• Willow coppicing and pollarding at Greylake

    This blog is written by Jake - residential volunteer at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Swell Wood and Greylake. 

    If you’ve been to Greylake recently, you might’ve noticed that we’ve been cutting back some of the willow.

    The technique where select trees are cut back to their base (or stool) is known as coppicing and helps to create a diverse habitat for the benefit of wildlife. Look out for the newly coppiced passage…

    • 26 Nov 2021
  • Autumn arrives at West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Swell Wood

    This blog is written by Jake - residential volunteer at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Swell Wood and Greylake. 

    As the water levels rise, the landscape at West Sedgemoor is changing. Although most of the month was largely dry and sunny, a clutch of torrential days made October rather wet and the fields are now reflective sheets of water, the perfect habitat for the wintering wildfowl and waders that have already started to arrive…

    • 12 Nov 2021
  • A new face at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Swell Wood and Greylake

    This blog is written by Jake - residential volunteer at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Swell Wood and Greylake. 

    Hello everyone! I’m Jake, the new residential volunteer at West Sedgemoor, Swell Wood and Greylake reserves. I’ll be spending the next six months here and look forward to sharing some of my experiences with you.

    As I approached West Sedgemoor last week, my eyes were drawn upwards to a tall, grand monument…

    • 5 Nov 2021
  • From West Sedgemoor to Saudi Arabia

    This blog was written by James Conder practical volunteer at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Swell Wood

    From West Sedgemoor to Saudi Arabia

    Marsh harrier 

    The first bird I saw at Al Asfar Lake was a Western yellow wagtail. Then it was a Western marsh harrier. And then a little egret. Then I heard piggy squeal of a water rail. I could have fooled myself I was still at RSPB Greylake were it not for the view – a vast…

    • 15 Oct 2021
  • Swell Wood’s New Residents

    This blog was written by James Conder practical volunteer at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Swell Wood

    If you’ve visited RPSB Swell Wood’s heronry recently, you may have noticed some new residents. Now the grey herons and little egrets have largely made their nests, laid their eggs, raised their chicks and moved on with life, in their wake some close relatives have moved in and started their own breeding…

    • 5 Aug 2021
  • Chough, Golden Pheasant, Collared Pratincole and other improbable sightings at RSPB West Sedgemoor

    This blog was written by James Conder practical volunteer at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Swell Wood

    Chough, Golden Pheasant, Collared Pratincole and other improbable sightings at RSPB West Sedgemoor

    That got your attention, didn’t it? Before you grab your binoculars and dash for the door, do hold on and read further. As you will discover, we haven’t actually received a windfall of exotic and unlikely species.…

    • 30 Jul 2021
  • Hello from a new member of the RSPB West Sedgemoor Team

    Hello everyone! I’m Nick and I just recently started working at West Sedgemoor as a reserves assistant. We all thought it’d be a good idea for me to post a brief blog post about my first month here.


    A little bit about myself first though: I love the outdoors, Star Wars, exercise, video games, and my beautiful dog Logan. During the pandemic I moved back from London, where I was originally planning on studying…

    • 16 Jul 2021
  • Gates and Goodbyes

    No crazy morning bird surveys and a bit of rain seem to have helped quell my hay fever to more manageable levels this week, but even as I sit inside writing this blog I’m still having to blow my nose every five minutes or so!

    Picture of grass

    RSPB Staff

    We finished putting the roof on our makeshift weed-wiper garage yesterday; it’s surprisingly secure despite what it looks like. We’ve also been preparing a new predator gate that…

    • 25 Jun 2021
  • Skylarks and Sneezing

    As lovely as the weather has been the past couple of weeks, it’s been difficult for me to enjoy as I’ve had to endure the most severe case of hay fever I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’ve been walking around with tissue up each nostril and a face mask to try and keep the pollen out, but I can’t say I’d recommend the technique. I guess it’s my own fault for working on a wet grassland……

    • 18 Jun 2021
  • Clover and Crakes

    A couple of heavy downpours trapped us in our cars this week while out doing curlew surveys, but aside for that the sun’s been shining.

    I took a walk through Swell Wood over the weekend, enjoying the sun and brushing up on my wildflower ID skills. There was woodruff, with its small white flowers and rings of leaves, the lilac-blue wood speedwell, red clover, and the green cup-like flowers of wood spurge. And on West…

    • 4 Jun 2021
  • Hobbies and Hides

    Hides are open! It’s been a long time coming but finally we’ve been allowed to open up the hides. We’ve removed alternate windows to encourage social distancing and provided hand sanitiser so it’s not quite back to business as usual, but we hope people can enjoy them, nonetheless.

    View from the hide.

     RSPB Staff

    Breeding wader surveys continue, and it’s been a real struggle fitting them in around the ongoing downpours…

    • 28 May 2021
  • Greylake and Grazing

    As I stepped into the kitchen to do my dishes earlier this week, I saw a barn owl gliding silently across the yard in front of me. I love those unexpected sightings!

    We’ve been down to Greylake a fair bit the past couple of weeks strimming around the paths and picnic area. As soon as you turn your head though the grass starts growing again behind you, so we’ll be back in a couple of weeks I’m sure to repeat the process…

    • 14 May 2021
  • Disassembling the Dawn Chorus in RSPB Swell Wood

    This blog is by James Conder - regular volunteer at Greylake, Swell Wood and West Sedgemoor. 

    The 2nd of May was Dawn Chorus Day, but (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) it’s been a week of cold, cold mornings and biting winds rather than the warm Spring mornings we might expect of this time of year. Not very conducive to birds singing their hearts out. But Thursday wasn’t quite as brutal as earlier in the week, so I got up early…

    • 7 May 2021
  • Bluebells and Brakes

    Hi all, after lots of (horrendously) early starts our first round of breeding wader surveys is over. Although soon we’ll be back at it so I’m going to enjoy the lie-ins while I can. Speaking of birds, you may have seen swallows in the skies the past few weeks. Our farm residents returned a couple of weeks ago, displaying over the yard and building a new nest next to the five or so others from previous years…

    • 30 Apr 2021
  • Dippity-Washties in the Pulk: Birds in Somerset Dialect

    This blog was written by James Conder practical volunteer at RSPB West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Swell Wood

    I was blundering through the wires of the Internet the other day when I stumbled across a fascinating document – A Glossary of Provincial Words & Phrases In Use In Somersetshire collected in 1873 by Wadham Pigott Williams (then the Vicar of Bishop’s Hull) and William Arthur Jones. This account is freely…

    • 23 Apr 2021
  • Surveys and Swell

    A pheasant tapped on the dining room window and stared in at me yesterday after work. I’m still not sure what he wanted…

    It’s been a busy week, with Monday and Tuesday spent finishing off the deer fence at Swell Wood. We had slight trouble fitting the door (for which I take zero responsibility), but all is working as it should now!

    On Wednesday we were back at the hedges putting in some three-strand…

    • 16 Apr 2021
  • Fencing and Flowers

    You never can tell what the weather is going to be like when you step out the door, I’m forever taking off and putting on layers!

    You may remember that earlier in the year we did some coppicing and tree thinning around Swell Wood. Well now we’re back and installing some deer fencing around the plot to stop the new shoots being grazed. We’ve been digging in the posts, adding struts, and tensioning the wire. It’s almost…

    • 9 Apr 2021
  • From Savannah to Sedgemoor

    It is just over a year ago now that I was supposed to begin my new job in Bwabwata National Park in Namibia. For many of us, March 2020 wasn’t a good month to see things going as planned, and I was no exception. What was supposed to have been a quick trip back to Somerset to visit my parents proved a much longer stay. In March 2021, I am still very much not on the African savannah.

    The pandemic has forced us all…

    • 2 Apr 2021
  • Basalt and Brimstone

    Incredibly, it’s been so sunny this week that at various times I’ve actually been too hot!

    Spring seems to be revving up. I spotted my first brimstone of the year this week fluttering along the hedgerows, and the odd bumblebee bouncing from flower to flower. There seems to be more birdsong too floating down from the trees, and our volunteer James spotted a sand martin flying overhead, returning from its wintering…

    • 26 Mar 2021
  • Woodchip and Willow

    Hi all, this past week we rented out a woodchipper and have mostly been clearing up lots of pollarded willow. It’s pretty tiring work, with lots of walking and dragging heavy branches, and we have to get through a lot of it quickly since we only have access to the chipper for a limited time. It’s been fun to use, but the novelty does wear off after a while! The chipper we rented has tracks on it that you can use to manoeuvre…

    • 19 Mar 2021
  • White-tails and Wires

    This week has been productive, despite the sudden gale force storms that seem to materialise out of thin air and then disappear before I’ve had time to put my waterproofs on.

    On Monday, Ashley and I did a full perimeter sweep of the electric fence at Greylake, replacing insulators and patching up holes in the wire mesh. It looks as though badgers and potentially foxes are getting on to the reserve, which we really…

    • 12 Mar 2021
  • Blackthorn and Bittern

    Bitterns boomed, cetti's chirped, and a marsh harrier swooped low over the reeds not long after Warden Steve and I arrived at Greylake on Monday morning. We were out there to cut back a little willow scrub that was encroaching onto the predator fence and open up some views of the reserve at the same time.

     Picture of willow scrub.

    Picture of view after willow coppiced.

    RSPB Staff

    Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were all spent at our favourite hedge, and shockingly we’re actually…

    • 5 Mar 2021
  • Songs and Spring

    Hi all, some glorious sunshine this week, where did that come from?

    We’ve had a few sightings around the reserves this week that suggest Spring is on its way. Curlew have been spotted at Greylake, coming inland to prepare for the breeding season, and a chiffchaff was heard from the office garden. But it’s not just birds, we’ve had sightings of both brimstone (spotted by Ashley) and peacock (spotted by…

    • 26 Feb 2021
  • Hedges and Hailstorms

    Hi all, the cold has subsided, and I can feel my toes again, but this week the weather has had an uncanny ability to turn just as we’ve been settling down for lunch. It was rain on Wednesday, and ten minutes into our break on Thursday we were set upon by a sudden hailstorm which promptly finished as soon as it was time for work again. Never mind, all part of the fun!

    On Monday we carried out the monthly Wetland…

    • 19 Feb 2021
  • Sightlines and Snow

    So… this week’s been a bit chilly! The Beast from East has made its way Southwest and I’m very upset about it, but work continues.

    On Monday morning Estate Worker Ashley and I were out doing checks and repairs on the cattle handling facilities around Greylake, as well as re-fixing a sign and picking some litter. I don’t think my wellies are as waterproof as I’d like them to be because not long into the…

    • 12 Feb 2021