Aylmerton Nature Diary


Tuesday 30th May


Tufted x Ferruginous Duck hybrids – Felbrigg lake

It’s back – or rather, they are! I was walking past Felbrigg lake this afternoon, on my way to Sustead Common, when two Aytha type ducks flew in. I assumed at first that it would be the pair of Tufted Duck that were on the lake briefly the other day. Then I took a closer look and it now appears that we have two Tufted x Ferruginous type ducks visiting the lake.

Photo of Tufted x Ferruginous, taken from the internet


another shot of the Felbrigg birds

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As always, if anyone has an alternative opinion, I’d be pleased to hear it.

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Monday 29th May


Hairy Dragonfly

I managed an early morning walk around the lake, after the overnight rain and before my ‘duty day’ at Cley NWT. The only birds of any note were a couple of Mistle Thrush at either end of the lake, the usual group of Linnet at The Warren, a pair of Tufted Duck on the lake briefly before flying off and the Spotted Flycatcher in it’s regular Sweet Chestnut tree along the shelter-belt. Yesterday I visited a pond in the south east of the NENBC area – failed to find the target dragonfly but did manage acceptable photos of Hairy Dragonfly and also saw my first Brown Hawker of the year.

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Saturday 27th May


Distant Barn Owl, hunting in the early morning sun, over Aylmerton Common

I was up early to do my final Breeding Bird Survey of School Farm – nothing particularly noteworthy except a couple of pairs of Yellowhammer. On my way there two Barn Owl were hunting over Aylmerton Common and, just inside the back gate, a Little Owl was disturbed by a couple of dog-walkers with another calling down by the lake. There was no sign of the Lapwing on the water meadow or the Spotted Flycatcher in the shelter-belt. The ‘bird of the day’, came on my way home when, stood on the dam talking to Andrew, I heard the unmistakeable call of a Greenshank! It flew in from the north, made an abortive attempt to land on the blanket weed – presuming it was grass I guess, before doing a circuit of the lake and disappearing over the trees along the western edge. This is only my second for Felbrigg and one of only a handful of records for the area.

Grab shot of Greenshank over Felbrigg Lake – only my second ever

IMG_0067On Friday afternoon I visited several of the local ponds ‘dragon hunting’. I found, Common, Blue-tailed, Azure, Red-eyed & Large Red Damselfly and Broad-bodied & Four-spotted Chaser, Emperor & Hairy Dragonfly and Black-tailed Skimmer. Not a bad yield for my efforts, on the hottest afternoon of the year so far.

Red-eyed Damselfly


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Friday 26th May


Male Broad-bodied Chaser on the allotment

Yesterday was the NENBC Club Social & Activity evening, which included a walk through the Felbrigg Estate – the undisputed highlight of which was a stonking male Whinchat. Originally found by Rita along the water meadow fence-line, it did a brief tour of The Warren and the Alders along the eastern edge of the lake, eventually giving good views to all. This was a year tick for me. The other birding highlight was Spotted Flycatcher, seen half way along the shelter-belt, which may well be a different bird (pair) from that found by Andy, just before the walk started, at the edge of the Old Deer Park. We had over 70 people at the Social event, which included talks on drawing birds, bird photography and bird names, as well as sumptuous refreshments and a book auction to finish with!

There was no sign of the Whinchat first thing this morning, but I did manage to locate a singing Garden Warbler in the hedge opposite Sawmill Cottage. Dragonfly interest continues to build with a superb male Broad-bodied Chaser on the allotment yesterday afternoon.

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Thursday pm


Large Red Damselfly – my first for the year

I returned from a couple of hours grass cutting at Sustead Common, to discover not one but two species of damselfly on my garden pond!

Azure Damselfly – a regular visitor to small garden ponds 


Tonight is the last Bird Club indoor meeting of the season, we start again in September.



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Thursday 25th May


Leucistic Pochard, Cley NWT

Yesterday I had the pleasure of showing Adam and his friends around a few of the wildlife sites in North Norfolk. We started off at Kelling Heath, where we had good views of most of our target species, including Dartford Warbler (4) and Woodlark (2).  We called in at the Felbeck Trust site at Sustead Common, where the highlight was three freshly emerged Broad-bodied Chasers.  Lunch was at Felbrigg Hall, followed by an enjoyable walk down the East Bank at Cley, stopping off at Baconsthorpe castle on the way. Pick of afternoon was an amazing leucistic Pochard on Don’s Pool, Bearded Tit, several Four-spotted Chaser and Red-eyed Damselfly. A really nice day!

Willow Warbler & Dartford Warbler, Kelling Heath



Male Bearded Tit and Four-spotted Chaser – East Bank, Cley NWT




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Tuesday 23rd May


Copulating Spotted Flycatcher – along the western shelter-belt, Felbrigg Park

We’ve had a birding friend staying with us over the weekend – the purpose of his visit, to show a photographer friend of his from Thailand some of the delights of North Norfolk. We spent Sunday morning at Hickling Broad, where we took a trip on the boat – Spoonbill, Swallowtail Butterfly and Norfolk Hawker being the wildlife highlights, then on to Blickling and finally Felbrigg. Yesterday was spent at Cley NWT, when the stand-out bird was a Purple Heron, which we watched come in off the sea and eventually disappear south of the village, without so much as a single wing flap! Last night we visited the heaths, in pursuit of Nightjar – which we found in relative abundance. Local patch birds have remained pretty static over the past few days: Cuckoos have been much in evidence, the drake Mandarin remains on the lake and the Spotted Flycatcher wasted no time in attracting a mate. On the down side, the Lapwing on the water meadow seem finally to have abandoned their second nesting attempt. This afternoon, on Sustead Common, my first dragonfly for the site – a female Broad-bodied Chaser.

iPhone photo of female Broad-bodied Chaser, Sustead Common


Finally I’ve managed to track down one of the only pair of Reed Warbler so far in the reed- bed


I never tire of looking at these exquisite ducks – male Mandarin


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Saturday 20th May – going Cuckoo


Distant record shot of calling Cuckoo, Aylmerton – at last!

I thought I was going Cuckoo! Having flogged around the park this morning, including the rough grazing below the dam, Common Plantation and up to the Field Study Centre without success, I get back to my garden gate and I hear a Cuckoo call from behind the house! I managed to track it down in Mallett’s Meadows before it flew to the Poplars near the church, and then on further west. At last! In the park I was pleased to see that the Lapwing is still sitting, despite the heavy rain of the past couple of days, and the pair of Gadwall remain on the lake. The Little Owl was in it’s usual spot. Early morning news of a Golden Oriole on West Runton Golf Course suggests that Spring passage is not yet over – watch this space!

The pair of Gadwall are still on Felbrigg Lake this morning


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Friday 19th May


Painted Lady – one of three, emerging from hibernation I assume, Felbrigg Park

Yesterday I did my NENBC Breeding Bird Survey of School Farm. As on previous visits, there were very few breeding birds to record, but I did see a couple of singing  Yellowhammer and there was an itinerant pair of Oystercatcher on a newly plant field. I visited Felbrigg Park on my way there, on my way back and returned again in the late afternoon – on each occasion, hoping to see (or even hear) Cuckoo, but I failed miserably. At tea-time I went to watch Andrew set up the bat monitoring equipment on Sustead Common, only to be regaled by Carol & Ken with tales of a close Cuckoo encounter, as they walked over from Gresham. Not my day! In the warm late afternoon sun however, there were plenty of insects about for a change, including three Painted Lady butterflies and a dozen or so Common Blue Damselfly. During the day I managed to squeeze some time in to pop over to Kelling water meadows to see the Black-winged Stilt. I was hoping all afternoon that it would fly off east and it might visit Felbrigg, but alas it went west, to Cley!

Nuthatch, still feeding young along the western shelter-belt


Black-winged Stilt, seen at Kelling – how good would this look on the water meadows?


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Wednesday 17th May


A total surprise – Avocet, over Incleborough Hill on my NENBC Breeding Bird Survey

This morning was the NENBC mid-week walk around the Felbrigg Estate. It was raining to begin with but gradually dried up, with even some sunny spells. There was nothing particularly exciting on the walk but we did see Common Sandpiper and Spotted Flycatcher, as well as a host of the more common species – 51 in total. Yesterday, I was up early to do my Breeding Bird Survey of Incleborough Hill – again little of interest regarding the breeding birds but I was delighted to add an NENBC tick for my pains. I was right on the top of the hill when I saw a bird coming towards me, high in the sky. At first I thought it might be a tern of some sort but I quickly realised that it was an Avocet, with another following closely behind. They passed over-head and continued south towards Roughton Road. Avocet are a scarce bird in the NENBC area, so far only seen off-shore. A brief visit to the park in the afternoon failed to produce the reported Cuckoo but I did catch up with Tim & Dawn’s Marsh Harrier, seen the day before over the village – well I assume it was the same bird.

Female/imm. Marsh Harrier, heading north over The Great Wood – being mobbed by crows