Aylmerton Nature Diary

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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


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Thursday 12th March


Oystercatcher, one of a pair in the parish

There was a female Siskin in the Ash tree at the bottom of The Street as I passed by yesterday afternoon – exact same spot as the previous day. Two Egyptian Geese were in their usual location in the field above the water meadow, along with a lone Oystercatcher – another ‘first’ since I started the blog. There have been a pair seen over the past couple of days so, fingers crossed, that they stay around. The usual variety of woodland species were busy by the screen and I did manage to see a pair of the newly arrived Mandarin, hiding in the dense cover at the head of the lake – this is the pair of the male with a deep blood-red bill. On the lake itself the three male Pochard are still present, as were over 40 Common Gull in the roost. A Lapwing was flying around over the rough grazing field – another promising sign and there was a distant Buzzard over towards Gresham. The mixed ‘finch flock’ was again feeding in the remains of the maize strip along School Lane – Chaffinch, Yellowhammer, Linnet & Skylark. Several small coveys of Red-legged Partridge were in the fields by Mill Lane as were a handful of Skylark and Meadow Pipit. At the reservoir there was another lone Oystercatcher and, from who knows where, three ornamental Mallard (I must look them up!). The Oystercatcher eventually took flight and circled overhead calling. On my way back down the Loke a tractor in the nearby field was attracting quite a following of gulls – but, alas, only Black-headed and Common on this occasion. There were also another pair of Lapwing feeding in the wake of the farm machinery.

Male Mandarin, Felbrigg Lake 


More exotic wildfowl… possibly Khaki Campbells?




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They’re back..!


 Female Mandarin, Felbrigg Lake – 9th March

Took a walk down to Felbrigg Lake this afternoon in the hope of finding the Shelduck which flew over my head this morning at the allotment. No success with the Shelduck but, after nearly a years absence, the Mandarin are back! I initially saw a lone female from the screen, sat out on a tree trunk, but as I watched, first a male appeared and then a second pair. They soon vanished however into the dense lake-side vegetation.

Other birds of interest on the lake included two, of the four Pochard, reported on Saturday and 38 Tufted Duck. Numbers of Gadwall are now down to about a dozen, with the same number of Teal. There are two pairs of Coot. Marsh Tit and Nuthatch were present in their usual spot near the screen and the Great Spotted Woodpecker were still displaying and drumming.

First, a lone female, then a pair and then..


Two pairs of these exquisite ducks – back after nearly a years absence!


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Monday 9th March

A good morning for birds up at the allotment. A pair of Reed Bunting are still using the big feeder and a Blue Tit is showing interest in the new box on the shed. A pair of Shelduck flew over, heading for Felbrigg Lake – my first in the parish since starting this blog. At one point there were four Buzzard circling overhead and a Sparrow Hawk. A distant Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming down the lane. All this was going on whilst I was digging the fruit bed over!

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Saturday 7th March


Group of four, newly arrived, Pochard – Felbrigg Lake

Took an early morning walk around Felbrigg Park this morning, with friends of ours from Peterborough. By the time we’d got to the lake it was obvious that there’s been some significant changes on the wildlife front over the past few days. Gadwall numbers were down to about twenty, whilst Tufted Duck numbers remain reasonably stable at 25 – 30. However, there’s been a small influx of Pochard – three males and a female and there was a new male Wigeon on the lake. Mute Swan numbers have dropped to just five on the main lake with a couple of birds on the water meadows and the immature male Goldeneye was also still present. I was excited to see the first Lapwing of the spring on the water meadows as we walked down. Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Marsh Tit were all showing well by the lake, as were a couple of pairs of Great Spotted Woodpecker. In the trees to the west of the orangery there was a migrant flock of Redwing – I estimate there were over a hundred. Spring, it would seem, is just around the corner.

Saw my first newt of the year in the wildlife pond at the allotment yesterday.