Aylmerton Nature Diary


Monday 21st September

iPhone photo of the Brown Shrike at Warham Greens on Friday morning

It’s been a hectic weekend in more ways than one, with visiting family and some excellent action on the birding front. Friday produced the stand-out bird – a fabulous Brown Shrike in a hedge at Warham Greens. A lovely bird, which gave much better views than the previous one at Weybourne Camp – safely under the belt by lunchtime. The weather continued to produce on-shore winds and, as a consequence, some good sea-watching. Saturday morning, whilst our guests were still in bed, produced the high-light – the long-anticipated NENBC tick – a group of six Scaup, flying east. This is the fourth new NENBC sea-watching species for me this Autumn (two NRC records pending) and is testimony to a) generally a good site and b) putting in the hours. But as always with this ‘bitter-sweet’ activity, I did mange to miss at least one ‘gripper’ – a Great Shearwater which flew east past Sheringham yesterday morning. However, the ‘mega’ ‘probable White-chinned Petrel’, reported from Cley a couple of times, never made it to Cromer. Or, if it did, we failed to connect with it. I did manage to squeeze in my WeBS count at Felbrigg yesterday as well, where the high-lights were the family party of five Little Grebe on the lake and a latish Wheatear on the wall along the Weavers Way. A juvenile Cormorant in the roost was seen to be wearing a ring of some description. Not the conventional metal BTO type but possibly a colour ring of some description – any thoughts or comments on it’s possible origin would be much appreciated. Off to Cley NWT this morning.

Record shot of the group of six Scaup, east past Cromer
High-light of Felbrigg ‘duck count’ – a nice Wheatear on the wall near the Weavers Way
A young Cormorant at Felbrigg, sporting a ring of some description – doesn’t look quite right for a standard BTO metal ring. Is it part of a colour -ringing scheme I wonder. Any comments?

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Friday 18th September

iPhone photo of Sanderling – Cley WeBS count this morning

I’ve just spent an enjoyable couple of hours helping out with the Cley WeBS count this morning. Nothing of great rarity to note, but Kingfisher on the Salthouse duck-pond, Sanderling on the scrapes at the end of Beach Road and a Rock Pipit west of Little Eye were the highlights. Cley NWT on Monday produced a couple of Curlew Sandpiper, Great Egret, and Hobby. I missed the Peregrine in the afternoon eating prey on Arnold’s, which would have made my sixth raptor on or over the reserve that day. Sea-watching over the past few days – coinciding with a moderate on-shore breeze – has produced a few things of interest including: a steady movement of skua – only Bonxie & Arctic for me but both Pom and Long-tailed were reported further west, a good passage of ducks – mostly Common Scoter, Teal & Wigeon, Red-throated Diver – 28 yesterday morning, a few Manx Shearwater, early returning Brent Geese and lingering Sandwich Tern. But the stand-out bird of the past week was a superb summer plumage Black-throated Diver, which cruised by me going east yesterday late afternoon, just beyond the line of the pier! A really lovely looking bird.

Iphone photo of Little Grebe – Don’s Pool, Cley NWT on Monday

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Saturday 12th September

A pipistrel sp. either roosting or caught on a wire fence – Felbrigg Park

I enjoyed an early morning walk around Felbrigg Park yesterday. Approaching the water meadows along the top path I heard what I thought was a Yellow Wagtail call. By the time I reached the lake I heard it again, only this time it was in the air, heading south with two Pied Wagtail. On the lake itself the Tufted Duck numbers have crept up – I counted ten, including two eclipse males. 15 Gadwall, three Teal and three Little Grebe were the other wildfowl of interest. A Water Rail was calling from the reed-bed where, at the edge, there was a surprisingly late post-breeding Reed Warbler. In the hedge below the dam were several Chiffchaff – one singing loudly – and a Whitethroat. Two mammals were of interest – first a small bat (pipistrel sp.) was hanging on the wire fence by the edge of the lake. I couldn’t tell if is was just roosting or tangled up – with no gloves with me, I wasn’t about to find out! The second mammal was at the other end of the scale – a large Otter was fishing in the lake. As has often been the case before, the general jumpiness of the ducks first revealing its presence. A couple of sea-watches from NLP have produced very little in unpromising weather conditions. A few ‘small’ gulls – Mediterranean and Little, Red-throated Diver, a few late Sandwich Tern and distant auk sp. have been the highlights.

Otter on the lake at Felbrigg – causing disquiet amongst the wildfowl

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Wednesday 9th September

iPhone record shot, taken down Phil’s telescope – Red-backed Shrike at Waxham

Yesterday I managed a whole morning of uninterrupted birding! Starting with an early morning sea-watch – calm sea, no wind and 100% visibility, not ideal – but managed a few Gannets, Common Scoter, Redshank, Red-throated Diver and Sandwich Tern. Then we did our last scheduled breeding raptor survey of the year – recording six species in total. Finally Gresham Phil and I went on to Waxham for the Red-backed Shrike which has been hanging around there for the past few days. A short walk and easy viewing. So that’s what birding in retirement is like – I must try it more often!

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Saturday 5th September

This one is the ‘real deal’ – Great Egret at Cley NWT on Monday. iPhone record shot

The past week has been pretty much a repeat of the previous one – Cley, wildlife conservation work, breeding raptor survey, with a bit of coastal birding / sea-watching thrown in. But this morning I decided on an early morning walk around Felbrigg, where activity on and around the lake is beginning to pick up. Four female Tufted Duck, two Teal, ten Gadwall and a lone Wigeon were the wildfowl highlights, along with a Little Grebe. Three Grey Wagtail, adults with a youngster, were busy feeding along the western edge of the lake, whilst a Little Owl was calling from the dead Oak, south of the dam. At the start of the week Cley produced a surprise with a Great Egret on Snipe’s Marsh – fooling me and others who had initially assumed it was the ‘leucitic Grey Heron-type thing’ which has been present for the last couple of weeks. Wader interest peaked with four Curlew Sandpiper on Pat’s mid-afternoon. A Lesser Whitethroat was a new bird for West Beckham Old Allotments, with another on the golf course, along with half a dozen Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. The raptor survey on Tuesday threw up plenty of interest, with at least six species and a couple of ‘unidentified flying objects’, which we are still musing over. Sea-watching has tailed off for the time-being with the steady run of westerlies continuing well into next week.

Distant but conclusive views of Goshawk on our breeding raptor survey
A couple of Lesser Whitethroat have provided migrant interest during the week
Best of the wildfowl at Felbrigg this morning – female Wigeon

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Saturday 29th August

Grey Heron, seen from the boat on a family day out on Barton Broad

It’s been a busy week with family holiday activities and conservation work taking priority over birding. Cley on Monday was slow going, with still no access to the hides (that changes from Tuesday) the main action was again on Snipe’s Marsh. Up to seven Green Sandpiper, four Common Sandpiper and a showy Water Rail being the highlights at this small out-post of the main reserve. To kick things off, three distant Curlew Sandpiper on Pat’s Pool were a year tick. No interesting migrants along the cliffs on a brief walk but a few late migrating Swift over West Beckham Old Allotments during our hay-making and Volunteers BBQ provided mid-week interest. With a change in the weather to strong north-westerlies and an attendant drop in temperature all eyes turned to sea-watching. Over the past few days I’ve managed to see good numbers of Great & Arctic Skua, my first Manx Shearwater of the Autumn, eight species of wader including a couple of adult Curlew Sandpiper, nine species of duck including several Pintail, Red-necked Grebe – a much-anticipated NENBC ‘tick’, with Marsh Harrier, Shag and Arctic Tern adding depth to the list.

A typical mixed group of duck on an Autumn sea-watch – led out by a couple of Pintail
A rather grainy iPhone photo of Green Sandpiper on Snipe’s Marsh

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Monday 24th August

A dark young Hobby over a friends wood – double check it’s not an Eleonora’s Falcon!

Hobby have been the ‘feature’ bird over the past few days. On Thursday Gresham Phil and I watched a bird – probably adult – harassing two Peregrine over the sea, from North Lodge Park. Nothing then surprisingly on the breeding raptor survey but in the afternoon, whilst at a friends house, we watched a family party calling and feeding over their woods. On Saturday, a walk along the cliffs to the end of the golf course and back produced another – this time hunting through the passing mixed hirundine flock of Swift, House Martin and Swallow. Yesterday morning it was ‘Duck Count’ day at Felbrigg. Lots more hirundine feeding over the lake and Common Plantation, including c.45 Sand Martin & c.30 House Martin, and guess what – surprisingly no Hobby, which appear to have deserted the the park as a breeding territory this year. Little of note on the count, but I was pleased to get the family party of Little Grebe on the ‘score card’. Other birds of interest included a late pair of Reed Warbler, a young Bullfinch along the shelter-belt and a close encounter with a Tawny Owl as it flew low and fast through the trees near the viewing screen. This morning we’re off to Cley.

Peregrine along the coast – this time being ignored by the Hobby
One of the passage Swift off the cliffs at Cromer – is the pale rump just a trick of the light?

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Friday 21st August

Dawn at Felbrigg Park

Wednesday was my birthday – I celebrated it with an early morning walk around my beloved Felbrigg. It was barely light when I entered the park through Common Plantation, with the mist hung in the Scarrow Beck valley, dampening the sounds and keeping most birds hidden. It took an hour for the sun to burn it off and for things to start moving. A couple of Tawny Owl called from each end of the woods and a Little Owl from the oaks near the Hall. On the lake the family party of Little Grebe were showing well, with a female Tufted Duck, a couple of Gadwall, nine Teal and the other regular water-birds. A late Reed Warbler was at the edge of the reed-bed, Chiffchaff in Boathouse Bay and both Blackcap and Whitethroat in the hawthorns along the edge of the water meadows. A lone Grey Wagtail few over the lake calling. The best birds however needed a bit more looking for – a pair of Whinchat on the rough grazing, south of the dam. Cley on Monday was generally quiet, with most of the action concentrated on Snipe’s Marsh and the adjacent Wallsey Hills. Up to seven Green Sandpiper, four Common Sandpiper, four Ruff, a Water Rail and the ‘dodgy duck’ were all on show at various times. In the brambles at the back of the marsh several Lesser Whitethroat, Garden and Willow Warbler – along with the regular birds – were feasting on the harvest of berries. At one point I glimpsed a large grey warbler with pale tertial tips disappear into cover – never to re-emerge. In the wood opposite a couple of Pied Flycatcher were busy around the open areas near the feeders in the afternoon. Whilst waiting for the mystery warbler to reappear, the odd-looking egret sp. flew into roost in Foreland Wood. Seen by SG previously – there is something not quite right about this bird! Although it has the size and general appearance of a Great Egret – you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one – the legs are odd, being thick, short and yellow, and the bill has a heavy jowl. I really have no idea what to make of it! Other wildlife activities have included a couple of sea-watches – nothing as good as last week though – and another breeding birds of prey survey. Besides a good variety of raptors during the latter, the supporting cast included two young Cuckoo, Grey Wagtail and a couple of dozen Swift.

One of two Whinchat at Felbrigg this week
Not quite right for Great Egret is it – albino Grey Heron at Cley?

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Sunday 16th August

I can’t believe a whole week has gone by without blogging! Although the weather has generally been poor – overcast, showery with a north-westerly breeze most of the time, the birding has been OK. Monday we were at Cley. A reasonably quiet morning with the usually selection of autumn waders on the scrapes. The afternoon was livened up by meeting Graham, a very keen and surprisingly knowledgeable 8 year old, and his family, up here on holiday from Kent. We added a few new species to his list – including the odd ‘whistling duck-type’ thing on Snipes Marsh. A few sea-watches over the week have produced three species of skua, loads of Gannet, terns and a couple of wader sp. Migrants on the cliff-tops have been few and far between, with Garden Warbler being the most interesting. I did see my first Painted Lady of the summer though – bizarre when you think back to how common they’ve been over the past couple of years. Another breeding raptor survey with Andy produced the target species in a new location!

Record shots of one of the Long-tailed Skua off the North Norfolk Coast this week
Garden Warbler – an Autumn migrant
Painted Lady on Cromer GC during the week

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Saturday 8th August

Pochard in eclipse, Felbrigg Lake – first I’ve seen here in 28 months!

I popped into Felbrigg this afternoon after doing a couple of errands around the village. It was hot and breezy around the lake but still plenty going on. Three species of damselfly – Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed (Small, I think) being predated by several Emperor. The ducks are all in eclipse but I did manage to pick out a couple of Gadwall and two Pochard. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen them on the lake so had to look it up – 5th April 2018! There was only one record in the whole of 2019. A Little Grebe was elusive in the reeds by the viewing screen and a Grey Wagtail was lurking in the trees along the western edge. I’ve done a couple of sea-watches since my last blog – nothing outstanding. Highlights have been distant Marsh Harrier, Arctic Skua, a small movement of Common Tern, several Mediterranean Gull, Whimbrel, five Tufted Duck and the regular adult Caspian Gull on the beach.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly? at Felbrigg