Thursday, 30 June 2011

Portishead Carnival - our first picture!

A delightful picture of two children from Trinity School on our float in Portishead Carnival. Their costumes are a lovely example of what was achieved on our prize winning float - but there were many more so, hopefully, some more pictures will come in soon, from the many parents and public who braved the rain and lined the route.
Thanks to Nailsea, Clevedon & Portishead Times for this picture.

If you have ANY photos of our float, entitled 'On our doorstep' and featuring a house, wildlife garden and nature reserve and an array of animals and plants, please send them to me at or to Trinity School

Gordano School first visit - Sixth Form Environmental Studies students

A group of first year 6th Formers arrived promptly at 9am on this beautiful sunny morning - amongst the few students attending on this day of national strikes!

Thirteen young people who have completed the first year of their Environmental Studies course, enjoyed the walk with their tutor Tom Inman. For most it was their first time on the reserve. Time constraints restricted the visit to the southern end of the reserve. We discussed the unique way Portbury Wharf is funded and the important links with the local community - including Gordano School. Also highlighted was the vital link the site provides to the many other reserves AWT manages throughout the Gordano Valley, from the internationally important Severn estuary. The rabbits were out in force, along with a coot and a swan from the south pools hide. One of the students, Bryony, enjoyed finding her namesake entwined in the hedgerow. Next time they can hopefully see much more around the north pools.

We hope this will be the first of a great many visits from Gordano students of all ages. In the next academic year the students enrichment programme will encourage young people to get involved at Portbury Wharf - amongst the many and varied opportunities on offer. Some of the group present said they will sign up to come along again to be involved at Portbury Wharf. We look forward to welcoming them from September.

Monday, 27 June 2011

BT Godwit: Present on the main pool since June 18. A passage wader that does not breed here.

Little Owls: One or two birds regularly present at the barns.

Goldfinch: Good views of this charming and colourful finch to be had from the north pools (middle) hide.

Barn Owl: Hunting (a.m.) over the North Pools.

It may be mid-Summer to us but some birds are already thinking its mid Autumn........... an influx of 70+ Redshank to chapel pill creek on Saturday..... returning passage birds from breeding up north.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Clevedon Rotary learn about AWT and Portbury Wharf

I was delighted to be invited by Clevedon Rotary to talk to them about my work, Avon Wildlife Trust and, of course, Portbury Wharf. Many of the audience I have known for most of my life, having grown up in Clevedon. Two Rotarians I have known for even longer - my Mum and Dad !

After our meal and my talk, I fielded some good questions, including some on the land use history and our neighbouring Gun Battery Field, which saw action in the 2nd World War.

A few of the Clevedon Rotarians are already satisfied members of Avon Wildlife Trust, and I am pleased to report that a few more promised to support our work in the future.

Pictured are the outgoing Chair, Judith West and the new Chair Ron Van der Holt, with me taking up my familiar position as an ex rugby hooker, between them both!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Portbury Wharf Volunteer Group

The newly formed Portbury Wharf volunteer group had a very pleasant and productive morning yesterday. Our first task was managing invasive vegetation (or thistle topping) in the north pools field. If creeping thistle is left unmanaged it can begin to dominate the field over time, reducing the biodiversity and amount of suitable habitat for the birds, so topping them at this time of year limits the amount of seeds being dispersed. There are plenty of thistles in other areas of the reserve for wildlife that benefit from them.

We enjoyed being distracted by the wildlife surrounding us. At one point a large flock of starlings came towards the sea wall. We are at the height of the breeding season now and lots of young birds are emerging from nests and are out and about along Wharf Lane (photo below juv. reed warbler) and the boundary rhyne. On the pools we are expecting some of our tufted ducks and gadwall broods to emerge some time this month.

After we had topped all the thistles and were setting off back to base - with our roast dinners in mind - we stumbled upon a very friendly mouse on Wharf Lane (Thanks Chris Stone for the photo). There are many youngsters of the four legged variety starting to appear on the reserve too.

I'd like to thank everyone that came along yesterday and hope to see even more new faces for the next task. The group will be helping out with conservation tasks four times a year on a Sunday from 10.00-12.30. Many hands are hugely helpful for so many tasks that need to carried out to enhance the reserve. If you're interested in coming along on any future volunteer mornings please contact me- mailto:bernied' . Future dates will be set soon.

Finally, I couldn't resist posting a picture of one of our resident grass snakes snapped by Pete Evans.

Winners in Portishead Carnival with Trinity School...'On your doorstep'

We are delighted to announce that our continuing successful partnership with Trinity School has resulted in a wonderful winning float in this weekend's Portishead Carnival!

Parents from Friends of Trinity, pupils and staff had worked hard for weeks to prepare the float and costumes. With a theme of Wildlife gardening and nature reserve 'on your doorstep' , costumes included frogs, butterflies, ladybirds, bumble bees, spiders and chicks, whilst the adults included a fox, badger, hedgehog and kingfisher. The float was adorned with plants kindly donated by Brackenwood Nursery, Abbots Leigh, and also featured a house depicting the Village Quarter development - plus a six foot hairy dragonfly made by Year One pupils from the school!

The menagerie danced, waved and smiled through the rain to a sound track of 'Ugly Bug Ball', 'Boogie woogie hedgehog', 'All things bright and beautiful' and 'English Country Garden'.

There are too many people involved to thank them all here - it really was a great community effort. However, big thanks to all the children and to Candy, parents and staff on Friends of Trinity.

Hopefully more pictures, including the treasured Winners Cup, will follow soon, as my camera malfunctioned in the rain. Also, I learnt it is very difficult operating cameras whilst dressed as a kingfisher!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Reserve's first work placement student inspired by wildlife photography

Rob Steel (pictured in the middle hide) has been a work placement student from Backwell school. He has been with us this week and has been helping out with many things. These have included moving wood chippings into a willow den for children on the reserve, work on the carnival float with Trinity primary school, and in the wildlife garden at Trinity school.

On Wednesday Rob had a day with Pete Evans, a photographer who does alot of great work for Avon Wildlife Trust. Together with Ceri Cambridge, our regular volunter, they both learnt alot of tips and technics about how to use the camera in more depth, and how to get good pictures before the wildlife runs away!

Included above are some selected shots from a great day on the wildlife reserve.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

14 June 2011

Shelducks are a marine duck species but they often breed well away from the sea shoreline.

The parent Shelducks nest in rabbit holes and cavities at the base of trees and the like. These chicks probably hatched somewhere in the Gordano Valley in early June.......... and the parents will have escourted the chicks across the busy A369, M5 and fields to the coast. We hope to encourage Shelducks to breed more regularly on the reserve in the future. More about this in the Autumn.

We were out surveying reptiles earlier and can report our highest recording of slow worms to date- i'm sure the beautiful weather helped. We also saw a few grass snakes. Thanks Helen M., Helen B., Charlotte and Amy.

Finally, keep your eye out for hares from the paths around the fields as I've spotted a couple over the last two weeks

Monday, 13 June 2011

Craig Smith treats his mum to some close encounters

Today I took my mum along to Portbury Wharf for the first time, hoping to see some wildlife. We headed for the middle hide and and within minutes this female dear appeared on the right hand side of the hide, drinking from the pool and nibbling some grass. Then, to our surprise the beautiful animal decided it would walk around the far right hand side of the hide, and have a lay down in some shade, very close to our view point! On the back of this I noticed the gold finches sat about 15 feet in front of the hide!

Fantastic morning!

Tonight I headed down to have a quick walk around after work, to be greeted by a barn owl who was far to quick for me to grab my camera :( But i did wait around and get a long shot of this resident little owl.

Ramblings of a zoologist - Liz Shaw visits Portbury Wharf

An afternoon at Portbury Wharf
Posted on June 5, 2011 by Liz Shaw
Despite intending to spend today catching up on all the jobs I keep putting to one side, I couldn’t go the whole weekend without getting some birdwatching in – so, not wanting to go too far or spend too long out, I decided to explore a reserve that I haven’t been to before but which is only about 10 minutes outside Bristol.

Portbury Wharf is owned by the Avon Wildlife Trust, and lies next to the Severn Estuary, between Portishead and Royal Portbury Dock. Despite being so close to the city, and being next to a housing development, there’s plenty of wildlife to see.

The weather was a bit grey and damp today, but there were still birds everywhere – goldfinches everywhere I turned, plenty of whitethroats singing, reed warblers, and more house martins than I’ve seen all year. There were also lots of youngsters around – some fledgling robins, a young song thrush, young mallards and lots of baby coots.

One of my favourite spots was three colourful bullfinches (picture above) – I have to confess that it’s the first time I’ve ever seen this species! I’ve heard them lots of times so really chuffed to finally get some good views. There was also an interesting chiffchaff around, with a slightly unusual song, plus my first skylarks of the year – was beginning to wonder where they’d all vanished to so I’m relieved that they are about! Also great to hear the haunting calls of a curlew out towards the estuary.

The other interesting spot of the afternoon was a black rabbit – it got scared away by some passers-by before I could take a photo though (although I did manage to picture one of the ‘normal’ rabbit).

All in all, a nice relaxing afternoon and some good birdwatching to keep me going for the week!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Gordano Tangents - wildlife comes out for ladies first visit

The Gordano Tangents visited the reserve for the first time as a group on the 1st of June - the first anniversary of Neil and Bernie starting at Portbury Wharf. For many it was a first ever visit, though some had walked there before and few were aware of the great facilities on offer now. Mary Cookesly, one of the group's leaders, grew up farming all around Portbury Wharf and now lives very close by in Portbury. Her cousins Andrew and John both have close links with the reserve - grazing cattle and working with us to support events and other work.

After a brief outline of the history of Portbury Wharf, aided by Mary, and a description of the unique way it is managed and financed, the group admired the new site interpretation board in Wharf Lane and then set off. The wildlife was out in force, and, despite being such a large a garrulous group (!) we enjoyed a roe deer and foal from the Tower hide, barn owls and sightings of the black rabbits again.

After a really enjoyable 2 hour walk and talk the group showed their appreciation with a generous donation to Avon Wildlife Trust. Thank you to all for a very pleasant evening.