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 absence of our volunteer work force this year, a lot to do!

So, it has been a hive of activity on Greylake this week, with a contractor in cleaning out the ditch system to allow for a better flow of water through the site, we have had RSPB Ham Wall's new Soft Track in to cut sections of the reedbed, and we have been finishing off the last bits of field management in the form of cutting vegetation. Also, at Greylake, with the help of some trusty volunteers, we have finished one of our autumn work program tasks. This is clearing a section of the withy bed between the Tree Top Hide and the drove that runs through the centre of the site. We have already been hearing water rail in that area and some bearded tits were making a racket too, so keep your ears peeled!! With that task complete we have moved on to the next one at Greylake which is the essentially the same task but this one is on the way up to the viewing screen; along southern edge of the site parallel to the Kings Sedgemoor Drain. Progress can be witnessed in the photo below.

Fig 1. Showing willows removed from the path edge of the withy bed.

As part of my role I am a Tree Safety Advisor for the RSPB, and as such I can’t help looking for, and getting quite amused by fungi; the presence of certain fungi are a key part of assessing the health of a tree. Whilst doing the willow removal work at Greylake we stumbled (literally, stumps everywhere) upon quite a lot of Candle Snuff fungus (xylaria hypoxylon) Fig 2 and some Turkey Tail (trametes versicolor) Fig 3. These are both quite commonly found on the deadwood of broadleaved trees in this country.



Fig 2 - Candle Stuff     

 Fig 3 - Turkeytail 

Up until a short while ago there was some spectacular displays of Honey Fungus (armillaria mellea) see Fig 4 below. Now this was at the base of an English oak in RSPB Swell Wood , as you would expect from Armillaria around the base of the trunk, Interestingly this fungus is prized above all other wild mushrooms in parts of Europe as ‘the’ best edible wild mushroom, (although some people have been known to have an allergic reaction to them) food for thought!! 

If you’re feeling inspired to get out in nature and discover the fascinating world of fungi, why not try out our fungi foray activity? Remember not to touch any of the fungi and have a real expert on hand before even thinking about eating any. Instead, keep your eyes peeled and appreciate them where they are in all their weird and wonderful forms. 

 Fig 4 - Honey Fungus

Just a brief blog this week which hopefully you have enjoyed reading. In the coming weeks we hope to keep plugging away with these articles (usually the preserve of the residential volunteers) and we have stories of a brand new eel pass at Greylake and a new water control structure down on West Sedgemoor to share with you all. I would just like to say we appreciate your patience and understanding regarding the hides being closed on our reserves, and we are looking forward to reopening them in the future and get back to some sense of normality.

All the best!


Estate Worker, RSPB West Sedgemoor, Swell Wood and Greylake.


(Al photo credits Ashley Millman)