Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Thursday 27th July


Adult Little Grebe skips across Felbrigg Lake – first I’ve seen here since early May

The last couple of morning walks around the park have been pretty dull – bird, not weather, wise. Not much has caught my attention and I keep missing out on the Mandarin, which has been reported now several times over the past few days. There’s still a few bits of interest on the lake – the female Gadwall and lone Coot remain, and this morning, the adult Little Grebe reappeared. This is my first sighting since early May – no sign of any youngsters though. There were a couple of Mistle Thrush in the dead tree by the out-flow sluice and the usual post-breeding gathering of Goldfinch – currently a flock of around fifty. I couldn’t but help notice that there’s been another unfortunate outbreak of habitat destruction near the sluice – most of the bramble scrub has been removed, leaving this sheltered corner now very exposed!


The missing Mandarin (photo courtesy of Richard Farrow) – female or possibly a juvenile?

taken by Richard Farrow

On my way past the water meadow, a Common Buzzard being mobbed by a Kestrel – seen exiting top left


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Monday 24th July


Record shot of recently fledged Spotted Flycatcher, Felbrigg Park

Yesterday afternoon I took a quick spin around the lake, dodging the showers. I was hoping to see the Mandarin, reported by Richard and Di on Friday, which, from the photo on the NENBC website, looks like a possible juvenile. Unfortunately there was no sign – the Coot was still present however, as was the female Gadwall. As I stood on the eastern edge scanning the lake I noticed movement in the Alders behind the reed bed. It turned out to be an adult Spotted Flycatcher. I continued to watch and eventually located a static juvenile and another adult. Later, along the path through the shelter-belt, I found another adult – suggesting two pairs, as in previous years. For the 15 minutes or so I was stood by the lake a Water Rail (possibly two) was occasionally squealing. Mid-summer records of this species are rare.



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Sunday 23rd July


Whimbrel – alas, not taken locally

I was sat at my computer this morning when I heard the unmistakable call of a Whimbrel, flying overhead. I dashed outside but couldn’t see the bird, the noise however moved further away, towards Felbrigg Park. It occurred to me that I’d had a similar experience last year and, on checking my notes, discovered that I’d had a Whimbrel flying along the Cromer Ridge, calling on 22nd July 2016, amazing!

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Friday 21st July


Hornet feed on the sap of an Oak tree – Felbrigg Park

There’s a large Oak tree along the western shelter-belt which has been ‘bleeding’ sap for most of the summer – it’s a favourite feeding spot for Red Admirals. I took a look this morning and was pleasantly surprised to find that Hornet have also adopted it. On the bird front there’s little change but more of the resident species were showing themselves, particularly in Common Plantation, where there was a calling Nuthatch, a family party of Long-tailed Tit and several Great Spotted Woodpecker, including at least one juvenile. There were no other wildfowl on the lake other than Mute Swan, Mallard and Moorhen. At Sustead Common this afternoon there was a nice selection of butterflies – Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Peacock, Comma, Small and Spotted Skipper and plenty of Large White. Also a nice Brown Hawker dragonfly.

Red Admiral, in the early morning sun


There were several Comma at Sustead Common this afternoon – here the underwing pattern with the white ‘comma’ marking clearly visible


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Wednesday 19th July


Banded Demoiselle, Felbrigg

Today was Felbrigg walks day – in the morning the NENBC mid-week walk and this afternoon, the National Trust birdwatching walk. The best bird of the day was probably the Common Sandpiper, seen by the NT group, at the lake this afternoon. After the rather damp and cloudy start this morning, the sun came out and there were plenty of butterflies and dragonflies to enjoy, including the second emergence of Holly Blue, plenty of Brown and Southern Hawker, a few Small Red-eyed Damselfly still and my first Banded Demoiselle of the year, at Felbrigg.

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Tuesday 18th July


Stinkhorn, Felbrigg Park

Felbrigg Park was dead quiet when I went for my late afternoon walk yesterday, following a day of volunteering at Cley NWT. The only obvious birds I came across were a pair of calling Stock Dove and a Green Woodpecker. On the lake, the family party of Mute Swan, including seven youngsters still, continue to grow. There were also a couple of dozen Mallard and the two Tufted x Ferruginous Duck had been joined by a female – which I assume is pure rather than hybrid but it difficult to tell, since all the ducks are now in heavy moult. Sticking with the dead theme, I’ve been noticing that distinctive smell – said to be like rotting flesh, by the gate near the viewing screen, for a few days now. Yesterday I went to investigate and found a mature Stickhorn – phallus impudicus, just off the path – the sticky olive-green ‘gleba’ coating had already been picked clean by the flies.

Period Piece: A Cambridge childhood. ‘The name (Stinkhorn) is justified, for the fungus can be hunted by the scent alone; and this was Aunt Etty’s great invention. Armed with a basket and a pointed stick, and wearing special hunting cloak and gloves, she would sniff her way round the wood, pausing here and there, her nostrils twitching, when she caught a whiff of her prey; then at last, with a deadly pounce, she would fall upon her victim, and poke his putrid carcass into her basket.’ Gwen Raverat – grand-daughter of Charles Darwin.

Female Tufted Duck joined the two male hybrid Tufted x  Ferruginous Duck on the lake



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Sunday 16th July


Distant but adequate views of Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley – brought up my 350th bird for Norfolk

The only birding I’ve done over the past few days has been off-patch! The pager alerted me this morning to a Long-billed Dowitcher at Cley NWT. If I connected it would bring up my 350th for Norfolk – we just had to go! Luckily, we didn’t have to wait too long for it to appear on Arnold’s Marsh – later flying back to the tussocky grass of The Serpentine. Job done! This afternoon, a Chiffchaff in the garden – back to reality.

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Thursday 13th July

IMG_0489 Common Darter, male –  Felbrigg Lake

I don’t know where this week has gone. Monday I was at Cley NWT, Tuesday & Wednesday where mainly occupied at Sustead Common and on Felbeck Trust business, and this morning I was engaged showing Mark, from AFSC, around Sustead Common. The walk through Felbrigg Park, to and from AFSC, was my first opportunity to see what’s been happening there this week. There were still plenty of butterflies about – many more Gatekeepers than a week ago, with the usual smattering of Small & Essex Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Comma and Painted Lady, but noticeably fewer Meadow Brown and Ringlet. I was very pleased to see an adult Hobby make a couple of passes over Keeper’s Cottage – chasing off a Buzzard on one occasion. On the lake, the two Tufted x Ferruginous Duck are well advanced in their moult, making them even more tricky to recognise. An adult Spotted Flycatcher was launching itself from the dead trees, near the Cormorant roost, at passing insects and a handful of Swift were drinking from the lake. A Whitethroat was singing in trees behind The Forge and there was a family party along The Street. Back on the lake, a few Small Red-eyed Damselfly were still about and I saw my first male Common Darter.

Stunning Painted Lady, on the road to Sustead CommonIMG_0481

The two Tufted x Ferruginous Duck, are both in a well advanced state of moult – but still clearly showing their brown ‘toupees’, in the bright sunlightIMG_0462

Resting male Black-tailed SkimmerIMG_0457

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Sunday 9th July


Female Montagu’s Harrier, delivering food to the nest

I strayed outside the area this afternoon to take a look at one of Britain’s rarest breeding birds of prey. The female came to deliver food to her three chicks as we watched, from a safe distance, over the nest site, in a remote corner of the county. Montagu’s Harrier are always a pleasure to see – so buoyant and graceful in flight. She soon disappeared though into the stand of barley. It’s expected that the young will fledge any day now and quickly disperse – and that will be it for another year for this ethereal Norfolk raptor.