Kessingland - A birding guide

by James Brown

At the extreme south end of the study area lies the parish of Kessingland. The southern boundary of our recording area is the Kessingland sluice and River Hundred. The area shot to fame in June 1982 when Britains only White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga was found here in the area of rough open ground just to the north of the pumping station.

Looking north along Kessingland Beach
The large open short turf near the beach is very attractive to open ground species, particularly Wheatears O. oenanthe. In the winter a large flock of Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis can often be found here along with occasional Shore Larks Eremophila alpestris. The sluice itself proves attractive to migrant Black Redstarts Phoenicurus ochrurus around the buildings there and the area has recently held a Great-grey Shrike Lanius excubitor.

Looking west across the Kessingland Levels
Just inland of the denes lie Kessingland levels, a large area of grazing pasture. Whooper Swans Cygnus cygnus have been noted here on a few occasions and small flocks of Geese are often noted in the winter (mainly White-fronted Anser albifrons but occasionally Barnacle Branta leucopsis or Pink-footed A. brachyrhynchus ). This area has proved attractive for passing raptors with Black Kite Milvus migrans, Montagus Harrier Circus pygargus and 3 Red Kites M. milvus together being noted in recent years. Other overhead surprises here have included White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Great Bustards Otis tarda, White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla and Bee Eaters Merops apiaster. A small wood in the middle of these levels once held a Pallas's Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus and Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus (on the only time it has ever been checked!)

The playing fields around the coastal holiday camp here can be attractive to White Motacilla alba alba and Yellow Wagtails M. flava and there was an intriguing report of a Crested Lark Galerida cristata here in 1996 which remains unconfirmed. A Radde's Warbler P. schwarzi has occurred in a Kessingland garden, the second for the Lowestoft area.

Yellow Wagtails at Kessingland Sewage Works
Just inland of the town lies Kessingland Sewage Works, a brilliant little site, unknown to many birders. In winter up to 3 Siberian Chiffchaffs P. collybita tristis have occurred together, along with good numbers of nominate Chiffchaffs attracted by the insects on the open filter beds. Grey Wagtail M. cinerea and Firecrest are also regular winter visitors for the same reason. In spring White Wagtails and various races/hybrids of Yellow Wagtails may be found along with good numbers of Warblers in the suurounding bushes. Oddities such as Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca and Pallas's Warbler highlight the potential of this site.

Small reedbed near Kessingland Sewage Works
A productive area of sea can be scanned from the cliff top to the north of Kessingland village via Rider Haggard Lane. In the early 90`s a large Scoter flock assembled off here attracting Long-tailed Ducks Clangula hyemalis, Scaup Aythya marila and Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca and these species are still possible off here in the winter. The Snow Bunting flock has been regular here this winter. The numerous berry bearing bushes around the A12 roundabout coming into the northern end of Kessingland have proved a regular haunt for flocks of Waxwings Bombycilla garrulus during invasion years.