Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Sunday 27th September

Decided to take the afternoon off after yesterday’s yomp around the parish and do some birding in the neighbouring parish of East Runton. Parked at Top Common and walked around the bottom of Inclborough Hill, over the railway bridge into Thain’s Lane and down to the coast. Virtually no birds about, a few Cormorant heading east and a couple of Chiffchaff in the bushes. But I did come across this snoozing Fox though!


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Saturday 26th September – beating the bounds

As part of my AND (Aylmerton Nature Diary blog) ‘1st Birthday’ celebration I decided this afternoon to ‘beat the bounds’ – walk the parish boundary by using the roads, paths and woodland trails which keep as near to the boundary as possible. Although I have walked most parts of it previously, I’ve never done it all in one go before. It took me about three hours, from start to finish – a total distance of 12k.

Having entered the Felbrigg estate I headed through the Old Deer Park towards the western arm of the Victory V avenue, then north to cross the A148, turning left and followed Tower Road to Sandy Lane. Down Camp Lane to Roman Camp NT and Beacon Hill, 338ft above sea level and the highest point in the county. I then followed the line of the Cromer Ridge along a series of woodland paths as far as the quarry on Briton’s Lane, turned south to recross the A148 and down Bennington’s Lane, before turning left on to Mill Lane and up to the village cross. I then followed School Road as far as the Field Study Centre before re-entering Felbrigg Park at Keeper’s Cottage, following the Weaver’s Way through Common Plantation and down to Scarrow Beck. Finally, having crossed the stream, I headed up past the Lake to complete my journey along the path to the Old Deer Park.

Bird interest included Bullfinch in several spots, a number of Siskin flocks, singing Chiffchaff, a kettle of five Buzzard and a flock of about twenty Tufted Duck on the Lake.

Looking  across the Old Deer Park towards the Victory V Avenue


Beech trees in Felbrigg Great Wood


Conifers along the Cromer Ridge


A view to the sea from Beacon Hill


Newly re-created heathland, along the Cromer Ridge


Shady pool


The quarry on Briton’s Lane


Along Bennington’s Lane, heading south


Junction of Bennington’s and Mill Lane


Looking west to Gresham and beyond


The Village Cross and the entrance to Mill Lane


Scarrow Beck, looking upstream towards Felbrigg Lake


The Lake




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Wednesday 23rd September

The National Trust asked me sometime ago if I would lead some bird walks for them – this afternoon was the first one. Six people showed up and we had a nice, though rather uneventful walk. The birding highlights for the group being a small flock of Siskin, which flew into the Alders by the Lake and a couple of Little Owl. I was more pleased to see that there were still three Red-veined Darter near the top sluice and, just as we were finishing, a strong passage of House Martin flying west over the Hall. I counted 97 in about twenty minutes. There was also a small movement of Buzzard, involving 6-8 birds,  drifting slowly west, at around 2.00 pm.

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Sunday 20th September

Went for another look at the Red-veined Darter at Felbrigg this afternoon. Played a bit of a ‘cat and mouse’ game with them and the sun before finally getting a couple more acceptable photographs. Bird interest was mostly confined to a small group of Siskin feeding in the Alders near the top sluice.

Red-veined Darter


Also, Small Copper


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Saturday 19th September

Had the pleasure of leading a local group of ‘loose-enders’ on a bird walk around Felbrigg Park in the morning. Unfortunately, despite the pleasant weather, very few species were found on the route, which took us up the Victory V avenue, through to the heath, across the road to Felbrigg church, down to the Lake and back to the Hall via the gorse clump. We did come across a couple of tit flocks but they contained only the usual species, including Nuthatch. On the heath we did have a small flock of Siskin and nice but distant views of Great Spotted Woodpecker. We studied the gull flock on the fields around the church, before dropping down to the lake, where we found Tufted, Mallard, Teal & Gadwall. No sign of the Redstart in the gorse on our way back to the Hall. A nice walk with nice people nonetheless.


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Thursday 17th September


Red-veined Darter – Felbrigg Park

After yesterdays rain it took a while before the ground began to dry out and the sun to appear. By the time I’d had lunch it was just beginning to feel like there might be a prospect of some insect action, so I took a walk down to Felbrigg Lake in search of the reported second emergence of Red-veined Darter. It wasn’t long before I’d seen my first and eventually I’d counted half a dozen. Apparently, unlike the spring migrants, males are basically the same colour as the females – both being most reliably identified by the blue bottom half to their eyes.

The latter half of the afternoon was spent searching out and attempting to photograph the ‘female type’ Redstart, present for it’s fourth day at least, in the gorse clump between the Hall and the Lake.

Another view of Red-veined Darter, showing blue lower half to the eyes


Female type Redstart still in gorse, Felbrigg Park




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Elephant Hawk Moth


Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar – Aylmerton 

I’d just got back from a walk in Felbrigg Park when the phone rang – it was a neighbour saying she’d been gardening and dug up an interesting looking caterpillar. I went round to take a look and it turned out to be a magnificent Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar. Thanks Louisa!

..looking slightly more natural!



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Wednesday 16th September


Lesser Whitethroat – Felbrigg, with Goldfinch

Having reluctantly taken the decision to cancel the NENBC Felbrigg mid-week walk yesterday, due to the adverse weather warnings, I thought I’d better go to the car park this morning just to check that no one was waiting around, having missed the messages on the website. As it happened there were two club members there so, as the weather was much better than expected, we set off for a stroll around the park. We headed down towards the lake, where we met up with club President Phil. Apparently there was no sign of the Redstart in the gorse bushes so we continued on to the lake. The flock of Tufted Duck had increased overnight to thirteen and there were three Gadwall and a Teal also present. In the far corner, near the reed bed, I spotted a small pale looking water-bird, not a young Moorhen as I expected but a Little Grebe – my first on the lake for months. As we inspected the bushes below the dam for possible Little Owl (we’d heard one in the oaks by the Hall earlier) Tim noticed a warbler – a nice Lesser Whitethroat and an AND ‘tick’! We worked our way back around the lake, before taking the path back to the Hall beside the gorse bushes. As we did so I flushed the female Redstart from a nearby bush. After a few minutes ‘stake out’ we all got reasonable views as it flew between bushes and fed on the ground. Returning to the car park there was a group of five Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk drifting slowly to the west. Not a bad ‘tally’ for a non-NENBC mid-week walk!

Another shot of Lesser Whitethroat


Little Grebe – Felbrigg Lake



Happy Birthday AND!


‘female-type’ Common Redstart – Felbrigg Park

Aylmerton Nature Diary is one year old today – hurray!

As I said at the time I launched AND, ‘autumn seems an odd time to be starting a nature blog. 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 think, well actually there’s lots..’ How true that has proved to be, with a wonderful array of wildlife, covered in over 130 individual posts!

Aylmerton parish boundary follows the Cromer Ridge in the north, through Roman Camp, turns south through Felbrigg Great Wood and the Lake, runs parallel with Scarrow Beck before looping west around Felbrigg Lodge, back to the village cross on the Gresham Road, follows two ‘green lanes’, before finally heading north to skirt the quarry on Briton’s Lane. With the parish boundary bisecting Felbrigg Park, I quickly came to realise that it was better to incorporate the whole park into the area covered by the blog, so AND has thus become a wildlife diary of Aylmerton Parish and Felbrigg Park.

Since the Felbrigg estate was given to the National Trust in the early seventies, the birdlife of the park has been well documented. First by Moss Taylor, who in his survey ‘Birds of Felbrigg Park 1972 – 1997’, collated the base-line data against which subsequent records, from a host of local birders, have been measured. I’m currently working on an updated checklist of birds of the area, which stands at just short of 200 species – not bad for a patch which, in total, covers less than ten square kilometres!

So what have been the birding highlights of my year in Aylmerton and Felbrigg? A late Spotted Flycatcher at the end of September 2014 concluded a successful season for this fast disappearing Norfolk breeding species – success of course, which was continued again this year, with two breeding pairs. In October, a brief visit from a Great Egret was ‘a first’ for my area list, as was the Short-eared Owl which stayed a couple of weeks in November. In the depths of winter, the appearance of a ‘red-head’ Smew on the lake was a welcome occurrence. Late winter saw a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker roaming the eastern boundary of the park but, alas, there was no evidence that she stayed to breed. Spring continued with Mediterranean Gull, at least one if not two pairs of Black Redstart in the village and on the Hall and the return of several pairs of Mandarin Duck. Perhaps one of the most spectacular sites was the spring passage of Ring Ouzel through the park, which lasted for nearly a month and reached a reported peak of 14 individuals! As spring moved into summer, Wryneck, Wood Sandpiper and Firecrest were added to the list. One of the most recent additions has however proved to be perhaps the most noteable. An autumn Pied Flycatcher, found on a Felbrigg estate farm, and recalling the event in 1978 when Pied Flycatcher bred successfully in Felbrigg – the only ever record in Norfolk – and now adopted as the North East Norfolk Bird Club logo!

Other wildlife highlights over the year have included Lesser Emperor and Red-veined Darter dragonflies, White Admiral butterfly and recently, Otter.

And so it was that, on my final afternoon of the first year of my blog, I set off into Felbrigg Park in the vain hope of tracking down yesterdays reported Redstart. I spent some time by the clump of gorse, between the Hall and the Lake, but not ‘a sniff’. I decided to check out the plantation on the off-chance it had moved to a more sheltered spot. Half way across the meadow I heard a strident, quickly repeated, ‘sweep’ call – not quite right for the more likely suspect, Chiffchaff. I returned to the shelter of the gorse bushes and saw a bird flitting about, near the ground. A moment later and I was watching a ‘female type’ Common Redstart! Thank you Simon for a welcome area ‘tick’ and my 118th species in Aylmerton parish and Felbrigg Park, in a year!!

..and thank you for following the blog over the past twelve months and, hopefully, into the future.


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Saturday 12th September


Yellow-browed Warbler – alas, not the one found recently in Felbrigg Park!

Just got back from a fabulous weeks birding holiday in southern Spain – details and photos out shortly on TrevorOnTour.me. I was relieved to learn that I hadn’t missed too much on my local patch, except that is for a Yellow-browed Warbler – found on Thursday morning by Pete & Sue Morrison, in a tit flock in the deer park at Felbrigg. Nice record!

Yesterday I was busy sorting out after the holiday, but did manage to do a recce for the NENBC outdoor walk on Sunday to Incleborough Hill & West Runton. Plenty of migrants about, including a superb Wryneck, male Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear & Whinchat. Let’s hope there is a similar cast of species tomorrow!

Wryneck, Incleborough Hill – yesterday