COACH TRIP TO SALTHOLME RSPB 14 OCTOBER 2012

About 30 members were up early for our first coach trip of the season – in a brand new vehicle with excellent visibility on both sides. It was good to see several new members joining us for our second visit to Saltholme.

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Travelling across the Pennines, the sun came up, large and orange, with wraith-like wisps of mist across the sun and hillside; it was reminiscent of Japanese paintings, ethereal and heralding a fine day.

On the approach to Saltholme we had to detour as the Transporter bridge was closed for bungee jumping. There were no takers from the coach! Saltholme is set against an industrial landscape, both old and derelict and new modern buildings.

Arriving at the reserve we were given a very warm welcome and short orientation talk, and then we split up into various groups heading out in different directions to the hides.

Some of the ladies stayed, viewing the feeding station from the comfort of the visitor centre.
This was easy birding with the usual mixture of tits and finches on the feeders plus Starlings and a lone Siskin.

As there were a good dozen Goldfinches present, Margaret A took the opportunity to illustrate the difference between the sexes. In the male, the red face mask extends beyond the eyes; in the female the red face mask does not continue above or behind the eyes. We spent an interesting ten minutes or so as a group sexing the Goldfinches as they came to the feeders.

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Since we were last here a new hide – the Phil Stead hide - had been built across the car park overlooking an area favoured by Snipe. They did not disappoint and once we had got our eye in at least seven were spotted feeding up, snoozing, or flying across from tussock to tussock.

We sauntered along to the main hide overlooking the two main pools ignoring the build up of black clouds and were caught out in a short sharp shower. There was a good variety of waterfowl on both pools, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Gadwall and Tufted Duck, with a solitary Redshank feeding on the margins. Four Little Egrets were spotted. Two ducks proved difficult to identify as they were still in eclipse plumage, until a male Pintail joined them in full breeding plumage, and we realised they were two comparatively drab females. Four Black-tailed Godwits flew in and landed very close giving great views. Two Little Grebes swam around close to the shore, diving whenever a camera was pointed in their direction. There were plenty of Curlews feeding on the grassy banks on the far side and they flew across the pools from side to side constantly during the afternoon, again giving excellent sightings. There were volunteers present in every hide and they were most helpful in identifying the birds and generous with the use of their scopes, as were the local birders.

Paddy’s Pool was our next stop and we added Pochard and Mallard to our ever increasing list. There were two groups of geese almost facing one another, a group of 8 Barnacle and a larger group of Canada Geese. This was an ideal opportunity to compare and contrast the two species. Suddenly all the smaller waders took flight and the sight of about 300 Golden Plover wheeling around in the sunshine, shimmering and silvery, was marvellous.

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Our final stop was at the Wildlife Watchpoint hide. Initially we were disappointed as there was nothing on the water and the margins were empty of waders. And then we realised the reason for this; there was a female Sparrowhawk perched on a post just a few yards from the hide on sentry duty! We watched for several minutes until she flew low over the water and away much to the relief of this hare.

All too soon it was turned 4pm and time to start our homewards journey after a most satisfying day. The welcome and friendliness we received at Saltholme was outstanding and we look forward to our next visit there in a year or so. Our tally for the day was 54, not large, but all seen really well.

Many thanks to Steve for so ably standing in as leader and to Liz M for the photographs.

BARBARA

Note from Website Administrator I make no apologies for including Liz's excellent photograph of the Hare but I do apologise to Chris S for the absence of his photograph of the female Kestrel. It can be seen in the November Newsletter but unfortunately it was not available to Barbara when she prepared the trip report.

Here is Chris's photo below

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