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Page last updated at 14:05 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 15:05 UK
RSPB Saltholme Wild Bird Reserve
RSPB saltholme
The RSPB says Saltholme had 10,000 visitors in its first six weeks

On March 6, 2009, the RSPB opened the Saltholme Wild Bird Discovery Centre on the north bank of the Tees Estuary.

Sited on valuable wetlands, bordered by chemical works and heavy industry, the thousand acre reserve is one of the most important nesting sites in the country.

The reserve and visitors' centre cost £7m to create. It employs 22 people and has an annual maintenance budget of £40,000.

Though built in a year, the reserve had been ten years in the planning.

Wild Bird Discovery Centre
Opening day at RSPB Saltholme.

The Wild Bird Discovery Centre incorporates a cafe, shops, meeting rooms and screens showing live footage from cameras set up in areas of specific interest around the site.

It also has a glass wall on its south face and a rammed earth wall inside, to maximise use of heat from the sun.

Other eco-features include natural ventilation, biomass heating, rainwater collection and a reed bed sewage system.

The birds of Saltholme

Terns and gulls tend to their chicks

A special south facing bank has been built to attract sand martins, while an island has been built, topped with crushed oyster shells to act as a kind of natural electric blanket for nesting birds.

Bittern, marsh harrier, bearded tit and avocet could all be regular nesting birds at Saltholme before long.

The same habitats will also encourage more familiar and much loved wildlife, such as kingfishers, mute swans, grey herons, butterflies, water voles, dragonflies and wild flowers.


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