Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Wednesday 21st November


Work on the lake is imminent

It was the NENBC mid-week walk this morning. On my way to the meeting point at Sexton’s Lodge car park I spotted two largish birds flying over in a south-easterly direction. I thought at first they might be immature gulls but then quickly realised that they were Curlew. Alas, by the time I’d got my camera set up they’d disappeared behind the trees. Only the second record in over a year. The walk itself was well attended (20 people) and we did manage to find a few birds – 42 in total I think. Highlights included several mixed flocks, including Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Goldcrest, a couple of Wigeon on the Water Meadow and Tufted on the lake –  no sign of any Goldeneye, but Siskin near The Heath. We also discovered that the paths are closed, pending the work on the sluice / spill-way commencing.



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Tuesday 20th November


iPhone photo of juvenile Peregrine at Cley yesterday. There was also one reported at Felbrigg as well

Of course it would be when we were at Cley all day – the first Goldeneye on Felbrigg lake in over two years! No sign though from first light this morning – gr-nash!! It was blowing a bit of a gale, so it is possible I over-looked them – though I doubt it. Small recompense came in the form of a Lesser Redpoll in a mixed flock, which also contained Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest and Chaffinch. Highlights from our day at Cley included the juvenile Peregrine – which sat for much of the day on an island in the middle of Simmond’s Scrape, half a dozen Velvet Scoter on the sea, the flock of sixty Snow Bunting near the pill-box and an adult Caspian Gull (or ‘type’) briefly on Simmond’s in the morning.

Adult Caspian Gull (or ‘type’) – Simmond’s Scrape – distant record shot


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Sunday 18th November


Record shot of Kingfisher at Felbrigg – my first this year!

I spent yesterday morning in the Great Wood –  in particular, those areas with conifers. I was specifically looking for Crossbill but also with a slim chance of stumbling across a Nutcracker! A party of 30 of the former had been seen by National Trust estates staff, up on the main road a couple of days ago, and we’re still wrestling with the implications of the two independent reports of possible Nutcracker in the south west of Cromer in the last couple of weeks. In the event I saw neither, and very little else besides. A single Woodcock was my best bird, before finally deciding to give up and have a look around the lake. Whist counting Teal on the water meadows, a ‘blue streak’ flew through my field of view. It was a Kingfisher, which briefly perched in the Hawthorn by the small pond before flying back towards the lake. This is my first sighting of the year. There was no sign of the Stonechats, but a single Tufted Duck, two Wigeon, Little Grebe and a squealing Water Rail in Boat-house Bay were all good stuff. A pair of Egyptian Geese has arrived back on the water meadows in recent days – it won’t be long before they’re thinking of breeding! Not surprisingly, given the continuing unseasonably warm weather, there are still a few Common Darter around.

A pair of late Common Darter, ovipositing


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Thursday 15th November


Record shot of Twite at Blakeney FM, yesterday

We had an unexpected visit from Bob & Sue, our birding friends from Lincolnshire, yesterday. It gave me an excuse to do a bit of birding, rather than the boring office work I’d got planned! A trip to Sheringham Esplanade got off to a good start as a late Swallow zoomed over our heads, just as we stepped out of the car. No one we spoke to had seen the King Eider so we walked up to the coastal look-out and began scanning. Before long I found the bird in amongst the gulls around the crab pots. It was distant but gave good  views in bright sunshine on a flat calm sea. Over the next hour it slowly drifted east. In the afternoon we went to Blakeney Fresh Marsh – found the Twite but alas not the Lapland Buntings. Having said farewell to B&S I then put in a stint around south west Cromer, looking for the reported Nutcracker (a second, independent, report was received on Tuesday) but without success – obviously!

Another distant record shot of the King Eider at Sheringham


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Tuesday 13th November


A very approachable Snow Bunting – Cley NWT, yesterday

Highlights from Cley NWT yesterday included a very approachable Snow Bunting at the end of East Bank, Peregrine, up to seven different Marsh Harriers mid-afternoon (I missed the male Hen Harrier!), a raft of Velvet Scoter, Long-tailed Duck and several close Red-throated Diver on the sea, several Stonechat and the usual selection of winter waders and wildfowl. Meanwhile, back in the NENBC area the Pallid Swift – or possibly another*, was relocated between Cromer and Overstrand, and showed well in good light by all accounts – rather better than Saturday afternoon’s bird. For a great photo see Carl Chapman’s blog post.

*Saturday’s bird was seen by different observers to have dropped a primary (p8 or 9) on it’s right wing. Photos of the Cromer bird don’t appear to show this.

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Monday 12th November


The best record shots of the Sheringham Pallid Swift – Saturday afternoon

Saturday was the NENBC Outdoor meeting – a morning’s bird walk around the lanes and lokes of Bodham, Baconsthorpe & Selbrigg, finishing with a pub lunch at The Red Hart. We ended with just one off of sixty species! I was just relaxing in front of the tele in the afternoon when a message came through about a Common/Pallid Swift at Sheringham! As I said at the last Bird Club indoor meeting – any Swift at this time of year has got to be worth a look. We arrived at The Esplanade in double quick time but couldn’t see the expected crowd of birders. We headed up the hill towards the coastal look-out, passing a couple of birders on the way. Apparently there’d been no further sighting since the original report. We made it to the top of Skelding Hill, from where I could see Andy C looking intently at something near the end of the golf course.  Then the unmistakable outline of a swift sp. came heading towards us, just below the level of the cliff-top. We watched it for half an hour in increasingly failing light, working it’s way back and forth. I managed to get some shots – 200 to be precise, with only a handful of barely recognisable images when I came to process them. From what I could see, and with admittedly only limited experience of juvenile swifts at this time of the year, the bird looked good for Pallid to me. (Identification subsequently confirmed by Andy Stoddart, who saw the bird well and studied several of my photos). Yesterday morning I did my much delayed annual ‘beating the bounds’ walk, following the parish boundary by way of the network of paths, tracks and roads followed in previous years. Unsurprisingly the bird-count was low but the walk itself was very invigorating and reminded me again of the habitat diversity within the parish. A quick zip to Sidestrand in the afternoon produced a couple of very nice Shore Lark on cliff-top fields – making up for my repeated dips at Happisburgh earlier in the year.

Two Shore Lark on cliff-top fields between Sidestrand & Trimingham

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