Aylmerton Nature Diary


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Tuesday 2nd June

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Grab shot of a female Goosander, west over Cromer golf course – a very odd record

Very little happening on my morning walk along the cliffs, that is, until I reached the turf slope. A distant duck flying west along the ridge over the golf course had to be a Mallard at this time of the year…. or was it? A quick look through the bins and it turned into a female ‘sawbill’ – probably a Goosander. The id confirmed by Dave, who also saw it, and later looking at the couple of grab shots I managed to take. A bizarre summertime record, but a welcome addition to the post-lockdown list! In other wildlife news I’ve had my first Broad-bodied Chaser visit our tiny garden pond in the past couple of days.


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Sunday 31st May

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A superb Squacco Heron in the Glaven Valley yesterday

No doubt about it, the stand-out bird of the past 24 hours was a superb Squacco Heron, found by Phil B yesterday morning, in the Glaven Valley. Hot on the heals of last years June bird at Cley this adult, in near full breeding plumage, is only the second ever to visit the North Norfolk coastal belt. Unfortunately, the bird stubbornly remained a few hundred metres outside the NENBC recording area – but a great local find and a lovely bird! Thanks for the call guys. Meanwhile, in other news, the East Cliffs have been pretty quiet – a pair of Ringed Plover on the beach yesterday was the ‘best of the rest’ and there is now a second spike of Broomrape.

Another distant, heat-hazed record shot

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Friday 29th May

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Fox-cub sunning itself on the under-cliff

With the easing of Coronavirus restrictions we’ve been busy playing catch-up with essential Felbeck Trust habitat management work at Sustead Common and West Beckham Old Allotments – clearing access paths and taking a late top cut of the grasslands. That, combined with a virtual end to Spring migration, has meant limited opportunity for birding over the past few days. I did get out yesterday morning along the East Cliffs, where the most interesting birds were a group of six migrant Jays heading high east and a large group (by summer standards) of Greylag – 26 heading west. The best wildlife sightings however were a nice fox cub sunning itself on the under-cliffs and a tiny spike of Yarrow Broomrape (thanks Dave for the id) – too near to the coastal footpath for comfort!

Yarrow Broomrape – apparently not a common plant in the UK

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Distribution map

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Tuesday 26th May

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A late Wheatear on the path – Cromer golf course

I knew my prophesy of the end of Spring migration would flush something out! First, on my morning walk along the East Cliffs, a Ringed Plover on the beach before being flushed by a walker, then a late Wheatear towards the eastern end of the golf course. A distant tern heading west was probably Little but I couldn’t quite clinch it. Otherwise, pretty quiet.


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Monday 25th May

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‘Can I eat this?’ – a Carrion Crow inspects half a golf ball for edibility

Spring is definitely slipping into Summer. Apart from a few Swallows heading east this morning there was no obvious migrant activity on my morning walk. Still the weather was glorious, after two days of strong southerly winds. The Spotted Flycatcher appears to have moved on – it was seen further west along the under-cliff yesterday. I did however manage to add what would have been a new species for the ‘Lockdown List’ – a much anticipated though not previously encountered – Mistle Thrush, flying over the golf course.

Sand Martins continue to prospect the East Cliffs, but I don’t think they’ve picked a spot yet

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Saturday 23rd May

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Spotted Flycatcher – present for it’s second day – Cromer GC

Best bird of the last couple of days is undoubtably the Spotted Flycatcher I found yesterday on the under-cliff below Cromer golf course. It was very elusive and at one point I was beginning to wonder if I’d imagined it! Fortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, it was still there this morning, giving better views. Whilst I was looking for it I also found a Garden Warbler – they came within about a foot of each other at one point – and a singing Willow Warbler. Plenty of House Martin and Swift moving west and the Sand Martins are prospecting the cliffs for suitable nest sites. With the easing of Covid 19 restrictions we’ve been able to restart limited work-parties, doing essential habitat management work at a couple of Felbeck Trust sites. Whilst I was busy scything on Thursday, Phil gave me a call to say that the female Monty’s Harrier, which I’d seen at Kelling Quags the night before, had moved to Weybourne Camp – inside the NENBC area! It would have been an NENBC tick for me, although we did see one on a Big Sit a couple of years ago – but it was never submitted so, unfortunately, it doesn’t count 😦

In other news, the crowds on Cromer beach have been getting out of hand – failing to observe socially distancing – so they’ve had to bring in a gun-boat to restore order!

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Thursday 21st May

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Distant but entirely acceptable views of Woodchat Shrike yesterday

Yesterday was my (and quite a few others) first ‘legal twitch’ under the eased Covid 19 restrictions. I got a message from Jane about a Woodchat Shrike that had been reported at Kelling water-meadows early afternoon so, after finishing off a couple of things, I headed over there. The good thing about shrikes is that they generally sit up on the top of bushes / fence-posts, etc in open country and can usually be seen from a good distance away. This made it a good subject to see, whilst maintaining appropriate social distancing. I met-up with Andy on site and as we approached the water-meadows from the Muckleborough Hill direction we could see a few birders spread-out around the grazing meadows, looking intently. It turned out that, having all seen the shrike, they’d turned their attentions to a harrier sp. – probably Montagu’s – apparently hunkered down in a ditch. The Woodchat was, in fact, on the fence line behind us! We enjoyed good views of this lovely Mediterranean over-shoot before heading home. One last look-back from the top of the ridge and amazingly the Monty’s appeared in the air behind the small assembled group, before flying round and landing back in the ditch again! A very welcome bonus bird. I also added a couple of butterfly year ticks – Common Blue & Small Heath.

‘It’s behind you’ – female Montagu’s Harrier Kelling Quags, taken from Muckleborough Hill

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