This week has been Energy Saving Week, celebrating and promoting ways in which people can reduce their energy consumption, thereby carbon dioxide emissions.

Currently, carbon dioxide emissions are much, much higher than they should be. This is leading to climate change and global warming, which is in turn affecting ecosystems and the wildlife that lives there.

Before diving into what has been happening on the reserve this week, we thought we would tell you a little bit about what Saltholme is doing to reduce its energy consumption…

A new installation:

Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

You may think of global warming and climate change as something happening elsewhere, but this is not the case. The UK will experience more severe weather events (remember Storm Arwen?), flooding, wetter winters, and environmental degradation (for more information, follow this link and this link). Reducing our carbon dioxide emissions is critical to preventing the worst-case scenario (see national geographic).

This is why Saltholme has just installed an air source heat pump!

An air source heat pump basically works like a refrigerator in reverse. It takes heat stored in the air (yes, even UK winter air contains a lot of heat energy believe it or not) and converts it into a form that can be used to heat buildings. The air is passed over a heat exchanger coil, which extracts the heat energy from this air. The heat is then used to warm up a coolant, which is then compressed. The compression increases the temperature of this coolant even more, and so this is what is then used to heat the building. A good explanation of how air source heat pumps work can be found here.

So why is this better than a conventional boiler? Well, the air source heat pump systems uses much smaller amounts of electricity to run than a traditional gas- or oil-fired heating system. This has two benefits for the environment:

  • It reduces the direct use of coal, oil and natural gas. All these release carbon dioxide when burned.
  • As the air source heat pump is more efficient than traditional boilers, less electricity is used to run it. This means less carbon dioxide is released from power stations. If the electricity comes from renewable sources such as wind power, the carbon dioxide emissions are minimal.

As Saltholme, the air source heat pump will replace the two biomass boilers that were installed when the visitor centre first opened. Whilst these boilers are ‘greener’ than gas- or oil-fired systems, the air source heat pump will be far more efficient and so will reduce our carbon dioxide emissions even more.

News from the Estate

This week has been all about preparing for spring, and the arrival of breeding birds. It seems strange to be thinking of this in January, but it means that we and the birds can (not literally) hit the ground running when the warmer months return.

Around the wet grassland area of the reserve, you may have noticed that the trees and bushes look shorter. This is because the estates team have been busy reducing the height of these plants. This makes this scrubland less effective as a surveillance post for avian predators such as kestrel, merlin, marsh harrier, peregrine falcon and buzzard. This will make it a little harder for these birds to find- and eat- the nests and chicks of wader species, thereby boosting breeding success.

But don’t feel too bad for these avian predators! As with most species, these birds have a variety of food sources. So, despite chick not being on the menu as much, our actions will not cause them to go hungry.

What’s On

We’re getting ready for our ‘Little Birders- Family Taster’ event this Sunday. This event will be a fun and informative session for all ages. The kids can run off some steam with educational games that will help them identify bird species they may see at home or around the reserve. Adults will have the opportunity to have a chat with our wonderful optics team about finding the right binoculars for themselves and their children.  

This event ties into the upcoming Big Garden Birdwatch, which launches on 28 January. This event is a citizen science project that everyone can get involved in! Simply put aside an hour of your day on 28, 29 or 30 January to see how many birds you can spot. This could be in your garden, from your window, or one of your favourite local spots. The RSPB has loads of helpful identification guides, so it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your local wildlife too!

Recent Sightings

Image Credit: Lockhart Horsburgh

One of our hide guides took a fantastic picture of kleptoparasitism between black-headed gulls and goldeneye ducks . Kleptoparasitism is a behaviour in which the ‘parasite’ species (in this case, the black-headed gull) doesn’t forage for food itself, but steals food from another species that has done all the hard work of finding and gathering it (the goldeneye)! If you were to translate ‘kleptoparasitism’, it would literally mean ‘parasitism by theft’.

Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

On Wednesday, some of our volunteers were treated to spectacular views of a fox and four roe deer from our Philstead Hide. Whilst neither of these species are particularly uncommon, they are not often seen and so are very special sightings!

Image Credit: Ben Andrew, RSPB Images

Some of the species mentioned in our last blog post clearly liked the attention and have decided to hang around a little longer- our water rail has been parading around the Wildlife Watchpoint hide, and the visiting short-eared owl was spotted at various points around the reserve.

For a round-up of the species seen recently on the reserve, watch this video, taken by one of our hide guides Ian Robinson.

Of course, it is often the rare or unusual sightings that are highlighted in this blog. But resident and ‘common’ species are just as important to the health and story of Saltholme. So, we’re finishing the blog post this week with a fantastic picture, taken by our volunteer Lockhart Horsburgh, of a grey heron

See you next week!

Image Credit: Lockhart Horsburgh

References and Additional Reading

British Deer Society (2022). Roe Deer [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

British Gas (2022). What are air source heat pumps and how to do they work? [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 14/01/2022].

Greenmatch (2022). How do air source heat pumps work? [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 14/01/2022].

Met Office (2022). Climate change in the UK [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 14/01/2022].

National Geographic (2022). Climate Change [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 14/01/2022].

National Geographic (2022). Global Warming [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 14/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Big Garden Birdwatch [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Black-headed gull [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Goldeneye [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Grey Heron [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Short-eared owl [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2022). Water rail [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

The Woodland Trust (2022). Fox [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 20/01/2022].

Which? (2022). Air source heat pumps explained [webpage]. Accessed through [last accessed 14/01/2022].