We're getting ready for our Wild Winter open weekend which is taking place this weekend - Saturday 30 November & Sunday 1 December.  The weather is certainly suitably wild today - I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will become bright and clear by the weekend!

But never mind the weather...the wildlife here at the moment is fantastic! By the end of our morning team 'huddle' we'd seen large numbers of ducks and lapwings being disturbed by 2 peregrine falcons, a buzzard being mobbed by a couple of crows, 2 snipe and a water vole. The latter was particularly exciting as it was swimming across the pool right in front of the Visitor Centre window - our first water vole sighting for that pond.

If you venture a little further afield onto the wetland trail, the number of blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares has shown a huge increase over the past week with a flock of several hundred fieldfare roaming the hedgerows chack - chack - chacking all the way! 

Fieldfare by Graham Osborne

The pools are busy with ducks - wigeon, teal, pintail and shoveler - and amongst the  lapwings and black-tailed godwit there could be other waders too - snipe, ruff and golden plover have all be reported in the past week.

There is currently a flock of around 200 black-tailed godwit on the reserve and amongst these birds you might spot some with coloured rings on their legs. Each colour combination is unique to the bird and it allows researchers to track individuals and find out more about life spans, migration patterns and breeding behaviour - it is fascinating stuff. If you do spot any then please let us know back at the Visitor Centre so we can note the colour combination and report the sighting.  You'll find more information about the scheme on the chalkboard in Nettley's hide:

But perhaps our star attractions at the moment are the birds of prey - they are magnificent birds in their own right but they also create a wonderful spectacle when they cause the thousands of ducks, lapwings and godwits to take to the skies in unison!

At least 3 different marsh harriers have been seen hunting over the reserve, kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard and red kite are regulars and we've been so excited to have sightings of merlin, hen harrier and short-eared owl. I'd suggest Winpenny Hide as the best spot to watch for the harriers and owls as that is the spot closest to the river bank where they'll often hunt over the longer grass.  I've had the best luck with these mid - afternoon as the light is beginning to fade.

These photos were taken by volunteer Phil

As you make your way back as the sun starts to set, or whilst the skies are darkening on an overcast day, keep an eye out for late-flying bats - I saw a pipistrelle flitting around above the newly cleared ponds at Fattengates courtyard. From the Visitor Centre itself, again look for bats but also keep an eye open for woodcock - over the past week they have been pretty reliable around 4.30 - 4.45 pm flying over the Visitor Centre from the woodland towards the wetlands.

If you are able to come over the weekend we've still got some spaces on our guided walks in the afternoon (1.30 pm - 3 pm on both Saturday and Sunday). Your guides will take you around the nature reserve and hope to show you some of these highlights. We'll also be meeting you at Hanger View (one of the best vantage points on the reserve) with hot chocolate!

On Saturday you can come and help us with tree planting. We're developing some new areas of woodland scrub and have joined up with the Woodland Trust as part of their #BigClimateFightback where they are hoping that 1 million people will pledge to plant a tree across the country.

In the Visitor Centre our friendly optics team will be on hand to give help and advice with binoculars and telescopes and you'll find discounts on a selection of seasonal goodies.

Hope to see you here!