Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Xmas bird watch and campfire cook up - volunteers celebrate and rewarded for a years hard work

The picture here shows a few volunteers tucking in round the fire. Hopefully some more pictures to follow shortly.

Most of our regular volunteers turned up on Tuesday 20th, for a pre-Xmas social. We ventured on a birding walk through the reserve to Chapel Pill near the port, enjoying flocks of fieldfares and redwings. A kingfisher was spotted at a distance, before returning to our Wharf Lane area where lunch was being prepared over the wood fires. The fayre included vegetable soups, hot dogs, mulled wine and a range of salads, including a fresh sorrel salad, foraged from our field next door just an hour before! Most were prepared to sample this and agreed it is adds a tangy zest to any salad stuff. You can try it next year when we run a foraging walk and cook - scheduled for Sunday 23rd September 2012. All next year's events will be on the web site early January, and we are taking bookings now.

A chance for a reminder to all Village Quarter residents about our forthcoming evening's talk about Portbury Wharf on Tuesday 10th January from 7-9pm at Trinitiy school. Please email or call 07808 789 192 to book your free place.

Over 800 hits on our Portbury Wharf web page and blog each month, making it one of AWT's most popular web pages!
We hope you will start to follow us on Twitter and like our facebook pages too in 2012!
May a wish all our blog readers a merry Christmas and a very happy new year!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Weston RSPB Group Visit


Song Thrush


Many thanks to the Weston RSPB group for paying the reserve a visit for a guided walk on Saturday morning. It was lovely weather for birding. The group had a very pleasant time and were delighted to see the new habitats that have been created for birds and also surprised by how quickly the pools have naturalised. The usual suspects were on the pools and the Stonechat was an added Christmas bonus. We look forward to seeing some of the group members paying the reserve more visits in the future.

Thanks to all involved in the organisation of this walk.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Resilient Little Owls!

Regular visitors to the reserve and our blog page will know that the Little Owls liked to spend their time watching the world around them from our neighbouring field. Sadly, the recent windy weather has taken its toll on the already derelict barn and caused the roof to almost completely collapse. However, if you were worried about whether you might see them at their usual haunt, the picture below will answer that question. They seem content with their altered surroundings so hopefully they will feature strongly in our 2012 blog!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Great-Crested Grebe

Great-crested Grebe is an uncommon bird on the Pools, we normally only get around one or two sightings per year. This bird turned up on Saturday 10th of December.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Residents and regular visitors

Curlew (below): are present on the Portbury Wharf shoreline throughout the year, but most birds depart in Spring to breed elsewhere. Their long bills allow them to get at food not accessible to other waders with much shorter bills. In wet winters Curlew fly over from the muddy estuary to feed in our fields.

Shelduck: These handsome piebald-plumaged marine ducks actually breed inland away from the shoreline. They make their nests in rabbit burrows and holes at the bottom of trees. In Spring it is not unusual to see small parties of these birds flying over the reserve and farther into the Gordano Valley to look for nest sites. How they manage to safely navigate their chicks across the M5 and A369 to the coast is anyones guess... but they do pull it off!

Photos taken at the reserve on the 1.12.11

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

School assemblies, then 6th formers campfire cook up as an early Xmas reward

The first picture shows a year 10 assembly at Gordano this morning. We were launching a competition for the students to design the decoration for a storage container, situated on the reserve in a field by Wharf Lane. We ran from this assembly to another for Year 7's. Hopefully we'll get a winning entry to transform our container next year. Watch this space...

In the afternoon, in the bright December sunshine, we cooked up over the campfire, celebrating a term's work, (and some learning), for conservation on the reserve.

We were slightly light on numbers, due to some pressing lessons for a few and an Oxbridge interview for another, but Alice, Rich, Kris, Will, Sean and Tom all enjoyed the nearly festive fayre.

We did attempt some wild food, but the burdock root we dug up was past its best. Shame, as this common plant root is excellent roasted or sliced and fried. I promised a sorrel salad when we start back next term so a (very early!) happy new year to all!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Linnets are small brown stripey birds in Winter plumage. There is currently a small flock of 25+ birds along the seawall and saltmarsh feeding on weeds and seeds. Many of these wintering birds will disperse in Spring to breed elsewhere but a couple of pairs usually stay to nest in the scrub and hedgerow along the seawall. In the Summer the male bird has a lovely rosey-pink breast. The photo above was taken by the tower hide on November 24th.

Below, the barn owl was spotted out hunting on Saturday mid-morning. Now that their young have safely fledged we can happily announce that our barn owl pair were proud parents to TWO broods of barn owlets this year!

Monday, 21 November 2011

New Arrivals

There was much excitement and interest on the pools on Saturday with the arrival of a blue phased Snow Goose type (lookalike/hybrid can't be ruled out!). Thankfully we have got some pics (see above) and will be investigating this further. Either way it is a fantastic looking bird. It was not seen on Sunday but will hopefully drop in again.

Also sighted on the pools towards the end of last week were 40-50 Wigeon (see above). They are winter visitors to the Severn Estuary from Russia and Scandinavia in the Oct- Mar period. When seen in good sunlight, the drake bird shows a bright creamy yellow facial blaze, whereas the female bird tends to be more dull and inconspicuous in plumage.

If the pools do not freeze over in really cold weather, these birds should stay with us until early Spring.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Busy day for community involvement - one payback team and two public talks!

This morning we were visited for the first time by North Somerset's Community Payback Team. As reparation for offences the individuals work on local projects to give something back to the community. Our work force got stuck in with some litter clearance near the Sheepway railway bridge, and along some paths on the reserve. They then spent the day removing tree guards which have now served their purpose and, in some cases, are restricting the tree's growth.

I left the group at lunchtime to go and present an illustrated talk to the Senior Citizens Forum at The Folk Hall. A great turn out on such a grey and miserable day, with nearly 70 in the audience! I was helped in my presentation by eight young people from Gordano 6th form, who all spoke and demonstrated with a range of props to illustrate the work of the reserve.
Gordano Head of 6th Tom Inman came along to support them, and the students received rapturous applause from a grateful and now well-informed audience. Thank you to the Forum for their generous donation to Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve.

I write this just before delivering the second talk of the day, later this evening, to Redcliffe Bay Methodists! We may post some video of this 'performance' , as the 6th formers efforts were recorded, so watch out for a brief edited version on our AWT You Tube account?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A pair of Black Redstarts near the marina

These pictures were not taken on the reserve but we thought the residents might like to know about a lovely pair of birds that have taken up residence near the marina recently. A Black Redstart pair have been present near the lock gates and the Royal Inn Pub over the past week or so. Black Redstarts are small drab coloured birds with bright red tails. They like hanging around houses, gardens and rocky beaches where they can forage for food. A pair was present here last winter and it's tempting to think they may have returned. So if you are out and about taking in the sea air do keep an eye out for them!

Many thanks to Vic Savery and Sue Blackmore for the lovely pictures.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Purple Sandpiper, taken yesterday, at Battery Pt rocks in Portishead near the outdoor swimming pool - one of the few regular wintering sites for this species around Bristol. The bird will probably be joined by its mates in a few weeks time and they will stay until Spring. The birds are best seen at high tide when they are pushed up higher on the rocks into better view.

Also, in keeping with the hallowe'en theme I have attached a great picture taken of a black swan in the north pools a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, 27 October 2011


Many thanks to Pete Blanchard for sending through some more amazing photos. These are of a Hobby flying over the South Pools recently. Thanks also to the volunteers who carried out some much needed reed clearance in front of the south pools hide.

A camera was left in the middle hide during our recent bird fair. We have also retrieved a body warmer and a cap from a 'scope eye piece. Please contact AWT to claim any of these items.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"Splash" moves in mysterious ways ! Our sculpture migrates to become more visible to visitors

On a cold but sunny day, I was helped again by our Gordano school 6th formers. Alice, Kris, Sean and Tom all helped move the sculpture back towards Portishead and closer to the two bird hides in the North Pools field.

The sculplure looks like a HUGE rock has been thrown in the lake, leaving it's splash frozen in time! It was created by local Bristol design company, Cod Steaks, who also produced the 'nails' piece within Portishead's Village Quarter. They are best known for creating the sets for Aardman Animations Wallace & Gromit' and more!
Get on down for your new improved view of this interesting piece of art - best seen from the 2nd of our 3 hides as well of from the Tower hide by the foreshore.
Sculpture on nature reserves can divide opinion from those who enjoy visiting them. Some harder line conservationists think they have no place.
What do you think?
Go on, let us know, and be the first to post a comment in the box below!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Autumn watch Bird Fair a sunny success - Sun day 16th October

Just a few pictures to tell the story of a gorgeously sunny day down near the shores of the Severn estuary. Loads of local people enjoyed the autumnal sunshine - children joined in the bird themed activities and people tried out the bird watching equipment demonstrated by Lakeside Optics from Chew Valley.

Most of these pictures are supplied by Sarah Pitt, who we were honoured to have come along, as a Senior Producer with the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol. Also present to get things off to a great start was local weather presenter Jemma Cooper.

Well over 200 people enjoyed the afternoon, and all agreed we should run one again next year. So get out your 2012 calendars and pencil in Sunday 21st October!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Return of the Spoonbill (part 2)

Three Lapwings were spotted on the North Pools island today. Hopefully more will follow!

The Little Owl in its usual Spot.

A Greylag Goose trying to blend in.

The last couple of pictures show our VIB visitor who was first seen on the island at 10.00 and was still there when I was leaving at 5.20.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Return of the Spoonbill

We were rewarded for our hard work clearing the vegetation from the island last week with the arrival of a Spoonbill last Tuesday. I'm delighted to report that it was spotted again on Friday. It was not present this morning but we believe it was still in the avonmouth area as recent as Sunday.
Thanks to the conservation volunteers for a reed slashing session yesterday to clear a view from the south pools hide. The reeds will be managed on rotation so that we will have reeds at different stages of their life cycles thus providing a broader range of habitats for wildlife including invertebrates and birds. Managing reeds also allows us to create muddy edges to the pools which waders favour as feeding grounds.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Willow Weavers have a whale of a time at the Wharf

A good group of keen participants, including a good number from the local Village Quarter, were introduced to the ancient art of weaving with willow. In the morning, tutor Sarah Ayling demonstrated how to make a striking garden structure - ideal as a feature and great for climbing plants. The people braved the wet and windy weather in the afternoon and made smaller pieces, sheltering in the roomy Tower bird hide down by the foreshore. Views of the Severn Estuary were not at their most inspiring, but the weavers still produced some excellent birds, fish and decorative circles. I attempted a life-sized spoonbill as a homage to last week's exciting visitor to our North Pools - a Portbury Wharf first! Come along next Sunday to another first - our Autumnwatch Bird Fair. From 1pm-4pm we will host Lakeside Optics, demonstrating a wide range of birdwatching equipment, suitable for the beginner to the seasoned twitcher. With bird related activities for the children and a chance to see The Sanctuary area of the reserve, normally out of bounds, this is a free afternoon out local people should not miss. See you there - you never know you might even spot a spoonbill, or at least a willow version!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Guides from Redcliffe Bay singalong round the reserve!

This actually took place back in July, but as we've only just received it at Portbury Wharf HQ, we couldn't resist posting it on our blog...great picture too!

Thanks to Leader Liz Howells for bringing the group and sending the blog.

We visited Parish Wharf nature Reserve on July 7th with 12 guides from Redcliffe Bay, about half of our usual number as it fell on Gordano School's Activities Week so many were away on residential trips. The girls really enjoyed their visit though, and were delighted to spot rabbits, hawks and the usual ducks and swans. It had been an unsettled day, and we counted ourselves lucky to have made it to the sea wall before we had to hurry the girls into the large hide to shelter from some unseasonal torrential rain for twenty minutes. Luckily it eased off in time for us to make only a slightly damp walk back to the car park, and being guides they couldn't resist singing on the way!

Many thanks for your help,

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Getting creative at Portbury Wharf


Students from Knowle Park Primary School came to visit Portbury Wharf today, thanks to a kind donation from Western Power Distribution which will allow pupils from the city centre to visit our newest reserve on the Severn Estuary.

Year 3 pupils, made clay animals, took photographs, visited the Portbury Wharf sculpture, "Splash" and had a chance to explore the wonderful site, learning about different artistic techniques on route.

The weather was fantastic for the time of year - warm and dry - which meant throughout the day we spotted loads of wildlife, including butterflies, beetles, worms and lots of dragonflies - one of which even landed on me!

Thanks to the staff and pupils from Knowle Park who were enthusiastic learners and great fun. Keep up the good work and carry on getting creative in your own school grounds.