Welcome to this new series of blog posts! We'll be checking in each week with a blog post to keep you up-to-date on what is happening on the reserve. 

At Saltholme, there is always something going on. The last two weeks have been no different- as summer draws to a close, the dragonflies have been making the most of the remaining sunshine. Species that use the reserve in the warmer months, such as terns, are leaving to make room for winter migrants such as geese.

This time of transition means smaller, less easy-to-spot species can be seen from our hides. It also gives the team at Saltholme an opportunity to prepare for the winter season. Read on to find out about this week’s work and reserve sightings.

News from the Estate:

If you look over the Main Lake from the visitor centre, you’ll notice some changes; the Estates Team overcame mud, lost wellies and driving winds to weed the Tern Islands in preparation for next breeding season.

 Image of volunteers working on Saltholme's main lake

Our Estates Team preparing to make their way over to the Tern Islands on Thursday. The island to the left of the picture was weeded that morning, and you can see the difference they have made!

The Estates Team have also been doing some maintenance on our ever-popular Welly Splash in the Discovery Zone; the Welly Splash is now cleaned, filled with water again and ready for use!

Visitors to Dorman's Pool may notice some vegetation has been removed from around the top carpark. This prevents pollinator-friendly species from being crowded out by larger, faster-growing plants such as brambles. This work will mean more habitat for a variety of butterfly species.

Last but not least, the footpath leading from the visitor centre to the Wildlife Watchpoint has been resurfaced. The watchpoint was reopened on 30 September, and we’re very pleased with the results…

 New footpath by hide

The newly-resurfaced footpath leading from the visitor centre to the Wildlife Watchpoint, on the way to Haverton Pools. The work took 3 days to complete, but should last for years.


A bittern has been flying between Haverton Hole Pools and the Wildlife Watchpoint this week. Bitterns are usually reclusive and therefore hard to spot. But if you have seen it or have a picture, please let us know.

 Bittern in reeds

Image credit: Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)

Whilst it may be hard to see bitterns (they often stay out of sight in long reeds), they make a characteristic ‘Booming’ sound that alerts you to their presence. You can listen to a recording of a bittern call at https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/bittern/

A spoonbill has been spotted from the Saltholme Pools hide. This is most likely a winter visitor, coming to Saltholme for the ready supply of fish and aquatic invertebrates. Spoonbills are in the same family as herons and egrets, both of which are regular visitors to the reserve.

 Spoonbill profile

Image Credit: Les Bunyan (rspb-images.com)

Spoonbills do not have a call as such. But, given their large size and unusual bill shape, they are quite easy to spot. You can find out more at https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/spoonbill/

Barnacle, greylag, pink-footed and canada geese are starting to make an appearance. They’re mainly centred around the main lake and at Paddy’s Pool Hide.

 Flock of geese flying

Image Credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

 Did you know there are two distinct populations of greylag geese in the UK? One population remains in the UK and Ireland throughout the year, whereas the other migrates to Iceland during the summer. The individuals seen at Saltholme are ‘feral’ and so do not travel long distances between seasons. 

References and Further Reading:

British Trust for Ornithology (2021) Greylag Goose Populations [webpage], accessed through https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/wetland-bird-survey/publications/webs-annual-report/numbers-trends/methods/analysis-and-presentation/spatial-allocation/53 [last accessed 24/09/2021]

Norfolk Wildlife Trust (2021) Wildlife in Norfolk- Spoonbill [webpage], accessed through https://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife-in-norfolk/species-explorer/birds/spoonbill [last accessed 24/09/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021) Bittern [webpage], accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/bittern/ [last accessed 24/09/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021) Case Studies- Bittern [webpage], accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/safeguarding-species/case-studies/bittern/ [last accessed 24/09/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021) Greylag Goose [webpage], accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/greylag-goose/ [last accessed 24/09/2021]

Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (2021) Spoonbill [webpage], accessed through https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/spoonbill/ [last accessed 24/09/2021]

The Wildlife Trusts (2021) Bittern [webpage], accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/herons-egrets-and-spoonbill/bittern [last accessed 24/09/2021]

The Wildlife Trusts (2021) European Spoonbill [webpage], accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/herons-egrets-and-spoonbill/european-spoonbill [last accessed 24/09/2021]

The Wildlife Trusts (2021) Greylag Goose [webpage], accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/birds/waterfowl/greylag-goose [last accessed 24/09/2021]

The Wildlife Trusts (2021) Where to see spoonbills [webpage], accessed through https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/where_to_see_a_spoonbill [last accessed 24/09/2021]