With 2019 just around the corner, we thought we'd take a look back at the best parts of 2018 and see what our volunteers have enjoyed most about their time at RSPB Sandwell Valley this year. From exciting events to fantastic finds, it's been a really wonderful year all round. There's been progress on the Reflection Garden, a nest box full of baby blue tits, and many new faces have joined our brilliant team of enthusiastic volunteers. Read on to find out about some of their favourite highlights...

   One of my favourite things about wildlife this year has been learning about solitary wasps and then spotting a couple at the reserve. The Dawn Chorus and bat events I attended were as magical as ever. The hornets were the stars of the show this year with their nest, plus seeing them foraging around the site


(1) Ectemnius continuus carrying a paralysed fly into it's nest hole in the wood edging the car park

(2) ichneumon wasp laying eggs in the upright logs in wildlife garden

(3) A spider hunting wasp in minibeast meadow

- Cathy

   A couple of highlights for me were the great crested grebe with 4 chicks on her back, and a southern hawker dragonfly ovipositing in the pond dipping pools - Colin

   My favourite sightings were jack snipe and common snipe. I posted a short video of a jack snipe feeding next to the hide earlier in the year - Kevin

   My highlights of the year were the willow tits feeding regularly on the feeders; few in number elsewhere (we’re very honoured). I also had some lovely close up views of jack snipe - we could actually see all the diagnostic features - and our numbers of goosanders that overwinter - Pam

   A recent highlight during my 12 months as a volunteer took place during October half term incorporating ‘Halloween Howls’ as a special event. I offered to help and was asked to cover reception (my usual role) but didn’t anticipate what was in store. Entering into the spirit of the event I agreed to have my face painted. What a delight I felt to have a bat painted on my face! There were many events on offer including bat trails, story walks and storytelling. The talks were held in a wonderful tent with fairy lights set in the darkness of the visitor centre creating a wonderful atmosphere. The storytellers costumes were amazing and added to the theatre when telling their wondrous stories. The children and adults arrived at timed intervals all dressed up in their Halloween finery... ghosts, ghouls and beautiful fairies... They were all wonderful. But the magical part of the event was seeing the children enthralled by the captivating stories being told. A great event, well organised and very well supported - Christine

   After doing pond dipping in ponds 3-4 I noticed a fabulous southern hawker with my friend Bailey & couldn't wait to get a picture of it laying its eggs in the water.
This is my best photo ever - Jake Groves
It really has been a wonderful year at RSPB Sandwell Valley and we're all super excited for what 2019 will bring. We love seeing our regular visitors as well as meeting new explorers both local and from afar. Come along to one of our events (the Big Garden Birdwatch is just around the corner) or pop in for a cuppa. See you all in the New Year!
- From the RSPB Sandwell Valley team