Aylmerton Nature Diary


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Thursday 18th October

 

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Record shot of Ring Ouzel – on the NENBC Felbrigg mid-week walk

And the answer to the question ‘I wonder what awaits us?’ was.. a Ring Ouzel! This was the best bird, of the 51 species seen, on the NENBC mid-week walk yesterday. Found, in the company of a few ‘continental Blackbird’, at the traditional location of the Hawthorns at the edge of the water meadows. The supporting cast included: good numbers of Redwing, Starling & Lapwing heading west, male Mandarin on the lake, the pair of Stonechat still in Boathouse Bay and a few Brambling near the church. The National Trust walk in the afternoon, though well-attended, failed to produce very much of interest – with the singular exception of Grey Wagtail by the out-flow.

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Wednesday 17th October

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Shoveler – the only wind-blown arrival at Felbrigg yesterday

I was in the park at day-break yesterday to see if the bad weather of Monday had blown anything interesting in. It hadn’t, except a new lone Shoveler on the lake, but I did see / hear a few of the scarcer local birds – male Mandarin with the Mallards on the water meadows, Water Rail squealing from near Boathouse Bay and recently arrived Brambling in several spots. After an interesting meeting at Norfolk Wildlife Trust HQ about various ideas which Felbeck Trust could perhaps becomes involved with, Phil and I took a trip out to Trimingham. Not the hoped-for Lapland bunting, which I’d missed for the NENBC area in the Spring though, but a very unexpected calling Cetti’s warbler along the coastal path – possibly a migrant? and a late Lesser Whitethroat, in a mixed flock of Blackcap, Chiffchaff & Goldcrest. It’s ‘walks day’ today in Felbrigg – I wonder what, if anything, awaits us?

Record shot of Lesser Whitethroat at Trimingham 

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Tuesday 16th October

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iPhone photo of a Kingfisher from Dauke’s hide, Cley NWT

Yesterday was our day at Cley NWT. It rained continuously with a cool north-east wind. I missed most of the early morning sea-watching action including, apparently, all four Skua species, Grey Phalarope and Balearic Shearwater! I did manage to find the Snow Buntings on the beach though, a late Wheatear on the Eye Field and, in the afternoon, we were entertained for ten minutes or so by a very obliging Kingfisher in front of Dauke’s hide. Came home early to get warm and dry. Winter is on it’s way.


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Review of the blogging year

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Arguably the best birds of the 2017 / 18 AND year – nine Crane over Felbrigg Hall

A bit later than I’d expected but here it is, my review of the highlights of the fourth year of my Aylmerton Nature Diary.

I think the only new bird species I managed to add to my Felbrigg list during the year were a flock of nine Crane – previously missed on their traditional Spring fly-about from the Broads, Common Tern – much anticipated but surprisingly under-recorded in the park,  and an even scarcer species – that infamous Ruff! Other wildlife highlights certainly included two dragonflies – Lesser Emperor and Norfolk Hawker and Otter, which performed well at the lake on several occasions.

Having returned from a month in Australia, the wildlife interest in October 2017 really began for me with an adult Mediterranean Gull – scarce in the park, and Willow Emerald damselfly – a recent colonist, on the 11th. IMG_2034
On the 25th a male Stonechat, my second of the year, was a nice find and a Green Sandpiper on 27th brought the month to a close. November highlights included the continued arrival of winter thrushes from 3rd, the return of a small flock of Hawfinch – up to six were seen around The Orangery, gradually reducing in number until the last single bird was seen on the 23rd February… or so we thought!. Amazingly, I saw a lone individual here in the village a month later on 27th March. UntitledA Jack Snipe on the 27th was the other notable November sighting – small compensation for missing the male Goosander a day or so earlier. December brought yet another ‘dip’, this time in the form of a ‘first for Felbrigg’ – a 1cy Iceland Gull, found by Simon, briefly in the afternoon of the 6th, near the church. (Simon managed to complete the ‘double’ by finding a Glaucous Gull in the Spring, whilst we were away in the States!) The ‘rest of the best’ for December included several obliging Water Rail around the lake and the ‘back gate’ and the reappearance of the two Tufted x Ferruginous hybrids. IMG_7290
The year came to a close with the appearance of a scarce Redshank on Mallett’s Meadow, which stayed into the New Year.

2018 started with mixed fortunes. There were plenty of interesting birds in the area – I managed to clock-up 87 species on the traditional New Year’s Day ‘treasure hunt’, but the month produced few birds of real interest on ‘the patch’. I achieved my 500th AND blog post on the 13th  – and then death and destruction. In the strong winds around the 20th the ‘sacred Oak’ – the most reliable location for Little Owl in the park, blew over and a week later a digger moved on to Aylmerton Common, destroying all of the habitat along the length of the Scarrow Beck! February came and went, but the cold snap at the beginning of March did start producing some interesting birds. IMG_4074
There was a noticeable movement of Lapwing – an uncommon event nowadays and the Jack Snipe was an unexpected rediscovery on the 3rd, a superb male Pintail on the lake on the 6th –  only the 4th record, another Stonechat on the 11th and a Marsh Harrier on the 26th brought a better month to a close.

Before heading to the States for our two month-long Great American Bird RoAd Trip, I did mange to find a few decent birds in the park. The 6th April was a ‘Blue Ribbon day’ with the flock of Cranes, Ring Ouzel and a very late ‘first date’ Sand Martin. Swiftly followed on the 8th by Swallow – the day of the Official Launch of The Birds of Felbrigg Park – an intermittent labour of love over the previous couple of years. Cover A4 PDFAs if in recognition of that event the flock of six Hawfinch made a guest appearance around the hall and remained until 13th April, which was my last day in the park before departure. A singing Willow Warbler and a rubicola – type male Stonechat where a fitting send-off.

We left in what seemed like Winter and returned to high Summer. On my first visit to the park, 13th June, I saw an adult Hobby. Further sightings followed until it became clear that these splendid falcons were, once again, breeding in Felbrigg. They eventually produced three young (like the previous year) and were last seen, as a family group, on 16th September. A pair of Shoveler on the 14th and a Lesser Whitethroat on the 19th added more interest until the ‘Felbrigg first’ of Common Tern on the 29th. July birding interest was confined to an unexpected family party of Gadwall on the 9th and the equally unexpected appearance of a family of Spotted Flycatcher around the middle of the month.What July lacked in birds, it made up for in spades with dragonflies – Norfolk Hawker and Lesser Emperor within days of each other! Late July anIMG_6375d early August were notable for return wader passage with Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank all present on several occasions. On the 16th a juvenile Cuckoo, found on the NENBC mid-week walk, stayed for over week – my only Cuckoo of the year! On the 20th the first of a run of Marsh Harriers was present over the Weaver’s Way with another, wing-tagged bird following two days later and a third on the 19th September. IMG_8601
A handsome Whinchat was present at The Warren on the 24th, followed by a long-staying and very approachable Wheatear from the 30th. The final couple of weeks of this review period began with both Sedge and Reed Warbler at the lake on the 2nd September, Grey Wagtail, male Mandarin and Snipe all reappeared in this period and a Mediterranean Gull, ‘following the plough’, at Stone Cross on the 9th neatly brings us full circle.

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I hope you enjoyed this brief round-up of my wildlife blogging year – I wonder what next year’s highlights will be?

 


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Saturday 13th October

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Rosy Starling – a local ‘twitch’, with an amazing punch-line!

It’s been a couple of days of counting. Yesterday it was the Cley WeBS count – I did the Salthouse marshes, and this morning it was the NENBC Coordinated Sea-watch. From yesterday’s WeBS the highlights, apart from the spectacular sun-rise that is, were the two Jack Snipe on Snipe’s Marsh (which I also did) and good numbers of Ruff. Today, not surprisingly given the weather – warm, clear with a brisk southerly wind, the Happisburgh sea-watching was unremarkable – highlights being a close-in Arctic Skua, Shag and twenty+ Mediterranean Gulls in the roost. After the sea-watch Phil and I went to look for the Rosy Starling at New Costessey. When we arrived at the modern housing estate location, there were only a couple of birders and no birds. Eventually we got to see the bird in the garden of a near-by house but, incredibly, the guy who lives there says there are THREE!

Yesterday’s sun-rise – the iPhone photo really doesn’t do it justice

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Friday 12th October

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 Skylark over Felbrigg – the trouble with ‘viz mig’ is that they don’t hang around!

Yesterday was definitely a ‘viz mig’ (visible migration) day. It started when, out of the office window, I spotted a small group of Redwing heading south west, these were quickly followed by nine Brambling. By the time I’d done my jobs and got into the park there were still a few Redwing passing over, then a large group (25+) of Skylark, and a few Meadow Pipits. That’s when I spotted a grey-brown passerine with a bright chestnut tail, fly out of the Hawthorns by the water meadow and into the bushes on the western edge of the reed-bed – a female or immature Redstart. The male Mandarin proved a temporary distraction before I circled round the lake and back to the bushes. I got a second brief view of the bird in the small dead Ash trees before it dropped out of sight. After lunch, on my way to the allotments, I had a flock of twelve Lapwing flying over and, on my return, three Siskin along The Street. Late afternoon and I was back in the park. Alas, no further sign of the Redstart but several Brambling were calling from the bushes at the water meadow and there were still Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Redwing on the move.

This lovely male Mandarin providing only a temporary distraction

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Record shot of Brambling in the park yesterday evening – first ones I’ve seen here this autumn 

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Thursday 11th October

 

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Checking and cleaning out nest-boxes yesterday at Spurrell’s Wood

I spent yesterday afternoon with Helen, my able assistant, finishing checking and cleaning out the nest-boxes in Spurrell’s Wood. During our Felbeck Trust National Nest-box Event, back in February, we’d made and erected over 60 nest-boxes. In a year when summer migrants and resident breeding birds have struggled somewhat, it was pleasing to discover that nearly half the boxes showed some kind of activity – either roosting, prospecting, ‘starter’ nests, etc and thirteen had completed nests, indicating successful breeding. One box containing an unhatched egg and another two dead fledglings – which is par for the course with this activity. Still, assuming that most pairs were double-brooded, that probably equates to 150 – 200 fledged youngsters in the season. That would certainly explain why our bird-feeders have been particularly busy this Summer! Not all the boxes were occupied by avian species however – two still have active Hornet nests in them! It’s all wildlife and biodiversity!

Evidence of occupation – probably Blue Tit. Not sure where the red wool came from?

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Not all boxes were used by avian species – two had Hornet nests in them!

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