Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Sunday 29th July


Little Grebe on Felbrigg Lake – last seen in mid-April

In between preparations for the village fete yesterday and the event itself, I did manage a walk through Felbrigg, in the faint hope that the over-night storms might have produced something of interest. There were very few birds on the water-meadows – certainly no waders and not much more on the lake. The best bird being a winter plumage Little Grebe which, as I approached, flew from the south east corner towards the reed-bed. I’ve not seen one here since mid-April. Whilst I was watching it from the dam wall a rather tatty Purple Hairstreak kept me entertained in the Walnut tree above. A few Sand Martin, together with the resident House Martins and Swifts were over the lake. On the way back home a Tawny Owl called loudly from village gardens along The Street.

Not a view you often get of Little Grebe


A rather tatty Purple Hairstreak in the Walnut tree along the dam


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Friday 27th July


Common Blue – Felbrigg

It’s been a busy few days, what with the NWT Dragonfly id workshop on Tuesday and footbridge construction and erection on Wednesday – see this link. In between times, I have managed a couple of outings into the park, where the main interest has again been on insects. The second emergence of Holly Blue is underway – I’ve seen them in reasonable numbers, down the lane, in the park and at Sustead Common. For comparison, I did manage a photo of Common Blue in Felbrigg yesterday and I did see my first Red-eyed Damselfly of the season at the lake. Bird interest has again mostly centred on the lake. With a Green Sandpiper in Boathouse Bay and a small group of Teal, which made a brief stop-over yesterday morning. I missed Mark’s two female-type Mandarin, which he reported in the evening, though. Today, it’s preparation for the Aylmerton village fete, where the Bird Club and Felbeck Trust have a stand – do stop by tomorrow and see us, 3.00 – 7.00.

Holly Blue – with it’s much plainer, ink-splattered, underwing. The Street, Aylmerton


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Tuesday 24th July


A pair of Common Emerald doing the business, Upton Fen

We spent the weekend helping move one of our sons and his partner into their new home near Huntingdon. Managed to get back for Carol’s ‘significant number’ birthday party and spent a lot of the evening watching a ‘flutter’ of Purple Hairstreak in Phil’s neighbours garden. Yesterday was our Cley NWT day – plenty of waders coming and going but no sign of the Temminck’s Stint that had been present over the previous few days. This morning I had a quick walk around the lake – little of any real wildlife interest to report. This afternoon I attended a dragonfly identification workshop at Upton Fen, run by Dr Pam Taylor, as part of the NWT’s Wildlife in Common training programme. We managed to find and identify ten different species.

 Male Ruddy Darter at Upton Fen – note the all dark legs


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Thursday 19th July


Female Common Darter, Felbrigg Park

Yesterday was the NENBC mid-week walk. We had 40+ bird species, the best of which was the family party of Spotted Flycatcher, in the wooded area west of the lake. There was no sign of the three, possibly four, Green Sandpiper I’d had over the lake on Tuesday evening. This morning, again no Sandpipers – the only real interest coming in the form of wildfowl /water birds. There was a female Tufted Duck – replacing the male of a couple of days ago, two eclipse Teal and a squealing Water Rail in the reed-bed. This is the third successive year that Water Rail have been recorded in the summer months, but we still don’t have firm evidence of breeding. Still plenty of insects about, with more Gatekeeper emerging and an increasing number of Common Darter. I saw my first Common Blue of 2018 on the mid-week walk and a couple more sightings of Purple Hairstreak around the Oaks near The Woodyard, on the walk home.

One of two eclipse Teal on Felbrigg lake – an uncommon visitor at this time of year


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Tuesday 17th July


A very smart looking Lesser Yellowlegs at Titchwell yesterday evening

It was a good day at Cley NWT yesterday, albeit that we didn’t have anything particularly unusual in the bird line. Thirteen species of wader, Spoonbill, Water Rail, Bearded Tit and Yellow Wagtail all maintaining the interest of visitors. However, it was a late afternoon dash to Titchwell, courtesy of Phil, which produced the birding highlights of the day for me. The Lesser Yellowlegs made a welcome reappearance, with a supporting cast of Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper – a nice end to the day. I’ve seen a few ‘legs’ in Norfolk but none as well marked as this bird.

Another couple of shots of this confiding bird




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Monday 16th July


Common Sandpiper at Felbrigg Lake, Sunday afternoon

It’s been quite a weekend for wildlife. Yesterday afternoon, after watching the craziest stage of the Tour de France I’ve think I’ve ever seen – multiple crashes on and off the pavé, I ventured back into the park to see if the Lesser Emperor was performing. I spent about an hour on the dam with Simon & Andy but it was a ‘no show’ on this occasion. It would be nice if it hung around until Wedneday – Felbrigg walks day. We did however get good views of Common Sandpiper, which appeared out of nowhere, did several circuits of the lake including trying to alight on the dam wall, before finally landing on ‘the island’. My first returning Autumn migrant at Felbrigg. On the way back through the shelter-belt I managed to relocate the elusive Spotted Flycatcher. We’ll see what Cley NWT has to offer today.

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Sunday 15th July


Spotted Flycatcher feeding young  – Felbrigg Park 🙂

At last… Spotted Flycatcher on my 2018 Felbrigg list!! It was my WeBS count this morning. A very smart Brown Hawker in the hedge near Sawmill Cottage was a bonus as I walked to the park. Nothing surprising on the duck count front – couldn’t find the Shoveler from yesterday and no repeat performance from the Little Egret, but that’s WeBS for you. The Lesser Emperor put it a brief appearance near the sluice, before being seen-off by a patrolling male Emperor. A pair of Banded Demoiselle was another addition to the local ‘drag list’. Then it was back to the eastern edge of the lake to take another look for the elusive Spotted Flycatchers. This time it was easy – an adult collecting insects at head-height, between the seat and the screen. Pheew!

Brown Hawker in the hedge – The Street. Much more common than the last two featured dragonflies but still quite a stunner.


A four inch Horse Leech in the lake kept up the interest whilst looking for the LE



Saturday 14th July


Lesser Emperor at Felbrigg Lake this afternoon – stunning! (thanks to Simon for the original report)

Just twenty four hours after my last dragonfly drama, I have another. This time the much rarer Lesser Emperor, first reported by Simon, showed incredibly well in the south east corner of Felbrigg Lake – briefly perching on virtually the same bunch of reeds as yesterdays Norfolk Hawker! I’ve seen Lesser Emperor at Felbrigg before, actually with Simon, but nothing like as well. Highlights of this mornings walk around the lake included a tussle between a Red Kite and a passing Hobby, Little Owl showing well in the Ash tree below the dam and my first Common Darters along the outflow. Before connecting with the Lesser Emperor I had female Gadwall on the water meadow, eclipse Shoveler on the lake and a Little Egret over the dam – my first since February. But, after half a dozen visits over the past week, still no Spotted Flycatcher – I should go to Specsavers!

An aerial tussle between a passing Hobby and Red Kite


Little Owl in the Ash tree below the dam


Eclipse Shoveler on the lake – previously going under the radar


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Friday 13th July


Friday 13th, unlucky for some – but for me a Felbrigg ‘first’ – Norfolk Hawker, at the lake

There’s been nothing particularly note-worthy on the birding front this week but the insects are definitely hotting up. Hard on the heels of the Purple Hairstreak along The Street, earlier in the week, comes a new Felbrigg dragonfly species for me this afternoon – Norfolk Hawker. I’d seen reports of several (3) a couple of weeks ago and have kept my eyes open ever since, but this afternoon a rather worn female(?) settled right in front of me! Other dragonfly interest was provided by plenty of Small Red-eyed Damselfly. Back to butterflies, until the last couple of days I thought ‘whites’ were in short supply but suddenly Large and Green-veined White are everywhere. Still masses of Ringlet around, with Meadow Brown and Comma in evidence. Had my first Gatekeeper at Sustead today and a couple of Small Copper near The Warren.

First Gatekeeper at Sustead today 


There’s still plenty of Ringlet about – they might be common but they’re still exquisite!


First Small Copper of the year at The Warren today


Small Red-eyed Damselfly have appeared in numbers at Felbrigg Lake this week



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Monday 9th July


Weekend wildlife highlight – Purple Hairstreak – The Street, Aylmerton

I spent last week with my brother cycling from Flamborough to home, following part of the NCN 1 (and NCN 30). The route keeps mostly to minor roads and by-ways, which is a good way to see the local birdlife. I was surprised and pleased to encounter a good number of Whitethroat and Yellowhammer in the hedgerows and in a couple of places we came across small pockets of Cornbunting – though none I’m afraid in Norfolk. The potato fields of Lincolnshire held reasonable numbers of Yellow Wagtail (I did see one locally, on my return, near the Stone Cross) and Red Kite could often be seen drifting overhead.

We arrived back home mid-afternoon on Friday. Opening up my emails I’d received one earlier in the day from Andrew advising me of an unidentified wader at Felbrigg. Despite  being rather fatigued from the cycle ride I did take a look around the lake that evening but unfortunately I couldn’t relocate it. From the description, rather grainy photo and date, I suspect it was a Greenshank – a nice record, pending confirmation. Showing my brother around Sustead Common on Saturday the most obvious wildlife interest came in the number of butterflies – plenty of Ringlet and Meadow Brown still, with several Large Skipper, a single Essex Skipper and a couple of Large White. I managed to miss Phil’s Spotted Flycatcher in Felbrigg Park yesterday morning (the only record this year I believe), whilst I took Bry to the station – failing to relocate it when I looked in the afternoon. However, my weekend wildlife highlight came, as it not infrequently does, along the lane, on my way home. I was looking at the shimmer of butterflies in the hedge, trying to find Gatekeeper (which I didn’t) when I noticed a small dark individual, resting high up on an Ash. A nice specimen of Purple Hairstreak!

I was surprised to find this female Gadwall with six chicks on the lake – a species not reported since May


There were plenty of butterflies at Sustead Common, including this Essex Skipper