The last year has shaped up to be a bumper year for nature in Teesside, with increased breeding of protected birds, and rare aminals spotted for the very first time. 

In Saltholme Nature Reserve, run by the RSPB, breeding rates for Avocets and Lapwings have increased in the last year, and a number of species that are not typically seen in the UK have been spotted by avid twitchers.

The Glossy Ibis, which breeds in southern Europe, and the Lesser Yellowlegs, native to North America, delighted guests at the reserve over summer and early autumn. 

This comes as RSPB Saltholme was awarded a VisitEngland gold award for the third year, an accolade signalling that the reserve is of excellent quality. 

Darlington and Stockton Times: The number of Avocet chicks fledging has increased over the last year. The number of Avocet chicks fledging has increased over the last year. (Image: Lockhart Horsburgh)

Read more: Yorkshire Dales National Park targets priorities for conservation

RSPB Saltholme is an award-winning nature reserve and visitor attraction.  It is situated near the mouth of the River Tees between Billingham and Seaton Carew, at the heart of the beautiful Tees Valley, attracting over 50,000 visitors a year.

In Autumn 2021, the RSPB's expert conservationists installed a 4.5km predator fence, enclosing an area of grassland. This protects ground-nesting birds from predators like foxes and reduces the risk of nests being trampled by cattle.  

The number of Lapwing and Avocet chicks that fledge has increased significantly since the installation of the fence and is now at a level that means the population is increasing. The number of Lapwing chicks fledging has nearly doubled from a year previously. 

Ed Pritchard, Warden at RSPB Saltholme, said: "This is a fantastic result for nature on Teesside. Ground-nesting waders are one of the conservation priorities for the reserve, and so the success of the predator fence this year is encouraging for the future of these species."

These statistics are set against a backdrop of widespread population declines in the UK and internationally. For example, Lapwing is placed on the UK Red List, which indicates the highest possible level of conservation concern, caused by dramatic declines in population sizes. 

As well as these breeding successes, a number of rare birds have been spotted in Saltholme, giving visitors an incredibly special experience. 

The Glossy Ibis and Lesser Yellowlegs were spotted over the Summer and early Autumn months, with a Collared Pratincole (usually only seen as far north as south Europe) stopping by in October, setting records as the first seen in the region.

Chris Francis, Site Manager at RSPB Saltholme, said: "What a year it has been. Winning the VisitEngland Gold Award was the icing on the cake of a fantastic year for nature here on Teesside. We’re looking forward to welcoming lots of new visitors in 2023 and building on the conservation successes so far.

"Now, more than ever, people need nature for their health and well-being and nature has never needed us more.  We look forward to attracting thousands of new visitors over the next year and offering them the warmest of welcomes."