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Roe deer kid

How to help our spring wildlife

It’s spring and lots of our wildlife is beginning to breed. At this important time we can all do two easy things to help the wildlife here; keep to the paths and keep our dogs on leads. These simple measures will safeguard many species.

Did you know?

Our skylarks, lapwings and other birds that nest on the ground have a tough time protecting their eggs and chicks. They already face attack from other birds and foxes so can do without us trampling their camouflaged nests. The skylark has an iconic, heart warming song. If we encourage a healthy population here then future generations will also hear skylarks.

The female roe deer will soon be having their young. Once the kids are born the does (females) will leave them hidden on the salt marsh or on the reserve. They will only return occasionally to suckle them. It is when the kids are alone that they are in most danger. Both foxes and loose dogs could easily injure or even kill them.

Portbury Wharf Water Vole – a priority species protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981

Of course many of you will know that our swans have previously suffered attacks from both foxes and dogs. So please do not let your dog swim in the water or get close to swans. This simple measure will also protect our dwindling water voles. They live in the rhynes and waterways and will be fattening up after the winter. The vegetation on the banks is their lunch and they eat a lot of it! It also keeps them hidden from predators. So it will help if we all stay away from the water and don’t trample down the bank.

We and our dogs can be pretty scary to the wildlife. Dogs can even scare some of the human visitors too by running up to them. So please be kind and keep your distance and keep dogs under very tight control, preferably on a lead.

Social distancing is protecting us and distancing will protect our wildlife too. Give it a go so all life can flourish at Portbury Wharf!

PS Thanks for roe kid image by B. Schmidt from Pixabay

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








Pale green Brimstones look like leaves
Peacock butterfly






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

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.

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

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!


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!

Mini Nature Trail in Portishead Library

Just in time for half term we have set up a mini nature trail in Portishead Library.  Can you identify the seeds we have put in the foyer?

Pick up a tick card and find the 6 seed posters placed around the library.  Then answer the true and false questions on the back of the tick card.

So why not have a go?
Then try to find the seeds out on the nature reserve.



Evergreen ecosystem

What plant do these belong to?

You probably see this plant every day as you walk past gardens, woods and along the paths in the reserve. Everyone knows this plant but nobody really notices it. Yet it is an important evergreen ecosystem.

Ivy provides nesting sites and shelter for insects, birds and even small mammals, frogs and toads. It also provides food for wildlife from autumn until spring.

Ivy flowers in autumn when few other flowers are open for business. Bees, butterflies and all number of insects come to feed on the nectar and pollen. In fact it is so popular with bees that you can often hear it “buzzing” as you get close, especially on a warm day.

For insects that hibernate over the winter, like the queen wasps, queen bumble-bees, queen hornets, red admiral and peacock butterflies this may provide their last chance to fuel up.

By December the fertilised flowers have ripened into clusters of black berries.  Birds love them! The berries will last until April if they don’t get gobbled up before!

Do you know what it is yet?

Want another clue?

It can happily grow along the ground or up a wall and older plants can even stand on their own if thick enough. It can grow up trees but gains no nourishment from the trees it clings to. Though it may cause some damage by its sheer weight or by shading the trees’ leaves, it does not directly kill the tree it grows up.

Even our Portbury Wharf roe deer will dine out on it when the opportunity arises.

To find about this plant click HERE