Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Kelling Heath and Kelling Quags, Norfolk (with Richard Farrow)

At 0700 on Thursday 4th August I set off for a leisurely drive up to Shreringham on the North Norfolk Coast to meet up with my very good friend Richard Farrow for a days birding on his patch.  I arrived at Richards to the smell of cooking bacon and shortly afterwards sat down to have a wonderful bacon and egg sandwich and coffee with Richard along with the company of 30+ House Sparrows in his garden.  Shortly afterwards we were joined by Richards lovely wife Di and enjoyed a great time of chat and discussed our birding day ahead.
Fuelled up, Richard started our tour off today with a visit to a new site for me, Selbrigg Lake, a wonderful large body of water surrounded by mature woodland habitat.  In and around the water we saw a pair of Mute Swans with 3 cygnets and Moorhen, also a single Grey Wagtail dropped into the muddy fringes of the lake.  Nearby mature, mixed woodland habitats held Marsh, CoalGreat Tits, Robin, and Blackbirds.  Also of particular interest was the range of insect species seen.  Peacock, Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Comma, and Dragonfly and Damselfly species all seen, and in fact, Butterflies held our attention throughout our birding day.

Kelling Heath
What a wonderful place to visit, Kelling Heath represents a vital habitat, which I believe from previous reading, is not only of great national importance, but probably internationally as well given how few examples of this habitat remains throughout the world.  The rich colours of Kelling Heath are indeed to behold, from the gorgeous purples of the heather, interspersed with patches of Gorse, Broom, and Birch habitats.   Kelling Heath is located on the Cromer Ridge, its elevation is such that some fine views are had looking down on the small coastal town of Weybourne.
Weybourne from Kelling Heath

Our visit today to Kelling Heath was warm, however, the wind was a noticeable moderate westerly in force.
Richard gave me an idea of what to expect at Kelling Heath, therefore all suitable habitats were explored.
Linnets were as expected seen and heard passing overhead and Yellowhammers also noted.  A couple of distant Stonechats were seen in suitable habitat.
Warbler species would have now departed their natal areas to undertake post-breeding dispersal, and indeed we reached a recently cleared area where I heard the distinctive yet quiet chattering of young Whitethroats and very soon afterwards we were rewarded by some nice but brief views of 3 Whitethroats together in mixed bracken/Birch habitat.
Slow Worm on Kelling Heath

This time of year brings a variety of 'different' calls, mostly "squeaks, peeps, seets, and heets", and at one such location a strange piping "heet" call given by an unseen species was probably a young Chiffchaff.  Further along the distinctive two syllable "hooweet" call of a Willow Warbler was heard, the bird then flew directly above us to relocate elsewhere on the heath.
Our walk back proved very interesting for Butterfly species, most were Meadow Brown, with Red Admiral and Peacock also seen, and new for me, a Grayling.
Walking along a narrow path and a Slow Worm was basking, this delightful creature remained for a few minutes to offer some lovely views.
Back to the car and Richard brought out some welcome foldaway chairs where we enjoyed coffee and a light lunch.

Kelling Quags
Our next destination was Kelling Quags, a site I have not visited before, and one which I am so grateful to Richard for introducing me to.  A wonderful location and lots to see.
Richard parked up and we walked north along the track leading to the Quags.  The tall, wild hedgerows here are readying themselves for the forthcoming passage of Warbler and Thrush species over the next two to three months.
This afternoons visit started with Whitethroat, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, and adult and juvenile Goldfinches, whilst a little further along a couple of Mistle Thrushes rose from the hedge with their usual rattle-like call.
Chaffinch (female) at Kelling Quags 

A check of the water and muddy fringes produced a good array of species. A single Shoveler and Mallard were present whilst on the muddy fringes, 2 Little Egrets, 3 Lapwings, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, Pied Wagtails, and juvenile Starlings were all seen.  At least 3 Sand Martins and Swallows swept over the Quags.  Later, a pair of Egyptian Geese flew in.  The only raptor species for the day was a hunting Kestrel.
A check of the ditches, ditch-side habitat, and fencing was also productive.  The dominant species here was Goldfinch with adults and juveniles wandering around undoubtedly attracted to the wealth of weed-seeds for feeding.  It was here that I heard a Yellow Wagtail pass overhead calling.  The odd Whitethroat was also seen passing through cover in the ditch here.  Meadow Pipits were also present.
Stonechat (male) at Kelling Quags

Following the fence-line I saw a Chat-like species in a lone Elder, this was a heavily spotted juvenile Stonechat, this was to be the first of up to six Stonechats seen in the area. 
As the afternoon wore on we spotted some very threatening black cloud approaching from the west, it was about this time that Richard suggested we take another path to check a site he know was good for Stonechat.  This area had some thick cover where once again Goldfinches dominated.  A weedy slope produced another Whitethroat clambering about within tall weeds.  A very fine looking male Stonechat was watched at close range at times, always on the top of a hedge. or on a post, giving his distinctive call.  On one occasion the Stonechat approached to almost within touching distance.
Stonechat (juvenile) Kelling Quags

We watched the black cloud drift inland from us, however, we caught the edge of a heavy shower from this cloud, Richard donned his rain-coat and I thanked Tilley for my fine hat. 
Walking back to our start point it was clear that the rain had forced insects close to the ground as a number of Swallows flew up and down the hedgerows for their quarry.
It was about 1600 that we arrived back at the car, feeling a bit wet, however, we arrived back at Richards for a lovely hot cup of tea.
I must finish this post by thanking my dear friend Richard and his lovely wife Di for keeping me fed and watered, and for their hospitality overall.  A great day with great company. 

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