Monday, 27 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR 27/12/10

A couple of photos of the redhead Goosander off Portishead dock entrance this morning. The bird has been loafing around here since 21 December, obviously a cold weather refugee.

The pools around the nature reserve could become very productive over the next few weeks as the thaw develops and birds return to the fresh water.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR 24/12/10

A male Merlin was seen hunting over the saltmarsh this morning but the Hen Harrier is believed to have relocated to Severnside.

The resident Little Owl was seen again around the barns at wharf lane.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Ringtail Hen Harrier Sighted

A stunning flight shot of the ringtail Hen Harrier which as been present around the reserve and salt-marsh for about one week now. Many thanks to Mike George for this photo.
This will be my last post this year. I'd like to thank everyone who has volunteered with us or helped out in any way over the past 6 months. 2011 is shaping up to be an exciting year already. The bird hides will be open as of Jan 4th (entrance paths to be improved). We have recruited a number of key warden volunteers who have kindly offered to assist with opening and closing of the hides beyond working hours. They will be starting in the New Year.
We are also looking forward to installing intrepretation throughout the Reserve next year.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The reserve was looking like a winter wonderland this morning. The pools and scrapes are mostly frozen so a lot of the birds have sought shelter elsewhere.
If you made an early morning visit you may have spotted some of the tracks left behind by other wildlife on the reserve.

There was an uncommon sighting of a Goosander earlier at Portishead Dock entrance (sea side). They are rare along the coast- usually wintering at the inland lakes of Chew Valley, Barrow Guerney or Blagdon. (see picture)

Please be careful if you are visiting the reserve as both Wharf lane and Sheepway are quite icy. Coming by foot is the best way to enjoy the winter scenery at the moment.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR 19/12/10 update

2 new birds for the reserve today:-

a flyover Waxwing 10am in the morning (archive photo shown) and a 'ringtail' Hen Harrier early afternoon.

This makes it 143 species of bird to be recorded on the reserve since 1/1/05.

Another or same Waxwing was seen near the marina (Waitrose) early afternoon.

Waxwings are very mobile birds in their search for berries. Supermarket car-parks and leafy suburbia are as good as any places to look for them.

There is currently a huge influx of these birds into the UK at the moment, please let us know if you see any. Thanks.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

First Visitors to the New Nesting Island!

The work on the nesting island was completed yesterday and it is much more wader friendly now. I can excitedly report that much to our delight there were 40+ lapwing roosting on the island this morning (see pic.)!!! It is not usual for large numbers of Lapwing to be sighted on the reserve as they tend to be on the foreshore. We realise that the soil has been turned creating a nice feeding ground, but the Lapwing would never have perched on the mountainous island that we use to have (see early post for picture of 8ft island). Fingers crossed it's a good sign of things to come!

To add to the excitement of the lapwings the Tower Hide is now finnished (see pic.). I gave it a test run earlier and there are stunning views of the estuary, Welsh Hills, Severn Crossing and also in towards the pools on the reserve.

The hides will be open for all to enjoy very soon. Next Mon/Tues a contractor will be laying a path to enable disabled access to the hide in between the pools off Wharf Lane.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR sightigs 13/12/10

This morning's count:

35 Wigeon, 110 Teal, 3 Shoveler, 2 Jack Snipe, 52 Snipe and 60+ Skylark. These birds on the estuary side of the seawall as the pools are frozen again.

Lots of Redwings around the bushes.

The enhancement work on the nesting island is almost complete so I thought i would post some before pictures. I will post some after pictures over the next couple of days so that you can see the dramatic change in the shape of the island.
One picture shows how thick the ice over the pool was last week- at least 4 inches!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR 12/12/10

Today there were 32 Gadwall and 21 Coot on the pools, the water-birds are slowly returning after the freeze.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR update 10/12/10

Work is progressing very well on flattening the island on the main pool, the work is expected to be completed by Mon/Tues next week.

We hope to have breeding waders on it by next spring.

Some new birds visited the reserve today - AWT staff from the main office in Bristol (see photo).

Monday, 6 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR 6/12/10 - update for residents

Work started today on redesigning the island on the main pool into a more bird-friendly shape and lay-out.

The work should be completed this week.

When finished the island will have a flat 'just above the water' profile which will make it even better for the birds.

We're hoping to attract breeding waders onto the island next Spring such as Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher and Little Ringed Plover and ....fingers crossed.... Avocets! What a feather in the cap that would be!

The nature reserve is also attracting some keen and welcome interest from the media.

Today we had a BBC camera crew on site to see first-hand on how the reserve is progressing and how it is developing its links with the local community.

TOP: Bernie our AWT warden being interviewed by the BBC.

LOWER: The 'Groundforce' team in action.

We'll post a few 'job done' pics later this week.

Alaska Digger

Specialist digger smashing through the ice to get across to the island to carry out enhancement works for the waders.

Island Conservation Works on Points West

The specialist digger arrived on the reserve to begin flattening the nesting island on the pool beside the foreshore. It looked even more spectacular today because it had to break through around 4 inches of ice to get across to the island. The contractors will be on site for the entire week completing the enhancement works (see earlier post).

Excitingly we were also joined by BBC Points West and the island conservation work will be aired tonight! It's quite a sight!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Portishead - Battery Pt

We've had a day off from the reserve today but thought local residents might want to know about some nice birds on the rocks at Battery Pt.

The birds are called Purple Sandpipers, they are small waders that like seaweed covered rocky parts of the coast.

They are quite unusual around the Bristol area, the only reliable places to see them are here at Portishead and at Birnbeck Pied at W-s-M.

Purple Sandpipers are winter visitors to Avon, usually November to April.

The Battery Pt birds are quite confiding, but you need to visit around high tide time when they will be pushed up higher onto the rocks and into view.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR 4/12/10

Still plenty of winter thrushes around the bushes and hedgerows this morning, mainly Redwings. The birds will abandon the area once all the berries have been eaten.

On the salt-marsh and seawall area, 1 Jack Snipe, 32 Snipe, 46 Skylark and 6 Reed Buntings.

5 Goldcrests at Wharf lane barns.

TOP: Roe Deer are not uncommon on the reserve but they are very shy and easily spooked. Most of our Roe Deer are visitors from the Portbury Dock area where they are much more numerous.

LOWER: Ducks and Coots on the last remaining ice-free section of the pools.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Portbury Wharf NR - Bird hides

A 'work in progress' photo of the new tower hide under construction at the end of Wharf lane, near the sea-wall.

When completed, the hide will give visitors excellent views of the main north pool (where the main bird interest is) and also panoramic views of the estuary and the Welsh hills beyond.

Work is expected to be completed before Christmas.

Portbury Wharf NR sightings 3/12/10

A heavy overnight frost and most of the ditches and pools remain frozen. Main sightings this morning were:

16 Mute Swan, 3 Gadwall, 1 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 11 Tufted, 16 Coot and 4 Moorhen, all jammed into one of the few remaining ice-free sections of the main pool.

Around the bushes and hedgerows: 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Kestrel, 100 Fieldfare, 90 Redwing, 15 Blackbird, 3 Bullfinch and 3 Reed Bunting.

From Steve the bird-watcher.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Portbury Wharf makes the National press

Please see the link to read the article in The Guardian.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Nature walks cancelled with apologies

We apologise but the two forthcoming eventson Weds. 1st Dec. and Sunday 5th Dec. have had to be cancelled. The harsh weather has led to very low numbers wanting to come out - both human participants and the wildlife!
Chris Sperring checked over Portbury Wharf at the weekend, and, despite a distant sighting of a short-eared owl, there was very little about.
The event on Sunday to look for water voles and their evidence, would definitely have been tricky as scrabbling on steep rhyne banks is inadvisable if icey!

Please watch this space and the earlier blog for future events.

Nesting Island Enhancement Works

There will be lots of activity on the reserve next week. We have contractors called Alaska Environmental on-site all week flattening and improving the nesting island in the Pool by the foreshore. They are arriving on Monday the 6th with a Batemag P100 4wd walking excavator (manufactured around the alps!). It should be interesting to see it getting across to the island. The purpose of flattening the island is to create a sheltered habitat that is much more friendly for nesting waders. At the moment the sides of the island are very steep and high and less inviting for waders. We will also be able to create muddy verges around the edge of the island to provide the birds with feeding areas.

The new island should be a much more attractive spot to nest or visit. Fingers crossed we will
be sitting in the new hide, in time to come, peering across at all sorts of visitors.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Events for December and the New Year

Events at Portbury Wharf
(meet by the notice board in Wharf Lane)

Wednesday 1st December – 4-6pm
Early Evening walk Chris Sperring – see the starling roosting display and hopefully, some owls.
Sunday 5th December – 2-6pm
Water vole day with Chris Sperring - learn all about this fascinating and greatly threatened mammal, which is thriving on the reserve.
For 2011
Birdwatching with a local expert – Thursdays 10th February and 10th March 4-6pm
Bird song recognition with Chris Sperring – Friday 8th April 7-9pm at Trinity School, followed by Saturday 9th April, Dawn Chorus Walk – 4.30am-7.30am. This event is a package with the two activities and is charged at £20.00 per person.
For all of these events please book by emailing Neil Hutton on

or calling 07808 789 192

Medieval Quest at Portbury Wharf!
Children from Year 2 Trinity School enjoyed an afternoon at the nature reserve, following up their medieval term topic. They trekked from school, wrapped up in the greens and browns of the Pasturite people, braving the freezing weather and tasked with discovering wildlife from the reserve along the way. They met Gwydion, poor Pasturite farmer, cooking pottage (vegetable soup with oats) over the fire. The children learnt about other foods such as sweet chestnuts and herbs as well as medicines such as St Johns Wort, willow bark for aspirin and ribwort plantain as an anti-septic. Other revolting cures involving slugs and leeches were also outlined!
The class had been following a story, featuring the Pasturite's struggle with the Badlanders. Gwydion led them along Wharf Lane, discovering many things along the way, left behind by the myth and magic of the middle ages. These included a carved wooden (food) chain, giant tree seeds, spiders, deer, rats and water voles, singing birds in giant nests, newts and dragons eggs. The quest led to the Northern Pools and a magic spell to release the Shining Crystal to lead to The Lady of the Living Lake. Badlander magic has left The Lady frozen in time - she rose from The Living Lake with a beautiful watery body, but the spell saw her drop back into the mirky waters, leaving behind a big splash to remind us of her, and to look after all the creatures in and around The Living Lake.
The children of Trinity invite others to Quest to Portbury Wharf to see if they too can discover the Splash of The Lady of the Living Lake!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010


A Black Redstart was spotted yesterday on Phoenix Way.

We were busy today clearing some reeds to open a view point for the soon to arrive hide by the Pools and were happily entertained by a water rail hopping about on tractor tracks.

Please email us with any interesting sightings

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Another exciting event at Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve was our Handover celebration and Community Day on Sunday 3rd October. Despite some bad weather during the setting up the clouds blew away as the event opened with TV Naturalist Mike Dilger and BBC Weather woman Jemma Cooper. Mike enthused about the reserves important connectivity for a number of other Avon Wildlife Trust (AWT) sites throughout the Gordano Valley and on the edge of the internationally important Severn Estuary. With the Bristol Channel & Severn having the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world, the mudflats are exposed for longer periods so provide essential feeding ground for many winter migrant visiting wading birds. When the Chief Executive of Persimmon Homes Severn Vale, Carl Haley shook hands with CEO of Avon Wildlife Trust, Steve Grainger, this unique deal was finalised. Planning consent was granted by North Somerset planners on condition of the creation of a nature reserve through a planning mechanism called Section 106. Each property is sold with an annual levy attached, so the household contributes to the management and upkeep of the reserve. Portishead Town Band kept well over 200 visitors entertained, and piped up with "Congratulations" as the deal was sealed!

To mark the occasion a rare black poplar tree was planted - a species under threat of extinction. The reserve also boasts other rare plants and animals, including water voles, barn owls and great crested newts.
The visitors enjoyed a wide range of children's activities, bushcraft, story-telling and guided nature walks and learnt of the soon to be built bird hides.
There was general concensus for another Community Day to be hosted by AWT next year - perhaps falling on a day during July or August 2011, giving a greater chance of some better weather. Watch this space!

Bird Hides Coming Soon

Exciting times on the reserve at the moment! Two bridges have been constructed across the rhynes on Warf Lane to provide access to bird hides. The hides will be completed over the coming weeks after the timber has been treated at the factory. The hides will be fenced off and screened so that you can enjoy bird watching with minimal disturbance to the wildlife.

A tower hide will also be coming soon that will provide views of both the foreshore and the reserve.

The fencing contractors will be on-site over the next few weeks ensuring that the entire reserve is stock proof and finishing access routes. The in-land sea bund is being fenced so that we have the option of getting it grazed in the future.

Monday, 9 August 2010

July Birdwalk

‘On Tues evening 27 July, we enjoyed a bird walk and talk at Portbury Wharf, with our local birder Steve Hale. Steve has over 30 years experience of observing the birds of Portbury Wharf and the foreshore of the Severn Estuary down to Chapel Pill and Portbury Dock.

We welcomed 22 people, included children and grandparents, for the 2 hour walk from 6-8pm. We watched the tufted ducks with their broods on one of the two larger northern pools and discussed the extensive list of 140 species of birds that Steve has listed over the years – over half of these breed or have bred on the reserve (please see downloadable file on Portbury Wharf web site).

We ended viewing the barn owl box which we had checked with local expert Chris Sperring only 3 days before, who had been hoping to ring the birds. We were delighted to find 4 rather mature ‘chicks’ who had already fledged and been flying – a skill they all ably demonstrated by flying off over our heads – a real treat for us, but they were too mature to ring. Chris also commented that 4 is the largest brood he has seen this season – a testimony to the good populations of prey animals such as voles which we know we have locally. It was too early at 7.30pm to observe the family of 6 barn owls, and the large group of eager bird watchers would not have helped!

This was the first of many wildlife events which will be organised at Portbury Wharf. Please watch the web site for more details and contact us direct with email address if you would like to be contacted directly.’