Aylmerton Nature Diary

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Message from Australia

We’ve now been in Australia for two weeks, visiting family and doing a bit of birding along the way. Yesterday, on our long road trip from Newcastle to Melbourne, we visited the small NSW settlement of Aylmerton! Click here for photo.

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Scaup or just a Tufted?

Time for my second blog! The second walk of the week followed much the same pattern as my first, a walk down the lane with a figure of eight around the lake and across the water meadow. However, the range of species on display were vastly different and quite surprising! The first bird to catch my eye was a Barn Owl, my first for the year. It was perched up in the rough grazing meadow at the bottom of The Street. Excuse the poor photo, but it highlights nicely how coloured this bird is, rather dark on the back.


Barn Owl – Showing ‘wet sand’ colour on back. 

Happy with my year tick, I plodded on, inside the park the same Tit flock as yesterday were again feeding just inside the gate at the bottom of The Street. No Marsh Tit this time but a Nuthatch was a happy substitute. Little Egret was once again flushed off the Water Meadows as I walked up the path to get a vantage point, it’s nice to see them regularly again. Raucous calls caused me to make haste for the pool on the Water Meadow to investigate, a pair of Egyptian Geese seemed to be arguing in the middle of the pool and flew off shortly after I managed to get a record shot.


A pair of Egyptian Geese causing a ruckus in the Water Meadow.

Again, these used to be commonplace at Felbrigg but have recently gone missing, they now seem to be turning up once a month or so, they might be loud but they are lovely. Further scanning of the pool gave glimpses of Snipe, Teal, Moorhen and probably the best of them all was a single Wigeon, feeding over the far side. Once again, just a record shot below.


Single Wigeon, Identifiable by it’s blonde cap and rufous head and neck.

After a brief scan of the lake from the top of the hill, I couldn’t see much of interest to crossed over the bridge and into the woods. Nothing much appeared, I listened for Water Rail after the 3 birds I recorded yesterday but there was unfortunately no sign. I walked along the track until the second bridge which runs parallel to the lake, stopped and had a scan of the vegetation in the hope I might see one but again no dice. However, when I turned around… no more than 3 feet away from me was the flock of Siskin, 50 strong feeding in the Alders. Unfortunately they were almost totally silhouetted by the now beaming sun so I could only manage the below shot, but it shows the dark cap and streaky breast on the bird to the right.


Record shot of the Siskin flock.

In the fields South of the Lake, a gaggle of Greylags were feeding lazily, only 6 birds but they did look lovely in the sunlight. Faintly, I could hear Pink-footed Geese but couldn’t locate them, they didn’t seem to be flying as the noise was stationary but they were nowhere obvious. On the lake, the pair of resident Canada Geese were following the Swans around, again looking beautiful in the sunlight. Once again however, my peace was ruined by the Egyptian Geese buzzing overhead, I did however manage a slightly better photo this time.


Greylag Family feeding in the fields


Canada Goose, glowing in the mid-morning light.


Egyptian Goose, shouting overhead

This is where the morning took a slightly unexpected turn, as I scanned the various Tufted Ducks looking for the female Goldeneye (Which I never did locate) I stumbled upon what first appeared to be a female Tufted duck. When it turned though, it displayed extensive white patch at the base of the bill and only a small black ‘nail’ to the tip of the bill. The bird was hellbent on diving every 20 seconds so it was difficult to get an overall impression. I know however that Tufted Females can sometimes display the same white patch to the base as Scaup, this bird however seemed to have no crest or hint of cresting to the rear of the head. The picture is below, any comments will be welcome but I’m reluctant to pull the trigger on Identifying it as a Scaup, purely on the basis it’s a rats nest of hybrids and variation. Any help is much appreciated!

IMG_3140 (1)

Tufted-type Duck – displaying extensive white at base of bill – almost no black tip, no obvious pale ring at end of bill… interesting!

Jake Williams.

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Pseudo Spring

So whilst my parents are away I (Jake, their youngest), have been given the unenviable task of filling my Dad’s shoes with keeping you all informed on the nature happenings in and around Aylmerton. I have some experience with bird photography however the equipment I’m using is totally different, so please bare with me and I PROMISE the photographs will improve!

What better way to start than with an amble around Felbrigg Park. It was horrendously wet last night and as much was evident on the floor of the park, it was a death trap this morning and quite frankly I felt lucky to make it back without a broken neck, anything else was a bonus!

The walk down the lane didn’t produce much to my surprise, not even a bullfinch which are usually guaranteed so I wasn’t holding out much hope. however as soon as I stepped into the park, the birds were actually very active and provided easy viewing. Great-Spotted Woodpecker was the first species to grab my attention as a single bird hopped from tree to tree in the first copse upon entry. Although it provided good views, it proved rather more difficult to photograph and alas my results are quite underwhelming.



Further along the path I connected with a feeding Tit flock which contained numerous Long-tailed, Marsh, Coal, Great and Blue. Not a bad start by all accounts. The large oaks at the start of the water meadows provided a pair of buzzard, sunning their wings before taking off presumably in search of breakfast.



The water meadows close to the bridge and the reedbed provided some promising species, Redshank and Water rail could both be heard calling, teal were numerous, I counted around 50. Overhead, a flock of 70 lapwing flew off South West. The lake itself had a good wildfowl count, 13 pairs of Gadwall, similar numbers of Tufted Duck and a single Female Goldeneye were the main bulk of the population. Interspersed with the flock were Coot, Canada Goose and Moorhen. Nothing groundbreaking but good to see the numbers were high. A short walk around the lake provided little else until I had come full circle to the west side of the lake by the viewing screen. Here, a further 2 calling water rail could be heard from the bog-like vegetation beyond. This is where I realised that this was unusual behaviour for winter, not just from the Rails, but every species! Wren’s were sitting out calling furiously, Song Thrush were booming across the woods as well as pairs of birds throwing themselves at me. Bullfinch, Dunnock, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Robin and more. It’s clearly a sign of how this warmer spell of weather has been affecting the birds, giving almost a pseudo Spring feel. Lovely though it is, I hope it’s not too damaging for their populations as we progress through the year.


A robin sits out singing, like most of the birds this morning.

Jake Williams.