Amazingly this week, we actually had some sunshine!  Ok it was hidden in amongst the snow, hail, sleet, heavy rain and very strong winds but definitely sunshine and blue sky at some point, which was a pleasure to be out in with the volunteer work parties. Work progressed on the viewing screens along Tor View Hide path and we finished off various scrub work across the reserve, checking carefully for any early nests before anything was done. 

The banks are rather wet at the moment so we're avoiding driving on them to reduce damage, this does mean a fair amount of walking to and from work sites. The benefit of this of course is you spot things you might miss from a vehicle, such as a lovely grass snake I found at one of the sluices. I took this zoomed in photo below:

Then thought I'd best provide something for scale:

Quite a small one as you can see!  We also saw a huge amount of frogspawn along one of the ditches which hopefully we'll have a photo of for next week, if it hasn't all been gobbled up by various predators.

Elsewhere the marsh harriers are being nice and visible, even in the windy weather, so keep a look out for them.  John Crispin has sent through some photos of our cormorants who are in breeding plumage now and nesting is well underway, I counted 13 nests on Wednesday and they were being rather buffeted about in the wind but clinging on nonetheless at the tops of their dead trees!  Look for the white patch on the thigh.

Photos: John Crispin - cormorants in breeding plumage

Around Waltons and the first viewing platform you'll be able to see good numbers of winter wildfowl still and listen out for the bitterns booming - two have been reported in Waltons so far with one in each side. They have also been booming in other areas so see if you can hear them over the wind.  Also in Waltons John saw seven little egrets on Thursday with the occasional great white egret flying over. John's photo shows the lovely elegance of the little egret - thanks John!

Photo: John Crispin - little egret

Across the reserve there is an increase in birdsong when audible, so listen out for song thrush, robin, wren, chaffinch, great tit and particularly dunnock I've noticed of late.  The canada geese look to be pairing off and grey herons are busy with their nests, keep an eye out for them in Waltons reedbed, particularly from the Tor View Hide.  With all this action spring feels tantalisingly close and in meteorological terms of course it officially starts on Sunday, but by the looks of the long range forecast we've got at least another couple of unsettled weeks coming our way.  

That's it for sightings news this week, apologies for the brief nature of the update. Steve C returns next week so be prepared for a jam-packed blog!

In other news, an upcoming road closure to be aware of south of the reserve:

Road Closure Wednesday 4th March 7:30 am - 5:30 pm

There will be no access to the reserve from the village of Ashcott due to road works in the area on the above date.

Access will be from the village of Meare only during this time.

For more details go to https://www.travelsomerset.co.uk/roadworks/

And last but not least I'm told the Heronry Hide at RSPB Swell Wood will be open from tomorrow (Saturday) so get on down there and take a look at how their herons are getting on, plenty are already settled and sitting in their treetop nests.

Have a great weekend!

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