Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Monday 29th April


Parish weekend birding highlight – a pair of Gadwall on the village pond – iPhone photo

It was always going to be difficult to maintain the birding momentum after last week’s stellar cast, particularly in the wake of Storm Hannah – which brought strong winds and cold temperatures across the patch. I was busy with Cromer Peregrine Project stuff on Saturday – helping upgrade the CCTV monitoring equipment, followed by a meeting with our Volunteer Coordinator in the afternoon. An early morning walk along the east cliffs at Cromer yesterday produced ‘nil of note’ and a late afternoon saunter in the park had pretty much the same result – highlights being one lingering Ring Ouzel on the water-meadows, Reed Warbler singing again in the reed-bed, the pair of hybrid Tufted x Ferruginous Duck on the lake, the Shelduck, with 2nd generation Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Duck (?), still in tow and a late Snipe. By far my most interesting record however was the pair of Gadwall on the village pond, which I managed to snap from the car window on Saturday afternoon – a first for the pond I think!

Looking back to a memorable week’s birding – Alpine Swift heading towards Sheringham (courtesy of local wildlife & landscape artist John Hurst)

march morning sheringham cliffs


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Saturday 27th April



Alpine Swift over The Lees, Sheringham, yesterday evening – an NENBC tick for me

Yesterday started with a quick dash up the loke, beyond The Close, to look for a Crane which, according to the report, was heading east. No Crane, but whilst I was stood there with Tim looking, a couple of Ring Ouzel appeared from the direction of the pond, in the hedgerow in front of us. There have been lots this Spring but these are my first actually in the parish. I had several jobs to do in Cromer but by mid-afternoon there were more reports – this time of an Alpine Swift – heading east from Cley. It got as far as Sheringham but then went missing. I decided to try West Runton, without success, before going home for tea. It was a warm evening, so a stroll in Felbrigg to look for the swift – more out of hope than expectation – seemed in order. There was no-one about and as I reached the dam I could see a Shelduck at the far end, with another bird. I quickly realised that this must be the bird I’d received a couple of reports of over the past week. A queer looking thing – probably a second generation Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck – now paired with an ordinary Shelduck! The Ring Ouzel was still present on The Warren and the Tawny Owl was sitting out in it’s regular tree, bathed in the rays of the setting sun. I’d just got in when I received another message about the swift – apparently still at The Lees, Sheringham. I was out the door in an instant and enjoying the bird, in a pre-roost feeding frenzy over the town, within minutes. Although I’ve seen Alpine Swift in the area before, this was an NENBC tick for me –  thanks to Mark & Andy for the heads-up!

This ‘Heinz 57’ duck was with a common Shelduck on the dam wall, mid-evening


The Shelduck was my first sighting in the park since January 2018


Ring Ouzel – one of a pair on the edge of the village


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Friday 26th April


A singing Yellow-browed Warbler (found by AB) was too good an offer to resist!

Yesterday didn’t turn out as I’d expected. I had planned an early morning walk along Cromer east cliffs but a WhatsApp message from Andy, announcing a singing Yellow-browed Warbler at North Repps, was too much to resist. I got to the site pretty quickly but on arrival no birders and no bird! Twenty minutes later and I’m just about to give up when Andy drives past saying that the bird is further up the road, in a Hawthorn hedge. It was easily located, as it called frequently with an occasional burst of song, but much more tricky to see. I eventually got on it just before it decided to head along the hedge towards the village at increasing speed. Finally lost to view, a few minutes later. A later than planned walk along the cliffs to the golf course produced very little except a superb male Stonechat – possibly of the continental race rubicola. Felbrigg Park produced mostly the same stuff as on recent visits – Ring Ouzel, Common Sandpiper, lots of Sand Martin and a single House Martin – my first in the park for 2019.

A superb male Stonechat – Cromer golf course

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Wednesday 24th April


Just a few of the Fieldfare flock near Felbrigg church yesterday

Yesterday’s visit to the NRT / Anglia Water integrated wetland produced a species count of 45, including six duck species, three hirundine species and a couple of Common Sandpiper – not a bad tally for a quick visit. On the way there and back I saw several pairs of Grey Partridge. An afternoon walk in Felbrigg produced three male Ring Ouzel together on the water meadows, a couple of Common Sandpiper, Red Kite, a flock of 80 Fieldfare with a lone Redwing, Reed Warbler and Water Rail. The highlight of the day however was the welcome news that the Peregrines have a third egg and the female spent most of the afternoon sitting!

A third egg for the Cromer Peregrines!


Three Ring Ouzel together on the water meadows


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Tuesday 23rd April

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A walk along Cromer East cliffs on Saturday produced several newly-arrived Whitethroat

Our Easter weekend finished, in glorious weather, with a day’s volunteering at Cley NWT. Some great birds around, though it has to be said I managed to miss the best of them – Wood Sandpiper and Garganey! Happily, I did add a few year ticks, including: Whinchat, House Martin, Whimbrel and Spotted Redshank. The day had begun with an early morning visit to Felbrigg, where the highlights included a brief touch-down of a White Wagtail on the water meadows, my first singing Reed Warbler in the reed-bed and two splendid male Ring Ouzel. We called in at Cromer church yesterday late afternoon and found the female sitting – we were due another egg early evening – and the male snoozing on the south east pinnacle. Arriving home, we found our first returning Swallow, sitting on the wires outside the cottage – better late than never! Off this morning to help-out Norfolk Rivers Trust with a bird survey of their recently created integrated wetland in West Norfolk.

These hybrid Tufted x Ferruginous Duck keep dropping in on Felbrigg Lake


Other wildlife interest in the park included my first Small Copper of the year


A nice home-coming – our ‘resident’ Swallow returns


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Sunday 21st April


Common Sandpiper – highlight of Felbrigg birding so far this Easter weekend

We had our second Peregrine egg, laid in the early hours of yesterday morning – Happy Easter! The next one is due tomorrow evening. The female is spending more of her time sitting, whilst the male is increasingly elusive. An early morning walk along the Cromer cliffs to the golf course on Friday produced four Wheatear – one on a garden shed roof next to North Lodge Park, a Sand Martin and several Swallows heading east, and a Fulmar. In the park, on my way home, the Tawny Owl was again in it’s day-time roosting tree. A quick trip down to Beeston Bump in the afternoon allowed me to catch-up with Black Redstart for the year- it was in the same field as a handsome male Redstart. The best bird of yesterday’s excursion around the lake was a Common Sandpiper – first on the dam wall and then, after being flushed, along the western edge. A couple of Snipe, an Oystercatcher and three Lapwing adding to the wader count.

 An obliging Wheatear at North Lodge Park – one of four along the Cromer cliffs


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Friday 19th April


One proud Peregrine – Cromer church! Their first egg, laid on Wednesday evening – photo courtesy of Chris Skipper via the NENBC installed cctv link – and ‘free to view’ in the church

After weeks of waiting, yesterday morning we got the news many local birders have been eagerly anticipating – the Cromer Peregrines have their first egg! Although this is a fantastic development for the Cromer Peregrine Project (CPP) we’re a long way from having a viable brood. Only time will tell. In other news, a different Wheatear was around The Warren yesterday afternoon, along with a Swallow, but there was no sign of the Ring Ouzels.

An early (by this year’s standard) Swallow hawking insects over The Warren


A new Wheatear investigating a Rabbit hole – Felbrigg Park


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Thursday 18th April

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Ring Ouzel – last of the six thrush species seen yesterday in Felbrigg

Yesterday was Felbrigg walks day, with NENBC mid-week walk in the morning and National Trust bird walk in the afternoon. It was also only my second ‘six thrush species in a day’ at Felbrigg, since publishing this blog. Blackbird was easy enough to get near the carpark, as the NENBC group was assembling. Then came Mistle Thrush singing from it’s usual perch in a dead Oak near the Hall. There were plenty of Song Thrush from the path above the water meadows and, with careful scanning, a dozen or so Redwing in the far pasture. A possible Ring Ouzel here was, unfortunately, not confirmed. On the sheep pastures between the lake and the church another mixed flock containing thirty or so Fieldfare. After coffee (and the NENBC walk had finished!) I strolled down to The Warren where two handsome Ring Ouzel were quietly feeding at the base of the gorse. They were still there in the afternoon, when I took the NT group to look for them. Other highlights during the day included Little Owl, Sand Martin & Swallow and Wheatear – which looked big and bright enough to possibly have been a ‘Greenland type’. Non bird interest was provided by Brimstone & Orange-tip butterflies. In the evening I went to top-up the feeders at Sustead Common and had my first Whitethroat of the year, in the gorse west of the hide.

The other Ring Ouzel near The Warren


Wheatear, between the church and the Hall

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Tuesday 16th April – update


Not today’s bird alas, but my last male Redstart in Felbrigg Park, in early April 2016

With early morning reports from Cromer GC of a dozen or more Ring Ouzel, I was keen to get into the park to see if there were any inland. A few Song Thrush and a lone Fieldfare on the water meadows – a favoured spot for Ring Ouzel – looked promising but, in the end, I failed to find one. Whilst looking from the bridge over the top sluice towards the Hawthorns at the eastern edge of the water meadows, however, I did see a superb male Redstart fly from one bush to another and sit out briefly, before doing a disappearing act. Other birds of interest in the same area included a couple of Brambling, Snipe, several Lapwing, two Oystercatcher and the usual wildfowl. Later in the day the male Peregrine was sitting on Cromer church pinnacles and there were five Fieldfare near The Warren on my return home.

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Tuesday 16th April


Finally managed to catch up with this Spoonbill at Cley yesterday, along with several other year ticks – taken on my iPhone

It was reasonably sunny at Cley NWT yesterday, but still that cold easterly wind continued to blow. Despite the weather, the Spring migrants are still managing to get through in increasing numbers. I missed the Ring Ouzel which put in a brief appearance along the shingle ridge first thing and the five Waxwing opposite the bottom carpark, but I did see Bittern in flight near the cattle-pen east of the board-walk, the Spoonbill, Sandwich Tern and Swallows over the main scrapes and, in the afternoon, a Willow Warbler in Walsey Hills. All, I’m slightly embarrassed to say, were Norfolk year ticks! The Open Day at Sustead Common on Sunday was a leisurely affair but, given the weather – it hailed several times during the morning, considered by most who attended to be and enjoyable and worthwhile event. Spurrell’s Wood is now officially open to the public – please follow the on- site instructions to avoid disturbing the wildlife.