TERRIFIC TERNS @ RSPB SALTHOLME
On Friday I visited RSPB Saltholme which is located just north of Middlesbrough and opened in 2009. Saltholme is a good reserve for seeing Common Terns during Spring and Summer with more than 270 reported on the reserve this year. It is also a good place for seeing rare waders visiting during their migration with birds such as Temminck's Stint and a Squacco Heron being seen on the reserve earlier this year.
Upon arrival the weather was very blustery, blowing the clouds through quickly allowing for some good spells of sunshine. From the visitor centre you can look over the main lake which has a few man made islands in the middle, currently populated by a fair few pairs of Common Terns flying back and forth with fish for their young. To the right of the lake is an artificial wall modified with lots of holes leading to Sand Martin nests.
After a few minutes of watching the Common Terns and Sand Martins I headed towards the first trail, the Dragonfly Path. As the name suggests during the warmer months this is a good place to see Dragonflies and during the winter this is also a good place to see Short Eared Owls. The walk down this trail was very windy with cows grazing to the left of the path and Common Terns regularly flying overhead to catch fish at the Saltholme Pools and taking them back to the nests on the Main Lake and Paddy's Pool.
Near the end of the trail their are a couple of viewpoints overlooking Back Saltholme Pool which were currently populated by several Mute Swans, Coots & Canada Geese. From here the path turns eastward and after a couple of minutes you arrive at the Saltholme Pools Hide which is a semi circle in shape and gives you views of Back Saltholme Pool & West Saltholme Pool. It was from this hide in 2016 that I got my best photos of a Snipe perched on a fence.
Upon arrival I sat down looking out over Back Saltholme Pool which again was awash with Coots & Mute Swans, but in the distance was a pair of Black Swans. Moving round to look at West Saltholme Pool there was a greater variety of birds with a Black Tailed Godwit and Little Egret wading in the shallow water in front of the hide. Over to the left hand side there was a group of 4 Avocets and in amongst them was a lone Little Ringed Plover.
In the distance a pair of Egyptian Goose were sat on an island along with several Canada Geese. After nearly an hour a group of Dunlin flew in and landed amongst the Avocets over on the left. A few minutes later, as it was approaching midday, I decided to head back to the visitor centre for lunch and as I made my way back up the Dragonfly Path another group of Dunlins flew overhead and landed down by the Saltholme Pools Hide.
At the visitor centre the cafe, like Old Moor, is located upstairs and after getting my lunch I went and sat by the window looking out over the main lake. From here I was able to watch the Common Terns & Sand Martins bringing food to their nests, a Moorhen with her chicks and a single Little Grebe diving for food out on the lake. After lunch I headed out on Lake Walk Trail which leads you in a loop round the main lake visiting the Wildlife Watchpoint Hide & Paddy's Pool Hide.
As I was approaching the Wildlife Watchpoint Hide there was a lone Linnet perched on top of a thistle which sadly flew off before I was able to get a photo. Arriving at the Wildlife Watchpoint Hide I went and sat over at the left hand side which looks over two channels cut through the reedbeds. In these channels are several perches used by Kingfishers and Reed Warblers. Earlier in the day a Water Rail had been spotted in these channels, however whilst I was there the only birds I saw were a pair of Reed Warblers and a few Moorhens moving between the reeds and across the channels.
Turning to the water in front of the hide a Mute Swan was preening itself, a few Mallards asleep in the reeds and a Grey Heron at the far side of the water. On the right hand side a trio of Highland Cattle were grazing in the short grass occasionally looking up and staring at the hide. To the right of the hide is small area with feeders enclosed by a fence, grass banking, trees and the right hand wall of the hide. As well as Blue Tits, Great Tits and Tree Sparrows there were several juvenile Greenfinches.
After half an hour I made my way round the main lake to the Paddy's Pool Hide which has recently been refurbished. From here even more Common Terns can be found nesting on a large manmade island making a lot of noise occasionally having to chase off a pair of Lesser Black Backed Gulls trying to take the young Terns. On the banks in front of the hide there was a juvenile Common Tern being guarded by one of its parents. Over on the far right hand side a Little Egret was wading along the pool and in the distance in front of the hide there was a Kestrel hovering above a fence hunting.
In front of the hide a duo of juvenile Little Grebes were diving for food amongst the Terns swooping for food. Then amongst a group of Canada Geese on the far side of the pool I noticed one that looked a little different and then after looking through a pair of binoculars I was able to identify it as a Barnacle Goose. The Barnacle Goose is slightly smaller than a Canada Goose and its main body is more black & white in colour with the neck and head similar in colour apart from its head. The Canada Goose has just a small white stripe on the head whereas the Barnacle Goose has an almost completely white head.
After a while I left the hide and made my way back to the visitor centre with Terns flying over and round me on their way back to the nest with fish in their mouths. Before returning to the car I went to the final hide, the Phil Stead Hide, which is located just north of the car park. Unfortunately the water in front of the hide was fairly quiet. A few mallards and a lone juvenile Shelduck were sleeping about 50 yards away, a lone Grey Heron at the back of the pond, Sand Martins catching insects over the water and a lone Starling perching on the top of a thick fence post.
I have attached my full sightings list as well as my best pictures from my visit.