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Recent sightings

  • 12 December 2014

    What Pellets tell us.

    Having Barn Owls back on the reserve is good news for them and for visitors. But in nature, everything is eaten by something else. When we found Barn Owl pellets by the entrance to the Watchpoint Hide, we gave them to our pellet man: Don Griss, one of our Saltholme Guides who likes to open these things up and identify the contents. He found the bones of Field Vole and Bank Vole, as we would expect. These animals make up a large proportion of the prey of carnivores and raptors on the reserve. But Don also found something else: the skull of a young Water Vole. This is not something I was expecting. Barn Owls hunt over pasture and tussocky grassland. Water Voles live in reedbeds and quite tall vegetated water margins (at Saltholme they are predominately in reedbeds). But there must be somewhere on the reserve where the two of them come together. It is quite common for the young of many animals to disperse in the autumn, and maybe this particular Barn Owl came upon a young Water Vole as it headed down one of the foot drains that irrigate the wet grassland for feeding and breeding birds. It certainly doesn't make life easy when our target species for conservation management start eating each other.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 5 December 2014

    The trouble with frost

    Until this week, we've had 3,000 Golden Plover on the reserve. They feed on the wet grassland, and roost on the causeway. They provide a real spectacle when in the air together as they fly fast in tight flocks, their golden plumage glinting in the sun as they wheel and turn. But, because they feed largely on worms, when the first frosts hit us, they tend to move on. It's a sad reminder that Christmas is coming ! More positively, a Bittern was seen in the reeds at Top Tank this week, so they're still here......................

    Posted by Dean H

  • 28 November 2014

    Friday 28th November 2014

    Rare bird of the week is the Green Winged Teal which has been at Dorman's Pool for a few days. It may be there now but poor visibility means our spotters haven't been able to spot it. This bird turns up here annually at this time and stays for a good few weeks. Lapwing numbers have now built up to an impressive 3,600. Kingfishers have been very obvious lately, and yesterday we had 4 individuals, with a pair together on Bottom Tank. One bird has been using a specially prepared perch by the Water Vole cage at the Watchpoint Cut, but movement in the hide keeps scaring the bird away. To remedy this, last week I installed another perch in the cut a bit further away from the hide. I also installed two perches in the Sand Martin Pool as birds had been seen sitting on the top of the Sand Martin Bank. Typically, no kingfishers have been seen anywhere near the perches this week, and they seem to prefer the old fencing in front of the Phil Stead Hide. I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 21 November 2014

    Friday 21st November 2014.

    The exciting news for us this week is the return of barn owls to the reserve. Barn owls bred here until those bad winters a few years ago. But unfortunately, deep snow makes it difficult for barn owls to find food so they really struggle in bad winters. We know have plenty of voles here as Limpy, our resident car damaged vixen proves as she is so often seen with a mouthful of them, or even pouncing on them in the grass verges. So if we get a mild winter, all should be well with our new barn owl. It's great to see a barn owl back here, but it's not so good news for the stock doves that took over the nestbox in the owl's absence.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 19 November 2014

    Maintaining the Feeding Station

    Over the last few days Dean has been making changes to the feeding station outside the visitor centre. No equipment lasts for ever so out with the old, and in with new posts from which to hang the feeders. He didn't really need help but he did have supervision.

    Brian was watching from the visitor centre and Limpy, the vixen, was ensuring that there would still be the odd scrap for her. As Dave said in his last blog wildlife can get used to our presence, and if we are not seen as a threat will tolerate us. Limpy certainly lets us get very close but she is still a wild animal and we have to be careful not to encourage her to come too near.

    Dean has also placed several branches overhanging the water near the visitor centre and Wildlife Watchpoint hide to encourage Kingfishers to perch - and this has been successful. Now they can be seen from Watchpoint hide, and from the cafe and visitor centre windows. They are unmistakable with the bright blue and orange but easily overlooked in poor light so if a small bird is perched over water have a good look.

    Thanks to Brian D. for the photo.


    Posted by Peter Langham

  • 14 November 2014

    Friday 14th November 2014

    The flow of Whooper Swans going through the reserve continues with 16 birds on Monday. We still have a couple of Little Stints in with 30 Dunlin, 2 Ruff and 30 Black Tailed Godwit. The numbers of Golden Plover have swelled to 3000 along with 2000 Lapwing. We now have 1000 Wigeon with 3 Goldeneye and 12 Pintail. Marsh Harrier can still be seen along with the resident Merlin and Peregrine. An odd Woodcock has been seen flying around the car park area, 3 Stonechats are at the Visitor Centre and Haverton Loop, and the single Pink Footed Goose is still with us, mingling with the Greylag. A Long Eared Owl appeared at a roost on Monday but quickly disappeared again. This happened last winter too, sadly as a result of over-keen photographers getting too close. As in Dave's previous blog, if we all keep to the paths, wildlife quickly becomes accustomed to people being there, which allows us all good views.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 11 November 2014

    Aren't Nature Reserves Brilliant...

    Guest Blog from Site Manager David Braithwaite.

    I had my binocular fix today with a walk down to the Saltholme hide, there were geese grazing perfectly happily just a few yards from me at either side of the track. Barnacle Geese to the left; about 60, posh little chaps in their dapper monochrome. To the right, Graylags, Candas and a solitary pink-foot all relaxed whilst visitors walked by or stopped to enjoy the pastoral scene. When I started here in 2006 and before Saltholme was a proper nature reserve open to the public, if I appeared anywhere near where the wildlife garden is today, all the geese would take flight in the knowledge that humans mean trouble! But on nature reserves like Saltholme, they quickly learn that we mean them no harm, that we want to enjoy them in peace...

    Wouldn't it be great if the rest of the countryside could be like this.

    Posted by Lydia T

  • 7 November 2014

    Friday 7th November 2014

    At last some rain ! We really need this as the water levels in the northern reedbeds are at least 30cm lower than they should be, which has consequences for reedbed wildlife, as mammalian predators are able to move around more freely in drier conditions. As soon as the water vole feeding table is once again surrounded by water, we'll start feeding them again. Currently on the reserve we have 4 Goldeneye, 700 Wigeon, 13 Pintail, 1300 Lapwing, 400 Golden Plover and 5 Stonechats. There is also a steady flow of Whooper Swans through the site. The Kingfisher continues to delight visitors as it moves around the site. Winter rain often produces murky conditions in streams which forces Kingfishers to move to ponds and water they can see into. This is when garden pond owners may be in for a nice surprise.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 1 November 2014

    Barnacle Geese

    The Barnacle Geese are back on the reserve having gradually built up their numbers over the recent days. Assistant warden Ed counted 73 flying over today and they were then seen on the wet grassland near Paddy's Pool which has traditionally been a good place to see them - try looking back to Paddy's Pool hide from the Mike Corner screen. The numbers are increasing each year, probably almost double what we had in the first year the reserve was opened. This year the grass has been topped to remove the creeping thistle then grazed so the grass may be better for these geese and so encourage them to stay where they can be seen.

    Probably many saw the David Attenborough 'Life Story' on TV which showed the goslings leaving the nests. Those birds will now be wintering on the western side of this country while some of our birds may be descended from escaped captive birds now living wild - like the Greylag  and Canada geese.

    Lockhart took this photo today.

    Most of our winter visitors are appearing with increasing Golden Plover numbers and sightings of the winter thrushes - Redwings and Fieldfares - flying over.


    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)

Isabelline Wheatear (1)
27 Nov 2014
Green-winged Teal ()
26 Nov 2014
Velvet Scoter (1)
17 Dec 2014
Red-breasted Merganser (16)
16 Dec 2014
Red-throated Diver (1)
16 Dec 2014
Black-tailed Godwit (1)
16 Dec 2014
Spotted Redshank (1)
16 Dec 2014
Greenshank (1)
16 Dec 2014
Pink-footed Goose (1)
14 Dec 2014
Merlin (1)
14 Dec 2014

Contact us

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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