Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Tuesday 30th July


iPhone photo of one of the incredible fall of Wood Sandpiper at Cley NWT, yesterday

It appears that Lee’s amazing sighting of 20 Common Sandpiper at Felbrigg, a couple of days ago, heralded a much larger ‘fall-out’ of migrating waders along the Norfolk coast on Sunday. Cley NWT had its best day on record with incredible numbers of Wood Sandpiper reported – apparently well into three figures. As is usual for us on a Monday – we’re either too early or, as on this occasion, too late! We did however manage to connect with a few of the ‘left-overs’ – 15 Wood Sandpiper, 9 Common Sandpiper, 5 Green Sandpiper, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Knot and Spotted Redshank. The supporting cast included Little Gull, Water Rail and Bearded Tit – so no complaints really! Today Felbeck Trust is at Sadler’s Wood, North Walsham, with an Engagement Event – run in conjunction with NNDC.

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Sunday 28th July


My first returning flocks of Common Scoter this Autumn – Cromer, East cliffs

A walk in Felbrigg Park yesterday afternoon – prompted by Lee’s incredible record of 20 Common Sandpiper – produced almost nothing, certainly no sandpipers of any description! A lone Reed Warbler continues to sing in the reed-bed, and there were three Teal on the lake – first returning wintering birds perhaps. The Mute Swans appear to be down to their the last remaining youngster. It was too wet and windy for any dragonfly action. Unfortunately, not wet or windy enough for my two early morning sea-watches at Cromer, yesterday and today. However, despite the rather benign weather, I did see my first Common Scoter and Eider of the autumn, plenty of Gannet & Sandwich Tern, three Arctic Skua, several Mediterranean Gull, a couple of Great-crested Grebe and nine species of wader. Not bad for late July.

A couple of adult pale phase Arctic Skua – off the East cliffs at Cromer


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Thursday 25th July


Scarce Emerald Damselfly, male – new to Felbrigg

On the hottest day of the year I head off to Felbrigg in my wellies! The reason, ‘dragon- whisperer’ Simon had found what the book says is ‘a rare and enigmatic species of ephemeral and transitional sites’ – Scarce Emerald! New to Felbrigg and rare in Norfolk. The insects were on view immediately I arrived and, after careful searching, we eventually found a mating pair. Down at the lake the Lesser Emperor was also giving incredibly good views.

Another view of one of the male Scarce Emeralds


Showing details of the bent anal appendages – slam-dunk id feature


Female – Simon now considers this to be a Common Emerald which had the attentions of  a male Scarce Emerald forced upon it – not uncommon behaviour for this species. The good news is ANOTHER new damselfly for me at Felbrigg!!


Lesser Emperor – now looking a bit battered


..and finally himself – ‘Dragon- whisperer’ Simon, with Bob – sharing the moment


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Wednesday 24th July


The adult male Peregrine trying to avoid the attentions of his noisy kids – iPhone photo

It’s been a busy few days so far this week – Cley NWT on Monday – followed by a Cromer Peregrine Project meeting, the Bird Club Strategic Planning meeting yesterday and today an afternoon shift at the watch-point. There were no particular highlights at Cley – more of the same really, with a steady trickle of waders passing through. Best birds were Spotted Redshank, Little, Mediterranean & Yellow-legged Gull and a close-up Common Sandpiper. Today at the watch-point we were treated to some excellent flying lessons from the three youngsters. The adult male sat chilling for most of the time on a ledge on the east side, studiously ignoring the begging youngsters above him. They are all doing well, which is more than can be said of the juvenile Swift which was handed in to the watch-point and later, at the RSPCA hospital at East Winch, diagnosed with a compound fracture to it’s left wing.

The injured Swift, handed in to the watch-point this afternoon


Common Sandpiper at Cley NWT, earlier in the week – iPhone photo


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Monday 22nd July


Record iPhone shot of the Semipalmated Sandpiper at Titchwell – a Norfolk tick for me!

More unpromising sea-watching weather – the forecast rain front didn’t arrive till later on – meant there was very little happening along the coast of East Cromer early on Saturday morning . The afternoon was more entertaining on Peregrine watch-point duty – the three juveniles were present on the tower most of the time, making regular ‘training flights’ and scaring the pigeons in the process. The female did appear at one point, with a food parcel, but that was all we saw of the adults. Following a quick trip over to see a couple of the kids and collect Jane we did a small diversion on the way home and called in at Titchwell, where the Semipalmated Sandpiper was being reported as ‘still present and showing well’. Only problem was I’d left home without optics of any kind! Luckily I bumped into Andy on the causeway and he very kindly loaned me his scope. The bird was indeed showing well, if a little distant, with the Dunlin flock. Certainly a lot better  views than my only previous attempt at a Semi P in Norfolk, at Snettisham a couple of years ago. A new bird for me in the County!

Another record shot, picked out in the line of Dunlin


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Thursday 18th July


Record shot of Red-veined Darter on the dam wall at Felbrigg

Yesterday’s NENBC & NT bird walks produced a combined total of 41 species – nothing notable other than perhaps Red Kite. Simon did report a fly-over Greenshank around lunch-time. More interesting were the insects. My first Purple Hairstreak along the western shelter-belt in the morning – the bulk of the NENBC group eventually getting on to it. No sign of the Lesser Emperor on either walk but I did manage to eventually pin down Red-veined Darter – actually a mating pair along the dam wall. On my way back home I saw yet another Banded Demoiselle in the hedgerow along The Street.

Highlights of an early-morning sea watch from Cromer (in rather unpromising conditions!) were a few Gannets heading west, my first ‘autumn’ Common Scoter, adult Mediterranean Gull, a male Tufted Duck and several Whimbrel.

Ruddy Darter to complete the set for the year


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Wednesday 17th July


This Little Owl kept us entertained whilst looking for dragonflies at Felbrigg yesterday

Simon sent a message yesterday lunch-time saying that he was watching Lesser Emperor ovipositing at Felbrigg Lake! I’d spent the morning on the allotment so, with a couple of hours to spare, I headed off for the park. As I was walking across the dam a Lesser Emperor cruised right by me! My hasty attempts to photograph it however were rather less than successful. I got occasional views of it over the next hour but every time it appeared near the south east corner it was hassled by a male Emperor. There were plenty of other ‘drags’ to keep us entertained, including my first Small Red-eyed Damselfly. At one point an odd screeching noise – appearing to come from the direction of the reed-bed – caught our attention. It turned out to be a Little Owl, eventually spotted by Andy, in the near-by Oak. No sign later of Red-veined Darter or White Admiral at the Ice Pond, but I’ll try again today, as it’s the NENBC walk this morning followed by the National Trust walk this afternoon.

My best (and only) attempt at Lesser Emperor!


This regular Emperor dived into the lake, thrashed about like it was drowning, before eventually climbing to safety, drying off and flying happily away. Weird!



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Tuesday 16th July


Little Ringed Plover stands guard in the Cley NWT car-park – iPhone photo

Just a couple of highlights from yesterday’s volunteering at Cley NWT. The Little Ringed Plover in the car-park is still there – hatching is imminent. I saw my first Grayling of the year. There were about ten along the shingle ridge. Given the speed that coastal erosion is happening along this stretch I wonder how much longer they’ll be there. The best new bird on the main scrapes for me was the moulting Spotted Redshank.

My first Grayling of the year – I never manage to get one with it’s wings open!


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Saturday 13th July


I struggle to find Azure Damselfly at Felbrigg, but they seem to be the default ‘blue damsel’ at Sustead Common. Also, hot on the heels of one in Felbrigg on Thursday, I found another Banded Demoiselle there yesterday, after the NWT Wildlife in Common Week walk. More details here. They appear to be expanding their range in Norfolk away from fast flowing river banks – a bit like Grey Wagtails. This weekend is taken up with our Official Opening of Spurrell’s Wood, so expect more wildlife reports from there after Sunday.