Contact us at info@fpwnr.org

Hinkley Connection Update April 2020

This update relates to the continuation of work at Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve and the extra safety measures being taken during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a briefing we have received from the Community Relations Team of the National Grid Hinkley Connection Project. We are posting these briefings so you are kept up to date with the work being done on Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve.

As an owner and operator of critical national infrastructure, we at National Grid know that millions of people are relying on us, now more than ever, to keep the lights on and the gas flowing. We have engineers working hard to ensure energy can be supplied safely and efficiently to hospitals, schools, businesses and homes across the country.

Many roles across our business have been designated as ‘key worker’ roles by the government and, at a time when everyone is being asked to stay at home wherever possible, some of our people are out there working to ensure our NHS can care for the sick, businesses and schools can continue to operate, and that people can work from home in these unusual circumstances.

The Hinkley Connection Project is a critical national infrastructure project. These are works that have been given government approval to continue to ensure the future running of the network.

Following robust risk assessments and a comprehensive review of our programme of works, we are now, together with our contractors, continuing to progress with the critical elements of the project, in line with current Government guidance on construction activity.

We have significantly reduced our workforce and those on site are working under stringent site operating procedures to safeguard the remaining workforce, their colleagues, their families and the UK population.

In relation to the underground cable works between Nailsea and Portishead, this week works have been focused on installation of additional hand washing facilities, deep cleaning of offices, installation of extra welfare cabins and additional parking provision at the compounds, so that guidelines around social distancing can be met.

To meet seasonal working restrictions, we must also restart works in Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve. Activity will continue as per the agreed programme of works, though progress will undoubtedly be slower. This means that next week we’ll be working on the bellmouths on Sheepway and will continue with preparation for the temporary haul road, plus ongoing soil and ecological surveys in preparation for the new overhead lines. Between now and September there will also be trenching and ducting work and horizontal directional drilling (HDD) within the reserve.

We take our responsibilities to our employees and the communities in which we are working very seriously. In this challenging and fast-moving situation, we are endeavouring to keep local communities informed via our project website and parish and town councils.

We are placing additional signage at our sites to inform the public of the continuation of critical works during the COVID-19 outbreak and direct people to contact our community relations helplines if they have any questions or concerns.

If you have any questions about the works or would like further information on the safety measures we are taking, please come back to me.

Community Relations Team
National Grid Hinkley Connection Project
T: 0800 377 7347

March and April – what to look out for

While some winter birds are yet to fly back north to their nesting sites, spring fever is definitely on its way.  March and April is such an exciting time of year with plenty of spring wildlife to look out for.

Buds are budding and the first blossom of blackthorns are pretty as a picture. The blackthorn hedgerow by the North Pool Hide is worth a look, open the side shutters to see what birds are among the blossom. Listen out for the distinctive call of the chiffchaff, he calls out his name.

Butterflies and insects

Look out for the first butterflies during the next month:

Speckled Wood
Comma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pale green Brimstones look like leaves
Peacock butterfly

 

 

 

 

Birds

New spring-time arrivals


The distinctive Wheatear with its “bandit” face mask comes all the way from Africa for the summer. You might seen them anywhere, this one was on a washed up log on the salt marsh.

Breeding plumage

Many of our residents are showing off their breeding plumage.

For most of the year Black-headed gulls have white heads with just a telltale white spot behind the eye. But this time of year they actually live up to their name – well nearly, the head is actually brown!

Courtship displays

Soon our wildlife will be looking to nest and rear young so this is the time for courtship displays.

Male shelducks display to impress a mate, though clearly it is not working here! She looks decidedly disinterested. Look out for them on the foreshore and on North Pool Island.

Or you may be lucky enough to see oystercatchers strutting their stuff on the North Pool island or on the foreshore.

Water voles

Water Voles are becoming more active in the rhynes. Now is a chance to glimpse one swimming. It gets harder to see them once all the reeds start growing.

While on the Salt Marsh

Sea scurvy grass in flower on the salt marsh. It is rich in vitamin C and sailors used to eat it to prevent scurvy.

 There is so much going on among our spring wildlife so this is just a taster of things to look out for. 

Hinkley Connection Update February 2020

This update relates to closures and restrictions at Sheepway.

This is a briefing we have received from the Community Relations Team of the National Grid Hinkley Connection Project. We are posting these briefings so you are kept up to date with the work being done on Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve.

Hinkley Connection Project notice

To update you on where we are with construction of the underground cables between the west end of Nailsea and Portishead substation. We are currently working on Engine Lane and Hanham Way towards Watery Lane in the west end of Nailsea to build temporary entrances to our construction areas. We will be starting work on Clevedon Road in Tickenham and on Sheepway to construct the temporary entrances from 27 February.

As part of the work on Sheepway, we need to:

  • Restrict access to Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve from the Sheepway entrance until mid-March 2020.
  • Close a section of Sheepway until mid-March 2020.
  • Suspend the car parking area on Sheepway until 2025 when all work in this area will be complete.

The temporary restricted accesses from Sheepway is to keep the public and our workers safe while we build temporary entrances and access roads to our construction areas.

We understand the nature reserve is well used and we’re working with our contractors, J. Murphy & Sons Limited, to limit disruption as best we can. We’re also working with North Somerset Council to maintain as much access to the area as possible – with our priority being the safety of all users.

What this means for access from Sheepway:

  • Pedestrians and cyclists: Open throughout the work. Cyclists will need to dismount for safety reasons.
  • Horses: Closed to horses until mid- March 2020.

All other entrances to the reserve will remain open and the car parking area on Wharf Lane is unaffected during the construction of the underground cables. We will be placing public information boards at key locations within the reserve – these will be updated to keep everyone informed and up to date on our construction activity.

Community Relations Team,
National Grid Hinkley Connection Project
www.hinkleyconnection.co.uk

You can read more on this website at Hinkley Connection at PWNR and the FAQ page.

February – What to look out for

 

Look out for FROGS and TOADS!

This is their mating time and they are on the move. February and March is the time when we are most likely to see them as large numbers converge on their breeding ponds. As Portbury Wharf is a wetland area with plenty of lovely watery places many frogs, toads and newts will be heading our way.

They have spent the winter in hedges, muddy ditches, under stones, plant pots or hunkered down under compost heaps. The rising temperature triggers the breeding season.

Frogs become increasingly active in garden ponds just before the migration begins, a sure sign that movement is imminent. I can hear frogs croaking and frolicking in my pond as I type this! If weather conditions are favourable (mild, damp evenings) the onset of migration is sudden. They will begin, en masse, to head to their breeding ponds.

They take the quickest route along ancestral pathways to the pond were they spawned. This often brings them into conflict with cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

You can join Portishead Toad Patrol to help them cross the Village Quarter and The Vale safely.

Join the Portishead Toad Patrol
Contact them at:

Winter birds are still here

The winter birds are still around so take a look at what you might expect to see on our Winter Birds page. They will be going back north to nest soon so see them while you still can!

See if you can spot Dunlin and Wigeon on the North Pool or out on the estuary.

Dunlin
Male Wigeon

World Wetlands Day 2 February 2020

Celebrate World Wetlands Day

Go out and enjoy our precious wetlands and wonderful wildlife on World Wetlands Day!

Watch out for the winter wildfowl as they won’t be here for much longer. Soon the migration will start and the winter birds will fly back to northern countries. Meanwhile other birds will fly from Africa and beyond to nest here in spring and summer.

Take a look at our slide show to see why wetlands such as Portbury Wharf are so important.

For more facts about wetlands visit www.worldwetlandsday.org

January – What to look out for

Happy New Year! It’s January and a new decade starts here.

This month I thought we would concentrate on one species of bird which is on the reserve in big numbers at the moment. There are a number of different birds that visit us in the winter and you can find out more about them on our Winter Birds page.

We are going to look at just one of these in more detail:

 THE WIGEON  

Male wigeon Male and female wigeon

The drake (male) Wigeon is a really handsome duck. His chestnut head has a bright golden streak running from the top of his bill over his crown, which stands out when you get a good view of him in the sunlight.

The female is less colourful, but still has rufous brown sides and smart black wing feathers and a white tummy.

Wigeon have small bills and a steep forehead, which gives them an attractive “baby-face” look. They are one of the prettier ducks!

male and female wigeon in flight  With roe deer on Portbury Wharf salt marsh

In flight you can see the wigeons’ white bellies. The males have distinctive large white wing patches.

When and where to see wigeon

From October, our estuaries and wetlands fill up with tens of thousands of them flying in from their breeding grounds in Iceland, Scandinavia and northern Russia to take advantage of our milder weather. Only a few wigeon breed in the UK and most of these do so in Scotland.

The North Pool and the Saltmarsh at Portbury Wharf are home to big flocks of Wigeon at the moment and we counted 205 on the North Pools during our December Monitoring count. You can see how their numbers build up on this graph of the count:

All our Wigeon have normally returned north by March!

You can find more graphs of our counts on the Monitoring page – click here.

 

 

 DID YOU KNOW?  

Wigeon are a grazing duck. They usually feed while walking on land, nibbling grass and other vegetation in wet fields or eating seeds and algae in the saltmarsh.

Wigeon grazing
Wigeon grazing on Portbury Wharf salt marsh
The Whistling Duck!

One of the best sounds on the reserve in mid-winter is the whistling call of the Wigeon. The best place to hear it is from either the Tower Hide or the North Pool Hide next door. Big flocks of Wigeon are constantly whistling to each other!

LISTEN TO THEM WHISTLE!

“Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)” from xeno-canto by Stuart Fisher. Genre: Anatidae.

Wigeon over roe deer on Portbury Wharf salt marsh

Murmuring starlings or whispering dunlins?

It was twilight. The stars had faded away but it was not yet sunrise when hundreds of pairs of wings purred past my shoulder. What were they? Where had they come from and where were they going?

I was standing on the sea wall path with my back to the nature reserve. As these low flying birds flashed past from behind the sound was just magical. Had I been murmured at by starlings or whispered to by dunlins? In those few seconds, in the gloaming, it was hard to tell. Both can congregate on the reserve in their hundreds, so which was it?

I hurriedly snapped off a couple of photos as they streamed out across the flooded salt marsh and hoped this would give me the answer.

My snapshots turned out to be typically blurry but not too blurry to identify a fling of dunlins.

I saw them again later in mesmerising flocks, making endless shapes across the skyline and wind turbines. There were in fact over 1200 of them!

Was it because the high tide was right up to the sea wall that they sought refuge in the reserve? After all, the reserve is an excellent place to wait for the tide to ebb!

December

IT’S DECEMBER!

December is the month of CHRISTMAS and that makes it hard to avoid references to mistletoe, robins, holly and ivy! Let’s learn more about these Christmas symbols which you might spot on a walk around the reserve at this festive time of year.

The Robin

Robin

How many Christmas cards will you receive featuring a robin somewhere in the picture? British robins are our favourite, friendly garden bird, largely because they can become so tame and, let’s face it, they are such pretty birds!

It is not hard to see robins on the reserve at this time of year. Many of them might be winter visitors from elsewhere, even from the continent. They will have come here because it’s milder here than further north or east.

Robins sing all through the winter, so listen out for their beautiful, wistful tune as you walk through the reserve. This is what it sounds like:

Robin song recorded by david m. from www.xeno-canto.org

Mistletoe

Mistletoe growing on the branches of a tree

Now that most of the leaves have fallen off many of the trees on the reserve, mistletoe shows up really clearly because it keeps its green leaves all year round. You will see a lot of it around the reserve if you look out for it.

To germinate, seeds of the mistletoe do not have to pass through the gut of a bird. The seeds are surrounded by a very sticky pulp (viscin) which often stick to a bird’s beak when the berries are eaten. They are then often wiped off onto a branch when the bird cleans its beak. The viscin then hardens to fix the seed to the bark of a new host tree and sometimes these seeds germinate.

 

The green root growing out of a mistletoe seed and into a tree branch.
The seed then grows a root, which burrows through the bark of the tree and into the sapwood inside. Here is a picture of this happening on a tree in my garden.

The mistletoe gets water and minerals from the tree, though it also makes some of its own food by photosynthesis, which is why it has green leaves.

Here is the same mistletoe plant three years later……..
…and here is a slice through a branch showing the mistletoe roots (white) growing into the wood of the tree

Holly

If the Robin is the ultimate Christmas bird, Holly must be the ultimate Christmas plant. As the carol says  “the holly wears the crown” and its dark green leaves and bright red berries have become the colours of Christmas.

Unlike many plants, holly has trees of different sexes. You won’t find berries on a male tree; their flowers only produce pollen.

Holly was valued by farmers in bygone days in many parts of the country as an important source of winter fodder. Branches would be cut off trees and, despite the prickles, cattle and sheep fed on leaves.

 

Ivy

We featured Ivy in a September post. It is an extremely valuable plant for wildlife and, unlike Mistletoe, it is not a parasite, but simply uses the trees that it climbs for support.

If you want to read more about this wonderful plant follow this link – Ivy post

 

 

 

Did you know?

IVY
  • Ivy was once thought to be a way of countering the worse effects of alcohol
  • “Ale-stakes”, poles covered in ivy, were once used as signs for taverns
  • Ivy was traditionally seen as a “female” plant and holly as a “male” one
  • Young Queen Victoria once wore a wreath of ivy intertwined with diamonds in her hair
  • Traditional schoolgirl rhyme: “Ivy, Ivy, I love you; In my bosom I put you; The first young man who speaks to me; My future husband he shall be.”
MISTELTOE
  • Apple, lime and poplar are mistletoe’s favourite hosts, but it can parasitize many different species
  • Mistletoe growing on oak trees is unusual and very rare. This may be why the druids were supposed to particularly value mistletoe harvested from an oak tree
  • Mistle thrush and blackcap are the two main dispersers of mistletoe
  • Like holly, mistletoe plants are either male or female. Only female plants carry berries
  • Kissing under the mistletoe may have originated from Norse mythology and probably began in the 18th century when it was first used as a festive decoration in our homes. One kiss was allowed for each berry and after each kiss a berry would be removed until there were none left.
HOLLY
  • Holly wood was traditionally used to make stocks and horse whips
  • Holly trees were left standing in cut hedgerows “to stop witches running along the tops of the hedges”

Goldeneyes

Two Goldeneye ducks appeared on the reserve this last weekend. They were seen on Saturday and were on the big North Pool when we started the monthly monitoring count on Sunday, but then moved to the South Pool where I was able to get these pics on my mobile through my telescope.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldeneye are diving ducks that breed in Scotland and further north, so they have come south for the winter. These are the first I have seen on the reserve – they normally prefer bigger areas of water. These are “red-heads”, i.e. they are females or juveniles. The males are a lovely black and white.

If you want to know more about our monitoring counts see Wildlife Monitoring.

You could always come and join us on future counts!

NOVEMBER – What to look out for

Welcome to November!

The clocks have gone back, so dusk comes early in November. The first frosts have arrived and the trees are rapidly losing their leaves….but it’s a good time for wildlife spotting. Winter visitors are streaming in, so there’s lots to look out for!

The North Pools

As the cold sets in further north and east, many ducks fly in to enjoy our milder winters. We do regular monitoring counts on the reserve and the charts of the duck numbers on the North Pools clearly show this happening.

Blue bars show 2018/19 and brown bars show 2019/2020 counts so far.

Both these species breed on the reserve, so they are here all the year round, but their numbers on the North pools are bigger in the winter months.This will be due to local birds moving to the North Pools where there is safety and lots of food, but also their numbers will be boosted by extra birds coming in to join them from elsewhere.
Coot
Mute Swan

These two species spend their summer further north and just visit us in the winter.The numbers that reach us will depend on how harsh the winter is elsewhere.

Will this year bring bigger numbers? The October counts looked good, but we’ll have to wait until December or January to know for sure!

Male Wigeon
Shoveler, male and female

The South Pool

Recent management work has opened up the South Pool and the water levels have increased with the wet weather. The South Pool hide is a great place to sit and search for Snipe. Snipe numbers also increase in the winter, but they are hard to spot amongst the tussocky grasses because of their amazing camouflage. They have  impressively long beaks for their size and fly away with a zig-zag flight if disturbed.

Common Snipe

 

The Hedgerows

The count on 27th October also saw the first winter thrushes – a flock of Redwings. Look out for big flocks of both Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds on the Hawthorn trees around the reserve as they swoop in to strip the trees of their berries or “haws”. Some years the crop has almost gone by the end of the month! 

Fieldfare
Redwing

As well as hawthorn berries there are lots of other seeds to look out for.  Keep any eye out for these on the reserve, of course, the hungry wildlife might get them first! ​

The weather might not always be friendly in November, but a visit to the reserve is always worth the effort. You never know what you might see!

 

 

Images: some supplied by “Friends” others are courtesy of www.pixaby.com thank you all!