LAST GASP STONECHAT @ RSPB SALTHOLME
On Monday I visited RSPB Saltholme, situated just north of Middlesbrough. The reserve opened in 2009 and currently has five hides and trails for you to explore. It was a sunny but windy day when I arrived at Saltholme and after a quick trip to the visitor centre I headed south on the Lake Walk Trail which is a circular walk around the main lake by the visitor centre. After about 100 yards the path splits in two with the right hand fork continuing the Lake Walk Trail and the left, which I now took, is the start of the Dragonfly Path which leads you down to the Saltholme Pools Hide.
As I walked towards the hide a flock of Golden Plovers rose up from the grasslands and were swirling round before landing close to the waters edge. Upon my arrival at the Saltholme Pools Hide I sat down and looked out over Back Saltholme Pool and there was just a lone Mute Swan on the water with most of the birds on the grass at the other side of the pool. At the far side on the water's edge a lone Redshank was slowly making its way along from right to left looking for food.
Behind it on the grass there were several Wigeon, Teals, Lapwings and further back a group of about a dozen Curlews were probing the ground for food using their long curved beaks. Just before I moved round to look at the West Saltholme Pool an Oystercatcher flew towards the hide and disappeared over the hide heading for Paddy's Pool. On the West Saltholme Pool the water just in front of the hide was still frozen, meaning that most of the birds were quite a distance out from the hide.
There were more Wigeons in the water and on the grass just to the left of the pool with a group of about twenty-five Golden Plovers amongst them. It was now approaching midday so I made my way back to the visitor centre and visited the cafe for lunch, taking a quick look at the feeders which were currently being visited by Goldfinches, Starlings, Greenfinches, Tree Sparrows and Stock Doves. After lunch I headed back out on the Lake Walk Trail, but this time I went north and headed for the Wildlife Watchpoint Hide which looks out over an area of reedbeds.
The water to the left of the hide was frozen and consequently empty, however this is usually a good spot to see Water Rails & Kingfishers. On the small area of water in front of the hide a few Coots, Mallards and Shovelers were present and over to the right the feeders were busy with Blue Tits, Goldfinches, Dunnocks and Robins. From here I continued round the Lake Walk to its south west corner before I made another detour onto the Kestrel Trail heading towards the Haverton Viewpoint.
As I reached the south western corner of the trail I spotted a Meadow Pipit sat on a fence post about fifty yards away and as I approached it flew off and landed by the bottom of a fence and disappeared into the grass. I now turned south west onto the Wildflower Walk, dodging a few sheep as they grazed at the edge of the path. As I reached the point where the walk turns northwards I continued on towards the Allotment Pool as there had been Long Eared Owls sighted in the previous days. Sadly after a good look for the Long Eared Owls I was not successful and I returned to the Wildflower Walk.
I now reached the Haverton Viewpoint which looks out over the Haverton Hole pools and reedbeds. Looking down at the water in front of the viewpoint I could see about a hundred Coots spread right across the water with a lone Great Crested Grebe amongst them. On the grass banks at the far side were several Wigeon and Canada Geese spread right along the length of the water. I now headed back along the Wildflower Walk and then Kestrel Trail returning to the Lake Walk and continuing on to the Paddy's Pool Hide. The water in front of the hide was very quiet but the reason for this was that at the back right of the water there was a Peregrine Falcon was sat at the water's edge.
I now made my way back to the visitor centre, but before I arrived I spotted a Stonechat perched on the top of a wooden post and as I walked along it made its way from post to post with visits to the ground in between. As I turned towards the visitor centre it flew overhead and landed in the tall grass and was soon joined by a Reed Bunting. Before I headed back to the car I made a visit to the Phil Stead Hide which is located next to the car park north east of the visitor centre.
On the water just in front were Shelduck, Mallards, Shovelers, Coots, Mute Swans and a single Little Grebe. On the far side, just beyond the edge of the water at the other side of a fence, a lone Fox was trotting along. There is another hide called Dorman's and it looks out over Dorman's Pool, which I did not have time to visit. I have attached a full sightings list and a few photos from my visit to RSPB Saltholme.