded the coast locally, with friends, trying to catch up on the weekend’s bonanza. We managed two out of the three but the Brown Shrike turned out to be a one day wonder. We spent a couple of hours in the park in the afternoon with very little action until a 1st winter Mediterranean Gull flew over our heads, as we walked across the sheep fields.  This morning I had a meeting at Sustead Common so walked there and back through the park. Plenty of birds around including newly arrived flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing – up to a hundred on the fields above the water meadows, Meadow Pipits aplenty – at least 28 between the water meadows and the rough grazing below the dam, all the usual stuff on the lake – including the Wigeon and male Mandarin, and, best of all, Jack Snipe which took off from the edge of the Scarrow Beck near the Weaver’s Way crossing, quickly landing back near the outflow. If this is the same bird as in mid-September I can’t imagine where it’s been hiding. I also had another male Yellowhammer, in the hedge below the dam – second bird in a week.

Record shot of Jack Snipe


Fieldfare and Redwing arriving in good numbers this morning


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Monday 22nd October


Yellow-browed Wabler, The Street, Aylmerton

What a day it was yesterday! It was barely light when I walked down The Street towards Felbrigg. I’d just got to Sawmill Cottage when I heard a penetrating ‘psweet’ call – I’d heard it briefly the night before  but eventually dismissed it as probable Coal Tit. This time I was certain I knew what it was – a Yellow-browed Warbler. It was in the hedge opposite the cottage and showed well before flying back into the garden (I looked for it twice later on in the day but without success). The park itself was shrouded in mist and I couldn’t see across the lake – in consequence, the bird list was rather small. I’d got back home and was just entering my records on the NENBC website when I noticed a posting of ‘Red-backed Shrike at Weybourne’ – a bird which I needed for the area! It didn’t take me long to gather my things and head off. When I got to the spot the original finders where still there and told me that the bird had showed a couple of times since the first sighting – I was optimistic! The bird did appear briefly, practically in silhouette, but I was struck by how well marked the head was. I took a couple of record shots before heading off for the probable Todd’s Canada Goose (a rare form of Canada goose – breeds to the south and east of Hudson Bay and winters in south-eastern USA), which was seen flying east from the Cley roost and had been relocated in fields east of Weybourne. It was just visible on the skyline. At this point the news broke that the shrike had been re-identified as Brown Shrike – a super rare visitor from Siberia and a new bird for Norfolk I think. We returned in the afternoon to get much better (though still distant) views. A late afternoon visit to the park produced a number of ‘old favourites’ – Mandarin, Little Owl, Brambling, Water Rail etc., but nothing new. What a day – and I still need Red-backed Shrike for my NENBC list!

Super rare Brown Shrike at Weybourne – a new Norfolk and NENBC tick! Record shot


Canada goose, with Pink-feet at Weybourne (now considered of the Atlantica race)


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Sunday 21st October


Sunset over Aylmerton

Birding opportunities where understandably limited at yesterday morning’s Felbeck Trust work-party but we did see a few Brambling, Redwing and Bullfinch. My late afternoon walk in Felbrigg was very pleasant – warm and windless, with a spectacular sunset. Not too much about but I did see a Yellowhammer in the Hawthorns by the water meadows – my first in the park since March, there was a single Wigeon on the lake, along with a steadily increasing flock of Gadwall – 14 so far, and a couple of Little Owl calling to each other at the south east corner of the dam. I did manage to actually find one hidden in the canopy. A Sparrowhawk – probably a female, flew out from the western shelter-belt and attempted to take a Teal off of the water meadow – it failed and quickly returned to the cover of the trees! Eight Reed Bunting came in to roost in the reed-bed and, whilst I was hanging around counting them, three Water Rail were calling from different areas, from Boathouse Bay to the water meadow. There were still a couple of bats out over the village on my return home but nothing quite as large as the one a couple of weeks ago.

Record shot of Yellowhammer at the water meadows, Felbrigg – a scarce species nowadays




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Saturday 20th October


Record shot of Siberian Stonechat, between Salthouse and Kelling yesterday 

We’ve been away the past couple of days visiting the kids and helping our youngest son with a move of house. I did, however, manage a quick dawn visit to my former stomping ground of BLGP (Baston & Langtoft Gravel Pits, to give it it’s full title) where they’ve been having a bit of a ‘wader fest’ recently. We saw Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and the ‘star of the show’ – a rather late Temminick’s Stint. On our return home yesterday, and after one or two engagements, I did managed to get along the coast to Meadow Lane, to see a rather distant but nonetheless splendid Siberian Stonechat. Even at a half mile distance you could see it’s overall paleness and, when it flew, which it did frequently, it’s strikingly pale rump. Visit Steve Gantlett’s gallery for some excellent photos of the bird. Just a pity it was a mile the wrong side of the NENBC boundary!

Post Script: This bird is now thought to be a probable Stejneger’s Stonechat (DNA evidence required to clinch the id) – a rare visitor from North East Asia and a ‘Norfolk tick’ for me if confirmed

A record shot of Temminick’s Stint at BLGP


This morning we have a Felbeck Trust work-party at Sustead Common, so no chance to get down to the lake for the ‘flock’ of Mandarin, which appeared yesterday – gnash!

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Thursday 18th October



Record shot of Ring Ouzel – on the NENBC Felbrigg mid-week walk

And the answer to the question ‘I wonder what awaits us?’ was.. a Ring Ouzel! This was the best bird, of the 51 species seen, on the NENBC mid-week walk yesterday. Found, in the company of a few ‘continental Blackbird’, at the traditional location of the Hawthorns at the edge of the water meadows. The supporting cast included: good numbers of Redwing, Starling & Lapwing heading west, male Mandarin on the lake, the pair of Stonechat still in Boathouse Bay and a few Brambling near the church. The National Trust walk in the afternoon, though well-attended, failed to produce very much of interest – with the singular exception of Grey Wagtail by the out-flow.

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Wednesday 17th October


Shoveler – the only wind-blown arrival at Felbrigg yesterday

I was in the park at day-break yesterday to see if the bad weather of Monday had blown anything interesting in. It hadn’t, except a new lone Shoveler on the lake, but I did see / hear a few of the scarcer local birds – male Mandarin with the Mallards on the water meadows, Water Rail squealing from near Boathouse Bay and recently arrived Brambling in several spots. After an interesting meeting at Norfolk Wildlife Trust HQ about various ideas which Felbeck Trust could perhaps becomes involved with, Phil and I took a trip out to Trimingham. Not the hoped-for Lapland bunting, which I’d missed for the NENBC area in the Spring though, but a very unexpected calling Cetti’s warbler along the coastal path – possibly a migrant? and a late Lesser Whitethroat, in a mixed flock of Blackcap, Chiffchaff & Goldcrest. It’s ‘walks day’ today in Felbrigg – I wonder what, if anything, awaits us?

Record shot of Lesser Whitethroat at Trimingham 

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Tuesday 16th October


iPhone photo of a Kingfisher from Dauke’s hide, Cley NWT

Yesterday was our day at Cley NWT. It rained continuously with a cool north-east wind. I missed most of the early morning sea-watching action including, apparently, all four Skua species, Grey Phalarope and Balearic Shearwater! I did manage to find the Snow Buntings on the beach though, a late Wheatear on the Eye Field and, in the afternoon, we were entertained for ten minutes or so by a very obliging Kingfisher in front of Dauke’s hide. Came home early to get warm and dry. Winter is on it’s way.

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Review of the blogging year


Arguably the best birds of the 2017 / 18 AND year – nine Crane over Felbrigg Hall

A bit later than I’d expected but here it is, my review of the highlights of the fourth year of my Aylmerton Nature Diary.

I think the only new bird species I managed to add to my Felbrigg list during the year were a flock of nine Crane – previously missed on their traditional Spring fly-about from the Broads, Common Tern – much anticipated but surprisingly under-recorded in the park,  and an even scarcer species – that infamous Ruff! Other wildlife highlights certainly included two dragonflies – Lesser Emperor and Norfolk Hawker and Otter, which performed well at the lake on several occasions.

Having returned from a month in Australia, the wildlife interest in October 2017 really began for me with an adult Mediterranean Gull – scarce in the park, and Willow Emerald damselfly – a recent colonist, on the 11th. IMG_2034
On the 25th a male Stonechat, my second of the year, was a nice find and a Green Sandpiper on 27th brought the month to a close. November highlights included the continued arrival of winter thrushes from 3rd, the return of a small flock of Hawfinch – up to six were seen around The Orangery, gradually reducing in number until the last single bird was seen on the 23rd February… or so we thought!. Amazingly, I saw a lone individual here in the village a month later on 27th March. UntitledA Jack Snipe on the 27th was the other notable November sighting – small compensation for missing the male Goosander a day or so earlier. December brought yet another ‘dip’, this time in the form of a ‘first for Felbrigg’ – a 1cy Iceland Gull, found by Simon, briefly in the afternoon of the 6th, near the church. (Simon managed to complete the ‘double’ by finding a Glaucous Gull in the Spring, whilst we were away in the States!) The ‘rest of the best’ for December included several obliging Water Rail around the lake and the ‘back gate’ and the reappearance of the two Tufted x Ferruginous hybrids. IMG_7290
The year came to a close with the appearance of a scarce Redshank on Mallett’s Meadow, which stayed into the New Year.

2018 started with mixed fortunes. There were plenty of interesting birds in the area – I managed to clock-up 87 species on the traditional New Year’s Day ‘treasure hunt’, but the month produced few birds of real interest on ‘the patch’. I achieved my 500th AND blog post on the 13th  – and then death and destruction. In the strong winds around the 20th the ‘sacred Oak’ – the most reliable location for Little Owl in the park, blew over and a week later a digger moved on to Aylmerton Common, destroying all of the habitat along the length of the Scarrow Beck! February came and went, but the cold snap at the beginning of March did start producing some interesting birds. IMG_4074
There was a noticeable movement of Lapwing – an uncommon event nowadays and the Jack Snipe was an unexpected rediscovery on the 3rd, a superb male Pintail on the lake on the 6th –  only the 4th record, another Stonechat on the 11th and a Marsh Harrier on the 26th brought a better month to a close.

Before heading to the States for our two month-long Great American Bird RoAd Trip, I did mange to find a few decent birds in the park. The 6th April was a ‘Blue Ribbon day’ with the flock of Cranes, Ring Ouzel and a very late ‘first date’ Sand Martin. Swiftly followed on the 8th by Swallow – the day of the Official Launch of The Birds of Felbrigg Park – an intermittent labour of love over the previous couple of years. Cover A4 PDFAs if in recognition of that event the flock of six Hawfinch made a guest appearance around the hall and remained until 13th April, which was my last day in the park before departure. A singing Willow Warbler and a rubicola – type male Stonechat where a fitting send-off.

We left in what seemed like Winter and returned to high Summer. On my first visit to the park, 13th June, I saw an adult Hobby. Further sightings followed until it became clear that these splendid falcons were, once again, breeding in Felbrigg. They eventually produced three young (like the previous year) and were last seen, as a family group, on 16th September. A pair of Shoveler on the 14th and a Lesser Whitethroat on the 19th added more interest until the ‘Felbrigg first’ of Common Tern on the 29th. July birding interest was confined to an unexpected family party of Gadwall on the 9th and the equally unexpected appearance of a family of Spotted Flycatcher around the middle of the month.What July lacked in birds, it made up for in spades with dragonflies – Norfolk Hawker and Lesser Emperor within days of each other! Late July anIMG_6375d early August were notable for return wader passage with Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank all present on several occasions. On the 16th a juvenile Cuckoo, found on the NENBC mid-week walk, stayed for over week – my only Cuckoo of the year! On the 20th the first of a run of Marsh Harriers was present over the Weaver’s Way with another, wing-tagged bird following two days later and a third on the 19th September. IMG_8601
A handsome Whinchat was present at The Warren on the 24th, followed by a long-staying and very approachable Wheatear from the 30th. The final couple of weeks of this review period began with both Sedge and Reed Warbler at the lake on the 2nd September, Grey Wagtail, male Mandarin and Snipe all reappeared in this period and a Mediterranean Gull, ‘following the plough’, at Stone Cross on the 9th neatly brings us full circle.


I hope you enjoyed this brief round-up of my wildlife blogging year – I wonder what next year’s highlights will be?


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Saturday 13th October


Rosy Starling – a local ‘twitch’, with an amazing punch-line!

It’s been a couple of days of counting. Yesterday it was the Cley WeBS count – I did the Salthouse marshes, and this morning it was the NENBC Coordinated Sea-watch. From yesterday’s WeBS the highlights, apart from the spectacular sun-rise that is, were the two Jack Snipe on Snipe’s Marsh (which I also did) and good numbers of Ruff. Today, not surprisingly given the weather – warm, clear with a brisk southerly wind, the Happisburgh sea-watching was unremarkable – highlights being a close-in Arctic Skua, Shag and twenty+ Mediterranean Gulls in the roost. After the sea-watch Phil and I went to look for the Rosy Starling at New Costessey. When we arrived at the modern housing estate location, there were only a couple of birders and no birds. Eventually we got to see the bird in the garden of a near-by house but, incredibly, the guy who lives there says there are THREE!

Yesterday’s sun-rise – the iPhone photo really doesn’t do it justice

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