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Recent sightings

  • 2 October 2015

    Friday 2nd October 2015

    If this Smew stays any longer, we'll have to give her a uniform and name badge.  Suggestions please..............

    Even bringing the Tern rafts in on Tuesday only made her skip to the other side of the Main Lake.

                                  'Our' Smew evading the work party, by Ian Forrest. 

    The cold and hot all in the same day weather has meant we still have migrant waders on the reserve while the winter birds are arriving.  We now have over 300 Wigeon which have arrived from Finland and Russia, that number will swell to 3,000 mid winter, as well as 14 Ruff, and 4 Greenshank, some of which were photographed by Ian Forrest below:

    The other highlights are the Great White Egrets, of which we appear to have 3.  A single bird which has been around for two weeks and another couple which arrived on Sunday.  Although I wouldn't presume they are in fact a 'couple' in case I cause offence.

                                   The single Great White Egret, by Ian Forrest.

    You wouldn't think he'd bother with such small fish. 

    In Otter news, Lauren Teate photographed two Otters on Dorman's Pool this week.  With the young filmed by Ed at Haverton earlier this year, it appears we have two 'families' at Saltholme.  Although both females could be paired with the same male, as larger male territories often hold several smaller female territories. 


    Posted by Dean H

  • 18 September 2015

    Friday 18th September 2015

    Every month we undertake a WeBS count of the reserve land holdings.   WeBS stands for Wetland Bird Survey.  This is a useful way of seeing how birds are responding to seasons, the weather and of course, our management.  Sunday's count revealed quite a few winter birds coming back rather early.  We counted 237 Wigeon, 337 Teal and 7 Pintail.  We also now have 759 Lapwing on the wet grassland areas.  I was particularly lucky while counting the Main Lake to see the female Smew quite close. 

    Our female Smew, by Ian Forrest.

    This bird has been on the reserve for a few weeks now, yet is something we would expect to see mid-winter.  It gave great views from the Visitor Centre, or the café.  You could have Smew and chips.

    Waders continue to move through and on the day we had 3 Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank, 2 Green sandpiper, 69 Dunlin and 13 Ruff, two of which gave excellent views right in front of Paddy's Hide. 

    One of our Ruff, by Mark Stokeld.

    And now that we've cut the grass short, They're even easier to see !

    Although it's been a bad year for Dragonflies, there are quite a few MIgrant Hawkers around just now, and this female was photographed by the Phil Stead Hide this morning.

    Female Migrant Hawker by Ian Forrest

    Migrant Hawkers are the Collard Doves of the Dragonfly world.  They colonised England during the 1950's and have spread slowly northwards since then.  Many years ago when I was a young man with disposable income, I used to venture south to Skipwith Common near York to see them, and now I find myself working among them.  You can tell it is a Migrant Hawker because it has very short anti-humeral stripes.  Those are the two very short light lines that hang down on the thorax, just behind each eye.  They are full length of the thorax on a Common Hawker, and big fat things on a Southern Hawker.  Migrant Hawkers are much less territorial than the other hawkers and so you'll often see them hunting in small groups on tracks and in clearings.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 11 September 2015

    Even juicier animal of the week...

    On Wednesday we took a trip to Paddy's Island with a volunteer party from Analox. We were clearing vegetation that has grown over the summer, so that the Common Terns can nest there again next year. While we were there we rescued several different species of caterpillar, but the biggest and most beautiful was this Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor) larva. We managed to get this photo of him sat on top of a tern shelter which we provide to protect the chicks from predation.

    The eye-like markings on the side of his head act as a deterrent to birds which may otherwise attempt to eat him for dinner. When startled, the caterpillar adopts a deceptive snake-like posture, which makes him look dangerous to possible predators.

    We found him near his food plant, Great Willowherb, resting in the mid-afternoon sun. As we had removed all of his food plant from the island, we bought him back with us and have created a habitat for him to safely feed and pupate in. Since he has found his new home with us and will be with us for some months to come, we thought it only fitting to give him a name, and so he is Samwise, in honour of his intrepid journey. Samwise is likely to pupate any day now as Elephant Hawkmoth larvae normally do so by the end of September. He will then spend the winter as a pupa and should emerge around May next year as a vibrantly coloured pink and green moth. We took this picture of an adult moth back in June whilst surveying the contents of a moth trap.

    So if you come across this creature lurking in your garden, don't be alarmed! You can look forward to the prospect of sighting a beautiful moth next spring.

    In the meantime, watch this space for another blog when the time comes for Samwise to pupate and begin his next grand adventure.


    Karen and Fiona, Estate Volunteers

    Posted by Dean H

  • 7 September 2015

    Butterflies and Other Weekend Pictures

    Lovely autumn weather on Sunday and Mark, one of our guides, came into the Wildlife Garden with his camera. The garden was designed to attract all types of wildlife which includes butterflies and it works!


    A red admiral which is a common garden visitor,

    A male common blue which is less common in gardens but common at Saltholme on the bird'd-foot trefoil,

    And a painted lady on the Verbena bonariensis. 

    And from a different angle. This is a migrant species and the first I have seen in the garden this year.

    The Verbena is from South America but proves that a garden does not need to be planted with just native plants to be good for wildlife. 

    That's not all

    Mark caught this migrant hawker dragonfly, and on Saturday Lockhart got this common darter.

    There are many of these over the paths, often coupled in mating.

    I'll end with this young little grebe also from Lockhart.

    Thanks to our Guides for the photos

    Posted by Peter Langham

  • 25 August 2015

    Kingfisher at Wildlilfe Watchpoint Hide

    It takes us a couple of hours to get the reserve ready for visitors and during this time our Saltholme Guides - volunteers - are looking to see what is about.

    At 0915 hrs today Brian took this photo of a Kingfisher on the post at Wildlife Watchpoint Hide which Dean had placed for just such a visit - thanks for the photo, Brian.

    Now that the reserve is maturing these birds have more chance of catching a fish so are more commonly seen - but not that often!

    During the day Bert and Ian saw little stint, spotted redshank, wood sandpiper and green sandpiper - quite a lot is passing through now we are at the end of the breeding season.

    Posted by Peter Langham

  • 24 August 2015

    Weekend Wildlife 23rd August

    Breeding is over, many birds have lost their breeding plumage and will soon be moving on. Some are already passing through.

    It only seems recently that we were looking at a ruff in breeding plumage rather than this plainer garb.

    There are now flocks of dunlin and the coot are collecting in larger numbers. Lapwing will soon be forming large flocks, to be joined by golden plover.

    This lapwing was taken by Lockhart.

    Dean blogged about the poplar hawk-moth last week - it is hard to find!

    Butterflies are easier to see with all the common species around. In the Wildlife Garden the Verbena bonariensis (tall with purple flowers) is good for peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma

    Meadow brown and common blue can be seen anywhere

    A wall brown butterfly as seen by Lockhart

    On Sunday, the viper's buglossEchium vulgare (which we have planted in the garden), was visited by a hummingbird hawk-moth. A wonderful moth on a great wild flower which grows wild in the area but, although seed is available in garden forms, is seldom grown. Colourful and great for bees, butterflies and moths so why is it not in lots of gardens?

    Posted by Peter Langham

  • 21 August 2015

    Juicy animal of the week

    And the prize for this weeks juiciest animal goes to...............

    The Poplar Hawkmoth caterpillar feeding on the willows at the entrance to the Wildlife Watchpoint Hide.  The spike is on the rear end of the caterpillar and is meant to confuse birds into thinking it is a horn on the head.  A bird pecking at the rear end of the caterpillar will do less damage.  This juicy individual will carry on feeding, getting a little larger, until September, so no that much larger.  When it is fully grown, it will descend to the ground and pupate over winter just under the soil close to the food plant.  And if all goes well, an adult Poplar Hawkmoth will emerge next May. 

    You'll have to look closely to find it though, even though it is 6cm long, and very juicy, it's surprisingly hard to find.



    Posted by Dean H

  • 19 August 2015

    Lazy days and Migration

    With just over a week left of the school holidays the team at Saltholme have been reflecting on what a fantastic summer we have had so far. We're on Minibeast week this week and the recent spell of damp weather followed by a brighter spell has meant that the invertebrates of Saltholme have been particularly obliging. plenty of creepy crawlies are being caught in our sweep nets and the grasshoppers are in full 'voice'. The last week of the holidays we will have the theme of 'waterworld' No, Kevin Costner wont be joining us for a week! We'll be exploring the reason that this reserve is such a fantastic place for wildlife, it is of course a wetland reserve!

    The middle of August is traditionally a poorer time for bird watching, when many birders look to wildflowers, moths and butterflies to keep their interest in the natural world piqued, Here at Saltholme however we have had a flurry of activity, as well as the usual late summer residents such as yellow wagtail with their now juvenile offspring, swallows and sand martins, we have had an influx of early migrants.

    Dave A, one of our regular Tuesday Saltholme guide volunteers managed to get us quite an impressive list yesterday, starting the day with a short eared owl in the Discovery Zone. The day continued to improve, despite the weather yesterday with marsh harrier and a female smew adding to the highlights of the day.

    Turns out August isn't such a bad time to see birds after all...

    Full list courtesy of Dave A on 18 August

    Black tailed godwit, magpie, lapwing, common tern, gadwall, mallard, coot, moorhen, little egret, shoveler, teal, water rail, starling, gargany, snipe, herring gull, little grebe, greenshank, woodpigeon, curlew, short eared owl, marsh harrier, great tit, tree sparrow, wren, blue tit, greenfinch, cormorant, goldfinch, lesser black backed gull, mute swan, canada goose, sand martin, swallow, ruff, dunlin, pied wagtail, little grebe, greylag goose, wigeon, meadow pipit, black headed gull, barnacle goose, tufted duck, grey herron, carrion crow, redshank, smew (female) pochard, great crested grebe.

    Posted by Lydia T

  • 18 August 2015

    Weekend Photos 15th August

    On Friday Dean blogged about the waders and on Saturday Lockhart saw these black-tailed godwits flying in.

    And spot the greenshank

    There was also a common sandpiper.


    Since we cut the sedge and reed at the Phil Stead hide there are some very good views.

    Elsewhere there are lots of common blue butterflies looking for the common bird's-foot trefoil on which to lay their eggs.

    This is a female - not as blue as the male but she is on the bird's-foot trefoil.

    Today some other birds flew in with a short-eared owl being seen over the discovery zone and a merlin visible from Paddy's hide.

    The short-eared owls were not common last year but in some winters they have been seen frequently  even over the car park first thing in the morning.

    Posted by Peter Langham

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Coast on a stormy day with heavy rain falling on coastal headland

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Your sightings

Grid reference: NZ5023 (+2km)

Great White Egret (2)
4 Oct 2015
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1)
20 Sep 2015
Smew (1)
4 Oct 2015
Water Rail (1)
4 Oct 2015
Black-tailed Godwit (7)
4 Oct 2015
Tree Sparrow (12)
4 Oct 2015
Merlin ()
30 Sep 2015
Greenshank (1)
28 Sep 2015
Red-breasted Merganser (3)
28 Sep 2015
Avocet (1)
26 Sep 2015

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Where is it?

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

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