Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Tuesday, 30th September – late afternoon


Comma on brambles

Took a walk around Felbrigg Lake this afternoon in the unseasonably warm sunshine – Marsh Tit was calling loudly as I entered through the back gate. A lone Common Buzzard circling with a Kestrel caught my eye, probably one of our local birds I thought but that was likely not the case for the four drifting slowly south west, high up in the clouds – more likely these were migrants. Tawny Owls were calling to each other in the oaks by the house and a small group of Siskin were making their characteristic soft piping call as they flew around the alders at the head of the Lake. I looked for the Little Owl by the outflow stream but could only hear it, deep in the ivy-covered ash. I also heard and then later saw a Kingfisher.

Three of four Common Buzzard soaring high up        IMG_7702

Kingfisher perched by the outflow


Kingfisher has been an unusual occurrence at Felbrigg for the past few years but in the last few weeks I’ve seen one on several occasions – usually flying fast and low across the Lake, so it was good to catch one static, albeit rather distant.

On the way back to the village I watched a Roe Deer grazing unconcerned in the pasture next to the road.


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Delayed departure


Spotted Flycatcher, Park Farm – from an earlier visit

Surprised to find, on a brief walk round this afternoon, that one of the Spotted Flycatchers at Park Farm is still around! Hunting insects from the edge of the farm roof – this is almost certainly one of the juveniles from the late brood there, found in early August. A probable second pair were feeding young along the ‘new path’ to Felbrigg lake a couple of weeks earlier. Spotted Flycatcher is now a scarce breeding species in Norfolk.


A further surprise came when I found a Hornet’s nest just 5 yds from the footpath in Felbrigg!

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Sunday 28th September


Chiffchaff, The Street, Aylmerton

Just arrived back from a week away in Dorset, so took an early morning turn around the Lake. No sign of any Swallows remaining in the village but my neighbour reports that she had her first flock of Pink-footed Geese over the village on the 25th. (see the post-script to my blog Lesser is More, last year). A few things of interest, though generally no obvious signs of winter arrivals. A solitary Marsh Tit, calling in the hedge, at the bottom of The Street was of note – I met a guy by the Lake who had seen a further two or three birds in a mixed tit flock. There was evidence of an increase in the local Jay population – there’s been a small influx of continental birds arriving on the Norfolk coast over the past week. A small group of Siskin flew from the shelter-belt along the ‘new path’ towards the Lake – these birds used to be regarded as winter visitors but, in recent years, have become regular local breeders. There are plenty of fungi appearing in the woods and I really must make the effort to identify some of them! On the way home I encountered a very vocal Chiffchaff in a neighbour’s hedge.

I notice that a sign has appeared on the Allotment gate warning of the risks of Lyme disease – spread by ticks which live in woodlands or grassland and feed on a variety of animal hosts. Untreated, tick bites become infected and the effects of the disease can be serious.

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The Parish

I thought I’d better, in the early days of this blog, define the parish boundary – which will form the ‘recording area’ for future wildlife sightings. No problem I thought, I’ll just have a look at the 21/2 inch map which shows parish boundaries. Unfortunately there’s so much competing detail on the map in our part of the world that it’s impossible to trace the boundary. Next stop, the Planning Dept.,  District Council offices – unfortunately, and somewhat surprisingly, they couldn’t help! But luckily Janet, the parish clerk, came to the rescue and pointed me in the direction of an on-line map. This then is the definitive version:



Basically, the northern boundary follows the line of the Cromer Ridge through Roman Camp, turns south crossing the A148, through Felbrigg Great Wood, down by the Lake, runs parallel to Scarrow Beck, looping west around the Field Study Centre and Felbrigg Lodge, back up to the village cross, follows Mill Lane (green track) west to Bennington’s Lane before heading north to skirt the quarry on Briton’s Lane. The whole area is just less than 7 square kilometres.

Also, for future reference, here is a map of Felbrigg Park – the western half of which is included within Aylmerton parish:

DSC09238 - Version 2

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Friday, 19th September


Common Darter

I was up at the allotment yesterday, where there was still plenty of insect activity. Small Tortoiseshell, Green-veined White and Red Admiral on the ivy and a couple of magnificent Hornets whizzing around. At the wildlife pond, which I only installed in the spring, there were at least two pairs of Common Darter egg depositing. I’ve been totally amazed at how quick things have colonised this ‘facility’ – within weeks we had Common Newt, Frogs and Toad in residence and there’s been at least four species of dragonfly, as well as any number of unidentified small critters!

Talking of allotments and insects, my neighbour at the allotment had this superb Elephant Hawkmoth hatch out in her living room over the summer!


Elephant Hawkmoth

Oddly the Grey Wagtail was again around The Street yesterday, late afternoon!

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Thursday, 18th September


Golden Plover, 3 over Felbrigg – first of the autumn

The Tawny Owls continue to be very vocal in the evenings around the village.

Took a walk around Felbrigg first thing – there was real warmth in the early morning sun, in contrast to the last week of fog and grey skies. A few things of interest, with signs of summer hanging on in places. Swallows still on the wires in the village, Chiffchaff singing at the bottom of The Street, a few butterflies on the brambles – Red Admiral, Small White, Speckled Wood. Meanwhile, at the Lake, the number of Wigeon has gone up to three and I had my first Golden Plovers of the autumn. The Little Owl was in it’s current favourite oak tree by the Lake and the small flock of Mistle Thrush were hanging around (I had 22 a couple of nights ago). Moorhens seem to have done well this summer – I saw at least 24 this morning with plenty of young birds amongst them. No sign of any Reed Warbler today – I’m thinking they may have departed for warmer climes.

Little Owl, sitting in it’s favourite oak this morning


And an evening pose from a few weeks earlier 


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Grey Wagtail


A terrible picture, taken from the other side of Felbrigg Lake to avoid disturbance, of adult Grey Wagtail, feeding young in August 2014

This lunchtime a Grey Wagtail flew up The Street, momentarily perching on roof tops before disappearing into the mist. This could have been a migrant bird or more likely, one of the Felbrigg birds – they successfully bred there this year, the first time in a number of years. Pied Wagtails are a common sight in the village but Grey Wagtail, which have a preference for fast flowing streams, are easily identified by their grey backs and yellow underparts. Their call is also pretty distinctive once you get to know it.

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Dodgy ducks


Ducks, particularly the males, are normally pretty easy to identify, but by late summer they moult their feathers and all end up looking pretty much the same as each other! This, together with the fact that, at Felbrigg Lake, there’s always a rare assortment of Mallard/domestic hybrids to contend with, spotting something different can be a bit of a challenge. But yesterday evening I did mange to find a lone Wigeon in the flock. It’s overall ginger tones, metal-grey bill coloration, size and shape all helping to confirm the identification.

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A brief Introduction


Blackberries down the Street, nature’s winter larder

Autumn seems an odd time to be starting a nature diary. The long hot days of summer are past, nights are drawing in, the last of our summer avian visitors are preparing for their arduous journey south and the flowers that have brightened our village meadows, woods and roadsides are all but over for another year. So, not much to write about you might be thinking, well actually there’s lots but, before I get started, I thought it would be appropriate to set out a few guiding principles.

The first is that, as the name implies, this is essentially a blog about the natural history of Aylmerton – occasionally there may be something a little off topic but the main subject matter is going to be the fauna and flora of the parish. Second, my principal interest, since the age of six, is birds and it’s the aspect of natural history I know most about but my inquisitiveness extends to the far corners of the natural world – if I don’t know about something and, believe me, there’s plenty I don’t, I’m all too ready to be enlightened. Which brings me to my final introductory point which is that I’m hoping to create, through this blog, a small community of interest – if you know something about our local natural history and want to share it, then please make a comment on the blog or contact me in person.

Lastly, if you want to know a little more about me and what gets me buzzing then turn to the ‘About me’ page for some brief biographical background – if not, then jump right in..