Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Sunday 31st July


Juvenile Cuckoo, Weaver’s Way, Felbrigg Park

It was village fete day yesterday so, what with helping to set up in the morning and manning the bookstall in the afternoon, time was limited. However, I did manage to get out for a quick walk in the park just after lunch. The shelter-belt was very quiet as I made my way down towards the lake – no mixed feeding flock and certainly no sign of the Spotted Flycatchers in the isolated oaks. I was systematically working the rough grazing meadow west of the top sluice, for butterflies and dragonflies, when a falcon sped through my view – it was a Hobby and, judging by it’s size and colouration, probably the 1st summer bird that’s been hanging about recently. I crossed the sluice and circled the eastern side of the lake to find it sat up in it’s favourite dead trees, near the viewing screen. It wasn’t long before it took off and disappeared from view. Whilst scanning the surrounding vegetation I came across an adult Spotted Flycatcher – in almost exactly the same place as a couple of weeks ago. I’m certain that these are different birds from those, recently discovered, along the shelter-belt. I met up with Simon, who told me where he’d seen yesterday’s juvenile Cuckoo and we went to see if we could relocate it. Sure enough, right on cue, there it was by the old brick and flint wall, along the Weaver’s Way. We watched it for twenty minutes before it finally disappeared into the bushes below the dam. On the lake itself, my first Small Red-eyed Damselfly of the year, a couple of female Brown Hawker ovipositing and a Banded Demoiselle.

1st Summer Hobby, dead trees near viewing screen


Small Red-eyed Damselfly – my first this year, Felbrigg Lake


Female Brown Hawker, ovipositing


Another shot of the lovely and relatively obliging Cuckoo


Back on the fete bookstall late afternoon, my attention was captured by another Hobby over the village hall.

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Friday 29th July


Adult Spotted Flycatcher, shelter-belt, Felbrigg Park

There was a much fresher feel to the weather this morning. First bird of interest was the very pale Barn Owl, hunting over the water meadow – I’ve not seen it here for several weeks. No ducks on the lake other than the resident, moulting, Mallard. I spent some time by the top sluice, watching an adult Reed Warbler feeding young.  Heading back along the shelter belt I encountered a mixed feeding flock containing Long-tailed, Blue, Great and Coal Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and Goldcrest. There was a juvenile Blackcap in the vicinity as well. I stood, slowly working my way through the flock, when I became aware of another bird, silhouetted against the sky – combined with a thin, dry ‘shee’ call, I knew I’d stumbled on a Spotted Flycatcher. I eventually located a juvenile – there were probably more nearby and, further along the path, another adult. This is the same patch of isolated oak trees where I’ve seen them in previous years and I doubt if they are the same birds that have been present at the lake recently. My morning walk was pleasantly concluded by another fly-over Curlew – my third in as many weeks.

One of the juvenile Spotted Flycatcher 


Curlew, flying north west, over the shelter – belt


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Thursday 28th July


This guy is a hero!

I’m pretty sure that this rather battered looking male Blackbird in my garden is the same one who reared a brood of youngsters single-handedly, after his mate was squashed on the road, earlier this Spring. Now he’s at it again, feeding a brood of youngsters in our clematis – and there’s no sign of a female again either! He spends every waking moment rummaging around the shrubbery, looking for insects and grubs for his hungry mob. I keep him going by making sure there’s always plenty of grub on the bird table. He may not be the prettiest bird around but boy he’s the most industrious!

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Wednesday 27th July


The characteristic pose of a Kingfisher (large post to the rear right!) – seen from the dam!

It rained enough on my morning walk to get me wet, but probably not enough to make a difference to the allotment – which desperately needs a good watering. It was all pretty predictable stuff until I got as far as the dam. Scanning the rough grazing to the south I noticed, at the far end of the meadow, what I thought was the familiar shape of a Kingfisher, sat atop one of the fence posts, which mark the line of Scarrow Beck. Whist observing the distant shape, trying to confirm the identification, another familiar silhouette rose up out of the marshy ground – this time it was a Snipe. The Kingfisher is the first one I’ve seen here all year and the Snipe, most likely to be a very early returning bird. A couple of Marsh Tit were calling near the viewing screen on my way back home, before the heavier rain set in.

Silhouette of a Snipe over the rough grazing meadow below the dam – an early retuning bird?


Goldfinch are one of the birds which, according to the recent NENBC breeding bird survey of Felbrigg Park, are doing pretty well – full results are currently being collated, analysed and written up


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A year ago today..

Exactly a year ago today I encountered my first Otter at Felbrigg. Probably the same individual was seen a couple of days later, walking along the road by the village pond. I’ve had no further sightings since that glorious morning, but I keep looking and hoping!

Otter, Felbrigg Lake July 2015


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Friday pm


Cormorant – non-breeding adult, Felbrigg Lake

Following a report by a bird club member of the Green Sandpiper at Felbrigg Lake, a couple of hours after I was there in the morning, I decide to make a return visit, late afternoon. Alas, still no sign, but there was a female Tufted Duck on the lake, a rather handsome non-breeding Cormorant roosting in the dead trees (Cormorants have only recently reappeared, after largely being absent since the Spring)) and a Grey Wagtail was feeding on the outflow. Little Owl were calling again from the oak trees along the eastern edge of the lake.

Female Grey Wagtail, feeding on the outflow


Insect interest came in the form of a lovely Small Copper – and accompanying fly!


On my way home a Marsh Tit called and showed well near the Woodyard and a Whimbrel gave it’s characteristic repeated piping call as it flew along the Cromer Ridge.

Marsh Tit have recently become more vocal around the park


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AND milestone reached!


Aylmerton Nature Diary (AND) blog has just clocked up it’s 10,000 view! Not a bad achievement for a parish nature diary. During the twenty two months it’s been going, there have been 263 individual postings, that’s an average of 12 a month or one every two and a half days.

A hugh thanks to all of you who take the time to look at what nature events have been happening around the parish and Felbrigg Park. I look forward to the next ten thousands views!


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Friday 22nd July


Grab-shot of young Cuckoo, Deer Park, Felbrigg

Lovely weather for my morning walk around Felbrigg. As I wandered down the lane from the village, towards the back gate, I noticed a significant number of Blackbirds – ten or more, feeding along the newly cut grass verge. Most of them seemed to be birds of the year. I’d just got to the junction of paths at the start of the middle track to the lake when I noticed a brown falcon-like bird fly up into one of the oak trees on the edge of the Deer Park. Assuming that it was one of the young Kestrel which have been knocking about in this area, I casually raised my binoculars to confirm my suspicions. I was surprised and delighted to find that it was, in fact, a juvenile Cuckoo! It appeared to be independent of any surrogate parents and quickly flew to another tree and out of view. There’s been plenty in the nature news about the dramatic decline of Cuckoo in recent years and, although we have had records of adult birds in Felbrigg this year, it’s the first evidence of successful breeding that I’m aware of. The lake remains devoid of any duck species other than Mallard but there were a couple of Little Owl calling to each other – I assume adult and youngster(s), close-by. Along the western edge of the lake there was a female Grey Wagtail and a calling Marsh Tit nearby. No sign of either Sandpiper, which we saw on the NENBC mid-week walk on Wednesday.

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Wednesday 20th July

On one of the hottest days of the year I’ve had the pleasure of leading two bird walks around Felbrigg Park today – one, the monthly NENBC mid-week walk and the other on behalf of the National Trust. Actually, this mornings walk was better than might have been expected. We saw over forty species with the highlights undoubtably being both Common and Green Sandpiper, along the western edge of the lake. This afternoons walk ran rather more to book with very few species seen. There was more interest, however, by way of dragonflies and butterflies with Brown Hawker and Essex Skipper being the respective highlights. Away from the park, a pair of Bullfinch along The Street was the only notable addition.

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Tuesday 19th July


Four-spotted Chaser this morning at the allotment

Spent the morning exploring Cawston Heath, south west of Aylsham – part of the Buxton/Marsham group, all of which are now managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. It looks good for the range of typical heathland species but, in truth, this morning we saw very little. Little Owl on the middle of the heath was a bit of a surprise and there were plenty of dragonflies however, including several splendid Brown Hawker, Four-spotted Chaser, Common Darter and various damselflies.

On my return home, went straight up to the allotment to do some work and was delighted to find Common Darter, Four-spotted Chaser and Broad-bodied Chaser all on the wildlife pond! On the way back for lunch, twenty plus Swift, screaming overhead.