Title Image: Avocet chick at the Saltholme Pools hide. Image Credit: Mark Stokeld. 

Buckle up…it’s been a busy week at Saltholme and we want to tell you everything that has been going on. We’ve got events, baby birds, and rare sightings to describe. So, keep reading!

News from the Estate:

Sunshine interspersed with rain leads to one thing… massive amounts of plant growth. So, the estates team have been making sure the pedestrian footpaths are kept clear for both visitors and butterflies (who use the paths as basking spots). On top of this, the team have been weeding the garden and surveying various bird species around the reserve. That has meant some early starts and hectic days. So next time you see a freshly-cleared path or a survey sheet, think of the estates team!

What’s On:

It might be easier to ask what isn’t on this week. We aim to provide an amazing visitor experience and, judging by the sheer number of events this week, we are succeeding (even if we do say so ourselves). Here is a quick round-up of all that has been happening this half-term:

  • Hiddel Brock Wood Storytelling (30 May)

It was a fairly grey and rainy day at Saltholme at the start of the week. But we had planned for the great British weather by providing an indoor event. Bestselling author and illustrator Abbey Scott lit up Saltholme with her Hiddel Brock Wood stories, followed by a range of woodland activities and crafts.

  • Pond Dipping (May Half-Term)

A Caddis fly larva in its protective case, which it has built out of pond vegetation. Image Credit: Jan Hamrsky

Our ever-popular pond dipping sessions are back for half-term! Families have had the opportunity to learn about the amazing creatures that live in our ponds. Did you know that water beetles breathe by sticking their bottoms above the water to collect an air bubble to take below the surface with them? Or that caddis fly larvae build their own home out of pond reeds and other vegetation? Whilst these are interesting facts in their own right, they really come to life when you can see the creatures performing these behaviours before your eyes.

  • Half-term Trail (May Half-Term)

It’s not just pond creatures that you can find at Saltholme; our half-term activity trail explores the favourite food of some of our bird species. And the fun doesn’t stop there- our activity packs are packed full of puzzles, recipes, games and even a mask (and a pencil with which to complete all these activities). Don’t forget to bring your completed trail sheets back to our front desk so we can give you your certificate!

  • Big Picnic (3 June)

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend. There is a lot to celebrate over the coming days, so we wanted to do something special at Saltholme too. And what better way to celebrate than with a picnic? Oh wait actually there is a better way: a picnic… WITH GARDEN GAMES. Welcome to our Big Picnic event!

So, if you are free this afternoon (12-2pm, 3rd June) and want to wallow in the Jubilee Bank Holiday spirit, bring some food to Saltholme (or buy some from our café) and join in with the fun!

  • Binoculars and Telescopes Open Weekend (4-5 June)

It’s back! If you couldn’t see it coming, then could we suggest coming along and purchasing a pair of binoculars? Our Optics experts will be on-hand to help you find the right binoculars/telescope for you (or the right tripod, the right case, etc.), and then you can test out your purchase(s) by seeing all the wonderful wildlife on our site!

  • Little Birders (5 June)

It’s never too early to learn about nature and how to identify different species. Our Little Birders event is a family-friendly session (aimed at children aged 5 and over, but anyone can come along) that helps you tell the difference between a goldfinch and a greenfinch and much more. It’s great fun for the children, and gets the whole family out-and-about to enjoy the bank holiday fresh air. For more information and to book tickets, visit this website.

Recent Sightings:

Goslings (Canada goose) sleeping by the visitor centre feeders.

Ok, we are going to call this a Chick Flick this week. We have a lot of new arrivals to tell you about…

Shoveler chicks. Image Credit: Mark Stokeld

Firstly, we have shoveler ducklings on the main lake alongside pochard ducklings. Shovelers are surface feeders, meaning their wide, flat bills are used to scoop up small insects and plant matter without having to dive. On the other hand, pochards dive for their food (fish and plant matter) and so have a different-shaped bill. Use this to tell their ducklings apart!

Great crested grebe chick on the back of an adult. Image credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

And the eggs didn’t stop hatching there. Keep an eye out for the great crested grebe chicks on the main lake. You may see them hitching a ride on the back of their parents, or swimming alongside them in the margins of the lake.

Of course, this is in addition to the (amongst others) avocet, lapwing, little ringed plover, and black-headed gull chicks present on our site. And they just keep on coming!

Three glossy ibises have been seen at Saltholme Pools this week. Image Credit: Derek Keats, Flickr. 

But it isn’t all about the cute and fluffy additions to the reserve…

Glossy ibis seem to quite like it here, with three being spotted hanging around our Saltholme Pools hide this week. They certainly stand out from the crowd, with their green-purple feathers and curved bills. Hopefully they will stay here a little longer!

The jay is a bird most commonly seen in woodland. Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

The glossy ibises like the wet grassland and pool areas of our reserve. This is encouraging, seen as we are a wetland reserve. So, it was a bit of a surprise when a jay [hyperlink] was seen hanging around our site on Tuesday. These shy birds are usually a woodland species, although they do journey more widely in autumn when they are storing food for the colder months. Granted, the jay was seen in the most wooded part of our reserve. But needless to say it didn’t hang around for very long.

The little gull is often mistaken for a black-headed gull, but is smaller and has a darker underwing. Image Credit: Ekaterina Chernetsova, Thai National Parks. 

And last but certainly not least, a little gull has been seen from the Saltholme Pools on Tuesday and Wednesday. These birds have a black head in breeding season, but are smaller than the black-headed gull and also have a very dark grey underwing (which the black-headed gulls do not have).

As ever, this is only a tiny proportion of the species that call Saltholme home. For a more complete round-up of the species you can see here, watch this video that has been filmed by Ian Robinson (one of our hide guides).

We hope to see you at Saltholme soon!

References and Further Reading

Birdlife International (2022). Glossy Ibis [webpage]. Accessed through http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/glossy-ibis-plegadis-falcinellus [last accessed 01/06/2022].

Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford – Glossy Ibis. Accessed through https://app.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob1360.htm [last accessed 01/06/2022].

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

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 01/06/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Great Crested Grebe [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/great-crested-grebe/ [last accessed 01/06/2022].

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

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

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

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 01/06/2022].

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

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