Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Friday 28th August


Painted Lady, Felbrigg Park

A lunchtime report of a Lesser Grey Shrike at Cromer, seen to fly off in a south westerly direction, was enough to get me out this afternoon into Felbrigg Park, to scour any likely locations – it was always a long-shot! I did see a few bits and pieces though, including a nice Hobby which flew passed me and landed on a fence post on the rough grazing meadow, south of the dam. The adult and juvenile Little Owl were in their favourite Ash tree and there were several Sparrowhawk and Buzzard in the air at the same time. The flock of Goldfinch, feeding on the thistle crop, has grown in recent days to at least 200. Still plenty of Sand & House Martin over the lake.

Part of the flock of 200+ Goldfinch


Adult & juvenile Little Owl


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Thursday 27th August


Common Gull – back in it’s wintering quarters

I had a couple of hours free this morning so decided to take a slow walk around the eastern side of Felbrigg Park, calling in at the Lake to start with of course! Bullfinch have returned to the hedgerow at the bottom of The Street after a couple of months absence – I noticed them the other day. On the Lake there were the usual motley crew of Mallard, with three Gadwall mixed in. Four Cormorant and a Grey Heron were also present. Swallow, House and Sand Martin were all present in good numbers, feeding over the lake. The young Little Owl was sat out in it’s regular Ash tree below the dam. As I walked up the Weaver’s Way, in the direction of the church, I noticed a small gull flock on the sheep field. Mostly Black-headed with a handful of Common Gull mixed in – already back in their winter quarters. I then headed for Great Wood and the recently created ‘heath’. Usually this is a pretty bird less area but today there was a good collection of woodland species including Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Marsh, Coal, Blue & Great Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldcrest. There was very little else on the way home.

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Sunday 23rd August


The ‘Fabulous Five’ – left to right, Matt, Dan, Josh, Jake & Joe – Cley NWT

Just catching up on events of the last week…

On Monday we had just returned from a morning’s hide guide duties on the Cley NWT reserve when Colin, at the Centre, informed us that one of our sons was looking for us. It was Josh, who said he’d got a day off and thought he’d surprise us. He said he’d bought some lunch, which was on the viewing terrace. We went outside, only to find our other two UK based sons Matt & Jake – what a lovely surprise! They informed us that, whilst waiting for us to arrive, they’d seen a couple of strange birds down the delivery track behind the terrace. We went to investigate and out popped our other two sons Dan & Joe – one from Australia, his first visit since he emigrated in 2008 and the other from Chile, who left for foreign parts on a gap year in 2003, when he was only 17. Wow – all five of our sons, together in the UK, for the first time in over seven years! I struggled to take it in – I was well beyond my usual blubbering response on such occasions!¬†And the reason for this ‘impromptu’ gathering? – my up coming 60th birthday on the Wednesday.

On the day of my birthday I had the pleasure of leading the NENBC mid-week walk at Felbrigg, accompanied by my two keen birding sons Dan & Jake. For my actual birthday meal, which involved numerous courses and went on from two until nine, I was joined by more members of the extended family, brother Rob, sister-in-law Gi and nephew Huw – all the way from Australia, Rosie & Pat, Alex and Katie & Noah, as well as my oldest and closest friends, Neil and Bob & Sue. And then, on Friday, my eldest brother Bryan, his wife Anne and my niece Kate arrived from the north of Scotland for the weekend – departing this afternoon! What a fabulous, if rather exhausting week!

On the birding front I guess the highlights have been Common Sandpiper on Felbrigg Lake – seen on the walk and still present today, Spotted Flycatcher – not seen on the walk but seen the following day and yesterday, Little Owl – adult and first youngster of the year on Thursday. I finished off a fabulous birthday week with a local ‘twitch’ to Gramborough Hill to see the Booted Warbler this afternoon!

Normal services will now be resumed!



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Monday 16th August


A few of the eighty Swallows & Martins, The Street

Came home from shopping yesterday afternoon to find Jane photographing a collection of eighty hirundine on the wires outside the house! They were mostly Swallows, with a few House Martins and a couple of Sand Martin for good measure.

Photographs, courtesy of Jane


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Saturday 15th August

I started the day with an early morning sea-watch at Sheringham. There was a gentle on-shore wind and occasional rain showers out at sea which, in ordinary circumstances, would produce a reasonable number and variety of sea birds. However, this year has been a bit of a disappointment all round on the sea bird front, so I was very pleased to see Sooty Shearwater, Arctic Skua, Little Gull, Kittiwake, Black Tern, Grey Plover and Curlew Sandpiper.

After lunch I did some gardening and saw a lone Swift over the house – probably the same juvenile that’s been hanging about since the bulk of the adults left. Also there was a rather curious looking Buzzard briefly overhead. It had a strikingly pale apricot coloured tail and prominent white primary patches on the under-wing. Not one of our regular birds. Needless to say, by the time I’d got my camera, the bird had drifted well away to the west. Still, an interesting bird all the same!


Odd looking Buzzard with pale apricot tail and striking white primary patches

A quick walk in Felbrigg this afternoon produced a Grey Wagtail harassing a Swallow over the water meadow, a family party of at least five Spotted Flycatcher and an obliging Nuthatch, feeding on a Sweet Chestnut tree. On the insect front, a Holly Blue and a Southern Hawker were of note.

Two of the family party of Spotted Flycatcher – adult and juvenile


Nuthatch, feeding on Sweet Chestnut


Insect interest, in the form of Migrant Hawker


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Friday 14th August

It seems like summer has almost gone, at least on the bird front. The last remaining Swallows are gathering on the wires down The Street – must have been forty this morning as I made my way to Felbrigg. Once inside the park it felt decidedly autumnal with a fine mist and dark grey clouds. Nothing was singing but I did come across a couple of mixed tit flocks – one containing a family party of Chiffchaff and at least one Siskin. There were a few small roving Mistle Thrush flocks as well – usual for this time of the year. There was a lone Reed Warbler in the reed bed and a single male Tufted Duck in eclipse – first one I’ve seen on the lake in weeks. Made my way home via Park Farm, where there was still a family party of Spotted Flycatcher feeding around the pond. Hopefully something unusual will turn up in the next couple of weeks.

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Wednesday 12th August


Not quite the spectacle we observed.. Perseids meteor shower

Spent an hour at the allotment, just prior to midnight, looking at the Perseids meteor shower. Last night was meant to be the best time to observe this event since 2007, as the New Moon coincided with a good weather forecast and peak activity. In the event, we saw a handful of bright sparks flare across the north eastern horizon. Good but not spectacular. Whilst waiting for the occasional ‘astronomic sparkler’ the resident Barn Owl were busy feeding young in the nearby box.

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Sunday evening – Pied Flycatcher ‘comes home to roost’!


Juvenile-type Pied Flycatcher, Park Farm, Aylmerton

I was just having my tea when the phone rang. It was Tim with the news that he and Dawn had found a juvenile-type Pied Flycatcher at Park Farm, together with a family of Spotted Flycatcher. I grabbed my camera and binoculars and headed off in their direction. I met them along the road, talking to NENBC club President, Phil and his wife. We arrived at the farm and in no time at all the Pied Flycatcher appeared, flitting around the bushes in the garden, dropping to the grass verge to feed on flying ants and eventually showing well in the farm yard. I put in a call to other Aylmerton birder Lee, who cycled down and was duly rewarded.

Pied Flycatcher is the North East Norfolk Bird Club emblem – partly because of it’s regular occurrence along our coastline as an autumn migrant, but mostly because of the only successful breeding attempt of the species in Norfolk, in Felbrigg Park, back in 1978! So a truly fitting record for the club in it’s first year of existence and an Aylmerton parish tick for me. Thanks T&D!

Grab shot, in fading light


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Ruddy Darters!


Female Ruddy Darter, Felbrigg water meadow

Spent Sunday afternoon doing a slow walk around the south and west of the parish, ending up inevitably at Felbrigg Park. A couple of days ago I’d seen a medium sized ‘red’ dragonfly by the sluice. It didn’t quite look right for Common Darter but the views were brief and as a relative beginner with these things I had to let it go. So I returned to the sluice in the hope that it would put in another appearance. As I approached the bridge, I noticed a female Common Darter-like dragonfly, resting on the timber fence rail. It stayed long enough to photograph and, although I had my suspicions at the time, I was able to identify it at home as a female Ruddy Darter. Whilst I was standing on the bridge, a male ‘red darter’ landed briefly on the reeds in front of me, to the north of the sluice, before almost immediately flying off. A quick view through binoculars and a very hasty snap confirmed that this was indeed a male Ruddy Darter – my first for Felbrigg and the parish.

A poor grab shot of male Ruddy Darter