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It's that time of year again when waders that have failed to breed in the Tundra regions start to return, looking for wet mud to stick their long bills into for midge larvae and other wriggly delights. These waders are still in their breeding plumage and look their very best. However, this year the dry and windy weather here at Saltholme has meant there is more than the usual amount of wet mud edge for them. This week we're hosting up to 31 Dunlin, 5 Common Sandpiper, 14 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Wood Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Ruff, 4 Little Ringed Plover and 3 Greenshank.
A Black-tailed Godwit, by Lockhart Horsburgh.
The high tide earlier in the week even resulted in a couple of very red Knot appearing on the Saltholme Pools. At this time of year, and in these conditions, I'm sure there will plenty more surprises.
Posted by Dean H
At the Haverton Viewpoint, there is a small hole on top of one of the sleepers forming the seats. Within this hole, a few Leaf-cutter Bees are excavating further holes within the wood and making nests with small semicircles of leaf they have cut with their large jaws. They roll the leaf bits into sausages and carry them into the nest chambers to make a cosy egg laying site. Mark Walpole, one of our Saltholme Guides, managed to get this picture on Sunday of a Bee entering the hole.
The Larvae is provisioned with food in the form of nectar and pollen, and then the parent seals up the Sausage crib with another cut leaf disc. The new bee emerges from the hole next spring. You can often see where Leaf-cutter Bees have been at work in gardens as they are particularly fond of roses, leaving them with little circular holes in the leaves.
In America, research has shown that one Leaf-cutter Bee can do the job of 20 Honey Bees in pollinating agricultural plants, so they are very important to us. In parts of Europe, some species line their nests with petals instead of cut leaves. Everyone say Ahhhhhhh.
British Tree Sparrows declined by 93% between 1970 and 2008. Consequently, the breeding population we have here at Saltholme is a high conservation priority for us. They are easily told apart from House Sparrows, as they have a chestnut cap and a white cheek patch with a black spot. Tree sparrows breed colonially in nest boxes with an entrance hole of 28mm, and we have erected such boxes along the Pedestrian Path, along the Watchpoint hedge, and more recently, behind the workshop. Like most seed feeders, they feed their chicks on invertebrates, and Tree Sparrows seem to prefer to feed their young on insects found in wet habitats, such as hatching mozzies.
Tree Sparrow showing the chestnut cap, by Ian Forrest.
In order to find out more about how our Tree Sparrows are getting along, Chris Brown from Teesmouth Bird Club has started to fit colour rings to the chicks in the nest. Some of these birds are now adults and can be seen at the feeding stations. If you see a colour ringed Tree Sparrow, please note the colours on each leg and give the information to reception. There is a red ring on the left leg with two letters. Good Luck.
The weather was good for seeing butterflies at the weekend. We have had Small Tortoiseshell for some time but now they have been joined by Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Small Skipper.
Lockhart found this Small Tortoiseshell on Saturday
Not quite so easy to see with wings folded.
They lay their eggs on nettle as do the Peacock Butterflies. Lockhart saw a Peacock caterpillar crossing a path but many can be found on our many nettles.
On the Wildflower Walk the Burnet Moths are hatching. We manage the land to encourage Bird's-foot Trefoil, which is the food for their caterpillars, and Common Knapweed which is a nectar source for the adults.
At last the dragonflies are on the wing with several sightings of Black-tailed Skimmers. Hopefully the recent rain will have helped to raise the level in the Dragonfly ponds.
And the final picture is of a Water Rail
Posted by Peter Langham
The Squacco Heron came back on Saturday and fled the unwelcome attentions of a Lesser Black-backed Gull. It moved to Haverton Hole before leaving altogether. There is now some debate as to whether it is the Squacco that turned up in Lincolnshire.
The Squacco Heron takes flight. Photograph taken by Ian Forrest.
While the poor spring seems to have had a disastrous effect on Four-spotted Chaser Dragonflies, there are now numerous Black-tailed Skimmers around. As this species is a colonist of new water bodies, they like to bask on bare ground. Look for them along the reserve paths. They will get up as you approach but settle down again a little further along.
A White-winged Black Tern arrived on Monday and was still here on Wednesday. One of the Marsh Terns, they catch insects above the water and have a 'fluttery' flight.
We currently have two Wood Sandpipers at Dorman's Pool and a Mediterranean Gull at Saltholme. Also at Saltholme is a family of Yellow Wagtail which can be seen from Saltholme Hide, with two juveniles being fed by the parents.
Yellow Wagtail by Ian Forrest.
Last year two broods of Garganey chicks appeared in the Wildlife Watchpoint Cut on the 27th June. It's all quiet on the Garganey front just now, so we're hoping that means the females are on eggs in a sedge bed somewhere. Fingers crossed !
The disastrous spring has meant very few Dragonflies around. There are only a handful of Black-tailed Skimmer and Four-spotted Chaser about.
Better news for Great Crested Grebes, we have young riding on the backs of parents at Paddy's, Haverton Hole and the Allotment Pool.
A Great Crested Grebe feeding stripey young.
Little Gulls continue to appear sporadically, and a Greenshank is currently at Haverton Gate. We've also had a brief Temmincks Stint this week along with 5 Sandwich Terns on the Main Lake.
More strangely a drake Pintail has been seen on Cowpen Marsh and the main site. We don't expect this is to be a breeding bird as it is always in the company of Mallards.
The first Sand Martin chick has tried to fly. Unfortunately, it's in a box on my desk, drying off. I will soon don my chest waders and venture out to the Sand Martin bank and try to place it in an active hole. This the birds best chance. It won't eat sandwiches or biscuits - I've tried.
This was the moment we knew we had a Squacco Heron on the reserve:
Andrew Clark managed to get the photo through the Watchpoint Hide windows, as we confirmed the bird's identification with the help of those white wings. Great excitement for a Thursday morning and a good job we didn't manage to get out in front of the hide and cut back the vegetation as we planned.
This is another first for Cleveland, the fifth on habitat created and managed by RSPB Saltholme since the reserve opened.
The bird hasn't been seen this morning (Friday) but it does have a habit of hiding in the reeds.
I was carrying out one of our weekly butterfly transects on Friday afternoon and was walking along the most southerly face of the meadow when something unusual whizzed past me. I knew it was an insect and I knew it was not a butterfly. It was a blur of grey with a hint of orange. Surely not...was it....? I stopped, saw the blur turn and make its way back to the footpath and then land. I cautiously approached and from a distance I could see it on the path. I got my bins out and sure enough, there was its little mothy face pointing my way.
I crept round through the nettles to get the next photo as it sat perfectly still on the path and this confirmed my suspicion, a hummingbird hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum.) It is only the second I have seen and is the only one I know of from Saltholme (if you know otherwise please let us know.)
These moths are usually immigrants from southern Europe and north Africa and in certain years there can be large influxes as in 2011 and 2006. They do breed in the UK but usually do not survive the winter. In milder winters though, adults have been found hibernating in outbuildings and outdoor crevices.
They get their name from the way they fly between plants, feeding at tubular shaped flowers such as Viper's bugloss and honeysuckle, hovering like a hummingbird as they do.
Keep an eye out this summer for this charismatic creature around your buddleias and honeysuckles and if you are lucky enough to see one do report it on the Butterfly Conservation's 'Migrant watch' page.
Posted by Ed P
This is the first photo of a Wood Mouse in the house, taken by Mark Walpole, one of our Saltholme Guides.
Unfortunately, Mark doesn't get a Cadbury's crème egg because the mouse isn't on a chair.
Can you do better in the Great Mouse House Challenge ?
I know we can do this, we've got less than two weeks of Springwatch left !
We're setting up an emergency fund that we can use to get our reserves back into shape and repair the damage caused. Please help us rebuild from the worst storm in 60 years.
Grid reference: NZ5023 (+2km)
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