Aylmerton Nature Diary

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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.


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Thursday 1st August


Seven out of eight Common Sandpiper on Felbrigg Lake this morning

It wasn’t ideal weather for our planned excursion to see the Scarce Emerald in Felbrigg, so Andy and I lingered in the cafe until we got a reasonable weather window. It took us a while but we did eventually get good views of one of the males. On my way back home I went via the lake where earlier they’d been a single Common Sandpiper and a couple of Sand Martin. On approaching the lake I heard the multiple calls of a group of five Common Sand, later joined by three more. Over the village, a lone Swift looked to be possibly the last of the local birds – I hope not. I did get proof positive yesterday of a late brood of House Martin along The Street – I thought we’d missed out on them this year, along with breeding Cuckoo, Hobby and Spotted Flycatcher.

Record shot of a male Scarce Emerald – still present in the park