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Recent sightings

  • 23 January 2015

    Drawbridge

    Last autumn I dug a moat around the Water Vole feeding table to prevent access to it by predatory mammals such as Weasel, even in dry spells. This was in response to the Voles disappearing after a Weasel was seen in the cage. At the time, I was very much aware that when the water came back, which it has, and Water Voles returned, which they have, I was going to have a bit of a job getting food onto the table. Waders would be needed, which is a bit cumbersome when I need to get around other parts of the reserve to open up each morning. Having had some time to think about it, I decided what was needed was a drawbridge. This is a simple bridge which is hinged at one end, and can be lifted up and over to get to the feeding table. We've just installed it, and it makes feeding Water Voles even more fun. I also suspect that the Water Vole will use it as a latrine, as they love to leave little presents on bits of timber in the water. Now I know what you're all thinking, and no you can't play with the drawbridge. You could however, if you were a reserve volunteer. Go on, you know you want to.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 13 January 2015

    Windy Weather

    Strong winds have been the feature of the last few days with snow now possible, but our volunteer guides have still been out and able to show visitors the Long-eared Owl  roosting in the tree at the Clarences scrub. We have been able to get the maximum number of people to see the owl with minimum disturbance.

    The wind has not made everything easy - as Lockhart, one of our guides - said to me, even the Moorhens are flying rather than swimming across the water. Even so Lockhart did get good views of a Snipe

    and a Reed Bunting which was sheltering by Saltholme Pools hide

    and it has been fun watching the birds on the feeders displaying their flying skills.

     

    Posted by Peter Langham

  • 5 January 2015

    Green-winged Teal, Bittern and Long-eared Owl

    Happy new year. The Long-eared Owl is still on show at the Clarences scrub, and we have Saltholme Guides there daily to show it to visitors. There is also a Green-winged Teal on Saltholme West. It is best seen from Saltholme Hide, looking down the south side of the water body, or in the ditch between the two pools. The 200+ Fieldfares are still here with a few Redwings among them. The hedgerow by the Watchpoint Hide is the best place to catch them. A few visitors have managed to see Bitterns from Haverton over the past few days. Always worth looking out for.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 24 December 2014

    Long-eared Owls

    The Long-eared Owls roosting in the scrub at Haverton are proving to be a draw for visitors. However, those visitors who go crashing through the scrub to find them are less than welcome, as it only results in the birds being scared away, as happened earlier in the autumn. Unfortunately, this is definitely a case of selfish photographers trying to get too close and spoiling it for everyone else. We have Saltholme Guides manning the site each day, and with December light being the way it is, the best time to go down there is about 11am. If the birds are there, a Guide will have a bird in a telescope so everyone can see it. Please do not leave the surfaced paths and have consideration for the welfare of the birds and other visitors wanting to see them. Although Saltholme is closed Christmas Day, I will be in and on patrol ! A very merry Christmas to all responsible nature lovers.

    Posted by Dean H

  • 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.

    Peter

    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)

Green-winged Teal (1)
8 Jan 2015
Red-breasted Merganser (4)
26 Jan 2015
Water Rail (1)
26 Jan 2015
Black-tailed Godwit (1)
26 Jan 2015
Tree Sparrow (2)
26 Jan 2015
Snow Bunting (1)
26 Jan 2015
Pink-footed Goose (1)
25 Jan 2015
Kingfisher (1)
25 Jan 2015
Grey Wagtail (1)
24 Jan 2015
Whimbrel ()
22 Jan 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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