Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Wednesday 30th October


Record shot of a Pale-bellied Brent Goose past Cromer yesterday

It was one of those rare mornings yesterday when the wind was meant to be from the east. It was, but in was only a breeze and it didn’t come from too far out in the North Sea. Nevertheless I decided to give sea-watching from Cromer east cliffs a go. There was plenty of stuff about – mostly wildfowl – and nearly all of it going west. Highlights included: a single Bonxie (Great Skua), 19 Eider, a mix of Wigeon (237), Common Scoter (115), Teal, Mallard, Shoveler and Tufted Duck, a Shag just off-shore from the shelter, and loads of geese – the bulk of which where Brent, but in amongst the 252 Dark-bellied was a lone Pale-bellied (a first for me in the NENBC area I think).

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Tuesday 29th October


One of three Twite found along the shingle ridge at Cley NWT yesterday

A damn fine day at Cley NWT yesterday! Things got off to a good start with three Twite along the shingle ridge behind Arnold’s Marsh. I’d only walked a couple of hundred yards when I came across a beached juvenile Gannet – eventually taken into care by the RSPCA. Whilst waiting for George the warden to come with the Land Rover a group of three Shore Lark flew over my head, going west. After lunch a trip to the beach car park produced a Purple Sandpiper on the wreck and the sudden flurry of activity from the guys in sea-watch shelter heralded the passing of a Little Auk, heading west, just off shore. At North Scrape a small raptor sat on top of the viewing screen turned out to be a female Merlin – we saw a male on our drive home through Salthouse – and just as we started back along East Bank a group of four Rock Pipit flew over, also heading west. Now that’s what I call Norfolk autumn birding.

The beached juvenile Gannet, eventually taken into care by the RSPCA


iPhone photo of a female Merlin, North Scrape screen – later we saw a male near Salthouse


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Monday 28th October


A splendid male Goosander on Felbrigg Lake at the weekend

We did a mad dash to Lancashire on Friday evening to share in the 90th birthday celebrations for Jane’s dad, returning late on Saturday night. Sod’s law, on Saturday morning Andrew finds the first Goosander at Felbrigg in two years! Mercifully it – a lovely looking male – stayed around and, after doing a few jobs in the morning, I manage to get good views of it yesterday afternoon. Having missed several previous birds, it’s been almost four years since I saw my last here, at what used to be a fairly regular wintering location for this species. In other parish birding news, the pair of Black Redstart remain along Church Road / The Street, with a third bird reported by Tim & Dawn along Red Barn Lane! Not a bad autumn record for a non-coastal location.

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Saturday 26th October



A reasonably close Razorbill – Cromer east cliffs. Not the possible Little Auk I managed to miss!

A short sea-watch from Cromer cliffs on Thursday, after a long wet day working with Felbeck Trust, produced very little – a few Gannets, auks (including a Razorbill close off shore) Red-throated Diver and Brent Geese. Best bird for me was a juvenile Shag, which flew east. Just as we were packing up Jake spotted a small auk – Starling-sized – fly quickly west along the shoreline – a good shout for Little Auk. I managed to missed it! The Black Redstart remained in the village for its 4th day.

Another shot of the temporary resident Black Redstart in Aylmerton


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Thursday 23rd October


Eight Egyptian Geese heading west over Cromer Pier this morning. Photo courtesy of Rob

Today was Rob & Gi’s last day with us before flying home to Australia, so we went for a walk along Cromer prom this morning. Two Peregrines were on the church tower – it looked like it might have been Mum & Dad. They both appeared to be in adult plumage and I certainly couldn’t see any rings. A group of eight geese flying west along the coast and over the pier turned out not to be Pink-feet or Brent, as I was expecting, but Egyptian Geese! Meanwhile, back in Aylmerton, the male Black Redstart is still hanging about on roofs along Church Road. Please respect residents privacy.

The male Black Redstart is still present in the village, for it’s second day



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Wednesday 22nd October


Male Black Redstart – The Street, Aylmerton

The bell rang outside our kitchen door yesterday evening – it was Tim with news of a male Black Redstart on the houses between his place and the bus stop. Jake and I quickly grabbed our gear and hot-footed it up the road. Lee was already on station and, just as he was telling me where he’d seen the bird last, something Black Redstart-like dropped off the chimney stack and disappeared from view. By this time is was getting pretty dim and we thought it likely that the bird had gone to roost. Fortunately it put in a couple more appearances in the next ten minutes, on a roof along The Street, before it finally succumbed to the encroaching darkness. There have been half a dozen of these early / late migrants on the patch in the past twenty years but this is my first since the pair on the allotments in March 2015. Thanks again Tim for the shout!

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Monday 21st October


Fieldfare – Felbrigg Park 

Finally caught up with my first Fieldfare of the autumn in Felbrigg yesterday afternoon -they seem incredibly late / scarce this year. There were 15 or so in the dead Ash trees, north of the water meadows. Birding highlights of our morning at Cley NWT included a Woodcock, which came in off the sea and flew south over the centre, Yellow-browed Warbler showing well in Walsey Hills and a few things moving on the sea – though no Little Auk for us!

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Friday 18th October


A Long-tailed Tit flock – Felbrigg Park

An early morning walk in Felbrigg produced little of note before the rain started. I did come across several small mixed tit flocks, including Blue, Great and Long-tailed, as well as Robin, Chiffchaff, Dunnock and Goldcrest. Plenty of gulls on the sheep pastures but restricted to just three species – Black-headed, Common & Herring. I forgot to mention in my last blog a most surprising observation whilst leading the National Trust bird walk. We were approaching the church when we saw a Rook pluck a spiking nut casing from the branch of a nearby Sweet Chestnut tree and fly off with it to the ground. We couldn’t tell if it manage to open the casing but it and another Rook certainly gave it some serious attention.

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Thursday 17th October


There’s a nice array of autumn fungi in Felbrigg at present – including Shaggy Inkcap

It was Felbrigg bird walks day yesterday – NENBC in the morning, with nearly twenty members attending, followed by National Trust in the afternoon, which eleven people  had booked on. For the second month running it was exceptionally quiet, with almost as many people as we had on our combined species list! A skein of early morning Pink-feet and few Redwing were the the most interesting birds during the drizzly morning session. Things improved slightly in the afternoon with three different Little Owl calling towards the end of our walk – alas we didn’t see any of them! But the main purpose of the walks is to introduce people of all levels of birding ability to the wildlife of Felbrigg and to that end a number of participants saw birds which they’d never seen before, including Redwing, Great-spotted Woodpecker and Gadwall. As befits the season and the weather there were a few interesting fungi about though. There’s a good display of Parasol Mushrooms – some the size of dinner plates, a few Shaggy Inkcaps and that unmistakable smell of autumn decay coming from phallus impudicus in the woods.

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Tuesday 15th October


iPhone record shot of a male Pintail on Arnold’s Marsh yesterday

There were a few birds of interest around Cley yesterday but it was mostly quiet. A juvenile female Peregrine flew west over Arnold’s Marsh before alighting on a fence post for a few minutes. Frustratingly it never turned around so I couldn’t see if it was our colour-ringed Cromer girl! A nice male Pintail, again on Arnold’s, and an elusive Jack Snipe on Snipe’s Marsh were the other highlights. A Yellow-browed Warbler called briefly in Walsey Hills but I failed to pin it down… again!

More record shots I’m afraid of Peregrine and Jack Snipe