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JUNE – what to look out for

June is the month when the meadows and verges are full of flowers and the breeding season for the birds is in full swing. The emergence of butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies, which has been a bit slow in May due to cold northerly winds is now (literally!) taking off in earnest.

On the Pools

Mallard ducklings – photo Hilary Kington
Coot with chicks – photo Chris Clarke

The birds of both the North and South Pools are busy hatching and raising young. If you look carefully from the hides, you might see young Coots, Moorhens and ducklings out on the water. On the islands Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Oystercatchers have been nesting and the young should have hatched. The Oystercatchers’ chicks are especially vulnerable until they can fly.

Mute swan with cygnets – Hilary Kington

Hopefully the swans on the Ecology Park pond will have cygnets, so please be careful to keep your dogs well clear while in this area.

This photograph is of the 2018 family of Mute Swans on Swan Lake.

 

 

While on South Pool you might be lucky enough to spot these Canada Geese goslings photographed by Michael Brighton . . .

In the Hedgerows and Rhynes

Some of the birds to LISTEN out for in June

Once the leaves are on the trees you are more likely to hear the birds in the hedgerows than to see them. Most birds are busy raising young, but they still pause to mark out their territories with song in the early morning and again in the evening. The middle of the day can be quite quiet, especially if it gets hot.

Common Whitethroat

In brambly areas the Common Whitethroat will be singing its short scratchy tune, sometimes delivering it in a display flight above the bushes.

Common Whitethroat recorded by Harry Hussey from www.xeno-canto.org

Lesser Whitethroat

Its more secretive cousin, the Lesser Whitethroat, has a song which is just a tuneless rattle, often coming from the middle of a bush.

Lesser Whitethroat recorded by Harry Hussey from www.xeno-canto.org

Reed Warbler

Also very distinctive is the Reed Warbler song, which you will hear along the rhynes. It is a long, drawn-out chugging and churring song, but often has quite a bit of trilling and whistling.

Reed Warbler recorded by David M. from www.xeno-canto.org

Cetti’s Warbler

The loudest and most explosive song must come from the Cetti’s Warbler. These birds can be right beside you hidden in the hedge and the sudden outburst of song can almost make you jump! Listen here . . .

Cetti’s Warbler recorded by Frank Lambert from www.xeno-canto.org
Some of the DAMSELFLIES and DRAGONFLIES to look out for in June

The small damselflies can be seen everywhere at this time of year. Most species are blue, like the Azure Damselfly and they are very difficult to tell apart.

The dragonflies are much larger and faster flying and can be very colourful. Two species you are quite likely to see along the ryhnes and ditches in June are the Four-spot Chaser and the Emperor Dragonfly.

Azure Damselfly Four-spot Chaser Emperor Dragonfly

Damselfly and dragonfly photos by Giles Morris

We hope you see, or hear, some of these creatures the next time you visit the reserve.

 

MAY – what to look out for

A May cuckoo at Portbury Wharf

Listen out for cuckoos in May. Cuckoos fly all the way here from Africa and beyond to lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Did you know it is only the male bird that calls “cuckoo”?  A cuckoo was heard calling at Portbury Wharf early this May.

Along the hedgerows

Our resident hedgerow birds are well into nesting by May and many of our summer visitors have arrived to nest here too. These include Common Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Reed and Sedge Warblers.

Common Whitethroat

 

By the pools and on the estuary

House and sand martins, swallows and swifts will be swooping low feeding on insects. Also keep a look out, particularly on the estuary for whimbrels. Whimbrels are a wading bird very similar to curlews with long legs and a long curved beak.

Swallows fly over the pools and salt marsh catching insects

Along the rhynes

This is a great place to look for dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies.

Peacock butterfly
The earliest damselfly is the Large Red Damselfly

 

March and April – what to look out for

Spring fever is in the air. March and April – what to look out for, This 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 and then hawthorns are pretty as a picture. The hedgerow by the North Pool Hide is worth a look, open the side shutters to see what birds are among the blossom. Last time I looked through the shutter a chiffchaff sang to me.

Butterflies and insects

Look out for the first butterflies:

Speckled Wood
Comma

T

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 regular visitors 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.

Courtship displays

Our wildlife are 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. 

Roe Deer Antlers

Roe deer antlers regrow each year

Only the male roe deer have antlers. Each year, in late autumn they shed their antlers and grow new ones. It doesn’t take long, after casting off the old ones, before these new roe deer antlers start to grow. If you look very closely at this “December” buck (above) you can just see the “nobs” of next year’s antlers.

By February these antlers have put on a spurt. A velvety, soft hairy skin covers and protects them while they grow and harden.

Their antlers are nearly fully grow by mid March but still covered in velvet. This fine buck was sitting in the North Pool field last year.

Spring

In April and May the blood supply to the velvet dries up and it falls off to reveal fully grown, hardened antlers. Often the deer will help this process along by rubbing their antlers on posts and tree trunks to remove the velvet.

Read more about Portbury Wharf’s Roe Deer here

 

Keeping water voles safe

A Portbury Wharf water vole having breakfast in the rhyne
A Portbury Wharf water vole breakfasting in the rhyne

Keeping water voles safe at Portbury Wharf is very important. So the warden and his Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve Volunteers have been busy repairing the hurdles alongside the rhynes. You may have noticed them along Water Vole Lane, the path to the sea wall.

The hurdles are there to keep the water voles safe by deterring unwanted swimmers.

They live in the rhynes and will soon start breeding (we hope). In the UK their numbers are falling, so it is important that our Portbury Wharf water voles thrive.

The vegetation along the bank is their lunch and they eat a lot of it! It also keeps them hidden from predators. So if we (and our dogs) stay away from the water and don’t trample down the bank, that will help them a lot.

Water voles can be hard to spot. But if you are lucky enough to see one here, do tell us.

 

You can read more about water voles here

Gordano Valley lapwings

Gordano Valley Lapwings

This morning at sunrise I watched 18 lapwing lift off from the North Pool. Once upon a time you would have seen flocks of a hundred strong. Sadly over the last 20 or so years, numbers have fallen dramatically.

Portbury Wharf is an important staging post for wildlife heading into the Gordano Valley. That is exactly where these lapwings were going this morning.

Bringing back lapwings to the Gordano Valley is a project that the Avon Wildlife Trust have been working on.  Let’s hope we see many more of these delightful birds in the future.

Look out for these lovely Gordano Valley lapwings on the pools in winter time.

Winter Birds

Look out for the winter birds:

From August on wards lots of birds migrate here to escape the harsh northern winters. These winter birds will stay until the spring before heading back up to breed so in the meantime we get to enjoy them.

  •  Look out for the winter birds . On the pools will be the winter waders and ducks which are visiting us from the cold north. In the hedgerows you may see the winter thrushes, feeding on the berries.

 

On or by the water

Keep a look out for these birds on the ponds and along the shoreline:

  • The winter ducks including the  wigeon ,  teal  and  shovelers  and even the occasional  pochard . You can see these on the ponds and the shoreline.
    Shovelers with dark heads, wedged beaks, white/russet bodies and wigeon. The wigeon are the ones that whistle.
  • The winter wading birds such as the  dunlin ,  lapwings  and  curlews .
    Lapwings and the smaller dunlins
In the hedgerows
  • You might also see the winter thrushes on the hedgerows. The  fieldfares  and  redwings  will stay until all of the berries are eaten and then move on.
Amphibians
  • Amphibians – Over the next month you will see  frogs, toads and newts  migrating to the ponds, particularly Frog Pond. They do this every year in winter to mate and lay their spawn here. If you want to help them migrate safely get in touch with the Portishead Toad Patrol.

|Click here to see where the Frog Pond is.