On Saturday 11th November, 35 members journeyed to the RSPB reserve at Saltholme in
Middlesbrough. This was the first time that the Society had organised a trip to Saltholme, it being a fairly new reserve. The work to develop what was once derelict land into fabulous wildlife habitats only started in 2006.
The reserve lies in an area of heavy industry with the iconic Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge
standing out against this backdrop. It is very difficult to believe that within such a place wildlife is now flourishing.
The impressive Visitor Centre was our first port of call and from its panoramic windows looking out over The Lake we saw a number of ducks including Teal, Mallard and Shoveler. A Little Grebe amused us as it continually dived under the water and then popped up elsewhere. On the feeders, only a few feet away, we observed Tree Sparrows amongst the more common species.
On walking around the reserve and spending time in the hides, Wigeon, Barnacle Geese, Gadwall, and hundreds of Coot were seen. Other bird species included beautifully marked male Pintails and small flocks of wintering Golden Plovers. The latter sometimes caught the sun’s rays and appeared to be bird-shaped gold nuggets. Amongst several other species of wading birds, Black-tailed Godwits were using their long bills to probe the mud for worms and small crustaceans. A colourful male Stonechat was showing off by perching at the very top of small bushes and on fence posts. It cheekily posed for the photographers amongst us to click away and get some pretty good shots.
A single Whooper Swan was seen, which presumably had become separated from its family
members on making the journey from Iceland to the UK and a lonesome Gannet, flying in the
distance, reminded us that we weren’t very far from the sea. In a large expanse of open grassland a Brown Hare with its distinctive large ears was spotted and a Weasel scuttled across the path.
Given the time of year, we didn’t expect to see many wild flowers, but nevertheless Yarrow, Mellilot, Pineapple mayweed and Cowslip were amongst those recorded. Some individual members were fortunate to see the dazzling blue and orange colours of a Kingfisher and a Water Pipit was photographed, this shy and secretive bird being a rare winter
visitor to the UK.
As the light started to fade flocks of Starlings were observed flying in “mini-murmurations”, but as we sadly had to board the coach for our return journey we did not find out if they did came together to create a spectacular show of synchronised twisting and turning in total harmony.
The industrial landscape of Middlesbrough had indeed provided us with a wonderful day’s wildlife watching!