‘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.