Thursday, 11 June 2015

June 11th Kelling Heath

Kelling Heath
After a night with the famous on live TV, there is no better way to celebrate than with an afternoon birdwatching session with the parents. Today's outing was at Kelling Heath near the North Norfolk coastline. This is a heathland that I hope Mousehold Heath could one day become, though I could only wish that Mousehold was nextdoor to a railway with steamtrains puffing and tooting every now and then like it does here!

This is only the second time I have been here. Several years ago, Dad and I got lost amongst the gorse bushes. Today, we were determined to stick to the main path this time. I wanted to come here because of two species of bird that I have heard were found here. I had just got out of the car when I saw the first of my two target species. Dad spotted these brown pigeons flying into a tree which the main path travels under. I had only just got my binoculars out when he pointed them out. I placed them to my eyes and I saw the unmistakable plumage of two turtle doves! This is sadly a rapidly declining species in the UK thanks to a combination of how the British countryside is managed and the shooting of thousands of birds in the Mediterranean every spring. Norfolk is still (for now) a stronghold for these lovely birds.

Turtle Dove from Pensthorpe last year
I am very lucky to see a pair of turtle doves today. I would have loved to get a photograph of one though. I do have one in my collection from last year, but this was a captive bird from Pensthorpe. Pensthorpe is part bird zoo and part nature reserve. It is quite well known for it's wildfowl collection from around the world, but it is also well known for it's breeding programme of British species like red squirrels, cranes, corncrakes and turtle doves. There is a walkthrough aviary with turtle doves, bearded tits and wading birds flying around you. We went last year and the turtle doves were purring and displaying. It maybe cheating, but it is still quite an encounter.

When we started our walk at Kelling this afternoon, the songs of linnets, whitethroats and willow warbler filled our ears. Heather was only emerging in small quantities at the moment with a few spots of purple along the path's edges. Buzzards soared together in pairs, low enough to see the birds clearly. As we progressed done the path, only losing our bearing for a few moments as it split into two and in different directions, we saw a few lizards dart past my feet and into cover. A kestrel hovered in place over the heath and yellowhammers sang their song that is often remembered as "little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheeeeese!" on the tops of bushes.

Bell Heather
Viper's Bugloss
Laberynth Spider
Common Blue
Dartford Warbler
We were watching the kestrel when I heard a scratchy warble. This made me excited again. This was the sound of a Dartford warbler. And as soon as we heard it, up it went, flying into the gorse bush next to us! After a moment of patience, it reappeared onto the top branch of the bush. It's long tail cocked up like a wren with a caterpillar in it's bill. I could see it as a male as it has a red eye ring and blue-grey head. It is a stunning bird and another rarity. In Norfolk, I know of one site where you could see them and I am here. I only but dream to see this bird at Mousehold one day.

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