Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Thursday 13th December


Felbrigg Hall in the late afternoon sun

I did my last Index of Relative Abundance (IoRA) survey of Felbrigg yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t planning to but, on a brief walk through Lion’s Mouth in the morning, I’d lost my lens hood for my camera, so another visit to the Great Wood became necessary! Killing two birds with one stone (if only I could have found two birds that is!) I decided to do the survey at the same time. Actually there were a few things about, and by the time I’d done the old deer-park, sheep pastures around the church, the rough grazing below the dam, the lake & water meadows and the western shelter-belt, I’d clocked up forty species. Nothing particularly exciting but a nice selection of typical parkland species. The the late afternoon light on the bare oaks, with the hall glowing in the background, was simply splendid.



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Tuesday 11th December



Tawny Owl at dusk – Felbrigg Park

I finished at Cley NWT early yesterday, did a few errands and, as I’d not been in the park for a few days, managed a quick walk around the lake before it got dark. As I made my way down the central path towards the lake a group of five swans appeared over the western shelter-belt, circled the water meadows, before flying off north again. They were all adult Mute and are probably the same group which spend their days on the field reservoir between the village and Stone Cross. There were over a hundred Teal on the water meadows, with a single male Wigeon and a Shoveler. On the lake, apart from the resident family party of Mute Swan, there were around 150 mixed Mallard and Gadwall – it was getting too dark by that stage to distinguish between the females. There were a couple of Shoveler and the Water Rail called periodically from the reed-bed. Below the dam – they’re still making slow progress on the spillway – there were four Snipe in the wet areas of the rough grazing meadow. On my return I watched several Common Buzzard fly into roost in Common Plantation, heard a couple of Little Owl calling to each other from the Oaks in the south-east corner of the lake and three different Tawny Owl calling, between Common Plantation and the western shelter-belt – one of which came to have a look at me! The five ‘visiting’ swans were finally settling down on the water meadows as I headed for home.

Mute Swans flying to roost over the water meadows at dusk


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Saturday 8th December


The reported ‘Rough-legged Buzzard’ along the A148 – a striking bird indeed

The AGM and Trustees meeting on Thursday, went well, but the preparations for and the follow-up after has left little time for birding. One sighting though which did generate a fair amount of interest and head-scratching followed multiple reports of ‘Rough-legged Buzzard’, on the ploughed field along the A148, opposite Gresham Gravel – presumed to be the Felbrigg bird, which was seen again, on a couple of occasions over last weekend, in or around the park. I couldn’t  find the bird when I first arrived at the site but I soon met Andy who put me on to it, sitting in a road-side tree. Over the next hour or so I managed to get reasonable views of it sat, perched and in flight. Initially it presented as a classic RLB –  looking a hefty bird when on the ground, strikingly pale-headed with pronounced dark body blotches and carpal patches on the under-wing. Clearly not the Felbrigg bird, which had a dark head and chest, but stunning all the same. And then it flew – revealing not the expected bold ‘black and white’ tail pattern which is pre-requisite for that species but, at best, a pale buff area at the top of the tail with brown outers and no evidence of terminal tail band(s). Looking more closely at the ‘bare parts’, the eyes were dark – which would indicate an adult and thus at odds with other plumage features and its legs were plain cream above the ‘knee’ and unfeathered on the tarsus. Other clues regarding behaviour and location all adding up to the conclusion that it was just a pale Common Buzzard – perhaps, though a migrant from central / eastern Europe? However, I’d be delighted if this identification proved incorrect  – any comments would therefore be gratefully received.

And then it flew…


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Wednesday 5th December


Woodcock flying over the rough grazing towards Common Plantation, Felbrigg

After the dismal day that was Monday, yesterday was sunny – if a little on the chilly side. I did manage to get in to the park for a walk late morning. It was status quo on the duck front, with just the pair of Shoveler and Wigeon upping the interest level. The pair of Egyptian Geese were hanging about with about a dozen Greylag on the water meadows. They’re still busy working along the dam so I took the long way round, through Common Plantation and back across the rough grazing via the Weaver’s Way. A lone Woodcock, flushed from the edge of the wood, flew round in a wide arc, landing back in Common Plantation. Along Scarrow Beck there were a couple of Snipe but I couldn’t find the Stonechat, which Lee had seen earlier – I do wonder how far they range. Two Red Kite were sat up in their favourite tree, towards Metton Carr. Bullfinch and a couple of Sparrowhawk provided interest on my return journey.

We’ve got a busy couple of days ahead of us – Felbeck Trust working party at Sustead Common this morning and our Annual General Meeting – open to Friends and volunteers – tomorrow evening. Details on our website.

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Tuesday 4th December


Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove – how good would these be back on Sustead Common? – photo from the internet

As you’ve probably gathered, there’s not been a lot going on on the wildlife front these past few days. We had two of our grandsons and their Dad over for the weekend but, despite several trips into the park, failed to find anything other than the usual assemblage of winter wildfowl. There were three Egyptian Geese making a racket in the dead Oak in front of the hall on Saturday and the number of Teal and Wigeon is still slowly creeping up. Work on the new spillway continues and the path across the dam remains closed. There have been a couple more reported sightings of the Rough-legged Buzzard in the park – one on Friday morning up Lion’s Mouth and another, by Jane, on Sunday. It could be that this bird has settled down in it’s winter quarters, somewhere in the Felbrigg vicinity – in which case we can expect a flurry of reports! On Sunday Peter and I attended a very good NWT Wildlife in Common event, with excellent presentations on grassland and woodland management, and a fascinating talk on Turtle Dove conservation by the RSPB. Sustead Common ticks a lot of the habitat requirement boxes – just doesn’t have any Turtle Doves at the moment! Yesterday was our Cley NWT day – the worst mornings birding I’ve had there since I started volunteering! Cold, wet and bird-less. It did pick up a bit in the afternoon. The most exciting thing I saw was a Curlew with a noticeable pale crown-stripe, doing a reasonable impression of a Whimbrel.

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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