Image Credit: Lydia Cave

The old rhyme may tell us to remember ‘gunpower treason and plot’ today, but you should also remember our wildlife when you’re lighting bonfires and setting off fireworks! In fact, we see no reason why gunpower treason OR wildlife should ever be forgot!

There are some simple things you can do to make sure your Bonfire Night celebrations have a minimal effect on animals:

  • Check piles of leaves and sticks before lighting

Hibernating animals such as hedgehogs may have inadvertently settled down to sleep in the pile of logs you’ve been collecting for your bonfire! Checking the pile before lighting will stop these creatures getting trapped. It only takes 5 minutes, and it can save a life.

  • Use low-noise fireworks where possible

Loud and sudden bangs are usual on bonfire night. Many people and pets find this very distressing. This is also true of wild animals. The levels of stress caused by the noise of fireworks can disrupt sleeping and feeding habits, causing detriment to the animal in question. Low-noise and silent fireworks are now available in a wide variety of online and in-person stores; low-noise fireworks mean you can still enjoy a spectacular visual display, minus the bangs!

  • Do not use sky lanterns

Sky lanterns look lovely as they float away from their release site. But what goes up must come down, and this is when they become deadly to wildlife. Animals can get trapped in, and injured by, the wires holding the lantern together. Sky lanterns can also start fires if they land before the flame is extinguished.

Redcar and Cleveland Council have actually banned the release of sky lanterns (and helium balloons) after a number of incidents including a farm fire. You can read more about this here

  • Instead of having fireworks in the back garden, why not watch an organised display?

This has several advantages: it’s usually much cheaper for you, and you get to see some fireworks that you definitely wouldn’t be allowed to let off at home. Having a few large fireworks displays produces much less noise, litter and disruption than lots of ‘back garden displays’, so it’s also better for wildlife!

With this in mind, have fun this evening and stay safe!

News from the Estate:

As many of you will be aware, we are getting a new predator fence fitted. As a result, the estates team have been removing the chicken wire from the original predator fence. This is so chicks can get through the fence when birds once again start to breed.

The estates team have also been tidying the reserve, collecting redundant tree guards. Tree guards are put around the base of immature trees, protecting them from getting eaten whilst they are establishing themselves. Once the tree has grown to a certain size, the guard is no longer needed and it can be removed.

What’s On:

Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

This week, the visitor experience team have been working towards the launch of the ever-popular Soup and Starlings event (tickets available here). We’ve been busy preparing everything for the arrival of the murmurations and are really looking forward to the event starting on Sunday!

Sightings:

A kingfisher was spotted at the Philstead hide earlier on this week. These fast-moving birds usually keep themselves to themselves, so visitors were very lucky to see it. What makes it even better is that kingfishers are very sensitive to pollution, so having them here is an indication of good water quality.

Image Credit: John Bridges, RSPB Images

Because they are so hard to spot, the estimations for the number of kingfisher pairs breeding in the UK ranges from 3800 to 6400. They nest in tunnels dug into the sides of riverbanks. These nests are known for having an incredibly powerful smell!  

Large species such as whooper swan, greylag goose, canada goose, barnacle goose and shelduck have all been spotted this week. But we have also had some smaller visitors to the reserve. A siskin was spotted on Tuesday, and golden plover have been seen from the Saltholme Pools hide.

Image Credit: Andy Hay, RSPB Images

The golden plover is named after its summer plumage. In winter, the ‘buff-and-white plover’ would be a more accurate name. These birds feed on insects, worms and beetles; they can be found in coastal and farmland areas.

And finally, a special mention for the greenfinches seen from the visitor centre on Thursday afternoon. Many of us will remember that these handsome birds were once common visitors to garden bird feeders. However, their numbers plummeted after the species contracted a disease a few years ago. It's really nice to see them beginning to build in number once again! 

It’s worth mentioning that all the sightings mentioned above are in addition to the reserve regulars; there is always something to see at Saltholme!

We hope to see you again soon!

References and Extra Reading

Immediate Media Company Ltd. (2021). How to make a wildlife-friendly bonfire [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/maintain-the-garden/how-to-make-a-wildlife-friendly-bonfire/ [last accessed 04/11/2021].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Golden Plover [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/golden-plover/ [last accessed 03/11/2021].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Kingfisher [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/kingfisher/ [last accessed 03/11/2021)

The Guardian (2012). Bonfire Night: 10 tips on protecting wildlife [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2012/nov/05/bonfire-night-protect-wildlife [last accessed 04/11/2021].

The Wildlife Trusts (2021). Golden Plover [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/wading-birds/golden-plover [last accessed 03/11/2021].

The Wildlife Trusts (2021). Kingfisher [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/woodpeckers-cuckoo-kingfisher-and-waxwing/kingfisher [last accessed 03/11/2021].

Anonymous