Posted by: mynaturaldiary | June 22, 2009

High Summer

After the excitment of the Farne Islands, it’s back to the birds at the RSPB reserve at Saltholme.

At this time of year the breeding cycle is at its climax, with chicks hatching and fledging. We get close to 18 hours daylight at this latitude, which is useful if you’re a bird who needs to catch those extra fish, flies or other fancies to feed the youngsters. At Paddy’s Pool, the action is centered on the island, occupied by Black Headed Gull and Common Tern nests.

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Young Black Headed Gull chicks run over the island, and some are very large for their fluffy down suits.

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Meanwhile one parent takes a break from nesting and hunting on the pool’s surface.

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and another flies in the shadow of the Transporter Bridge.

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Black headed gull (Larus ridibundus)

Common Terns are everywhere.

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Some are successful in hunting and catching the fish in the pool.

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Others seem to congregate on the water for a squabble.

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Still more circle around the island.

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Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Their chicks haven’t hatched yet. One last image of a Common Tern, resting on Teesside’s very own (almost) Torii

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At Saltholme Pool hide, in the far distance and (alas) out of camera range, I saw a Little Tern (Sternula albifrons). Its smaller size and white patch on the typical black cap that terns have helped with its identification, compared to the Common Terns close by it. If one gets closer next time I visit, I’ll photo!

A pair of Mute Swans did a wonderful display of sequentially raising, then dipping their necks in turn, in a pair bonding ritual.

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Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

Geese were noticably down in numbers this visit. Here’s a picture of a pair of Greylag Geese, with no chicks in tow.

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Greylag goose (Anser anser)

All around the Saltholme site this time of the year, you can hear the exultation of Skylarks. These are difficult birds to spot, often no more than points in the sky, but I managed to see one descend in the distance. Here’s some pictures (poorly lit!) before he was hidden in the long grass after landing.

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Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

You can just see his open beak, as he trills out his haunting song before landing. Hiding in the long grass was a Yellow Wagtail.

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Yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava)

The yellow front is quite striking when seen against a muddy background, but in this grass, it’s difficult to spot.

In the sky is another summer visitor – perhaps nest building with a feather in his bill?

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Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

I also saw a Meadow Pipet at long distance, close to some Gadwall.

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Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis)

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Gadwall (Anas strepera)

On the same mud flats, a Little Ringed Plover appeared. The yellow eye ring is faintly seen in these photos, but was clearer in the spotting scope (33x!) I take with me (Note to self – start digiscoping).

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Little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius)

Grey Heron were across the whole site, stalking fish.

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Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

The Heron with the damaged wing reported a few posts ago has died 😦

On the water, there were great displays from Little Grebes and Great Crested Grebes.

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Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

These little fellows are hard to spot as they sem to spend more time under water than they do on the surface, and often resurface some distance from where they dived.

Great Crested Grebes are unmistakable.

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Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

Oystercatchers were also much in evidence at both hides. Here’s one flying across the island at Paddy’s Pool, showing off his red beak and white stripes down his wings. You can see the gull chicks in the background at the start.

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Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)

Finally, a Lapwing passed close by the Saltholme pool hide, which allowed a good view of his green/blue plumage.

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Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Thankyou very much for getting so close so we could all see you so well!


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