Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

This is getting to be quite a habit now…it’s been yet another week of new sightings, new chicks, and new works done on the reserve. Read on to find out more!

News from the Estate:

You may have noticed that the plants are enjoying this warm weather (and the rain that comes as part of British summertime); there has been a lot of vegetation growth over the past week. It’s important to have a mixture of vegetation heights around the reserve, as different species prefer slightly different conditions. Furthermore, it’s helpful for visitors to be able to see the paths where they are trying to walk, and the wildlife they are trying to spot!

Our Wildlife Watchpoint hide is a favourite with species in the heron family. This is due to the number of small fish and amphibians that are available for these birds to eat. If you’re lucky, you can also see water rail (pictured above) and bittern in this area. Image Credit: Lockhart Horsburgh.

Visitors to the Wildlife Watchpoint may have noticed that they can see further. This is because the work party have been trimming back the vegetation down the sides of the hide and in front of the main windows. The work has been done very sensitively, to avoid any disturbance to any of the birds that may be nesting in these areas. We have found that the birds have been enjoying the high vegetation around this hide, with little egret, great white egret, grey heron and many others catching lots of fish and amphibians there over recent weeks. It is important to strike a balance between maintaining optimal conditions for wildlife, and optimal viewing conditions for visitors. The work done at Wildlife Watchpoint this week keeps this balance at the right level.

Our hides are great areas to get close to our wildlife. We have sightings boards in each of the hides, and books to help you identify the birds that you see.

Speaking of visitor experience, our hides have had a clean! They are nice and shiny for you to come and see all of the beautiful birds and charming chicks that we currently have on-site (read the ‘recent sightings’ section below for more information).

What’s On:

There may not have been the volume of events this week as there have been recently, but that’s because we are busy preparing for the upcoming (organised) madness of the summer holidays. There will be events for all ages in the coming months, including our Big Wild Sleepout on 16-17 July. This is a great opportunity for the whole family to see Saltholme outside normal opening hours, and to learn more about what creatures emerge after most visitors go home. Oh, and there’s the opportunity to have fish and chips for tea. What’s not to love? Click on the link above for more information and to book tickets!

Recent Sightings:

Buckle up…there have been a lot of sightings this week! First things first, let’s deal with the baby birds in a section that just HAS to be known as…

Chick Flicks:

Little ringed plovers are small wading birds that like to hang around our Saltholme Pools hide. Here are two of the chicks we currently have at the Saltholme Pools hide. Image Credit: Mark Stokeld.

We now have two families of little ringed plovers at our Saltholme Pools hide! The original brood have reached the lanky teenager stage (the same stage as most of our goslings), and another brood has hatched in front of the screen this week.  

Shelduck are slightly smaller than the geese we have on-site. Both males and females have a dark green head and chestnut belly stripe. Image Credit: Lockhart Horsburgh

Our shelduck have also had babies! Two shelduck chicks were seen on the main lake earlier this week. Also on our main lake, this year’s black-headed gull chicks are now in the process of learning how to fly! Look out for gulls with mottled brown wings and a slightly less coordinated flight pattern…

Moving round to our Paddy’s Pool hide, a brood of five tufted duck ducklings were being shown off by their mother on Wednesday. The name of this species may be referring to the crest on the head of the male, but the ducklings are pretty ‘tufted’ with all of the fluffy brown down that helps keep them afloat in the water.

We had some Mediterranean gulls breed on-site last year. We now think these birds have returned to breed, suggesting these birds will become regular visitors to Saltholme. Image Credit: Mark Stokeld.

And we now have Mediterranean gull chicks! The first few broods have been seen from the Paddy’s Pool hide. They are younger than the black-headed gull chicks, so keep your eyes peeled on your next visit. This is very exciting, as it suggests the Mediterranean gulls will become a regular breeding fixture at Saltholme.

This, of course, is just a quick round-up of some of the many youngsters seen at Saltholme this week. But we need to move onto the adult birds now…

Other sightings

Struggling to tell your terns apart? Sandwich terns have black bills with a yellow tip; common terns have red bills with a black spot on the end. Sandwich terns have black legs whereas common tenrs have red legs. Whilst both species have a black head, the sandwich tern has more of a ‘crest’, and is slightly larger than the common tern. Funny and handbrake terns look different again.  Image Credit: Chris Gomersall, RSPB Images.

Our common terns are popular summer visitors to our main lake, but did you know that we now also have sandwich terns at Saltholme Pools? They have come to our reserve for the fish that live in our pools and ponds.

Spoonbills usually visit Saltholme in the winter, so it’s nice to see one enjoying the summer sunshine. Image Credit: Les Bunyan, RSPB Images.

Speaking of Saltholme Pools, we have had a visiting spoonbill showing well amongst the sandwich terns in the earlier stages of this week. Did you know that spoonbills are in the same general group of birds as the glossy ibis that have been seen on the reserve over the past few weeks?

The cuckoo is rarely seen (even more so now than in previous decades), but its famous call is very easily recognised. Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

You may know what we have reed warblers on-site. And where there are reed warblers, there are also cuckoos! Cuckoos are known as brood parasites, meaning they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds (mainly reed warblers) for the other bird parents to raise. Once hatched, the cuckoo chick will push the reed warbler eggs out of the nest, so the reed warbler parents feeds only it. It may sound brutal, but in reality most reed warblers spot the egg and turn it out of the nest before it hatches. For more information on the complex relationship between cuckoos and reed warblers, visit this website.

Dragonflies and damselflies are types of insect. Next week is National Insect Week, where we will be posting more information about the largest group of animals on the planet on our social media channels. Image Credit: Matt Wilkinson, RSPB Images.

We may be the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, but by protecting the habitats in which birds live we also help other forms of wildlife. It’s been particularly good to see our dragonflies and damselflies back out and about again. This week, we’re drawing attention to the broad-bodied chasers that have been seen flying around the dragonfly pools and discovery zone. The defining feature of this dragonfly is, you guessed it, its chunky body. This curvaceous carnivore  may be a relatively common species, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful or any less important for the ecosystem in which it lives.

Want to see more of our amazing wildlife? You have two options which are by no means mutually exclusive. You can watch the latest round-up video (filmed by hide guide Ian Robinson here. You can also come down (or up, or across) to Saltholme over the coming days and experience our reserve first-hand. We hope to see you soon!

References and Additional Reading

British Dragonfly Society (2022). Broad-bodied Chaser [webpage]. Accessed through https://british-dragonflies.org.uk/species/broad-bodied-chaser/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Richard Nicoll (2016). The reed warbler and the cuckoo: an escalating game of trickery and defence [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/the-reed-warbler-and-the-cuckoo-an-escalating-game-of-trickery-and-defence [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Bittern [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/bittern/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Black-headed Gull [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/black-headed-gull/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Common Tern [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/common-tern/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Cuckoo [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/cuckoo/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Great White Egret [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-white-egret/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Grey Heron [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/grey-heron/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Little Egret [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/little-egret/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Little Ringed Plover [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/little-ringed-plover/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Mediterranean Gull [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/mediterranean-gull/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Reed Warbler [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/reed-warbler/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Sandwich Tern [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/sandwich-tern/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Shelduck [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/shelduck/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Spoonbill [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/spoonbill/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Tufted Duck [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/tufted-duck/ [last accessed 16/06/2022].

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 16/06/2022].

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