Welcome to the latest blog post!

Saltholme has seen some mixed weather this week… Tuesday in particular was fit for neither man nor beast. But the sunshine from Wednesday has more than made up for it. In fact, plenty of wildlife has been out and about soaking up the last of the summer rays. The estates team have also been most of the good weather and are performing their usual invaluable roles on the reserve.

News from the Estate:

You may have noticed that our wildflower walk has been cut and raked by the estates team this week. This is to encourage the growth of more wildflowers next year; removing grass stops nutrients going back into the soil, which discourages the growth of dominant species such as nettles and grasses. The raking also creates patches of bare ground, which gives wildflower seeds the ideal opportunity to establish themselves. So, the work done this week will mean you see a wider range of flora when you visit Saltholme in the spring.

What’s on:

In conservation, cross-organisation communication is critical for ensuring projects are successful. This week, we’re highlighting Enjoy Tees Valley, who showcase all the amazing things there are to see and do in this area. Enjoy Tees Valley have worked with Jamie Chance over the past month. Jamie is on a one-man mission to prove what a great place the North East of England is. So, we were thrilled that he mentioned us in his blog! This can be found at https://jamiechancetravels.com/blog/the-ultimate-guide-to-the-tees-valley

Sightings:

Well, since the last blog, we’ve had some very interesting sightings. We’ve had some Saltholme firsts, and some unusual visitors. Here’s the weekly round-up…

A treecreeper visited the Wildlife Watchpoint on Friday morning. We think this is the first record for this bird at Saltholme, which isn’t surprising as we don’t really have any trees. Treecreepers usually feed on insects and spiders that they pick off tree trunks, but they can also feed on seeds over the winter. So maybe that’s why it’s visiting our feeders.

The other first for Saltholme comes in moth form and is very exciting indeed. A small ranunculus caterpillar, spotted by one of our volunteers, is only the second known sighting in the Middlesbrough area. It is also a first for this year!

Photo credit: Alison Philips

The small ranunculus is a moth species thought to have gone extinct in the UK in the 20th century. It recolonised the Kent in the late 1990s. It’s clearly moved north since then!

Otters have joined the bitterns at Haverton. They were seen playing in the water by several visitors on Wednesday afternoon. Also on Wednesday afternoon, the barn owl chicks (which have been growing up in the right-hand nest box across the main lake from the visitor centre) have started to investigate the outside world. One lucky visitor saw all four barn owls at once! And what was even better, he gave us some photographs to prove it.

Photo Credit: Andrew Scott

We think this group consists of two chicks and two adults. But it’s hard to tell with them all standing so close together! It’s really good to see these chicks looking so well; there are around 4000 breeding pairs of barn owls in the UK. The number of barn owls declined dramatically in the latter half of the 20th century, due to the use of pesticides that affected the quality of their eggs. These pesticides are now banned, but the population is taking a while to recover.

The spoonbill that was seen at Saltholme Pools last week has been joined by a juvenile. Oh, and that bittern that was seen around Haverton Holes? There are three of them now. But as you know, once bittern twice shy!

As autumn sets in, we have seen the swallows making the most of the sunshine before beginning their 6000-mile journey to South Africa.

Photo Credit: Verity Hill

Swallows are incredible fliers- on their migration route, they fly around 200 miles a day, and speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.

Siskin and redwing are starting to make an appearance at some of our feeders. These lovely little birds signify the start of the regular winter species moving in.

Image Credit: Less Bunyan 

There are just over 400,000 breeding pairs of Siskin in the UK. 

Well, that's all for this week. Remember to let us know if you see anything interesting when you visit us! 

References and Extra Reading

British Trust for Ornithology (2020). Swallow guide: migration, nesting and where to see [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/birds/facts-about-swallows/ [last accessed 07/10/2021]

Hume, R., Still, R., Swash, A., Harrop, H., and Tipling, D. (2016). Britain’s Birds. Princeton University Press, Oxfordshire.

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Barn Owl [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/barn-owl/ [last accessed 07/10/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Siskin [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/siskin/ [last accessed 08/10/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). The journey Swallows make [webpage], accessed through  https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/swallow/migration/ [last accessed 07/10/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Treecreeper [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/treecreeper/ [last accessed 08/10/2021].

UK Moths (2021). Small Ranunculus [webpage]. Accessed through https://ukmoths.org.uk/species/hecatera-dysodea/ [last accessed 08/10/2021]

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