March sketches – cormorants, wheatear and teal

Okay so its nearly August but my mind is in March as I gather together my sketches for the March book.  I love the simplicity of pencil sketches.

The distinctive shape of  cormorants – wonderful birds to sketch.

Teal in flight – there will be more of these, I can’t resist a teal at full pelt!

Then there is the Wheatear a spring visitor all the way from central Africa.

It has quite an upright stance with a bandit face mask, grey back, black wings and tail, a white rump and a reddish flourish under its beak.

It perched just a stone’s throw from the redshank, not birds you would expect to see together – except on a salt marsh.



Exhibiting in North Somerset Arts Week 2017

North Somerset Arts Week is in full swing

28 April – 7 May 2017

Come and see me at venue 49 in Portishead 

With many paintings and sketches on the walls and prints, cards and books  (including my new August book) to browse through, there is plenty to see.

Most of my work features local wildlife from roe deer, wading birds and water voles to the occasional ships navigating past the salt marsh.

Venue 49 – 6 Gardner Road, Portishead, BS20 7ER

Open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm on:

Friday 28 April
Saturday 29 April
Sunday 30 April
Monday 1 May
Tuesday closed
Wednesday closed
Thursday 4 May
Friday 5 May
Saturday 6 May
Sunday 7 May

I look forward to seeing you.

Hilary Kington

NEW BOOK – August Salt Marsh Sketches


It has arrived!

AUGUST Salt Marsh Sketches is the third in a series of
monthly salt marsh sketch books.


These sketches are part of a project to capture the atmosphere and wildlife throughout the year of two small salt marshes in the Bristol Channel at Portishead and Portbury Wharf.

With 56 pages and over 80 watercolour, pastel and pencil sketches of birds, boats, seascapes and more this book shows a glimpse of the salt marsh in August. A brief and gentle narrative threads its way through the book and each of the coloured sketches is accompanied by their own colour palette.

It is 216 wide by 135 mm (8.5 x 5.5 inches) and printed on high quality 200 gms silk paper with a matt laminated 300 gms soft cover and has a lovely feel.

The price is £10 and you can pick up a copy from :
Tinca Gallery in Portishead
at Venue 49 during the North Somerset Arts Week 28 April to 7 May 2017
or by emailing me directly at

Egretta garzetta

Egretta garzetta is the wonderful Latin name for the Little egret.  A tall, elegant white bird that visits the muddy creek at the end of the salt marsh. At low water he stands hunchbacked in the bottom of the creek. At other times striding hurriedly across the mud flats.    With Its long and slender stabbing beak it wades the shallow water looking for small fish.Its size and colour make it an easy spot . . . . . . but beware the egret is always on the alert and will fly off at any moment.


August Geese

A hazy August dawn and a small flock of Canada geese are by the dock wall. A lone greylag goose trails behind, I often see them together.

They drop down onto the salt marsh with the edges of their wings picked out in the sunrise.

The salt marsh is rich in herbs and grasses . . .

. . . the leaves of the sea plantain seem to be a particular attraction.

A summer storm is brewing . .  large drops of rain begin falling. They start slowly but gain a frenzied momentum and for a while the sound of raindrops hitting leaves and landing heavily on parched earth drowns out the sounds of the geese.  

As the storm clouds clear a shaft of sunlight settles on Denny Island but the hills of Wales are still cast in a lovely blue-green hue.

August redshanks


It may be midwinter but I am busy getting together the sketches for my August book and they transport me back to bold blue skies and summer grasses.

You can see redshanks throughout the summer though in less numbers than in winter . . .
I don’t expect all of these redshank sketches will make it to the book but some will.

They race past the spit and along the edges of the salt marsh. The spartina, a salt marsh grass and one of the first plants to colonise a salt marsh, is festooned with ripening seeds.

On a low tide the August sun streams down into the depths of the muddy creek. The light plays on the patterns of mud and draws shadows around the redshank.

   I love watching the redshank deep in the creek.

Blue sky views?

Blue sky views of an August salt marsh . . . well we know an English summer does not always work like that!  But when I put these views together they are mainly blue  . . .
. . . blue skies, blue clouds and blue water . . .  with the odd hazy day and refreshing summer storm.August2


. . . though these are not cloud free skiesAugustview1


. . .  the sun sneaks a look and creates a wonderful rainbow.August1A

March views

Sketches for the March book . . .

4th March. The tide is out and the muddy edge of the salt marsh is clearly visible. IMG_1754

Twice a day the tide comes in and buffets against this ledge, eroding it in places . . .


. . . and laying down sediment elsewhere creating new salt marsh.


On the grassy ledge is a crow – maybe not a universally popular bird with its harsh cawing call but there is a lovely reflected light in its eyes and on its wings and back.


Out on the tidal mud is a sleeping curlew. Even though its characteristic long curved beak is hidden beneath its feathers its outline is unmistakeable.


They make balancing on one leg look so easy!


Having a rest but keeping a wary eye on surroundings.


Then time for probing around in the soft mud looking for worms.


March can be such a gloriously moody month with dramatic heavy skies blowing across the muddy waters of the channel to the Welsh hills . . .

IMG_1676. . . and creating a muted tapestry at Battery Point.


Surprised – roebuck and fox

Just before sunrise on a warm and wind-less May morning a black-faced roebuck was about to cross the rhyne on to the salt marsh when he saw me walking along the sea wall.

He turned tail and ran into a small copse on the “Sanctuary” a safe area on the reserve with no public access. A few minutes later he emerged from the far side of the copse trailing behind a fox.


The pair paused and turned in unison to take a last look before trotting off into the reserve.



NEW BOOK – June Salt Marsh Sketches

JUNE Salt Marsh Sketches is the second in a series of
monthly salt marsh sketch books.

June salt marsh sketches front June salt marsh sketches back

These sketches are part of a project to capture the atmosphere and wildlife throughout the year of two small salt marshes in the Bristol Channel at Portishead and Portbury Wharf.

With 56 pages and over 80 watercolour, pastel and pencil sketches of birds, boats, seascapes and more this book shows a glimpse of the salt marsh in June. A brief and gentle narrative threads its way through the book and each of the coloured sketches is accompanied by their own colour palette.

June page 48 June page 43 June page 22

It is 216 wide by 135 mm (8.5 x 5.5 inches) and printed on high quality 200 gms silk paper with a matt laminated 300 gms soft cover and has a lovely feel.

The price is £10 and you can pick up a copy from the Tinca Gallery in Portishead from WWT Slimbridge or by emailing me directly at

Where house martins fizz and wheel

June is the time of winsor blue skies.

A time of summer migrants
like cuckoos and sedge warblers . . .

. . . and the house martins.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 19.27.33

At low tide they dive down to pick up beakfuls of oozingly sticky mud for nest building.

house martin 1

It is not just the mud they come for . . .
. . . there is the dazzlingly green algae growing on the lock walls.


They approach at speed
grab onto the vertical face
like some superhero defying gravity
and pick off algae
to bind into their mud nests.


PS  these sketches are in June salt marsh sketches

Exhibiting at WWT Slimbridge

I am currently exhibiting at the
Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge
 23rd April to 18th July 2016


. . . in the beautiful Cheng-Kim Loke Gallery alongside Shelly Perkins,
a brilliant digital artist.



On show are over 20 of my Salt Marsh pieces and my new book
June Salt Marsh Sketches.




IMG_9844 - Vole

IMG_9844 - Version 3a

For opening times please visit WWT Slimbridge at

Please note the centre does have an admission fee.


June Sunrise

. . . sketches for June book

June visits are heralded by wonderful sunrises over the docks.

A mid winter sun rises from the southeast behind the salt marsh. By mid summer the world has spun and the sun rises from the northeast over lighthouses and wind turbines, casting its first light boldly across the front edge of the salt marsh.


4 June 05:25 BST – twilight, when the sun’s refracted rays produce that ethereal light between dawn and sunrise . . .


05:28 BST – sunrise begins


05:30 BST


05:32 BST

Remarkable changes of light in less than 10 minutes!  I love this time of day.

Sketches for June book

I have started work on my second book, June Salt Marsh Sketches and many of the sketches will be posted on this website. “Sketches for June Book” is a new category to make them easier to find in one click.

Whilst not all will make the final cut I hope you enjoy a taster of what is to come in the June book which will include . . .

. . . June views of the salt marsh, both Portbury Wharf and Battery Point, plenty of wildlife including barn owls, reed buntings, canada geese, sedge warblers and so so much more.

From the wonderful barn owl . . .thumb__MG_5894_1024

. . . to reed buntings_MG_4093

and views . . .



Click October Salt Marsh Sketches to see my first book.


The ebullient sedge warbler

. . . sketches for June book

_MG_5912 (1)

The exuberant, bubbling song of the sedge warbler blasts out from the reed beds alongside the salt marsh.


Hardly pausing, he announces himself to the world with such enthusiasm it never fails to make me smile.

Version 2

This cheerful little songster with a huge voice and endless repetoire flies all the way here from Africa to nest.


Lapwing to Logo

In winter the lapwings arrive, they are such attractive birds now sadly under threat. Occasionally I see a flock of them drop down on to the mudbanks offshore but their favoured spot is the island in the middle of the lake in Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve (PWNR).

The reserve runs alongside the salt marsh and is battling to survive an uncertain future.


So when I was asked to produce a logo for the Friends of Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve the distinctively marked lapwing was perfect.


Based on the pen and ink sketch at the top of the page I produced these two black and white versions . . .


. . . and then simplified them further to come up with this one which the Friends of PWNR now use as the centrepiece for their logo.

_MG_5027 - Version 2B

In addition I painted a second version as my tribute to Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve.

To support the Friends in their bid to save the nature reserve visit their website Friends of Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, and “Like” them on Facebook


Handsome reed bunting

. . . sketches for June book



I often see reed buntings in the hedgerow alongside the salt marsh .  .
. . . or perched on an old sea aster stem in the middle of the salt marsh like this one.

IMG_4028 - Version 2

The male is certainly a distinctive bird with his black head, white collar and moustache, although here the moustache is hidden by his beakful of insects.

_MG_4068mod - Version 3

He posed for quite sometime,
obviously in no hurry to get back to feed his young brood.





Mud picking house martins

28 May, 2015

I was heading home after a great morning of wildlife watching when I saw these house martins in Portishead Hole.

A sign of summer these recently arrived birds were picking up mud at low tide to build their nests in the eaves of nearby houses.

IMG_2938 IMG_2941

IMG_3220 IMG_3221 IMG_3222 IMG_3224 IMG_3225

Scruffy roe bucks


May is a time when the roe deer are moulting into their summer coats.  This buck’s new red coat is just peeping through his scruffy winter suit.

IMG_1917. . . and only a little of the winter velvet remains on his antlers.


But some bucks take a little longer preparing for summer . . . it was the end of May when I saw these two young bucks, both with antlers still fully covered in velvet. The one on the left was a pricket . . . a deer in its second year whose antlers have not yet branched.

IMG_1915I was distracted by a heron which had flown silently over my head like a stealth bomber and landed in the creek.. .

. . . then noticed the two young bucks heading back towards me. I was caught out in the open with nowhere to conceal myself so stood stock still.


They were so close now that I was sure that I would be “found out” at any moment.

IMG_1925 - Version 2

Surely he is looking directly at me, he must have seen me, but no,
the cool wind was working in my favour and he could not pick up my scent.
After a moment’s hesitation he continued walking towards me.

The pair sat down in the sunshine just metres away, the banks of the creek shielded them from the wind, quite a cosy spot.

When they were both looking in the other direction I inched away and left them to enjoy their morning undisturbed.


A touch of May magic

It was one of those days when everything was turning out rather better than expected. The overnight rain had stopped, the north east wind that had been blowing for days had eased . . . and as soon as I stepped foot on the marsh I heard a cuckoo.

A perfect start to a spring day and it got even better when I saw a water vole sitting on the bank of the rhyne. A rare treat in itself but to watch a water vole whilst listening to a cuckoo was a touch of May magic.


The water vole felled one of last years reeds – tough, bleached and woody and twice its length . . .


. . . before dragging it to the water’s edge.


After one final trim it plopped into the rhyne and dived below the surface with prize in tow . . . maybe heading for the underwater entrance to its burrow?

If I did not see anything further this was well worth getting up early for . . . but in the next hour I heard skylarks and curlews, came face to face with a somewhat scruffy roe buck and yes I saw the cuckoo!





A splendid morning!



New book of sketches – October


October Salt Marsh Sketches is the first in a series of
monthly salt marsh sketch books.


These sketches are part of a project to capture the atmosphere and wildlife throughout the year of two small salt marshes in the Bristol Channel at Portishead and Portbury Wharf.

I hope you get as much pleasure from the book as I had creating it!

With 56 pages and over 80 watercolour, pastel and pencil sketches of birds, boats, seascapes and more this book shows a glimpse of the salt marsh in October. A brief and gentle narrative threads its way through the book and each of the coloured sketches is accompanied by their own colour palette.

It is 216 wide by 135 mm (8.5 x 5.5 inches) and printed on high quality 300 gms silk paper with a matt laminated 350 gms soft cover so it has a lovely feel.

The price is £10.00 plus £2.00 post and packing and is available directly from me – please email me at to arrange delivery.  Alternatively you can purchase it from the Tinca Gallery in Portishead.

To give you a taster here are a few extracts:

page 23 page17page 53
page29PAGE 25B

As other books become available I will post details here but if you would like me to keep you informed please email me at



October salt marsh

Here are some October sketches many of which feature in my
October salt marsh sketch book. . .

. . . during October the vibrancy of the autumnal salt marsh colours mellow into a tapestry of rich ochres.

OCT IMG_0886 - Version 3The view towards Denny Island in October

IMG_0886 - Version 7

and again from Chapel Pill.

Light is everything on the marsh. There are those days in October, the ones hinting of winter when the marsh is softened and edges rounded by blue greys, yellow greys, green greys, greys of all hues.

IMG_6873Starlings feeding on the salt marsh towards Eastwood and the pier 

Then there are the days that hark back to summer when strands of sun escape the clouds and turn the spartina grass at the marsh edge from a dark straw colour of raw sienna into bands of burnished gold.

IMG_6874Teal on a vibrant day with the Welsh hills in the distance

Teal over spartina

One of the joys of autumn is watching the migrating birds arrive like the teal and wigeon and the wisps of snipe that fly high overhead before spiralling down to settle amongst the tangle of salt marsh grasses.




Teal fly back and forth in large an small flocks.

IMG_7582The Argabay, one of the sand boats that dredge the channel, is a frequent backdrop to the teal.

IMG_6872A common snipe flushed from the salt marsh. Not sure what the industrial building is on the Welsh coast but it catches the early morning light beautifully

The snipe’s exquisite plumage conceals it so well amongst the dense salt marsh that, here, you are only likely to see them on the wing when they are flushed by the rising tide, an approaching walker or an inquisitive dog.


Snipe flushed from the salt marsh – note the roe deer in the foreground.

The “common snipe” although not so common in reality, is a small, but extremely elegant, long-billed wader. Then there is the jack snipe, an even less common, smaller and dumpier, shorter billed version which “bobs” repeatedly as it probes the soft mud for food.


Both species visit the salt marsh.


I often find them on the edge of the “snipe track”, a well trodden path right through the middle of the marsh to the sea.


Another favourite at this time of year are the large flocks of goldfinches. They have a lovely “bouncy” flight and chatter incessantly to each other before tumbling down to feed on the downy thistles of the sea aster. A wonderful sight.


Goldfinches feeding amongst the wine red stems of sea aster at the marsh edge in company with redshank.

Then there are the roe deer.

IMG_6801 ref 6207A roe deer ran through a wonderful splash of green which added a real zing to the otherwise dark, brooding marsh. In the background is the old masonic hall which has recently been demolished to make way for the new lifeboat station.

IMG_6804 ref 6210


The marsh foliage looks tall alongside the small roe deer (about the size of an alsatian dog).

OCT IMG_2933 - Version 2

painting of an October morning with teal and passing cargo vessel


This post was first published on 15 November 2014 and revised in January 2015 and April 2015.



Exhibiting in North Somerset Arts Week


North Somerset Arts Week (NSAW), 1- 10 May 2015

I am showing at Venues 2 & 6 in Portishead where I will have sketches, paintings,cards and my new book October Salt Marsh Sketches on display.

Come and browse or have a chat as I work on my latest painting.


Venue 2 – 6 Gardner Road, Portishead, BS20 7ER
Venue 6 – Tinca Gallery, 6-8 High Street, Portishead, BS20 6EW   Tinca’s website.

Click on brochure entries above to see opening times. The full North Somerset Arts brochure with all 83 venues is on-line at

I look forward to seeing you.

Hilary Kington

Tumbling goldfinches

There are some gorgeous autumn and winter mornings when the sun rises over the marsh and flocks of goldfinches tumble into the masses of fluffy white thistle heads of the sea aster.


Here goldfinches plunder the seed heads at the edge of the marsh in sight of the redshank on the mudflats.


The stems of the sea aster are a lovely wine red in autumn but fade to a pale raw umber with the wear and tear of the tide and winter storms.




In flight they bounce along twittering to each other and are often in company with other seed loving birds such as linnets.




The Grimaldi Line

A frequent sight are the comings and goings in and out of Royal Portbury Dock of the Grimaldi car transporters. These “chunky” vessels In their distinctive yellow livery brighten up even the dullest of days.


Arriving just before dawn the lights of a tug lit up the starboard (right side) of the Gran Bretagna, one of the Grimaldi fleet. The beautiful call of the curlews rang out as they flew past, still too dark to see them the sound was even more magical in the half light. I could just make out the telltale sign of a family of roe deer, 3 pairs of ears silhouetted above the salt marsh.


As the light increased I could make out a large flock of dunlin flying past.

IMG_7915Views of the Grande Sicilia heading towards Portbury DocksIMG_6135IMG_6121


As flocks of dunlin and ringed plover flew past.



Picking up a tug by the middle buoy in the company of a small flock of wigeon . . .


Making a colourful backdrop for the large flocks of teal which gather here in winter.


IMG_7922 IMG_7909

. . . and being led past the lighthouse into Royal Portbury Dock.

November salt marsh

By the start of November the salt marsh is losing its colourful autumn attire and taking on a browner more wintery feel but there is still a hint of that sumptuous, darkly rich, wine red on the stems of sea aster accentuated by the intermingled drifts of bleach blonde grass.


Whilst the flora may be preparing for winter the wildlife of the salt marsh is starting to come alive with the arrival of the first of hundreds of migrating birds.  These in turn attract the resident predators like this sparrow hawk chasing flocks of recently arrived dunlin at the marsh edge.


Redshank can be seen all year on the salt marsh but their numbers increase at this time of year.  This morning I arrived at the marsh before dawn, far too dark to see any wildlife but I was welcomed by a wonderful chorus from a flock of redshank just beyond Portishead lock gates.


. . . whilst here a flock of redshank to-ed and fro-ed by the pier.


It is always exciting to see snipe – here a snipe flushed from the marsh flew past the middle buoy . . .  in this little sketch I love the texture of oil pastels on top of watercolours.


The roe deer seem to be finding the marsh increasingly popular. Once upon a time it was a rarity to see the deer during the daylight hours but now I see them regularly. By November they have traded in their glossy russet summer coats for a browner/greyer livery.


A busy morning for a tug giving the shipping a helpful nudge into Royal Portbury Dock while a roe buck browses amongst the sea aster.

IMG_0886 - Version 11

In early November there are still some greens to be seen – as here on top of Denny Island.

More November sketches to come . . . .

Roe deer triplets

The start of a delicious autumn morning as the sun got ready to rise over the dockyard cranes.


Clouds of mist rose from the top end of the lake, poured across the sea embankment and hugged the salt marsh. I could still see the cranes towering above the blanket of mist but in its midst it was dense and damp.


A hundred yards further and I emerged from the mist laden path into the bright, clear dawn with several pairs of eyes watching me. A buck, doe and yearling were well known to me but I was surprised by another group of deer even closer to me, a doe with triplets.

Deer usually hold their ground if you keep to the path and keep walking so I carried on until the path dipped out of their view and then doubled back unseen to watch them.


There was a great deal of shipping activity going on this morning and a tug passing behind them gradually disappeared into the bank of mist which had now settled just offshore.



The triplets browsed on the marsh undisturbed for about half an hour under the watchful eye of their mother before something disturbed them and they headed off up the marsh.

IMG_5659The family ran up and down the creek looking for a place to swim the high tide and return to the safety of the marshland within the dock boundary, an area with no public rights of way. In the distance a cargo vessel was being escorted into Royal Portbury Dock.

From where I was I couldn’t see them swim the creek but did see the mother waiting patiently on the opposite bank. It took the kids several minutes to catch up and they all bounded off towards the dock wall.

It had been another great morning for deer watching.