Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Tuesday 16th January


Waxwing, one of three, Barford Road, Sheringham, this afternoon

For a non-birdy day – I seem to have spent most of my time indoors, keeping warm and doing ‘office work’, I’ve seen some really nice stuff! I was down at the Felbrigg Woodyard before it got light this morning, sorting out delivery of some timber to Sustead Common at the weekend. It was just getting light when I reached the Hall and started to look for Hawfinch. There was no sign of any around The Orangery but eventually I did find a single bird semi-hidden in an Oak behind the Hall. There was nothing of any particular note on the lake but I did hear at least two Song Thrush in full voice – another sign of Spring! This afternoon I had to go to the shops, so stopped-off at Tesco to look for Waxwing. I strolled around to Barford Road and quickly spotted them on their favourite telegraph pole, occasionally dropping down into a nearby garden to feed. Whilst getting my fill of these truly gorgeous birds, Simon told me about two Barnacle Geese on the golf course at Cromer which he’d seen this morning. I decided to have a crack at them, as one of a handful of glaring omissions on my NENBC List. I parked up at the practise ground and walked down the footpath towards the sea. The 1st winter Iceland Gull was immediately obvious, feeding on the 4th and the Barnacle Geese were on the opposite fairway! All in all, a pretty good non-birding day!

Barnacle Goose, an NENBC tick – probably of feral origin, but who knows


Iceland Gull – still present on the 4th fairway, Cromer Golf Course!


another shot of these absorbing birds, showing the ‘drops of sealing-wax’ on their wings



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Monday 15th January


The handsome male Black Redstart along the sea-front at Sheringham yesterday

Yesterday was busy – a whiz round Felbrigg early, followed by a guided walk, for Sustead residents, around Spurrell’s Wood and the afternoon spent catching-up with the Black Redstart, which has been present along Sheringham sea-front for the past few days.

Another grab-shot of the Hawfinch at Felbrigg – numbers seem to have dwindled now to just one or two


The most notable things around the park were a single Hawfinch in the conifers between The Orangery and the Hall, a lone Snipe, flushed from the Scarrow Beck, as I walked along the Weaver’s Way and a lovely bunch of Primrose in flower on a road-side bank, as I headed towards Sustead Common – Spring is coming! Nearly twenty people turned out for the walk – a good opportunity to explain what Felbeck Trust has been doing on The Common and to outline our intentions for the purchase and management of Spurrell’s Wood. See here for write-up. The Black Redstart gave itself up relatively easily – first appearing on the roof of one of the shelters along the Prom before flitting back and forth through the cliff-top gardens until dusk. Judging by the rain beating on the dining room windows this morning it’s going to be another challenging day at Cley NWT!

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500th post – Saturday 13th January

The other day, whilst I was out looking for Brambling, I came across the confluence of Scarrow Beck (which rises near Aylmerton village pond) and Gur Beck (which flows through Sustead Common), south east of the Felbrigg estate. The Scarrow Beck, as it is known from there on, flows through Hanworth and Aldborough, before joining the River Bure, just west of Ingworth and north of the Blickling estate. Improving the water quality of these two tributaries is a main target of the Upper Bure Valley Partnership.

Confluence of the Scarrow and Gur Becks


The weather over the past few days has been rather dismal, over-cast, damp and, at times, thick fog. I had a second attempt to find Shorelark at Happisburgh on Thursday but without success, despite another birder seeing them at virtually the same time as I was there. The fact that I couldn’t see more than thirty yards into the field may have contributed to my failure. I did manage to find Great Crested Grebe and Mandarin at Blickling, as a consolation prize, and had the opportunity to study the redpoll flock at Letheringsett ford – nicely within the NENBC recording area. After prolonged watching and a few false-starts we did manage to positively identify one, probably two, Coues’s Arctic and several Common (Mealy). Yesterday I was out in the afternoon looking at a couple of very interesting parcels of common land, with a view to Felbeck Trust doing some long-term habitat management work there. A hunting Barn Owl over one of the sites providing a promising omen!

All three redpoll species, photographed (at a distance!) at Cromer earlier in the week


Post-script: I’ve just realised that todays blog is my 500th post since AND was created!


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Tuesday 9th January


Record shot, in poor light, of three Hawfinch – Felbrigg Park

The day started well with an early walk through Felbrigg Park. We spent ten minutes or so opposite the Orangery but to no avail, so we wandered towards the car park. Looking through the gap between the Hall and the stable-block I noticed three chunky birds sat atop an Oak tree on the edge of the Old Deer Park – Hawfinch, ‘yes’! Fuelled by this success we continued down towards the church to look for Little Owl. We didn’t have to try hard – there was the usual bird, sat in one of the holes in the dead tree, and another hiding in a small Oak nearby – it’s presence betrayed by an alarming Blackbird. On to the lake, where the number of Tufted Duck has crept up to 32, including the two hybrids. On the water meadows a lone male Shoveler was a nice addition to the Felbrigg Year List, as were the two Shelduck, which flew straight through, heading north. By the time I’d loaded the reports on the Bird Club website, my NENBC total for 2018 was 98 –  just two short of the ton!

One of two Little Owl this morning – can you spot it at the entrance to it’s hole?


Male Shoveler on the water meadows


Two Shelduck flew over, heading north


I headed off to the coast, passing Cromer Golf Course on my way. It would have been rude not to pay my respects to the assorted Redpoll and the obliging Iceland Gull, which was strutting it’s stuff on the fairway behind the maintenance sheds. Acceptable views of all three Redpoll… I think! On to Happisburgh, where I failed to find any of the reported interesting small birds. Back to Weybourne where two flocks of Curlew were a welcome addition to the list. I was just on my way back to the car park when two small birds flew down to drink at one of the cliff-top pools. I lifted my binoculars and was amazed to find that they were Twite – showing their ‘give away’ yellow bills. They disappeared east just as quickly as they had arrived. Twite are never easy in the Club area so I was pleased to get them under my belt for the year.

The long-staying Iceland Gull at Cromer Golf Course


Twite, seen in the gloom, at Weybourne this afternoon – my 100th NENBC tick for 2018


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Saturday 6th January


The one that got away! Red-legged Partridge, taken near the Stone Cross, Aylmerton

I went to have another look for Brambling this morning at Sustead. There’s still a large mixed finch flock feeding on the cover crop, opposite Tudor House, which included Linnet, Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and three Brambling – one, a nice male. I did a bit more hedge planting at Sustead Common before taking a drive round the local lanes this afternoon. Plenty of Fieldfare about at different locations. Best bird was a wintering Chiffchaff at Gresham sewage works, along with yet more Brambling.

Brambling at Sustead


Record shot of this afternoons Chiffchaff


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Thursday 4th January


Redwing this afternoon behind Felbrigg Hall

After Mondays excitement it’s all gone a bit quiet. This morning we had our first Felbeck Trust work-party of 2018 – it rained almost all the time! Still, we did manage to coppice a handful of Hazel and make up the paths where they were muddy. This afternoon I went looking in Felbrigg for some of the species we missed on New Years Day, but without success. I did see a few winter thrushes though – a nice group of Fieldfare near the church and twenty Redwing by the Ice Pond. On the way home I called in on Mallett’s Meadows and was pleasantly surprised to find the Redshank still in residence along with five Teal.

Redshank, still present on Mallett’s Meadows


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New Years Day

Today, being the NENBC New Years Day Birding Challenge, Jake and I were in the park before it got light! We’d finished our visit by nine o’clock with 53 species in the bag – highlights being a lovely Barn Owl at Park Farm, 125+ Siskin in a single Alder near the dam and a host of regular woodland species. After a hefty cooked breakfast it was off to West Runton, to walk the coast west to Skelding Hill. We dipped on Mediterranean Gull, Purple Sandpiper and Snow Bunting but did get Rock Pipit, several waders and a couple of marine species. Our luck changed with Stonechat and Yellowhammer at the west end of the golf course and then, heading inland, a nice male Merlin sat on a mud clump near West Beckham! On to Wolterton Park, where we picked up several water birds which we’d missed at Felbrigg, including an unexpected female Pintail – but we dipped on Shoveler (recovered later at Banningham Hall lake). Two Red Kite circling overhead was a bonus. A minor diversion via Blickling Hall added Little Egret and Egyptian Goose and then an impromptu stop at Ken & Carol’s in Gresham added Lesser Redpoll. Then it was back to the coast to catch-up with Mediterranean Gull – two nice adult winter birds on the horse paddocks at West Runton, and an obliging roosting Purple Sandpiper on the beach, in front of the Funky Mackerel. Then it was back to Felbrigg, where the hoped for Little Owl failed to materialised and nothing new was added. Following a tip-off from Carol & Ken, a late dash to Gresham sewage works produced our last species of the day – Fieldfare. We closed the day with a creditable total of 87 species – a big improvement on previous years. A great way to start your New Years birding – you should try it sometime!