Greylake is very wet now but we're approaching the breeding season and so hopefully the weather will be dry enough for us to start dropping water levels soon. However last week-end we were thinking more of snow, although we didn't get out to photograph it. We've still got our winter range of birds but with a few changes. A ruff was present on the 9th and curlew and redshank are back. Hearing their calls again is wonderful. An Egyptian goose has also been putting in occasional appearances and visitors reported it to be diving yesterday! Rob and Jo also reported marsh harriers carrying out aerial food passing, along with peregrine, 2 buzzards, a kestrel and a little grebe. A bittern was heard booming by some. After a quiet period for records, bearded tits are now calling in the reed bed. The wetter conditions also brought in a tufted duck on the 16th and there have been about 20 pintail about, a lot for us this winter. I also saw my first chiffchaff of the year, which was singing by the hides (there was a blackcap singing at Dewlands Farm yesterday).

The lower slopes of Swell Wood (David Miller)

Swell Wood before the snow (David Miller)

At Swell Wood the herons are now nesting so do come along and pay us a visit (check the link at the bottom of the page).  The woodland is beginning to come alive, with Primroses being the first notable flower. The bluebells are of course pushing their leaves up through the soil. 

Hazel was the first plant to flower in the wood, shown here in the car park (David Miller)

Here's a mystery flower for you. I hadn't come across it before but it's a speciality of this area.

Mystery flower, answer with the next blog (David Miller)

Management has focussed on finishing the hedgeing that we started and on coppicing some new plots in the woodlands. We're also encouraging the spread of hazel and hope this will benefit Dormice. We've found some woodland snails whilst working, including the Round-mouthed Snail, which is found on chalky soils.

The Round-mouthed Snail Pomatia elegans is a local species.  Unusually for land snails it has a 'door' over the opening. (David Miller)

Our regular day volunteer this winter, James, has left to study takahe in New Zealand. Some of you may have met Alex, a residential volunteer who left in December. He is on the first step of his environmental career now, having achieved his initial goal of employment with an ecological consultancy.

                                                        A takahe