Highlights of a Bird-free Bird Reserve

RSPB Saltholme.

We had to go to Middlesbrough for an appointment the other day, so we thought we’d stay and explore.

Middlesbrough is what’s known as a ‘post-industrial town’.  Once, its steel and other heavy industry and its port brought wealth (to some), employment, and attendant grime and looming industrial architecture.  Now, it’s reliant on newer technologies, engineering and the presence of  the university developed in the 1990s from the older Polytechnic.

But its landscape is still an industrial one, as is that of the surrounding towns: Billingham, Stockton, Redcar.  Could it be true that the RSPB had developed a Nature Reserve here, on its outskirts?

It could.  RSPB Saltholme.  Though it was hard to believe, as we navigated along roads edged by towering chimneys, great metal hangars, clattering unseen machinery.

But in the end, there it was, among the industrial flatlands – wetlands actually, punctuated by shallow lakes and pools.  We’d arrived.

Light-providing pylons stride purposefully across the landscape behind the reserve.

But the birds had left.  How silly of us not to remember.  At our local nature reserve, Nosterfield, the birds regularly knock off at lunchtime, only reappearing towards dusk.  Who knows where they go?

Sunlight plays across the bird-free water. There’s the Tees Transporter Bridge dominating the skyline.

Never mind.  We enjoyed a peaceful walk.  We got a moment of drama when flocks of birds DID appear, swirling and swooping above the lake.  It was quite likely that they were taking evasive action from a resident peregrine falcon hunting for a meal.  Drama over, they disappeared once more.

We enjoyed our time in this peaceful oasis.  We explored trails that ended in well-equipped hides.

Sky-light, lake-light from the hides.

We studied noticeboards with information about what better-informed visitors had spotted that very day.  We passed fields with the inevitable large numbers of greylag  geese. And towards the end, we were rewarded with just a few sightings: some shelducks feeding; a shoveler or two;  a few swans and a very distant heron.

But we enjoyed our afternoon. A near-empty wetland, with its unusual backdrop of an industrial past and present, and the never-out-of-sight Tees Transporter Bridge made for a fine afternoon’s walking … and there was even a café.

Camera-shy shelducks.

This multi-tasking post is for Six Word Saturday, January Light (January Squares), and Jo’s Monday Walk.

36 thoughts on “Highlights of a Bird-free Bird Reserve”

  1. I remember accompanying my dad to the Redcar races once (early 1970s) and afterwards we went into a pub where I was not allowed in the bar so we had to sit in the lounge! As a young woman I was quite outraged at the outdated sexist rules! But you did good with finding this reserve in an unexpected location. I am now going to read up about that extraordinary bridge which appears to be stuck up in the air!

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  2. I rarely have success with bird reserves and now I know why – I generally arrive around the middle of the day. I love the juxtaposition of nature and industry here. It reminds me of Dungeness RSPB which of course, nestles in the lea of the power station. Sounds like a very successful walk regardless of the birdlife. Love the camera shy shelducks!

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    1. early mornings and evenings are always best time to go, but lunchtimes can be good depending on the tides! If you arrive at the right time on a falling tide then time of day is less important, and likewise on a high tide if the reserve has places for roosting

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  3. I always enjoy walking around bird reserves…you never know what you may find, and even if the wildlife is in hiding, there is always the joy of the walk. It’s lovely to have a ‘wild’ area in an industrial landscape…I wonder, in time, will it all just get taken over with greenery!

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    1. It’ll take a while, I think. This area is still economically active. Yes, I enjoy a walk that combines industry and nature too … but this one’s a dog-free zone, unless you could pretend to be visually impaired.

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  4. Looks like the RSPB are ahead of the game, quietly and sympathetically rewilding one industrial site by one industrial site at a time. Perhaps, and hopefully, reclaimed corridors crisscrossing the country may develop.

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