He took us to RSPB Saltholme after reading about it in my Birdwatching magazine. The weather on the way was changeable to say the least, we even went through some incredibly thick fog that stopped dead along the road and had bright sky and sun at the other side. Luckily the sun was still shining when we got to the reserve.
We were a little early but parked up in the car park and watched Sand Martins fly over along with my first Swift of the year - there was only one though. In the trees were Goldfinch, Blue/Great Tits, Tree Sparrows, a Reed Bunting, in fact birds pretty much everywhere and we were barely out of the car.
Once the visitor centre opened we went in to get a map, we spoke to one of the members of staff who was very helpful and pointed out all the trails and said what had been seen recently. Whilst we were chatting my daughter was taking photos of the birds out on the feeders and the edge of the lake.
We decided to start off walking around the lake and came across a charming Alice in Wonderland setting and a water play area. There are lots of dipping ponds too, a Little Grebe and Pochard were on these as we walked up.
There is a Wildlife Watchpoint hide and we spent a little time in here watching a few sleeping ducks - Gadwall, Mallard and a distant Heron. As we walked on we took a look at the reserve from the Jubilee viewpoint, which has a compass display with information on about what you could see. The area is industrial and the reserve (and a lot of the surrounding areas) are a great oasis for wildlife.
Along the path there were quite a few snails, we had to watch where we were stepping. There were cows grazing, they whole herd stopped briefly to look at us but soon decided we weren't interesting (thankfully)!
They were all over the reserve
Whilst checking out a couple of Redshank on a small pool a Kestral started hunting the banking behind us by the Haverton Hole pools, it made a half-hearted attempt at diving and it paid no mind to us at all.
On the pools we saw Black-headed Gull, Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Heron plus the usual - Mallard, Coot, Moorhen.
Walking on towards the allotment pools the paths were muddy but passable, Chiffchaff, Dunnock and Robin were singing in the scrub, Sedge Warblers in the reeds and on the path in front of us a Peacock butterfly. Lots of insects on the flowers too. As we got to the end of the pool a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling, only the second time i've heard one. I got a glimpse of a small brown bird flying in the reeds but it was too quick to tell if that was it.
We took a look at the sheep with their lambs in the fields by the lake. A couple of Small Tortoiseshell were flying around here. We were going to have a look out of the Saltholme Pools hide but the gate to it was shut as some of the cows had got out of a field, they were new to the reserve and the staff were unsure of their temperament so they wanted to round them up. We decided to go eat instead.
My daughter had spotted these flies on a very large cow pat when she stopped to tie her shoelace and when I looked them up the name was pretty much spot on - Yellow Dung Fly - I don't recall seeing them before.
She also spotted a few caterpillars along the paths including this one, which i've yet to ID.
After a picnic in the sun we went back in the visitor centre and out to look at the walled garden and let my daughter have a while in the park - who can resist a swing! They are selling second hand books in the visitor centre, some nature related but a lot of fiction too. I couldn't help but pick up a couple of old books, they may be a little outdated but I can happily look through them for hours! One of the books was a Birding in Yorkshire from 1978, it's interesting to see how the birds at the sites have changed over the years.
Lastly we checked out the Phil Stead hide in the car park, here we saw our first Little Egrets on the reserve, we'd seen a couple road side as we'd been driving earlier in the day. A couple of Avocet were here too plus Gadwall and Teal.
We all really enjoyed it here and are already planning to come back later in the year to see what else it brings.
There is a viewpoint for seals about a mile from the reserve but there is a lot of flood plain construction happening so the parking is not the best but possible with care and the seals can still be viewed from the bridge, we got there around 3ish and at first didn't spot them. In fact I saw three lumps and thought 'they're big sand bags' it wasn't until I heard a weird noise that I realised all the seals were right there in front of us, the three by the bridge then another 30 plus in the distance on the banks and in the water!
There was yet another viewing spot on the guide from the reserve - separate to the reserve itself called Dorman's Pool, we found it easily and followed a path up to the hide. In the scrub at one side of the path Linnets and a well hidden but noisy Sedge Warbler. To the other side in the fields that run alongside the pool our first chicks of the year - three families of Greylag Geese!
From the hide itself we had distant view of various Gulls - Black-headed, Common, Herring, Greater Black-backed and an Oystercatcher too. We didn't linger as the sign on the hide said it was locked at 3.30 and we weren't far off that now. In a field nearby we saw Curlew and Little Egret.
Another good day out!