Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Thursday 29th August


One of two Pied Flycatcher in Warren Woods, Cromer

My intention was to go sea-watching this morning, but when I got to the east Cromer cliffs its was flat calm with a gentle off-shore breeze and 100% visibility. Not ideal conditions so, instead, I took a stroll along the cliffs to the golf course and back. I encountered several mixed feeding flocks, which included: 3-4 Willow Warbler, several Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, two Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffs & Blackcaps, as well as four species of tit. I’d just got back to the eastern edge of Warren Woods when a Whitethroat appeared right in front of me in the gorse. Whilst waiting for a photo opportunity I noticed a gleaming white-fronted bird high up in a Sycamore tree. A quick check with my bins and it was a Pied Flycatcher – my first for the year and a ‘new area’ tick. Moments later a second bird appeared alongside it. I’d nearly reached North Lodge Park when I noticed a Wheatear sat on the roof of the last house before the park. Exactly the same house where I had one in the Spring. Down on the beach Andy was looking at the gulls. I joined him briefly but, as has been the case recently on my early-morning visits, there were no interesting birds amongst them. We’re off now for a few days to southern Spain – hoping for a bit of raptor migration.

Wheatear on the roof of the last house before North Lodge Park


Record shot of Garden Warbler – another ‘new area’ tick


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Wednesday 28th August

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My first autumn Willow Warbler at Felbrigg

Cley NWT continues its recent run of good waders. Monday’s haul included half a dozen Wood & Green Sandpiper, 7 Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and a few Bar-tailed Godwit, amongst the more regular species. Felbrigg this morning produced my first autumn Willow Warbler, in a mixed flock feeding in the reed-bed Alders. Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and Chiffchaff were also present. A Water Rail was squealing near-by and a late Reed Warbler was chucking in the reeds. A Common Snipe flew in from over the lake. Wildfowl included three each of Gadwall and Teal as well as the Mallard flock. The post-breeding build-up of Mistle Thrush numbered at least 23 on the sheep pastures, whilst there were 16 Cormorant in the roost.

A selection of iPhone wader shots from Cley on Monday – first Curlew Sandpiper


Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit – a useful comparison. 


 Record shot of Little Stint – with Knot & Teal


An obliging Migrant Hawker at Felbrigg this morning



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Sunday 25th August


Four Green Sandpiper at Felbrigg Lake this morning – one on the wall the rest in flight

My morning sea-watch yesterday at east Cromer produced very little – a few Teal heading west, 50+ Sandwich Tern east and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull on the beach were the highlights. This morning in Felbrigg Park was more productive. – it was warm, even before 7.00, with very little wind and plenty of birding interest. The highlight being four noisy Green Sandpiper flying around the lake and attempting to settle on the dam wall – until, that is, they were disturbed by dog-walkers. Four Teal and a couple of Gadwall added interest to the moulting flock of Mallard. There was a brief fly-over of a pair of visiting Mute Swan but they were quickly discouraged from landing by the resident family. Along the edge of the water-meadows and reed-bed there was a family party of Blackcap, two Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and a Reed Warbler. Over Common Plantation there was a Hobby. Despite seeing the odd individual over the summer, I very much doubt that they bred this year in the south of the park. On the way back through the shelter-belt plenty of Nuthatch and a Treecreeper. Along the lane, two Bullfinch and a singing male Blackcap. Unfortunately no sign of the Pied or Spotted Flycatcher – reported by Tim & Dawn yesterday.

Hobby briefly in trees near Common Plantation before heading off towards Metton Carr


Juvenile Little Grebe – now were did that come from?


Sun rise over east Cromer yesterday morning



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Friday 23rd August


iphone photo of ovipositing Common Darter on a recently created garden pond, Cromer

I’m still catching up on jobs after our mini-break, so very little time to do any nature-watching. Cley on Monday was good, with a reasonable selection of waders – best of the bunch were half a dozen or so Green Sandpiper. A sea-watch on Wednesday morning produced nothing particularly special – plenty of Sandwich Tern going east, with a few Common mixed in. Perhaps the most notable wildlife event were the pair of Common Darter observed ovipositing in the recently constructed garden pond in Cliff Avenue. It’s remarkable just how quick these micro-habitats get discovered. The same 5′ x 3′ pond is already a regular drinking pool for Goldfinch and a bathing spot for Blackbird.

Best of the bunch at Cley NWT on Monday – Green Sandpiper


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Monday 19th August


Zoe and Peter talking to visitors at the Peregrine Network stand at the Rutland Birdfair

We were at Birdfair yesterday, catching up with old friends and being a small part of the Peregrine Network stand in marquee 8. Off to Cley for the day – I’m hoping for a great ‘birthday bird’!

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Saturday 17th August


The very well appointed sea-watching hide at Whitburn – a bit of a step-up from the shelters at Sheringham or Cromer!

We’re up here in the North East for a couple of days, staying with friends Neil & Nicola, before heading south to The Bird Fair tomorrow. His new house is five minutes walk from Whitburn Bird Observatory – fully equipped with an excellent sea-watching hide. It’s always interesting ‘guesting’ on someone else’s patch, with things familiar and stuff that we see less of in Norfolk. Here, not surprisingly, lots of Kittiwake, Fulmar, Auks and Terns – with a few duck (a flock of seven Shoveler caused quite a stir), Common Scoter, Teal, a couple of Red-throated Diver and the odd Manx. I missed the Black Tern though.

Every picture tells a story! The variable speeds for different sections is interesting.


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Wednesday 14th August


Whinchat at Felbrigg – Autumn is here!

It was incredible at Felbrigg this morning – just when you think the place has gone off the boil! I went down early to see if I could finally connect with Spotted Flycatcher – after several multiple reports in the last few days. Nothing in the shelter-belt as I walked towards the lake but then the tell-tale ‘out and back’ flight of a bird from one of the Alders near the top sluice. Spotted Flycatcher – probably a juvenile. Unfortunately still too dark for a photo. Around the other side of the lake a soft ‘tacking’ coming from the reed-bed put me on to the Whinchat. It perched briefly on the wires before going back into the reeds. As I was watching the Whinchat a piping call came from near the island. A Kingfisher did a turn around the lake before disappearing into the bushes near the viewing screen – my first in Felbrigg this year. At the Weaver’s Way crossing of Scarrow Beck, just below the dam, I flushed a Green Sandpiper and a Greenshank! They both flew around before settling again on different stretches of the beck. Later at least one and possible two other Green Sandpiper at different spots. Back at the lake seventy plus Sand Martin were hawking insects and resting on the wires – many of them juveniles. A Whitethroat and Reed Warbler along the eastern edge of the lake rounded-off a magical morning. It’s Autumn and Felbrigg is coming into its own.

Kingfisher does a turn around the lake – my first here since last November. Record shot 


Grab shot of Greenshank on Scarrow Beck – in the company of a Green Sandpiper


Loads of Sand Martin over / around the lake, including several approachable  youngsters


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Sunday 11th August


Family group of Marsh Tit at Sustead Common on Thursday

Not a lot has been happening on the wildlife watching front this week I’m afraid. John and I did some species surveying on Sustead Common / Spurrell’s Wood before going on to meet ‘Dr Carl’- of Norfolk Ponds Project fame – at a new Felbeck Trust habitat restoration project. We were pleased to add two new dragonfly species to the growing list for The Common: Migrant Hawker and Ruddy Darter. However, I was more pleased to find a family group of Marsh Tit on the Surveyor’s Allotment – we only recorded them for the first time earlier in the year. I’ve done several sea-watches this week – none have been particularly interesting – but I have seen a few more Arctic Skua and, this morning, a flock of five Little Egret which flew west off shore. They were picked up later at Weybourne – with a journey time of 28 minutes.

Not rare or even scarce, but nice to get a reasonable view – Roesel’s bush cricket



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Tuesday 6th August


iPhone photo of yesterday’s Pectoral Sandpiper at Cley NWT

Yesterday was a good day at Cley NWT, with plenty of wader activity on the main scrapes throughout. Highlight was the Pectoral Sandpiper (first found on Saturday) which showed well on Pat’s Pool mid-afternoon – my first at Cley for several years. Other waders on the scrapes included Wood, Green & Common Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Avocet, Curlew, Whimbrel (h), Snipe, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Knot, Dunlin, Ruff, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Spotted Redshank and Greenshank. Elsewhere on the reserve Hobby, Yellow-legged Gull and Arctic Skua x2, west along the shingle ridge, mid-afternoon, all made for a very entertaining shift.

A couple more record shots of the Pec



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Sunday 4th August

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Little Owl, Felbrigg Park – my first breeding record of the year

It was ‘Duck-count Day’ this morning – not that the summer months produce a lot at Felbrigg. Still, I was pleased to be out in the early-morning sunshine. I’d just finished scanning the water-meadows (one Moorhen being the total count!) when a distinctive shape flew through my peripheral vision – it was a Little Owl, which perched briefly on a tree-guard before flying up into an Oak. Even on those brief views I could tell it was a youngster – my first breeding record for the park this year. I did manage to track it down and find an adult at the same time. Further on towards the lake another shape flew up from the fence-line – this time it was a juvenile Cuckoo! Having only heard or seen adults a couple of times in the whole park this year I’d pretty much given up on finding any youngsters. As I approached Boathouse Bay there was an unusual muted squawking coming from the reeds – it turned out to be an agitated adult Reed Warbler. It may be complete conjecture on my part but, as this species is a main host for Cuckoo, could this have been a locally bred bird? I guess we’ll never know. Multiple Water Rail were squealing to each other in the reed-bed – again suggesting successful breeding. On the way back towards the shelter-belt, a family party of Whitethroat were playing hide-and-seek in the brambles. Oh, and the sum total of ducks for the count – 42 Mallard!

Juvenile Cuckoo – was this a home-bred bird?


This past few days has provided some very interesting sea-watching at Cromer. In particular on Friday, when I was scheduled to help move my youngest son and family to their new house in Peterborough – so I was strictly time-limited. I got to the cliffs for 05.45 and was almost instantly rewarded with a Great Skua, flying east at close range. Two dark phase Arctic Skua, twenty minutes later, added more interest as did the various ducks and waders over the next hour and a half. The relative silence was broken with a text message at 07.20 to say that there had been a ‘Sooty Tern east past Sheringham at 6.57’!! Mindful of the recent article in the birding press about the speed with which the recent Sooty Tern had been tracked flying up the North East coast, I immediately assumed I’d missed it. However, I was quickly joined by Andy and I began searching with some renewed hope. He’d barely got his eye in when I picked up a distant bird that I couldn’t readily identify as something ‘regular’. I watched it for a minute or two before telling Andy to get on to it. It was a large ‘black tern’, flying east with powerful wing-beats at, what I estimated to be 10 – 15m above the water, on the edge of the shipping lane. The distant Sandwich Terns heading east were a useful reference species. I’ve seen both Sooty & Bridled Tern in the UK and plenty abroad – it struck me as either of those species but to be frank there was no way I would have pulled it out if we hadn’t been looking for it. What really threw me was the delay in the bird arriving at east Cromer – but looking that evening at the timings from Sheringham and Weybourne (where Moss had first found the bird) it had taken nearly twenty minutes to travel less than a couple of miles. The bird had then remained off Sheringham for nearly ten minutes before flying east again, last being seen at around 7.05. I wrote down the time a couple of minutes after I’d seen the bird and had a brief discussion, it was 07.40. I estimate I’d watched it for about four minutes in total. That meant it had taken around half an hour to get from Sheringham to us at east Cromer – twice the distance in less than twice the time. I’m not at all surprised that it wasn’t subsequently picked up further east as it’s trajectory when it left us would have taken it way out to sea before the ‘bend’ in the coast.