With the year marching on, the Soup and Starlings event is getting underway with style. But it's not just starlings that have been the star of the show this week...read on to find out more! 

News from the Estate:

Moving the tern rafts on the main lake. The rafts are moved to the far end of the lake, to protect them from the winter weather. 

On Thursday, the estates work party moved the main lake tern rafts to their winter storage. Tern species migrate to warmer climates over the winter, returning to Saltholme for the breeding season. By removing the tern rafts when they are not in use, we protect them from the elements and so ensure five-star accommodation for the returning terns (reterns, maybe?).

Also on the main lake, you may have seen our estates team adding cut vegetation to the shallows. This increases the amount of organic matter in the water, and so will encourage fly species to lay their eggs there. The developing larvae will be good food for waders in the coming spring when the water levels are dropped. 

The mud kitchen, in the discovery zone, is an ever-popular attraction for our younger visitors. 

Tomorrow, our youth ranger team will be cleaning out the mud kitchen in the discovery zone. As you can imagine, the mud kitchen is very popular with the younger visitors to the reserve and, with regular use, the very thing that makes the experience is spread far and wide! The youth rangers will be laying a new tarpaulin under the mud kitchen, to ensure there is always a large supply of good-quality sludge available. They’ll also be doing some tidying of the kitchen whilst they are there.

What’s On:

Image Credit: Lydia Cave

The Soup and Starlings event is now in full swing, with two outings under our belts and many more to go! The starlings have so far behaved themselves and have performed at both occasions. In addition to starlings and soup, we have also seen marsh harriers, barn owls, kestrels, sparrowhawks, egrets, geese, roe deer, hares and much more! You can get tickets for upcoming Soup and Starling events here.


As well as our resident marsh harriers, a hen harrier was photographed at the Philstead Hide this week. This is the most persecuted raptor in the UK, with fewer than 700 breeding pairs left. Therefore, this sighting is both very rare and very exciting!

Image Credit: Paul Welsh

The Hen Harrier nests in upland areas but move to lower-lying ground over winter. The individual seen at Saltholme is a male; males are a blue-grey colour, whereas females and juveniles are brown with a white rump. The colour of the male gives this bird the nickname ‘Ghost of the Moor’.

A woodcock has also been spotted on the reserve. Although a wader species, this bird is most commonly seen in woodland. Its probing bill is used to find, and feed on, worms and beetles. Although most of the UK population is resident here, the numbers are swelled in the autumn and winter by visitors from Finland and Russia. The one seen this week could well have flown a very long way!

Image Credit: Stanley Porter, RSPB Images

The woodcock is nocturnal, meaning it is most active at night. During the day, it hides in the dense undergrowth of woodlands and heathlands. Their colours mean they are highly camouflaged against this background. You can see (or not see) this in the picture above! Their UK breeding population is declining, potentially due to a reducing amount of suitable habitat.

Yellowhammer have also been spotted this week- a rare sighting for Saltholme. Yellowhammer are less common in the north of England than in more southern areas, so we’re very pleased to have them here!

Image Credit: Jack Farrar, RSPB Images

Yellowhammer are often seen in small flocks. During winter months, they form multi-species flocks with buntings, finches and sparrows.  They feed on seeds and insects, therefore are seen most commonly on farmland.

Of course, there have been many other species spotted over the past seven days. To get a good overview of these species, check out the video recorded by Ian Robinson (one of our hide guide volunteers). 

See you next week! 

References and Extra Reading

British Trust for Ornithology (2021). Woodcock [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/species-focus/woodcock [last accessed 10/11/2021].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Have you seen a Hen Harrier? [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/projects/hen-harrier-life/seeing-hen-harriers/ [last accessed 10/11/2021].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Hen Harrier [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/hen-harrier/ [last accessed 10/11/2021].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Woodcock [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/woodcock/ [last accessed 10/11/2021].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Yellowhammer [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/yellowhammer/ [last accessed 11/11/2021].

The Wildlife Trusts (2021). Hen Harrier [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/birds-prey/hen-harrier [last accessed 10/11/2021].

The Wildlife Trusts (2021). Woodcock [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/wading-birds/woodcock [last accessed 10/11/2021].

The Wildlife Trusts (2021). Yellowhammer [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/finches-and-buntings/yellowhammer [last accessed 11/11/2021].