Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Monday 28th January


The new spillway at Felbrigg Lake – working at last

Most of my weekend was taken-up with NWT ‘Wildlife in Common’ events and follow-up. Today I was at Cley until mid-afternoon. A moderate north-westerly wind brought pulses of sleety rain, the occasional sunny period and temperatures hardly creeping above zero. Nevertheless there were a few interesting birds about; a superb male Hen Harrier flew west along the shingle bank mid-morning, a flock of forty Snow Bunting and a lone female were also on the shingle and a male Goosander flew in off the sea and headed across the reserve. It was still light enough when I got home to have a quick excursion into the park. Three Bullfinch were in evidence down the lane. Once in the park, almost all the duck were on the water meadows – including two new young male Shoveler and a single Egyptian Goose, and there were five Snipe in the rough grazing below the dam. A group of nine Tufted Duck were pretty much the only birds on the lake itself, where the water levels are now back to normal after the last few days worth of rain. The new sluice is finally working, with a steady flow of water down the newly created spillway, though the pedestrian bridge is still under construction, so the footpath across the dam remains closed.

Snow Bunting on the shingle bank at Cley this afternoon – iPhone photo


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Friday 25th January


Wildfowl clustered around the only patch of open water – Felbrigg Lake

The cold weather continues. The lake and water meadows in the park remain frozen and the hungry birds are emptying the feeders at Sustead Common as fast as I can fill them. I did have a walk out yesterday afternoon but, as has been the case lately, birds were hard to come by. All the wildfowl were clustered around the small open area of water – mostly Mallard, Teal & Gadwall, with a couple of Wigeon adding interest. Still no unusual diving ducks though. On the rough grazing below the dam I was pleased to see that the male Stonechat is managing to survive – I couldn’t see the female but I think she’s also been reported recently. There were also a couple of Snipe and a small flock of Meadow Pipit in the vicinity. Bullfinch numbers remain high along the western shelter-belt and up The Street – I counted eight again yesterday.

I wonder how long this poo-bag is going to adorn the fence behind The Forge – why do people do it?



Tuesday 22nd January


iPhone photo of the 1st winter Glaucous Gull at Cley NWT yesterday

It was pretty cold and miserable at Cley NWT yesterday, with successive banks of low cloud rolling in from the west and the main water bodies remaining frozen until mid-afternoon at least. As a consequence bird-life was at a premium. Highlights of the day were; the 1st winter Glaucous Gull, which continues to feeding on the dead seal pup at the end of East Bank, up to ten wintering Stonechat across the reserve and a ‘fly-through’ Peregrine – which I missed. Back home, I was tipped-off about a Barn Owl in the park, seen by Peter, less than an hour previous. I put my outdoor kit back on and headed out. What I hadn’t realised was that, with the failing light and the worsening fog, visibility was down to just a few yards. Thus no owl and precious little else for that matter! A ‘flock’ of five Bullfinch along the western shelter-belt was the best I could do – whilst Barn Owl continues to evade me.


Monday 21st January


The super wolf blood moon – only this photo from the Guardian was taken in California!

We’ve been visiting the kids this weekend so no birding I’m afraid, but I did add Red Kite to my 2019 Norfolk List on my way over there on Saturday, with a lone individual near Flitcham. There was also a Tawny Owl calling from Mallett’s Meadows, as we were loading the car. For anyone who doesn’t know, the BTO are running a  national Tawny Owl survey this Spring, in an effort to accurately assess the current status of this fast declining species – it’s easy for anyone to participate. According to the news last night it was going to be a good opportunity to see a super wolf blood moon – wow that sounded interesting! The sky was clear when I went to bed, so I duly set my alarm for half past two in an effort to witness the spectacle – I wish I hadn’t bothered! When I finally groped my way downstairs and made it outside the skies had clouded over and although I could still see the outline of the moon, it looked as silvery white as usual. I think I’ll stick to birding – this astronomy malarkey is too much effort!

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Friday 18th January


Marsh Tit, Felbrigg Park – archive photo 

It was our Hazel Coppicing Workshop at Spurrell’s Wood on Tuesday – see this Felbeck Trust blog post for more details. Understandably little by way of birding was done but I did observe a small group of Siskin drinking from the Gur Beck, along the newly-cleared stream edge on the Surveyor’s Allotment before the workshop started and, perhaps best of all a Mistle Thrush, in full song, behind Thatched Cottage. On Wednesday 25 people turned out for the first NENBC Felbrigg mid-week walk of 2019. We saw 40 species, highlights of which included Firecrest (heard only) along the edge of the ‘Victory V’,  the ‘resident’ pair of Stonechat, on the rough grazing below the dam and Marsh Tit in the western shelter-belt. Yesterday I was tied-up preparing and delivering a short talk on the ‘Wildlife of Felbrigg Park’ to a Sheringham church group. Amongst other stuff, it featured two of the species just mentioned, in that talk – Marsh Tit & Firecrest. The accompanying photos for this blog were taken from that slide presentation. I hadn’t made the connection until just now!

Firecrest, Felbrigg Park – archive photo


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Tuesday 15th January


iPhone photo of adult Mediterranean Gull – Cley NWT, yesterday

It was our day at Cley NWT yesterday. A cool breeze from the north west and a bit of drizzle, but otherwise OK weather-wise. Typical mid-winter coastal birding, but I did manage to add three new gull species to my 2019 Norfolk list – Glaucous, Mediterranean and Kittiwake. Where were they when we needed them at the weekend?

A busy day today with our NWT Wildlife in Common Hazel coppicing workshop at Spurrell’s Wood.

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Sunday 13th January


Dawn over Blakeney Fresh Marsh – at the start of our CBC Big Bird Day 

Yesterday I formed part of the NENBC (Management Committee) Team which participated in the inaugural Cley Bird Club Big Bird Day – an event for teams, as well as more informal groupings, to record the maximum number of species seen in the Cley Square between dawn and dusk. Our team started at Blakeney Fresh Marsh, where Twite and Peregrine were the highlights. It was then on to Morston Quay, where we added Rock Pipit and Greenshank. Next came a tour of various ‘inland sites’ collecting woodland / farmland species including Grey Wagtail, Marsh Tit and Brambling. A trip to coast-guard carpark at mid-day added Velvet Scoter and, along the shingle ridge, Snow Bunting, before travelling east to Salthouse for Stonechat. Then it was back to Morston to collect a few missed birds from the morning – Goldeneye, Hen Harrier and several wader species. Nothing was added at our last stop – a return visit to Blakeney FM –  and we closed the day on 88 (or 89 if only we could have got our lists to tally!). A good time was had by all, some nice birds seen although, like any bird-race, we missed some ‘howlers’ – no thrush sp. except Blackbird, no owls, etc. – and, we hope, contributing something to the overall aim of the event – to more accurately assess the range and distribution of wintering birds in the Cley Square. Congratulations to the winners The Men in Black (Richard Webb, Mark Golley & Graham Fellows) with 103 species, and thanks to CBC for the invitation – with a bit more notice we might be able to muster more teams, and do some all-important ‘oiling’, as Australian bird-racers would call it! Look forward to next year.

No bird photos I’m afraid, but we did come across this guy on the beach at coast-guard’s


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Friday 11th January


The moment of break-through on the new spill-way at Felbrigg Lake

Acting on a tip-off from the digger man on Wednesday, I managed to time my afternoon walk around the lake yesterday with the break-through of the bank above the newly constructed wooden weir. Unfortunately, as they’ve had to lower the water-levels considerably during construction work, the water didn’t actually over-top the weir, but you can get the idea. Just the new timber bridge / board-walk to go in now and the job’s done. Nothing much different on the bird-front but I did enjoy watching the pair of wintering Stonechat busy feeding on the newly excavated spoil and the Wigeon – two pairs – were back on the water meadows. Bullfinch were present in good numbers with three down The Street, near Sawmill Cottage – two males and a female, there were two more males inside the park, near the hippo log, and Lee reported one along Red Barn Lane at roughly the same time.

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Thursday 10th January


Winter thrush numbers, including Redwing, have increased at Felbrigg since New Year

The weather these past few days hasn’t been particularly conducive for birding but I did make an effort to get out yesterday. First I checked the stand of Larch along the western shelter-belt for Crossbill, but to no avail. I did come across several small groups of winter thrushes dotted about the park on my walk from the Old Deer Park to the sheep pastures near the church. I counted four Mistle Thrush, 25 Redwing, 19 Blackbird and a couple of Song Thrush in all. There were a few Common Gull feeding in the fields and the usual assortment of wildfowl on the lake and water meadows – though I couldn’t find any Wigeon. Work on the new spill-way has picked up again after the Christmas / New Year break and, talking to the contractors, they say they’ll be done by tomorrow afternoon. That, I assume, just leaves the foot-bridge across the new out-flow to go in. It’ll take quite a time then for the legendary ‘dragon corner’ to re-establish itself and, having now isolated the original sluice, it will be interesting to see the impact on Grey Wagtail, which were always attracted to the area of fast running water under the pipe. Overall though the scheme should have a positive effect on the wildlife.

Work on the new spill-way at Felbrigg Lake is nearing completion



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Monday 7th January


Peregrine, roosting on Cromer church – blending in well with the knapped flint of the tower

We had a couple of hours free yesterday morning so took a drive round, collecting a few NENBC year ticks which I’d missed on New Year’s Day. A nice group of Golden Plover at Bodham was followed by the inland flock of Ruff at the pig farm, south of Edgefield. They are tricky to see without a telescope, but a good NENBC find by Phil B in the first place! I counted 37 but I may have missed a few. Too distant to even attempt a photo. We finished up at Cromer church tower to look for the roosting Peregrine – which we found above the East window. In the afternoon I took a walk in the park. Very little change from recent visits – a Grey Wagtail over the lake and then later on the wet meadow at Paul’s Common was the best bird.