With the soup and starlings event well underway, it's been another busy week for the team at Saltholme. But with spectacular sunsets, sightings of the bittern (amongst many other species), and a mug of soup with which to enjoy the view, what's not to like? Read on for the weekly reserve round-up! 

News from the Estate:

As usual, the estates team have been very busy making sure the reserve remains in the best possible condition for both wildlife and visitors.

Chicken wire has been removed from the original predator fence. Chicks that will hatch in coming breeding seasons will now be able to pass through the fence with ease.

Image Credit: BBC News

You may remember when Saltholme hit the news earlier on this year, when Bearded Stonewort was found growing in our Dragonfly Pools (read the story here). Saltholme is one of only two UK locations where this algae is known to grow. Given its critically-endangered nature, it’s important to monitor the health of the Bearded Stonewort population at Saltholme.

The long-eared owl viewing platform has also been added to the boardwalk at Haverton Scrub. Hopefully the owl won’t be too far behind!

What’s on:

It’s been another successful week with the Soup and Starlings event- 20 attendees saw starlings, a barn owl, hares, little egrets, a grey heron and a kestrel on Thursday evening. This is the penultimate week for Soup and Starlings; if you want to book places for Sunday 21 or Thursday 25 November, you can do so here


Image Credit: Paul Chesterfield, RSPB Images

The sighting of the week goes to the red-breasted merganser, which was seen at the Saltholme Pools hide on Thursday. This diving duck can be found in both salt- and freshwater, although it is more commonly seen in coastal areas. It feeds on fish species, and uses its long, serrated bill to both catch and hold this prey. There are just under 3000 breeding pairs in the UK, but many more visit over the winter months.

Image Credit: Ben Hall, RSPB Images

Another diving duck species spotted this week is the goldeneye. Unlike most ducks, this species usually nests above ground level, close to bodies of water; the ducklings jump (from quite considerable heights) into or close to the water when they are ready to leave the nest! Only around 200 pairs nest in the UK; the birds seen at Saltholme will be winter visitors.  

Speaking of winter visitors, redwing are starting to come into the reserve in large numbers. Named after the tell-tale red patch under their wings, you may well see these birds eating berries in the hedgerows around Saltholme.

Image Credit: Jake Stephen, RSPB Images

Last but certainly not least, we mentioned Soup and Starlings attendees saw hares and a barn owl once dusk descended on Saltholme. Hares are much larger than rabbits, with black-tipped ears and greyer fur. They can run at speeds up to 45 miles per hour! They are most often seen on farmland and open fields (they like the central meadow at Saltholme), where there is plenty of vegetation for them to eat whilst keeping a wary eye out for any predators or approaching humans.

As usual, this is a very small summary of what has been spotted at Saltholme this week. For a better idea of the breadth of wildlife you can see on the reserve, watch Ian Robinson’s video here

See you next week!

References and Additional Reading

BBC (2021). Prehistoric plant found at Saltholme nature reserve [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-tees-56266753 [last accessed 18/11/2021]

Plantlife (2021). Bearded Stonewort [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/discover-wild-plants-nature/plant-fungi-species/bearded-stonewort [last accessed 18/11/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Barn Owl [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/barn-owl/ [last accessed 19/11/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Goldeneye [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/goldeneye/ [last accessed 19/11/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021). Red Breasted Merganser [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/red-breasted-merganser/ [last accessed 19/11/2021]

Scottish Wildlife Trust (2021). Red Breasted Merganser [webpage]. Accessed through https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/species/red-breasted-merganser/ [last accessed 19/11/2021]

The Mammal Society (2021). Species- Brown Hare [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.mammal.org.uk/species-hub/full-species-hub/discover-mammals/species-brown-hare/ [last accessed 19/11/2021]

The Woodland Trust (2021). Redwing [webpage]. Accessed through https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/redwing/ [last accessed 19/11/2021]