Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Wednesday 28th September



Check out the new board-walk and dipping platform at the village pond

After six continuous days hard labour, by a loyal bunch of local volunteers, the ‘boggy board-walk’ and dipping platform at the village pond is now finish, including a nice bench to rest your weary bones. We’ve still got to top off the solid approach path but all the timber work is done. It seemed rather fitting that as we were putting the finishing touches to it this afternoon, a spectacular female Southern Hawker came to investigate us and our handy work!

Southern Hawker – taken in Felbrigg Park last year


I enjoyed a lovely walk around the park this evening. Nothing particularly unusual bird-wise – just four, newly arrived, Tufted Duck on the lake – possibly including the regular Tufted x Ferruginous, four House Martin still around Park Farm and a nice flock of twenty plus Long-tailed Tit up the lane on my way home. The cloud formations were truly interesting tonight  though.

In a conversation with my neighbour this afternoon he told me he’d seen a ‘Siberian Woodcock’ (presumably a nice old Norfolk name for wintering Woodcock) in the park yesterday. It seems rather early but, there again, it’s been a bit of a strange year. A nice record nonetheless, thanks John.

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Tuesday 27th September


Local Buzzard surveying Aylmerton Common

A quick catch-up. Friday through to Sunday evening was basically consumed with Aylmerton Pond Project preparation and execution. Yesterday was duty day at Cley where it’s beginning to quieten down – highlights included a couple of Little Stint, a Curlew Sandpiper and plenty of showy Bearded Tit. This morning it’s catching up with Felbrigg Park Breeding Bird Survey stuff and then more ‘boggy board-walk’ construction!

Our resident woodland birds are becoming more noticeable. A brief early walk around the park this morning produced both woodpeckers, Nuthatch, Robin, Wren, Dunnock and three species of tit. Summer lingers on in the form of a Chiffchaff and a mixed flock of House Martin and Swallows still, feeding over the lake. There was a lone Teal in amongst the Mallard on the water meadow and the Kingfisher was perched near the viewing screen. On the way back up the lane the Buzzard was on it’s favoured perch, overlooking Aylmerton Common.

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Friday 23rd September


Stock Dove – present on any walk in Felbrigg

Wednesday was Felbrigg walks day – NENBC in the morning, attended by thirty people! and the National Trust walk in the afternoon, with e respectable eight people. Most of the good birds were in the morning, including a small but noticeable passage of Common Buzzard, a juvenile Marsh Harrier heading south, Kingfisher on the lake and first arrival of Pink-footed Geese – a skein of c.80, heading inland.

Yesterday I was at an event near Rugby – celebrating the 30th anniversary of a lecture series I started when we lived in Worcestershire. It’s nice to know that somethings last!

We’re now heading into a long weekend work party for the Village Pond Project, creating the reed filter bed and constructing a ‘boggy board-walk’ and dipping platform – a lot of hard work but rewarding all the same.

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Tuesday 20th September


Flowering Honeysuckle, The Street

It’s all calmed down again after the weekend weather and ensuing glut of interesting birds – mostly along the coastal strip. However, I enjoyed a leisurely morning walk in Felbrigg this morning. First bird of interest was a Siskin, calling in the trees by the back gate. The Barn Owl was out again, hunting over the water meadow and the Cormorants were leaving their roost and head north towards the coast. As I approached the lake, the Kingfisher appeared from near the reed bed and flew, calling, to a perch below the dead trees near the viewing screen. No sign of any Wheatear at The Warren or on the sheep pastures. I did see a Little Grebe at the dam end of the lake though, they’re proving very elusive this autumn so far. My attention was drawn to a flowering Honeysuckle in the hedge on my way up the lane – an important food plant for White Admiral which, incidentally, I failed to see in the park this summer – the first time for a few years. It’s not been a great summer for butterflies though, so perhaps not that surprising.

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Sunday 18th September – reflections on the past year



Glossy Ibis – possibly the ‘biggest’ bird of my AND blog year, certainly one of the most obliging

I’ve been reflecting on the past twelve months of the Aylmerton Nature Diary and what a truly great year it’s been!

The ten stand-out birds for me have been Yellow-browed Warbler (Felbrigg first), Bearded Tit (Felbrigg first), Cetti’s Warbler (First for Felbrigg), Water Pipit (First for Felbrigg ), Glossy Ibis (First for Felbrigg), Siberian Chiffchaff (First for Felbrigg), Cattle Egret (First for Aylmerton/Felbrigg), Garganey (Felbrigg First), Greenshank (Felbrigg First) and Montagu’s Harrier (First for Felbrigg) – full accounts of each are featured in the blog. There’s also been a pretty impressive supporting cast of unusual species like Mandarin, Mediterranean Gull, Jack Snipe, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Ring Ouzel, Redstart, Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher and Crossbill. The cumulative total of bird species seen in the AND area since I started in 2014 is now over 140 – a good number but still a long way short of the 204 (depending on how you do the maths) which is the all-time total. Not to mention the host of dragonfly/damselfly species which have been seen over the past twelve months, including Red-veined Darter and Willow Emerald Damselfly! This all goes to demonstrate the unique nature and quality of this Norfolk inland wildlife & birding hot-spot. A great ‘local patch’ and focus for this nature diary.

Thank you to all those people who regularly watch the park and who are kind enough to tell me when something unusual is around – I really do appreciate it!

‘Felbrigg First’ = new to me in Felbrigg

‘First for Felbrigg’ = new bird in Felbrigg

Bearded Tit seen last autumn, Felbrigg estate



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Saturday 17th September


Record shot in poor light, Wheatear, The Warren

I was out early this morning to see whether the torrential rain and wind of yesterday had grounded any migrants – I was particularly interested in the possibility of wildfowl on the lake. As I walked down the central path by the water meadow, the Barn Owl was out hunting on the far side. In the distance I could see a group of duck in the centre of the lake, unfortunately however, before I could reach them, they were disturbed by a dog-walker. As they took off and disappeared through the trees I could see that they were Teal – I counted eighteen. Later, I came across a Wigeon hidden amongst the vegetation on the water meadow.

I scanned The Warren in the vague hope that the Wheatear might still be present. I couldn’t see anything but then, as I walked across the sheep pasture, I noticed a small bird flying away with a white rump – Wheatear! I eventually found a second bird but both proved surprisingly elusive for this species. I continued walking, crossing the Weaver’s Way, over the rough grazing meadow below the dam, before returning to the The Warren, where I hoped the light would be better and that the Wheatear might have returned.  They had but it was still very overcast and I could only obtain a record shot. As I was stood there, a wader sp. came flying towards me from the Metton direction in the mist and away over towards the hall. My first impression was of a Golden Plover, but it wasn’t calling as GP’s generally do and I suspected it was something else, so I concentrated my efforts on getting a shot. By the time I’d got home and uploaded the photographs it was apparent that this definitely wasn’t a GP but a Knot – a ‘Felbrigg first’ for me and possibly an entirely new bird for the Felbrigg Estate!

Record shot of Knot, Felbrigg Hall


What a way to celebrate the AND 2nd anniversary!!

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Happy AND-iversary



Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of the Aylmerton Nature Diary blog… practically a ‘toddler’ already – how fast they grow up!

Yesterday afternoon I repeated my walk, around the boundaries of the parish, following the same route as last year: 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. It took me about three and a half hours, from start to finish – a total distance of 12k.

Despite the brisk pace, I did manage to see 46 species of birds, several butterflies and more Willow Emerald Damselfly. The best of the birds were undoubtably a splendid Whinchat on the bushes along Scarrow Beck, as it flows across Aylmerton Common, a female-type Redstart along Mill Lane, in Oak trees, 50m west of the village cross and a Wheatear at the usual spot of The Warren. With this ‘trio’ of scarce migrants, I was reminded why Aylmerton parish is such a good place for wildlife and why I started this blog in the first place.

Thank you to all those people who have taken the time to read this blog over the past twelve months – I hope you continue to do so in the future.

Unfortunately, with only a compact camera in my pocket, I failed to get photos of any of the good birds!



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Wednesday 14th September


Beefsteak fungus, Aylmerton Pond

It’s been a day for local wildlife. It started with an obliging Spotted Flycatcher this morning at the allotment, showing well in the hedgerow on the boundary with Running Free Farm. Also a Chiffchaff in the same bush. At lunchtime, superb views of Willow Emerald Damselfly at the village pond. Several emerging Beefsteak fungi on the oaks around the pond.

Compared to Simon’s, my own rather mediocre photo, of a Willow Emerald at the village pond


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Tuesday afternoon


Hobby, possible the same 1st summer bird that’s been about or a moulting adult

I did manage to find Willow Emerald at the pond this morning, in between doing a couple of preparatory tasks ahead of the pond work-party in ten days time. I saw two or three individuals and a pair ovipositing. Also around the pond several Common Darter and a Southern Hawker.

This afternoon I managed a slow walk around the park, in pretty hot and humid conditions. Little and Tawny Owl were both calling from various locations, the Kingfisher was busy flying around the lake, a female Mandarin was close to the viewing screen and a Hobby drifted north over the sheep pasture in front of the hall. On the way to the lake I stopped off at the Ice Pond and found more Willow Emerald, Southern Hawker and Common & Ruddy Darter. A Chiffchaff was calling in the village on my way back home.

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Tuesday 13th September

Got a text from Simon yesterday whist we were on volunteer duty at Cley NWT. He was looking for dragonflies at the village pond and came across several Willow Emerald Damselfly – a rare species in Norfolk. He saw several individuals, including a pair ovipositing, which could hopefully lead to the pond becoming an established breeding location. This is tremendous news!

Fabulous photo of a Willow Emerald, courtesy of Simon