Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Saturday 29th September


Stonechat, possible 1st w female – my third in Felbrigg this year

I’ve got badly behind with my NENBC Index of Relative Abundance (IoRA) surveys recently, so yesterday afternoon I decided to squeeze in a Quarter 3 (Q3) visit to Felbrigg. Starting at two o’clock wasn’t ideal but the best I could do. I recorded 37 species, the highlights of which were: the male Mandarin, still hanging-out with the Mallard flock – I’d seen it earlier in the day fly past the office window!, three Snipe along the lower reaches of Scarrow Beck, a skein of 18 Pink-feet flying over the hall and ‘bird of the day’ – a female / immature Stonechat along the fence-line at the side of the track, east of Felbrigg church. This was quite a surprise – a relatively early date and the third at Felbrigg this year!

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Friday 28th September


There are still a few Small Copper about in Felbrigg – enjoying our Indian Summer

We’ve been in The Lake District since Sunday, catching-up with the Australian & Scottish contingent and, in the process, missing possibly one of the best days sea-watching in North Norfolk in a decade! You can’t do enough for family ūüėČ Highlights included all four Skua species, three Petrel species, three Shearwaters species – with a ‘little & large’ also claimed and, the infamous ‘Black-browed Albatross’ episode. Oh well, another time perhaps! We got back mid-afternoon yesterday so I did manage a quick round of the lake before our first indoor meeting of the 2018/19 Bird Club programme – can’t believe that this is already our fourth season. Nothing particularly unusual – except the weather of course, which was unseasonably hot. The male Mandarin was still fraternising with the local Mallards on the water meadow and the Tufted Duck ‘flock’ on the lake has grown to six – including the two Ferruginous hybrids, Water Rail squealed from the reed-bed and Linnet numbers have swelled to fifteen, on the rough grazing meadow below the dam. There were still a few insects about – a couple of dragonfly species and a few Small Copper butterflies. The next couple of days will be taken up with preparations for our last Open Day of the year at Sustead Common on Sunday – run in conjunction with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Wildlife in Common project. We’re there from 10.00 – 16.00 – do join us.


Sunday 23rd September


Female Pintail, Felbrigg Lake, yesterday – a rare bird in the park

It’s been a ‘full on’ weekend. I did something to my back at Thursday’s Felbeck Trust working party, so Friday was a bit of a wipe-out. Likewise yesterday morning, but by lunchtime I was mobile enough to help with setting up the Village Hall for our fund-raising Felbeck Trust folk night, which turned out to be a very enjoyable and productive affair. Between setting up and ‘doors opening’ we did manage a quick trip into the park. No small birds of any note until, whilst counting Mistle Thrush, I found a lone Wheatear on the sheep pasture above The Warren. Whilst I was confirming it’s id., Bob found a female Pintail in with the Mallard, along the western edge of the lake. Only the fifth record I think, and the first female I’ve seen here. She’d probably travelled with the small flock (13 birds) of Gadwall, which were also present on the lake. Today, after a couple of hours sea-watching at Sheringham and bit more clearing up after the gig, I went back to look for the Pintail (it wasn’t there – nor were the Gadwall). I was scanning the Mallard on the water meadow when the familiar (though not in recent months) head pattern of a male Mandarin, announced it’s presence. Whilst I was taking it’s photo, I thought I heard the distinctive call of a Redshank. I didn’t manage to see it on the deck before it took flight, calling several more times, before disappearing over the shelter-belt. A species not reported in the park since January 2016. Also of note, three House Martin flew south- east over the lake and a handful of Swallow stopped-off to feed over The Warren before continuing south. I wonder how many more we’ll see this autumn in the park?

Only the second Wheatear of the autumn, and nowhere near as obliging as the last!


Today’s offerings included a male Mandarin, rather surprisingly on the water meadow¬†


and a record shot of a Redshank, before it disappeared over the shelter-belt calling


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Thursday 20th September

Nothing on this Saturday evening – then why not come along to this Folk Night at Aylmerton Village Hall? All Profits from the event go to Felbeck Trust – your local wildlife charity. Tickets will be available on the door, unless we sell out in advance. With a quick phone call you can reserve your tickets in advance.

POST SCRIPT РThis very enjoyable event raised over £1000 for Felbeck Trust!





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Wednesday 19th September


Osprey over Felbrigg lake during this afternoon’s National Trust monthly bird walk!

Today was ‘Felbrigg walks’ day – NENBC in the morning and National Trust this afternoon. With the persistent southerly winds forecast to gust at over 50mph, I wasn’t optimistic! We certainly struggled to find many small birds in the morning – five Meadow Pipit on the sheep pastures and a few Swallow & House Martin, south over the hall/lake, were the highlights. The water meadow and lake had a bit more on offer with two pair of Gadwall, ¬†two Little Grebe and three aythya-type ducks – a male Tufted in partial eclipse and two Tufted x Ferruginous hybrids, only sporting pure white ‘under-carriages’. Can these really be the same birds that I’ve been seeing over the past couple of years – now complete with Ferruginous-like white under-tails or are they two different mutants? A walk along the Weaver’s Way failed to produce the hoped-for Hobby but did provide the group with OK views of a female/juv Marsh Harrier, which flew over Common Plantation and away to the east. The afternoon walk can be a bit of an anti-climax, with similar or less species seen and, for the first hour and a half, that’s how it looked like panning out. Good views of Willow Emerald, hanging from a bare Ash tree, just above the path by the viewing screen, brought welcome relief to the so far uneventful excursion. Then, whilst looking at the same weird ducks¬†from along the dam wall, things took an unexpected turn for the better. An obvious large raptor came heading towards us from over the water meadow, it’s jizz being instantly recognisable as an Osprey. It circled the lake before continuing on it’s way, over the rough grazing meadow, disappearing from view over Common Plantation – seen for only a couple of minutes, but stunning. After that everything else was a bit of an anti-climax!

Record shot of female/juvenile Marsh Harrier this morning


Two Tufted x Ferruginous Duck, with pure white under-tail coverts. Are these the regular returning birds or two new mutants?


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Monday 17th September


Three Little Grebe on Felbrigg lake – the middle one looking decidedly juvenile!

We got back from Cornwall yesterday, late afternoon, so I did manage a quick walk around the lake. Small birds were hard to come by, the most interesting being a single Meadow Pipit over the rough grazing meadow below the dam – my first of the autumn. It was the bigger birds which produced the highlights, including: three Little Grebe on the lake, one of which looks to be a mature juvenile – did they breed on the lake and go under the radar?, the three young Hobby were again in trees by the edge of Common Plantation – proof-positive of another successful year’s¬†breeding, seven Snipe along the lower reaches of the Scarrow Beck and, on the way home, my first skein of Pink-feet, flying silently south-east across the evening sky. A nice welcome home, which only slightly took the sting out of an email from Bob reminding me of just how good sea-watching in Cornwall had been over the past day or so with 224¬†Great Shearwater, including a flock of sixty,¬†27¬†Balearic Shearwater,¬†46¬†Sooty Shearwater, a couple of¬†Pomarine Skua, 3¬†Arctic Skua and 23 Bonxies – it’s all about timing!!

All three young Hobby, Common Plantation – proof-positive of another good breeding season


On my way home – my first skein of Pink-footed Geese, back for the winter


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Sunday 16th September


Planning Notice at Felbrigg lake (photo courtesy of Ken & Carol)

I received this photo recently of a Planning Notice for work at Felbrigg lake, from Ken & Carol, whilst I was in Cornwall. I knew it was in the pipeline – apparently it’s got something to do with the classification of the lake as a ‘reservoir’ and measures that have to be taken in respect of flooding (I think that’s right). Anyway, what it will certainly mean is more disruption (decimation) of ‘dragon corner’ – the very spot where I photographed both Norfolk Hawker and Lesser Emperor this summer! Let’s hope that the restoration work afterwards leads to improved habitat overall.

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Saturday 15th September


Same old birds Р different county! Wheatear in bramble bushes at the bottom of Nanquid

We’ve been down in Cornwall for a few days, catching up with my brother and sister-in law – over from Australia, and doing the odd bit of birding. We were staying at Beachside Holiday chalets at Hayle – base-camp for many happy GPOG autumn tours. Despite being over four hundred miles south-west of Norfolk, the birding was pretty much the same i.e. very little – and what there was, was pretty routine! We followed the familiar itinerary of Land‚Äôs End peninsular valleys – Kenidjack, Cot, Kelynack, Nanquid etc with very few small birds in evidence. A couple of Wheatear, Stonechat, Chiffchaff was about it – only the corvids produced the more unusual, with both Raven & Chough along the cliff paths. Didn‚Äôt think I‚Äôd say this autumn but.. can‚Äôt wait to get back to Felbrigg!

Chough with plenty of ¬†‘birding bling’ – Cot Valley


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Happy 4th AND Anniversary


Aylmerton Nature Diary has reached the grand old age of four! I’ll be publishing my customary review of the past twelve months wildlife highlights in the next couple of weeks but, in the meantime, many thanks to all those who have either read, commented on or shared my blog. At the last count that was just short of 30,000 views, by over 9,500 ¬†visitors, from 65 countries! Who would think that the natural history of this small patch of rural north-east Norfolk could have that breadth of appeal – mind blowing!

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Wednesday 12th September


Record shot of Hobby coming in off the sea – Sheringham

With little change on the local patch, I’ve done a bit more sea-watching recently. Sometimes that’s all it is – ‘watching the sea’, but when there are birds to look at it can get exciting, particularly if it’s something new. Yesterday morning was a case in point. We were at the shelters at Sheringham and had seen a few interesting sea-birds go by – both common auk species, Manx Shearwater, Arctic & Great Skua and more. Kevin called a ‘bird of prey in the turbines, heading straight in’. Possibly a Merlin or Peregrine, but as the bird gradually got closer the id was eventually confirmed as Hobby. It took me a long time to get on the bird – they can be difficult if they’re heading towards you, and anxiety levels were building! It’s always incredible to see any migrant appear over the water, miles off, and steadily head for land, but Hobby was a new bird on a sea-watch for me. The thing about sea-watching is that you don’t get a second chance, when it’s gone it’s gone – patience and holding your nerve are key requirements!