Trip reports

Field trip to Saltholme

Field trip to Saltholme
Merlin by Paul Barrett

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Our first field trip for two years, saw us taking a coach to Teeside in order to spend the day at the Saltholme RSPB Reserve.
Stepping off the coach, we were greeted by a flock of redwing, winter visitors, and as we learnt from a recent talk by Linda Jenkinson, can often be heard passing overhead on starlit winter nights. After taking refreshments in the cafe to set us up for the cold, cloudy weather outside, we set off in various directions, following different trails around the reserve, but frequently meeting up with other groups along the way. We began by taking the the lake walk, passing the discovery zone for children before stopping at the Wildlife watchpoint. Continuing along part of the Kestrel trail we circled the meadow, and identified cormorants, Canada geese and greylag geese flying overhead. Turning onto the wildflower walk, we made our next stop at Haverton Hole pools, where the viewpoint is a great place to look for bitterns (if you're lucky!). We did however have good views of a marsh harrier and wintering wildfowl including shoveler, teal, shelduck, gadwall and pochard as well as the often overlooked mallard, coot and moorhen.
From this viewpoint we decide to follow the Wilderness trail, which although way marked, is off the beaten track. The literature provided by the reserve suggests robust footwear, and a sense of adventure, being not for the faint-hearted. The information proved to be well-advised when towards the end of the trail we had to negotiate a bog, rather unsuccessfully as it turned out and arrived back at the visitor centre with wet socks and boots. We were not downcast however, as the trail had proved to be very rewarding, with sightings of roe deer, hare, kestrel and stonechat, the latter giving a fine display as it perched on top of a bush and constantly flitted up and down to catch insects.
Reinvigorated after lunch in the Visitor Centre, there was still time to follow the Dragonfly path down to the Saltholme pools hide. Here we were excited to identify a merlin, our smallest raptor, barely larger than a thrush, sitting on a prominent post in a field alongside the path. The pools here having been instated in 2019, have brought in hoards of hawkers and dragonflies, which in turn have brought in the merlin and short-eared owls. Flocks of barnacle geese were feeding in the fields and from the Saltholme pools hide, numerous wigeon could be seen on the West pool.
On returning again to the centre via Paddy's pool hide, we again had an excellent sighting of a male stonechat. A hare made a mad dash along the path as we left the centre to spend our last few minutes in the Phil Stead hide, where beautiful bar-tailed godwits were paddling and snipe could just be seen, camouflaged by the grass alongside the water.
Our final foray was a short coach ride to see the seals, which bask on the banks of Greatham Creek. An exciting end to a very successful outing with a total of 50 different species of birds seen.
Redwing, magpie, mallard, little grebe, goldfinch, great tit, gadwall, pochard, lapwing, coot, moorhen, mute swan, redshank, cormorant, greylag goose, Canada goose, teal, shoveler, goldfinch, crow, jackdaw, marsh harrier, grey heron, shelduck, great white egret, little egret, kestrel, wood pigeon, stonechat, blue tit, stock dove, tree sparrow, coal tit, greenfinch, black headed gull, tufted duck, merlin, Brent goose, reed bunting, curlew, greater black backed gull, starling, wigeon, barnacle goose, wren, common tern, bar tailed godwit, snipe, oystercatcher, turnstone.