We've enjoyed some suitably wintry weather lately with frosty mornings and beautifully bright, sunny days. Even so, we've been seeing signs of the coming spring for some weeks now as blooming winter and early spring bulbs overlap, trees and shrubs ready themselves to break bud, and birds call out to potential mates and rivals across the reserve.
Anticipating what's to come in 2018, we can't help looking back at the joys and surprises 2017 brought and hoping for more of the same. Highlights included the pair of Turtle Doves that delighted us by enjoying dinner for two at the bird feeders; the spotted flycatchers that sprint-flew around the lawn hunting not only flies, but craneflies, lacewings, butterflies and day-flying moths; the more observant among us also spied treecreepers and nuthatch about their work near the Education Centre.
Down by the brook we've seen a number of signs that otters are about, but perhaps the greatest surprise was finding a juvenile polecat (sadly deceased) on the footpath next to the woodland. Historically, polecats were an unloved native species and extinct in England by the end of the 19th Century, hanging-on only in a small area of mid-Wales. They have gradually recovered their territory since then, and that they are breeding locally once more is an indication of their success.
Of course, one of the reserve's best-loved activities is dipping for small creatures living in the brook and pond. Children are especially thrilled to capture a fish and among the perennial favourites are the spined loach (a threatened species), and brook lamprey (a primitive, jawless creature) which are each quite distinctive in their way.