With a new year come new hopes, new goals, and new sightings! Read on to find out about what has been happening at RSPB Saltholme during the first week of 2022….

News from the Estate:

Image Credit: David Tipling, RSPB Images

Common tern breed at RSPB Saltholme over the summer. They nest in colonies to reduce the risk of predation. For the same reason, they like to nest on islands.

Visitors on Tuesday may have seen our estates team moving an island.

The island is actually one of our man-made tern rafts. These single-covered platforms are used by breeding terns over the summer months. The estates team was moving one of these tern rafts to its winter storage- a more sheltered part of the main lake- to prevent any damage to this structure in the harsh winter weather.

The team have also been reducing the height of scrubland vegetation around our wet grassland area. Scrub is an ideal habitat for avian predators, such as kestrels and buzzards, that prey on nesting waders and their chicks. There is plenty of other food for these avian predators at Saltholme (mice, voles, etc.), and so reducing the shrub height now will mean a more successful breeding season for our wader species, without affecting our Bird of Prey populations.  

More information on the feeding habits of kestrels and buzzards can be found here and here.

The team have also been busy removing tree guards along the boundary of the reserve. The trees that these guards once protected are now between 5 and 6 years old. When the trees were first planted, they needed the plastic guards to prevent animals such as rabbits and deer from damaging or uprooting them. The guards also helped to protect the saplings from adverse weather conditions.  Now they are established, with good root systems, they no longer need this protection.

The new owl perch in the Wildlife Watchpoint hide has been placed directly above the area where fresh owl pellets have been found. 

Finally, some of you may have spotted that the Wildlife Watchpoint hide has a new addition; a barn owl perch has been installed in the main entrance! We have found pellets in the area where the perch now is, which suggested that a barn owl has been trying to sit on top of one of the noticeboards. We think the new perch will be much more comfortable for it!

What’s On:

Our wonderful optics team are running an optics event  this weekend (8-9 January). This is a great opportunity to see what binoculars and telescopes are available, and to talk to experts about finding the right optics equipment for you.

Not only is this a great even in itself, but it also ties into the RSPB-wide event of the Big Garden Birdwatch that will take place 28-30 January. Why not get involved?


This week, many of our signature species have made an appearance…

Image Credit: Graham Goodall, RSPB Images

On Wednesday, three water rail were seen from the Wildlife Watchpoint hide. Despite being relatively common, these birds are secretive and hard to see; they hide in reedbeds and are often heard before they are spotted. They sound like a squealing piglet!

Image Credit: John Bridges, RSPB Images

One of our resident barn owls made its presence known, being spotted at one of the owl boxes that are situated around the main lake. Although owl species are mainly thought of as nocturnal species (being most active at night), barn owls are a bit of a half-way house; they are often seen out hunting during the day, particularly early in the morning or at dusk. They are well-known for their silent flight (a consequence of their feather structure) and their not-so-silent call (which has been the source of many a ghost story due to its screeching quality)!

Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

The long-eared owl that visits Saltholme over the winter months has also been seen in the scrubland to the back of Haverton. Unlike the barn owl, this is a strictly nocturnal species. Visitors at Saltholme can view the owl whilst it is roosting during the day. Our long-eared owl could have migrated from as far as northern Europe to get here!

Other honourable mentions include the short-eared owl that was seen out hunting on Thursday. This species is another visitor that tends to visit the reserve in the winter months. 

There has been so much seen here at Saltholme  that it is impossible to mention everything. Why not come along to the reserve next week and see what you can find? 

References and Additional Reading:

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Barn Owl [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/barn-owl/ [last accessed 05/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Big Garden Birdwatch [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/ [last accessed 06/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Kestrel Feeding [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/kestrel/feeding/ [last accessed 06/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Long-eared Owl [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/long-eared-owl/ [last accessed 05/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Short-eared owl [webpage]. Accessed through

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/short-eared-owl/  [last accessed 05/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Water Rail [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/water-rail/ [last accessed 05/01/2022].

The Wildlife Trusts (2022). Water Rail [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/wading-birds/water-rail [last accessed 05/01/2022].

Woodland Trust (2022). Long-eared Owl [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/long-eared-owl/ [last accessed 06/01/2022].

Woodland Trust (2022). What buzzards eat [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2019/06/what-buzzards-eat/ [last accessed 06/01/2022].