Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Saturday 15th June


One of what must have been hundreds of Painted Lady along the Norfolk coast today

Today there have been an extraordinary number of Painted Lady butterflies about. My first sighting was one on the Red Valerian in the garden. Later we went to the garden centre at Overstrand, where there were dozens. Mark reported over 100 at Beeston Common. They were a regular sight around the church yard, whilst we were at the Peregrine watch-point this afternoon. This long-distance migrant was everywhere today!


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Friday 14th June


Small crowd gathers in Cromer church – eagerly awaiting the return of adult Peregrines

This week has been a total wash-out – I can’t remember such a wet week in Norfolk in a long while. As a consequence I’ve managed to catch up on a lot of admin jobs but done no birding. We were on the Cromer Peregrine watch-point on Wednesday when, despite the weather, the adults brought several kills to the nest. Yesterday, another little piece of Peregrine history was made when the three chicks were expertly ringed by ‘Harrierman’. There are two male chicks and a female – she already weighs half as much again as the boys! Each of the youngsters are now sporting a standard metal BTO ring and colour ring, orange with black numbers – 44(m), 45(f) & 46(m). The adults remained close-by, calling noisily to their chicks, the whole time, and they were back on the tower within a few minutes after the ringers had finished. Here are the first photos of the young to be posted on line.

The first public views of the ringed chicks – iPhone


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Monday 10th June

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Four-spotted Chaser – Felbrigg Park

Despite a handful of visits to the western shelter-belt in the park over the past week or so I’ve still not managed to connect with Spotted Flycatcher. Yesterday, having again had no luck, I stopped-off at the lake on my way through to Cromer, for our shift at the Peregrine watch-point. There were plenty of dragonflies about but very little else. Having had the biggest number of Spring Lapwing since the area was re-modelled, up to five present on the water-meadows, they now seem to have finally abandoned any attempt to breed. Too much accumulated disturbance from grazing cattle, off-the-lease dogs and lost humans almost certainly being the reason. I did, however, see that the Egyptian Geese have six young chicks. This is very late for this species – suggesting a probable second brood? I also saw my first Painted Lady & Common Blue for the year, in the park. At the watch-point it was busy, with plenty of visitors and the adult Peregrines in near-constant attendance. At one point the female brought in a large Wood Pigeon, plucked it, and fed it to the chicks – right in front of the camera and the admiring crowd. Cley NWT today – but the weather forecast looks pretty grim.

There were several jack Pike along the dam wall  – but this adult was about 18″ long

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Saturday 8th June

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Today we attended the 150th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Norfolk & Norwich Naturalists’ Society, at How Hill. I’ve recently become a trustee of this fine organisation – cornerstone of wildlife conservation in Norfolk and template followed by others across the UK. On what should have been a warm and sultry occasion – timed to coincide with the peak flying time of the exquisite Swallowtail, emblem of the Society – we were wrapped up in jackets and cagoules, braced against the wind and lashing rain! Nonetheless, it was a genuine pleasure to share in this momentous occasion – but what, I couldn’t help thinking, does the next 150 years hold for Norfolk wildlife conservation? On our way home I got a message about a probable Lesser Grey Shrike at Horsey. Since we had all the kit with us a quick change of destination got us to the Nelson Head track in around half an hour. On route the id was firmed up and the bird was still present and showing well in the bushes, just inland from the dunes. A very smart individual indeed and a fitting end to a day of celebration.

Record shot of Lesser Grey Shrike at Nelson Head track – thanks to Carl the finder


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Friday 7th June


Grab-shot taken from my office window – male Bullfinch in our Aylmerton garden

Bullfinch have been visiting our cottage garden increasingly frequently of late. The pair were feeding on flower seeds this morning and I later watched the female take a dip in the bird-bath. This species really does seem to be staging a come-back.

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Thursday 6th June


iPhone photo of the event, on the ‘big screen’ in Cromer church – courtesy of Jane Williams

We were on Cromer Peregrine watch-point duties yesterday afternoon. There was lots of activity from the adults, including a splendid display when one appeared with a Magpie – plucked it in front of the camera – and fed it to the youngsters. All in front of a large and appreciative audience!

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Wednesday 5th June


iPhone photo of sub-adult Little Gull – Cley NWT on Monday

Birding highlights of our day at Cley NWT on Monday included two Little Gull, two Greenshank, a summer plumage Turnstone and 209 Black-tailed Godwit – all on Pat’s Pool. Elsewhere, a nice male Stonechat near the Beach Road sluice. During our lunch-break we took a quick trip to Friary Hills to look for the ‘flock’ of Cattle Egret there – we could only find ten! Yesterday was an impromptu work-party at Sustead Common / Spurrell’s Wood, clearing the paths and taking an early summer cut off the areas of newly restored grassland. The only birding highlight was twenty Swifts overhead.

Record shot of one of the eleven Cattle Egret on Blakeney Fresh Marsh – iPhone photo