After a month or so of snow and frost icing over the car park and freezing part of our lake, we’re back into full swing here at RSPB Sandwell and looking forward to what the New Year will bring. The plants and weeds by the visitor centre windows have been strimmed back to encourage regrowth, and we now have a gloriously unhampered view of the reserve all the way down to the lake and the walkway beyond.

We’ve been super excited to see all the photos and videos posted by our visitors across our social media sites, from shaggy fungi, feeding robins, frosty branches and of course the fantastic firecrest! We absolutely LOVE looking at all your amazing sightings and finds. There’s so much to see at this time of year, despite the stereotypical views of winter where it’s dark and cold and we’d all much rather stay indoors. However, if you do venture outside with woolly hats and wellies at the ready, you’ll be sure to see the wonders of new growth and the changing seasons. Amongst all the bare branches and dried-up plants there is so much beauty to be found.

We’ve had many feathered visitors at the centre these last few weeks, both old and new. Several stock doves have been spotted scavenging on the ground under the bird feeders (they prefer to find their food there rather than flying up to mingle with the other birds for lunch). They’re naturally quite shy, and are much more graceful and streamlined in appearance when compared to the big, broad wood pigeons.

Stock Dove - photo credit Andy Purcell 

Last week we counted 15 ring-necked parakeets, and now it appears we have around 25! You can spot our bright green feathered friends from miles away. Admittedly that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they’re quite difficult to miss.

Our robin feed is still available from the reception if you fancy trying your hand at bird-feeding and getting closer to nature. There’s nothing quite like watching a bird fly out of the hedgerow and onto your fingers to peck at the seeds. It may take a while at first, and you’ll need to be very quiet and patient. Our lovely robins are friendly and inquisitive, and we have several feeding stations you can visit across the reserve

Robin - photo credit Andy Purcell 

Other sightings have included reed buntings, grey herons, and some super funky fungi like the one below. It’s called ‘hohenbuehelia petaloides’ – if you can pronounce that we’ll give you an imaginary gold star! – which grows in woodland areas, and sometimes on old decaying bits of branches and bark.

Hohenbuehelia Petaloides - photo credit Andy Purcell 

We’re also super busy planning lots of exciting events for this coming year, and there’s a couple of big events too! This weekend we’ve got our ‘What’s that Bird?’ event where we’ll be learning all about our resident birds and how to tell the difference between them. Our volunteers and bird-watching experts will also be on hand to answer any questions. This is of course leading up to the Big Garden Bird Watch which is an event that any bird lover or nature enthusiast should take part in - even if you don’t know much about birds or don’t have a lot of time on your hands. You can register online here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch or you can come along to the reserve on 27/28 January and sit down with a hot cuppa to spot the birds with us.

If you can’t make those events, don’t worry. There’s lots more to do! Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter pages for details and updates.

We hope to see you soon!

- The team at RSPB Sandwell Valley

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