• 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
  • Gardens and Greats

    Hi all, hope you’ve had a lovely week, ours has been quite productive.

    We finished up the coppicing in Swell Wood on Monday - all that’s left now is to put up the deer fencing to protect any new shoots from being nibbled back. We’ve also spent a lot of time battling bramble as our hedge-laying prep continues. It feels like we’ve done a lot, but the hedge is so thick with bramble that progress is a little slow..…

    • 5 Feb 2021
  • Cobalt and Cakes

    Hi all, another busy week, but far less rain than I was expecting so pretty pleased about that!

    Work continues at Swell Wood, but it looks like we’re on track to finish the thinning in time before the herons return to their nesting area. It’s amazing how much difference a little light makes!

    As promised, midweek we got stuck into some hedge-laying - minus the laying. The hedge in question was overrun with…

    • 29 Jan 2021
  • Hairstreaks and Hazel

    Hi all, I’m Luke and I’ve recently joined the team here at the West Sedgemoor reserves. This will be my second stint as an RSPB residential volunteer, having spent a year recently volunteering at RSPB Arne in Dorset, and I’m really excited to work and learn about all the wildlife found here on the Somerset Levels! It’s been an unusual start, as everything is nowadays. I did my induction with the Assistant Warden…

    • 22 Jan 2021
  • An update about essential works at Swell Wood and Greylake from Assistant Warden Paul

    Hello All,  

    I’ve got some updates to give you on some essential work the team will be completing in line with government guidance at both Swell Wood and Greylake between the 18 – 22 January  

    Swell Wood 

    Over at Swell Wood members of the team will be working on our programme of thinning out the oak trees that were originally planned as part of a timber plantation. These trees are along part of the woodland trail which…

    • 15 Jan 2021
  • December Wetland Bird Survey - A blog by Site Manager Harry

    We undertook this months Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) count on December 14. These contribute to a nationwide coordinated count which provides invaluable data on wintering populations of waders and wildfowl across the UK. The Somerset Levels and Moors has been the most important inland sites in the UK in terms of sheer numbers for many years now. Usually this is made up of large numbers of teal, wigeon and lapwing as well…

    • 18 Dec 2020
  • Helping Eels at Greylake - a blog by Site Manager Harry

    This week we have a short blog for you from Harry the site manager for Greylake, Swell Wood and West Sedgemoor about how we are helping eels at Greylake. 

    Helping Eels at Greylake

    European eels were once very common in Somerset’s wetlands (and across the whole of Western Europe) but some estimates have put their population decline in recent decades at 99% and they are now classed as critically endangered. If you talk…

    • 3 Dec 2020
  • Reopening at Greylake and Swell Wood after #Secondlockdown

    Re-opening announcement 

    We’re excited to be able to re-open some of our facilities for you on 2 December at Swell Wood and Greylake!

    We are in Tier 2, so here's a quick summary of what’s available at Swell Wood and Greylake:

     Car parks open 

     Reserve trails open 

     Picnic Areas open

     Hides open

    We love hearing how Swell Wood and Greylake bring you enjoyment and solace in these challenging times and want…

    • 1 Dec 2020
  • An update from Ashley - Estate Worker RSPB West Sedgemoor, Swell Wood & Greylake

    An update from Ashley - Estate Worker RSPB West Sedgemoor, Greylake and Swell Wood

    Hello avid readers, with the departure of Kathryn from our ranks you now have the pleasure (or not, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion of course) of reading whatever ramblings I choose to dispense upon you. The good thing about working in nature conservation is there is always something ‘interesting’ going on, and with the very noticeable…

    • 20 Nov 2020
  • The last blog

    Yes, the time has arrived. It's hard to believe I have been here at West Sedgemoor for nearly a year. And what a strange year it has been. I'm so glad that I could sit down each week and share my experiences with you all. I hope it brought some light in the dark days of lockdown.

    Before I descend into reminiscence of my time here, I'll give you a wildlife update for the week. With the departure of the last of…

    • 13 Nov 2020
  • A forest full of fungi

    Well, a wood anyway, Swell Wood to be exact, and perhaps full is an exaggeration but I did find quite a few different types when I was walking round on Thursday.

    I've had a bit of a focus on Swell Wood this week, to put those signs back in and get the scarp trail opened, which has been done now.

      The egret and nuthatch signboards are back in on the path to the hide, now made of recycled plastic so they won't rot.…

    • 30 Oct 2020
  • Fruitful, yes... but there's little sign of mellowness.

    It's been one of those weeks here at Greylake, West Sedgemoor and Swell Wood, where a lot of things haven't gone quite as planned. The tractor at Greylake broke down on Tuesday, meaning we lost two days of topping and with the winter weather looming, there won't be many more good days left. Wednesday was pretty miserable, in fact the weather generally has been rather unpleasant, although our volunteers soldiered on through…

    • 23 Oct 2020
  • Autumn bites as lapwing return

    As promised, I've got a little more to give you this week. Although Monday and Tuesday were a bit depressing weather wise, the rest of the week has been a lot more pleasant, if a tad chilly in the mornings. Indeed, on Wednesday you could have been forgiven for thinking we were back in the summer (almost), as this view out over the blue skies above the moor shows.

    I was working with my volunteers finishing tidying…

    • 16 Oct 2020
  • Rainbows and muddy puddles

    After last weekend, the moor is a very different place. Tracks and gateways have turned into quagmires and many of the fields are covered in a sheet of water. I took a picture of part of the South Drove, but I don't think it really gives the full impression of how wet it is now.

    You can see the shadow of my on the ATV, because despite the mud, we still have to get out their and check on the cattle twice a day. Indeed…

    • 9 Oct 2020
  • Greylake hides open and other news

    We did it. It was a big piece of work considering how nature had taken over, and the measures we had to put in place to make the hides covid secure, but both hides at Greylake are now open to visitors. And just in time for the winter, when the migrant ducks and waders will start to appear. As at Swell Wood, there are some precautions we are asking you to take when using the hides.

    Please read the information on the hide…

    • 1 Oct 2020
  • Heronry Hide open and other news

    So I'll start with our big news story of the week. The Heronry Hide at Swell Wood is open! On Thursday I cleared the path (including a large fallen tree), put up the new signs, cleaned the hide and took down the barrier. There are of course some restrictions on how you can use it. 

      Please read the signs at the entrance

      Please use the hand sanitiser and wear a face covering in the hide

      Please don't sit in the middle…

    • 25 Sep 2020