Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Willow Warbler in Felbrigg

My birding neighbour Lee told me that he thought he’d seen a Willow Warbler in Felbrigg on Monday and sent me a photo, which indeed confirms the bird’s identification. The 23rd March is quite an early date for this summer visitor to Norfolk and beats the previous three years ‘early dates’ for the county, as published in the Norfolk Bird Report. Well done Lee!

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Willow Warbler, Felbrigg. Courtesy of Lee Delbridge

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Friday 27th March


Last picture I promise.. Black Redstart, Felbrigg

We’ve had friends to stay for the past few days so I’ve spent less time around the parish but we did manage to get to Felbrigg on Wednesday evening. Saw the Black Redstart on the main Hall – at one stage it came down to the ground, in front of the Orangery, giving superb views. Two pairs of Mandarin flew in to roost by the lake at dusk and the Little Owl was calling from the oaks by the dam.

Today I finally caught up with Red Kite, which drifted across the allotments, heading towards the park, followed shortly afterwards by a Sparrowhawk. The Kite was a new bird for me in the parish in 2015.

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Sunday 22nd March

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Little Owl, Felbrigg Park

The male Black Redstart was still present on the main hall early morning. As I entered the back gate to the park there was a Chiffchaff singing – my first for 2015. A little further along the track to the hall two Little Owl were calling to each other and a third was calling from the oak shelter-belt. The small flock of Siskin were busy feeding in the alders by the lake. No sign of the Mandarins. A flock of fifty Fieldfare and Redwing were present on the horse paddock, first thing.

Male Black Redstart on Felbrigg Hall


Post Script: The pair of Black Redstart at the Aylmerton allotments appear to have now finally moved on. Last seen on Tuesday afternoon, they spent a good deal of their time in and around the large log pile on my neighbours allotment. The male was heard to sing occasionally. As a precaution I stopped putting out reports and alerted people to the possibility of breeding – unlikely though such an event would have been in a rural setting. Thank you to those who avoided any unnecessary disturbance during their stay.

Female Black Redstart – Aylmerton allotment



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Friday 20th March


Pair of Mandarin arriving to roost

The superb male Black Redstart was still flitting about on the roof of Felbrigg Hall just before five tonight. On the water meadow a pair of Oystercatcher and a lone Lapwing. A Little Owl was calling continually from oaks along the dam with another two on my return back through the shelter belt. A single male Pochard was feeding amongst the Tufted flock whilst a female Mandarin was resting along the edge of the dam. Another pair of Mandarin flew across the lake to roost. A couple  of Treecreeper were calling to each other near the viewing screen and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker chased each other across the park.

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Wednesday 18th March

Today was the NENBC mid-week walk around Felbrigg. Twenty two people, of mixed levels of birding ability, turned out for what proved to be a very good event indeed. A total of fifty three species were identified, with the highlights being three Little Owl, a small flock of Siskin, a pair of very obliging Mandarin Duck and prolonged views of  both Treecreeper & Nuthatch. However, the best bird came right at the end, when most people had left the NT cafe after enjoying morning coffee together. We were just on our way home past the main Hall when I noticed a small bird flitting amongst the chimney pots – a superb male Black Redstart! A different bird from the one recently at the allotments – much darker on the front and with more striking white wing flashes. I spoke to one of the Trust workers who said it had been around for two weeks! I returned after lunch to obtain some record shots:

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On my way back to the Hall, a Barn Owl was hunting in broad day-light over the rough meadow at the bottom of The Street.


A terrible photo because, in my excitement, I’d got the camera on the wrong setting – oh well!

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Monday 16th March

Went to look for the Black Redstart first thing yesterday, on the off-chance it would still be around and to my great surprise it was! Also seen later in the day. Perhaps even more surprising was when I went to water the seedlings in the poly-tunnel, I found this guy!


Chiffchaff, allotment, 16th March

My first Chiffchaff of the Spring – released unharmed (as were our seedlings!)

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Saturday 14th March

Took a walk up to the allotment first thing on the off chance that the Black Redstart may have stayed around, as I’d seen it at around five thirty yesterday evening, looking as if it was prospecting roosting sites. I scanned from the entrance track but no sign of anything. I walked up to the top of the allotments and scanned the horse paddock, still no sign. I looked back at my allotment – where I’d seen it the previous evening but again, no sign. I figured it must have gone, so I went to the shed, collected some tools, and was just leaving when the male Black Redstart popped up out of my neighbours wood pile! It took a moment to shake itself and then flew off towards the old farm buildings at the corner of the allotments and horse paddock. I’ve been out of area since then so don’t know if it’s been seen since..

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‘Still present and showing well..’

I thought I’d better check on the Black Redstart situation this afternoon so I took a stroll down the The Street, just before 3.00pm. No sign on any of my neighbours roofs so I walked up on to the allotment, only to find that a couple of birders from Hindringham were watching the male, on my allotment! It flitted about between the allotments and the horse paddock – eventually heading down towards the road end. I came away and was heading for home when I saw Andy down the lane. We went back up to the allotment and after initially seeing nothing I first heard and then saw the bird back on the log pile, where I’d originally seen the female this morning. It then continued to feed on the allotments before flying up onto a house roof on Melrose Drive. Slightly surprised that it’s hung around for most of the day.

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Black Redstart bonanza!


Male Black Redstart, Aylmerton 13th March

I was all set this morning to rotavate the onion bed at the allotment when I became distracted by a bird which I noticed fly from the neighbours log pile, down on to the grass, then up on to my fence. A quick look through my ‘allotment binoculars’ and I could see what I thought was a dull brown bird with russet sides to it’s tail – surely a female Black Redstart! I immediately called home to ask Jane to bring my camera, whilst I kept the bird under observation. As I was making the call the bird flew to the hedge at the top of the allotments. A few nerve-racking minutes later I saw it again in the adjacent horse paddock – well I thought I did! As I lifted my binoculars I could immediately see that it was a splendid male. It was only when I’d relocated the first, female bird, that I realised that I had not just one bird but a pair of Black Redstart! Having called a couple of local birders to alert them, I watched the birds move gradually towards the top corner of the horse paddock – just about viewable from the road past Running Free Farm. Several of the local arrived and we watched the birds gradually move further east and out of view. My gut feeling being that they’d end up in Felbrigg Hall, where there have been a number of records over previous years. Eventually I got back to the gardening and was just walking back home for lunch when I saw the male sat on a house roof at the bottom of The Street. I watched it fly over the allotment and land in the horse paddock again. I updated the bird info. services accordingly.

I’ve missed a few local Black Redstarts since we’ve been living here so I was delighted to find not just one but two on my ‘home patch’. A couple of grab shots of these fabulous birds:

First, the female, found originally on my allotment


Then surprise surprise, a male!


Finally, the two together on the horse paddock – though distant