Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Thursday 29th November


Rough-legged Buzzard – a First for Felbrigg

I have Anne to thank for getting me out in the park on a damp and blustery morning – trying to catch up with those elusive Goldeneye. There was plenty of wildfowl on the water meadow, including lots of Teal, a pair of Wigeon and the Egyptian Geese. On the lake the only odd ducks I could find were the three Shoveler and another couple of Wigeon. Lots of Mallard and Gadwall but, not surprisingly, no sign of any Goldeneye! In an attempt to salvage something from my visit I went in search of the Stonechat on the rough grazing pastures below the dam. As I made my way down the field I noticed a ‘buzzard’ heading east over Common Plantation pursued by another. They’re such a regular occurrence in the park nowadays that it took me a while to even lifts my binoculars. I’m glad I did though because as the ‘lead bird’ twisted in the buffeting winds above me I noticed a striking white rump patch! With a couple of reports in recent weeks of ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier I started to imagine that this could be the bird – then I got a grip! I was obviously watching a Rough-legged Buzzard – the pale under-parts with dark head, waist-coat and carpal patches all being visible – albeit as it hurtled towards Metton Carr. I did manage to get a couple of grab shots as it disappeared over the horizon. As far as I’m aware this is the first record from within the park, all other records in ‘The Birds of Felbrigg Park’ referring to birds along the Cromer ridge. I did manage to find a Stonechat afterwards but, to be honest, my mind was firmly on other things!


Wednesday 28th November


Red Kite over Felbrigg

It was a much more interesting day for birds in the park yesterday than of late. Wildfowl numbers are creeping up – more of them are now on the water meadow because the construction work on the weir has commenced. There were seventy odd Gadwall, over a hundred Teal, three Shoveler, six Wigeon, a single Tufted and the usual Mallard flock, of course. Little Grebe were on the lake and a Water Rail squealed from Boathouse Bay. The pair of Egyptian Geese are commuting between their prospective nest-site, over towards the church, and the water meadow. On the rough grazing below the dam there was a small flock of Meadow Pipit, the now ‘resident’ pair of wintering Stonechat and a lone Snipe. A Red Kite soared slowly overhead as I walked down towards Sustead Common, were the Siskin flock was busy feeding in the Alders and five Bullfinch were working their way along the western perimeter of Spurrell’s Wood. A skein of 180 Pink-feet flew south east, between Felbrigg and Sustead. Some nice birds but unfortunately the poor light making photography practically impossible – still you can’t have it all!

Male Shoveler, on the lake yesterday morning


Work on the weir has started – the foot-path across the dam is temporarily closed



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Monday 26th November


We had friends round last night and got given this 2019 Eco Year Planner. Each month has an eco-theme, Transport, Healthy Living, Waste etc – with loads of tips to improve your life-style and practical ways to tread more lightly on the planet. I was particularly taken by ‘May – Bio-diversity’ – tip no. 6 – Volunteer for a local wildlife organisation! Although there’s probably nothing you haven’t seen somewhere else before, it’s all brought together here in a readily accessible and practical calendar. It even gives you tips about creative ways to recycle it at the end of the year! An excellent gift for people who have everything and could probably do with less! ecoyearplanner

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Sunday 25th November


One of two pairs of Wigeon at Felbrigg yesterday 

Very little to report wildlife-wise over the past few days, despite several walks around the park. Yesterday there was the now regular pair of Egyptian Geese and a pair of Wigeon on the water meadow.  Another pair of Wigeon was on the lake with a female Tufted Duck and, apart from the usual Mallard, Teal & Gadwall,  that’s been about it in the way of wildfowl. At Sustead Common the Siskin flock is slowly building up – there were 17 on Friday when I was there topping up the feeders. Bullfinch have been regular, both at Sustead Common and down the lane. We did go to Overstrand beach with the kids and Dexter on Thursday, but apart from a few gulls a small flock of Common Scoter flying east was the only notable record. That’s winter birding for you!

Our biggest news by far this week though is that Felbeck Trust are now the official legal owners of Spurrell’s Wood! We got some reasonable media coverage including a live piece on Radio Norfolk and this piece in the EDP. A massive personal THANK YOU to all those who helped make this happen!


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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.