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.



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.

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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

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

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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.

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

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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.



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.

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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.

Kingfishers, figs and a pocket watch

Late summer is a great time to see kingfishers when the young leave the nest and head off to find their own territory.


At sunrise I met a friend on the salt marsh and we walked the length of the embankment. It was a late August morning but a chill in the air declared the arrival of an early autumn.  A handsome roe buck watched our progress from the safety of the nature reserve before bounding off with characteristic zeal though the tall meadow pasture.

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We headed for the creek where two days earlier I had stalked a kingfisher.. .

I had got quite close to this kingfisher as I crept through the salt marsh and negotiated the muddy gullies –  narrow but deep mantraps hidden beneath the grass waiting to embrace a carelessly placed boot or two. I noticed that my pocket watch was missing, it was the same area where last year I had lost forever a much loved watch.  Had my new, shiny watch sunk into the mud at the bottom of one of these gullies?  The tide was rising fast and within two hours the marsh would be underwater so I hastily retraced my steps as best I could. It took 15 minutes of frantic searching before I saw the glint of silver through the grass, what a relief – needless to say the kingfisher was long gone.

Fortuitously, I was given a second chance on my way home.  There was a kingfisher and a heron in Portishead Pill.  No need to stalk this kingfisher, I had a grand stand seat. How lucky I was!



Would we be as lucky today?  Well we were making far too much noise as we approached the creek so were not surprised to see a little egret making a hasty exit.  We leant on the railings at the top of the creek chatting until we were interrupted by a series of sharp whistles and a flash of azure streaked passed us into the creek … this kingfisher was soon joined by another.  We watched the pair fish the length of the creek for several minutes.



When they eventually flew out of sight I was treated to a picnic breakfast of apple, a proper English one, cheese and two lusciously ripe figs fresh from my friend’s garden.

Could it get any better?  Well yes actually.  Mid breakfast the two kingfishers reappeared at the top end of the creek.. . they must have double backed across the salt marsh or could it be a second pair?  With fig in one hand and binoculars in the other we had a great view.


We had been lucky!  What a way to start a day . . . such a privilege.

To hear a kingfisher whistle click Kingfisher on RSPB website


Ducklings for breakfast?


As I approached Battery Point in the half light just before dawn I saw the outline of a fox skulking away.  He was silhouetted against the channel on the brow of the hill and an alarmed blackbird announced his presence from a nearby bench.

The fox paused when he saw me and than disappeared into the tangle of the wind swept hedgerow along the cliff edge.

I continued down to the lighthouse where I spotted a hen mallard on the rocks below.  She sat motionless amongst the seaweed clad rocks for a very long while before two ducklings suddenly scrambled out from beneath her.


It made me wonder whether she had escaped the attention of the fox that morning or maybe she had started the morning with a larger brood and the fox had breakfasted on ducklings?  Who knows but for now she and her two offspring were safe.


Ducklings naturally take cover under their mum’s protective wings where she can accommodate even a large brood of several without squashing them when she sits down. Must be cosy under there!



Duckling in samphire

Yes I know “Duckling in samphire” sounds like something you might get in a posh restaurant, but no, it is something you might see near Battery Point.


At this time of year both mallard ducklings and samphire are in abundance here. Many of the ducklings keep to the relative safety of the man-made lake just the other side of the sea wall but some of the seemingly more adventurous downy bundles can be seen trudging across the mud and venturing out for their first taste of salt water swimming.


These three were out wave riding with Mum as the sea lapped the edge of the marsh and washed across beds of samphire.  The bright green shoots of the samphire, the asparagus of the sea, poke their heads through the thick mud at the edge of the marsh and twice a day are caressed, or more often than not buffeted, by the incoming tide.


Marsh samphire (Salicornia europaea) is almost cactus like in appearance and when young is a wonderful fresh green. In centuries past it was gathered and burnt and its soda rich ashes used to make soap and glass hence its other name of Common Glasswort.



Puddles of Sea Lavender


It’s summer at Battery Point salt marsh and one of the prettiest flowers on the marsh the sea lavender (limonium vulgare) is in flower.

IMG_3631It is well established here unlike at the nearby Portbury Wharf where only once have I found any trace. It was last winter when the surrounding flora had died down and far out in the middle of the marsh I stumbled across several plants with dried out seed heads still standing proud.

Indeed so rare is this plant at Portbury Wharf that I have not managed to find them since. You would think it would be easy to see their lavender flowers at this time of year but oh no they remain tantalisingly hidden . . . perhaps buried beneath drifts of sea grass!



The five-petalled flowers vary in colour from a violet with a dark pink central rib to almost white. Also known as Marsh Rosemary this plant is neither related to lavender or rosemary but to Statice.

The flower bracts are so small that to see any detail I had to enlarge my photos quite considerably – the right-hand pencil sketch shows the actual size of a flower bract.  In contrast they have quite large and wonderfully curvaceous leaves, sensuous even, which sing out in vivid lime greens and yellows when sunlit from behind and can turn to splendid reds and oranges in the autumn if conditions are right.




Gadwalls in Chapel Pill

It was a treat to see a pair of gadwalls deep down in Chapel Pill at low tide.


The male boasts some exquisitely barred brown-grey plumage whilst the browner female is very similar to a female mallard.


IMG_3135 IMG_3136

In flight their white wing patches help to identify them . . .


. . . and the male has some glorious chestnut-russet wing feathers which positively glow in sunlight.

IMG_3138It may not be as striking as a teal or wigeon but I still have a soft spot for this “somewhat low-profile” duck.


Silhouetted redshank


What a pose this redshank struck with a strong tailwind ruffling its feathers and giving the impression of upending the bird.  An altogether charming sight.


I settled down one afternoon to watch this group of redshank and pair of black-headed gulls. The redshank were backlit by the afternoon sun which outlined their shape and eliminated detail . . .  sometimes it is better not to see every feather.


These sketches were done using ultramarine, cadmium red (mixed together they give a wonderfully powerful black-brown) plus yellow ochre and cobalt turquoise light.



Spring fever shelducks

Updated 30 April 2014


This very striking duck is often on the salt marshes and at this time of year the males are in courtship mode.  IMG_2025

This is a low tide view of a pair of shelduck at Battery Point. The freshly exposed mud is streaked with the blue reflections from the sky.


This male was not about to let his female out of his sight and pursued her enthusiastically up and down the salt marsh.



A simple study in pencil and wash . . .



. . . and here with the background added.

Sexes are similar but during the breeding season the males are easy to distinguish by a prominent red knob above their beaks.  In between seeing off other males he displays to the female by drawing his head backwards and then performing and exaggerated bow.



These are striking, boldly marked ducks that are easy to spot both on the marsh and in flight. Their chuckling like call is also distinctive which you can hear on the RSPB website.






Swimming Roe Deer

The first rays of morning sun cast a gorgeous pink hue across the marsh and lit upon two handsome roe bucks with velvet covered antlers. This wonderful sight was accompanied by the song of a skylark emanating from high overhead and I stared skywards for some minutes searching the dense blue for distant specks of larks.

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When I turned my attention back to the deer one of the bucks had moved towards Chapel Pill and surprised me by wading into the water and swimming across the creek. I had heard that deer swim across here sometimes but had never actually witnessed it. IMG_1520 - Version 4

A lone curlew flew out of the creek but the shelduck, wigeon, Canada geese and oystercatchers had obviously seen it all before and gave scant regard to this featherless swimmer amongst them. IMG_1520 - Version 3

The second buck who had been browsing in the corner of the marsh by the dock fence decided to follow suit and ran down the edge of the creek to the favoured crossing point watched by his compatriot on the opposite bank. Once across they both headed slowly towards the docks until out of sight.

It had been one of those “good to be alive” mornings and I headed home contented and with an appreciation of how lucky I had been to see and hear so much whilst bathed in the warmth of the early spring sunshine.


I used permanent rose watercolour to suggest the pink hue that lay across the marsh along with raw and burnt siennas, sap green and cobalt turquoise light . . . plus indian yellow in the righthand sketch.


Dunlin, Deer . . . and Denny

Updated 3 AprilIMG_1715

On the face of it you would not expect to see dunlin and roe deer together but that is what greeted me this morning.


There were two deer, a doe and a young buck, by the water’s edge in front of Denny Island with hundreds of dunlin flying behind them. I was downwind of them but feeling very conspicuous standing out in the middle of the marsh and expected to be spotted at any moment.


The young buck looked past me towards the docks.


A handful of dunlin – there were hundreds here this morning.


To my surprise there were 2 more deer a few hundred yards further down the marsh. . . IMG_0804

. . .  a more mature buck with a  yearling doe. I recognised this group of four from a previous visit.


Both bucks were sporting velvet covered antlers.


It was great to watch the deer but even more enthralling when accompanied by the aerobatics of hundreds of dunlin – a very special sight in front of the Firefly navigation buoy.


Storm at Battery Point

IMG_0445The storm raged at Battery Point as the sunset lay across the bay.



Hardly able to stay upright in the full force of the gale a lone figure on the headland leaned into the wind.


Intermittent sheets of near horizontal rain blew across the salt marsh. The stinging rain lashed my face and blurred my vision but I could just make out a small flock of dunlin on the wing.


Their progress was painfully slow head on against the ferocity of the gale but when they veered in the direction of the wind they were swept out of sight at breakneck speed.

I was struggling to steer a straight path in this buffeting wind so quite a feat for these featherweights to stay on course. Nevertheless they made repeated forays fighting their way across the tops of the surging waves at the very edge of the salt marsh.

Turnstones with nowhere to land

Updated 21 February 2014IMG_0040IMG_0038


Usually there are plenty of places around Battery Point for these little waders to rest and feed. As their name suggests they search for food under the pebbles and seaweed in the rocks at the far end of the salt marsh.  This is a watercolour and oil pastel sketch of turnstones at low water – I have had so much fun with my 40 year old oil pastels that I have just treated myself to a set of Sennelier oil pastels and this is their first outing!


It was one of those enormous spring tides when the sea rises so high that landing places for the turnstones are in very short supply.  With a 14.6 m high tide the salt marsh and most of the rocks are underwater so the turnstones fly back and forth looking for a spot to land.


At first they jostled for a place on a raft of flotsam swept against the promenade wall . . .



. . . but then repaired to the top of the wall to promenade with the rest of us.


Promenading on the sea wall is unusual for the Bristol Channel bunch as they are typically wary but today they had little choice.


On the same high tide a bird-watching friend saw a flock of turnstones cadging a lift on a large tree trunk floating up the channel (you can see the photo on his excellent local bird watching blog . . . and on another occasion I heard a report of a channel navigation buoy festooned with turnstones on a similarly high tide.


Sketching birds as a part of the wider landscape is quite a different challenge to a detailed study of birds where they are the main or only focal point and the background is either non-existent or secondary. I learn so much doing these preparatory sketches, which, of course, is the whole point of the process. The end sketch may not always be what I had intended, and all too often leaves me with some angst (must do better), but frequently it is those from which I learn most.

Joining these 2 sketches gave an added perspective between the foreground and middle ground birds and indeed the overall panorama (the joined sketch is near the top of this page).


Encounters with wigeon


An oil pastel sketch of a male wigeon out on a flooded salt marsh.


This rather engaging duck with its distinctive whistling call is a winter visitor here, usually from October through to March.


From the front they are enchantingly round and cartoonish, as if freshly dunked up to their midriff in a bucket of whitewash and with the male sporting a rather fetching yellow “mohican” forehead.


A pair of wigeon snooze in the depths of Chapel Pill at low tide – watercolour and oil pastel sketch.


These wigeon suddenly flew out of the late October shadows into the sunlit, sienna grasses above Chapel Pill.  It seems their hasty departure was as much a surprise to this Canada Goose as it was to me . . .


. . . and as I watched a roe buck at the water’s edge in November a small company of wigeon startled us both.


Their white bellies are a great help in identifying them in flight, as are the male’s white wing bars (top left).

Visit the RSPB website to hear the whistling call of the wigeon

. . . perhaps the collective noun for wigeon should be a “whistle” of wigeon, but a “raft”, “trip” or “company” are usual.



A very dapper duck

Teal are such handsome little ducks, especially the chaps, who are bedecked with chestnut heads, green eye patches and pale yellow tails framed in black . . . and the bright green wing bars (speculum) so translucent in the sunlight.

IMG_7509. . . a watercolour and oil pastel sketch. Yes, it is a somewhat weird and unorthodox combination but great fun to do and I rather like the texture.


Hundreds of these dapper little ducks congregate at Chapel Pill during the winter. These three females were sunning themselves on the mudbanks high up in the creek, while way, way below teal zigzagged out of the creek. The female does not have the colourful wardrobe of the male but still shares the green wing bars.


. . . although at times they are well hidden beneath layers of feathers.


High up on the bank were these drakes, two were soaking up the sun but the third was back in the shadows.IMG_7496

. . . whilst this drake was in the bottom of the creek in what little water remained on the low tide. IMG_7506

Teal spring up almost vertically and are fast flyers – the collective noun for teal is very aptly a “spring” of teal. IMG_7499

It is in flight when the green wing bars edged with white are most visible and especially lustrous in the sun. I do so enjoy watching the teal at Chapel Pill.

For more teal posts see:

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Iridescent teal and the Vecht Trader








Teal jinxing and jiving . . .








Teal down and dirty

Out on an autumn day

I arrived at sunrise and was greeted by such a spectacle of starlings. Large flocks were silently dropping in to the marsh to feed before taking flight in a swirling mass. As one flock flew over me I could hear the purr of their wings and a soft, whistling chirrup – it was a very muted call, as if they were being polite lest they wake the neighbourhood at this early hour.


The starlings dropped into the centre of the marsh in sight of the Severn Bridge – the colours of the marsh were still soft and cool in first light . . .


. . . but as soon as the sun touched the marsh it woke up in a burst of burnt siennas and indian reds.


On the spit by Portishead Pier the water was lapping at the edge of the salt marsh and unusually ringed plover were there. The burnt sienna of the spartina was reflected on their sunlit feathers . . . and on the redshank.


. . . whilst in the depths of Portishead Hole the lively “cobalt turquoise light” of the middle shadows contrasted boldly with the darker shadows and the bright sunlit ochre mud giving a deliciously moody feel to this redshank.


. . . and more sombre hues deeper in “the Hole”.


Back out in the sunshine some teal flew out of Chapel Pill. There was another flock deep in the upper reaches but I crept away to leave them resting undisturbed.


Further down the creek was this very handsome drake teal – though I feel this sketch does not do him justice.


The sunshine soon gave way to showers and I cursed that I had not worn my waterproofs but soon I was in the midst of rainbows and cared little about getting wet. How do you capture that incredible light? The handsome teal flew off.


Late in the afternoon I returned once more and once more was greeted by the starlings . . .  just off Portishead Pier where long shadows stretched across the marsh.

It had been a lovely autumn day of changing light and weather – so good to be out on the marsh.

Below Portishead Pier

At low tide the walls of Portishead pier are revealed in all their textured, rusty splendour and the redshank rest on the glossy mud below . . .  a study in ochres. There are some great paintings using only ochres and the pier is certainly an inspiring tonal subject but today I could not resist the sight of the redshank flying past the yacht’s blue rigging. I love the asymmetry of the mast and the delicious combination of  “cerulean” and “cobalt turquoise light” amongst the ochres.


. . . and that was not the only blue in Portishead hole – lying in the mud was an old oil drum masquerading as a mooring buoy.


The reflections from the pier, yacht, buoy and redshank bounced off what little water was left . . .


. .. and when the sun shone wonderful blue “mud shadows” were cast. . . not so much ochre after all.



The colourful Grimaldi Line

It was not only the salt marsh colours which inspired my last post of “Summer Colours” but this brightly liveried ship of the Grimaldi Line also added to the vibrancy of the salt marsh that morning.

Salt marsh sketch - the Grande Sicilia heading for Portbury Docks

This is the  “chunky” Grande Sicilia a 177 m long x 33 m wide ro-ro (roll-on roll-off) car transporter. Her cadmium yellow hull blended with the yellows on the salt marsh and contrasted brilliantly with the winsor and ultramarine blues from the sky and the hills – even the muddy water reflected these wonderful blues.

Salt marsh sketch - a closer view of the Grande Sicilia passing Portishead Pier

A distant view as she passes Portishead Pier . . .

Salt marsh sketch - a closer view of the Grande Sicilia passing Chapel Pill

. . . and getting nearer to me here off Chapel Pill with white reflections from the hull and wheelhouse.

Salt marsh sketch - Grande Sicilia passing Chapel Pill with ringed plover and dunlinI could see the cars on the Grande Sicilia’s foredeck as she passed Chapel Pill. In the foreground a flock of ringed plover were in company with some dunlin – the wings of the plover shone out in the sunlight. The cadmium yellow of the hull was darkened with reds, both cadmium and indian where the shadows and touches of rust fell.

Salt marsh sketches of the Grande Sicilia with ringed plover and dunlin

See Salt Marsh Summer Waders for more summertime waders and Salt Marsh Summer Colours for more landscapes from that morning.


Salt Marsh Summer Colours

. . . August sketches from a two hour walk on the salt marsh

Oh what a wealth of colour and moods in such a short time and if that was not enough I was in the company of three roe bucks and a host of shoreline birds.

Salt marsh sketch - vivid colours of summer

I arrived on the marsh at sunrise and was greeted by a glorious sky of rich reds and yellows.

Salt marsh sketch - Sunrise over Avonmouth

The night had been stormy with torrential rain and thunder but the dawn broke dry with a magnificent sky as I looked towards the three wind turbines at Avonmouth.

Salt marsh sketch - Sunrise over the Severn Bridge

Soon the vivid yellow sky faded as the sun rose higher and the clouds increased behind the distant Severn Bridge . . .

Salt marsh sketch - the marsh was bathed in reds and yellows

. . . but a red glow still streaked the marsh and these lovely colours bounced off the salt marsh grasses with the Welsh hills in the background.

Salt marsh sketch - towards Portishead Pier and Eastwood

Looking across the salt marsh towards Portishead Pier and the tree clad hill of Eastwood.

Salt marsh sketch - towards the Severn Bridge

As the sun disappeared behind the clouds the marsh colours became more subdued.  The brilliant indian and winsor yellows of the grasses were replaced by a duller yellow ochre in this view towards the Severn Bridge.

Salt marsh sketch - the track

Etched into the landscape is this well worn green track in the middle of the salt marsh leading from Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve to the channel’s edge.


Salt marsh sketch - mainly blues and yellows

An hour after sunrise and all traces of red have gone replaced by some gorgeous shades of blue . . .

Salt marsh sketch - what a contrast of colours

. . .  contrasting brilliantly with the vivid yellows and greens where the sun peered through the clouds and touched the marsh. I love these colours.

Salt marsh sketch - clouds of winsor blue and ultramarine

For a while even the voluminous clouds were deep, rich blues of winsor and ultramarine . . .

Salt marsh sketch - squall in channel

. . . but before long a series of grey squally rain clouds blew up the channel . . .

Salt marsh sketch - rainbow over Portishead Pier

. . .  each with a rainbow dancing in attendance – this one off Portishead Pier.

This was how I left the salt marsh at the end of my dawn walk on a typical English summer day – what a wonderful morning.

Summer waders on the salt marsh

Updated September 2014

Last summer the greenshank was missing from my sketches of summer waders but this year I was lucky enough to spot this one in Chapel Pill . . .



Also in the pill at the same time was one adult and one juvenile Grey Wagtail – this is the adult . .


Updated 23 September 2013

Well summer is over and I can feel the cool breath of autumn so this is my last update on summer waders.  Over this period I have been able to sketch redshank, ringed plover, oystercatchers, curlew, whimbrel, common sandpipers, turnstones, dunlin and black-tailed godwits. There have been reports of other waders in the area such as greenshank, though I did not see them myself so my list of sketches remains incomplete.


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I often see one or two pairs of common sandpipers bobbing rhythmically in the muddy pills at either end of the salt marsh as they look for food. Continue reading

Salt marsh pheasant

Updated 30 January 2014

I see pheasants on the salt marsh regularly . . .  an interesting backdrop for a pheasant!

A cock fight in December



There was much parallel walking as these two cock pheasants strutted and postured on the salt marsh . . .


. . . and then a flurry of feathers. In the background the cargo vessel Danica Sunrise edges her way into Portbury Docks on low water.


This territorial dispute went on for ages and so engrossed were they that my presence remained unnoticed.

Colours in the cockfighting sketches : indian red, cadmium red, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, raw umber and cobalt turquoise light plus the addition of raw sienna in the sketch above.


On a previous visit . . .

IMG_3580 . . . a sudden flurry and that lovely staccato purr of wings of a cock pheasant bursting from the flooding marsh just ahead of me. It is such a pleasure to see and hear them on the marsh . . . and the navigation buoys, docks and Denny Island make for an unusual view.



The buoy is the middle one of three marking the right hand (starboard) edge of the shipping channel into Royal Portbury dock. 

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Teal – jinxing and jiving

Sketched between September and January
IMG_9396Although the wintering teal have now left for their summer breeding grounds I thought I would add some winter time sketches that I have just been leafing through.

I find these small, fast flying ducks that jinx and jive in flight fascinating. Their teal green wing bars shimmer in the winter sunlight, though even on a grey day they don’t disappoint.

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Beautiful purple sandpipers but oh gosh its cold!

Seen 30 March 2013
Sketch of purple sandpiper using 2H and HB pencilsThe best time to see purple sandpipers here is at high tide when the only rocks still above water are those close to shore.

Battery Point is a great place to see ships passing within feet of the shore, or to get a good view of wintering purple sandpipers and this morning I was not disappointed on either count. It was actually a sunny morning but oh gosh it was cold with such a bitter, bitter easterly wind blowing a gale it felt like mid winter instead of spring.

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