RSPB
Skip navigation
Award
Print page

Seasonal highlights

Each season brings a different experience at our nature reserves. In spring, the air is filled with birdsong as they compete to establish territories and attract a mate. In summer, look out for young birds making their first venture into the outside world. Autumn brings large movements of migrating birds - some heading south to a warmer climate, others seeking refuge in the UK from the cold Arctic winter. In winter, look out for large flocks of birds gathering to feed, or flying at dusk to form large roosts to keep warm.

Spring

In March and April, lapwings can be seen performing their weird and wonderful displays and starting to nest on the grassland. Loads of sand martins and swallows return to Saltholme and spend their time skimming across the pool surfaces, catching insects. At the start of May, common terns begin to return to nest on the cockleshell islands. The 'drumming' display of the male snipe (made by its vibrating tail feathers) and the breathless singing of the skylarks can be heard. Don't miss the great crested grebes in the middle of the open water pools taking part in their elaborate (and very entertaining!) courtship dances. You might also see 'mad March' brown hares 'boxing' - when females try to fend off the attentions of males.

Great crested grebe - breeding plumageLapwingSand martinSkylark
Great crested grebeLapwingSand martinSkylark

Summer

Visit Paddy's Pool Hide and Saltholme Pools Hide to see the stripy, fluffy young great crested grebes riding around on their parents' backs. You'll love the enchanting sight of our young ducklings, such as gadwalls, pochards, tufted ducks, shelducks and mallards. Yellow wagtails collect insects to feed their young and young common terns and gulls can be seen on the islands. More favourites to look out for are the butterflies and dragonflies that visit Saltholme, as well as the wild flowers, such as orchids, which can be found. The first of the migrant waders also begin to turn up at the end of summer. Saltholme's an important stop-off for them on their long migration from the Arctic.

Common tern - adultShelduck - maleTufted duck - maleYellow wagtail
Common ternShelduckTufted duckYellow wagtail

Autumn

Autumn sees migrant wading birds, such as black-tailed godwits, ruffs and green sandpipers, continue to pass through. A few rarities such as curlew sandpipers, little stints, spoonbills, pectoral sandpipers and lesser yellowlegs, might just be seen as they stop off for short periods on their migration. Huge, shimmering flocks of golden plovers and lapwings arrive to spend winter with us and can be seen around pool edges and on grassland. Our winter wildfowl start to return, with numbers of wigeons, gadwalls, shovelers, pochards and teals increasing rapidly.

Black-tailed godwit- non-breeding plumageGolden plover - in breeding plumagePochard - maleTeal - male
Black-tailed godwitGolden ploverPochardTeal

Winter

Waders and wildfowl such as golden plovers, lapwings, curlews, wigeons, teals, shovelers and gadwalls gather in their thousands, roosting and feeding across the grasslands and pools. Water rails can be spotted feeding at ditch edges and on frozen pools, or you can listen out for their strange pig-like squealing! One of the most awesome spectacles is seeing massive flocks of roosting birds panic and fly into the air as peregrines hunt over Saltholme.

CurlewPeregrine - adult Water railWigeon - male
CurlewPeregrineWater railWigeon

Contact us

Where is it?

  • Lat/lng: 54.600995,-1.217496
  • Postcode: TS2 1TU
  • Grid reference: NZ506231
  • Nearest town: Middlesbrough
  • County: Cleveland
  • Country: England

Get directions

Living classrooms