We recently went on a boat trip out in Langstone Harbour with our cameras looking for birds and wildlife but if you want something at a bit of a more leisurely pace Portsmouth Watersports are running photography kayak trips out in the harbour in July. Portsmouth Watersports are offering the photographers of Portsmouth the chance to kayak out with a guide to the many islands and mudbanks that appear at low tide around the harbour to visit the bird sanctuaries and to see the seals that also call the local harbours home. You do not have to be a competent kayaker to take part on these tours and you will be supplied all the kit you require.
There are two kayak trips planned:
Sunday 12th July, from 2.30pm to 5.30pm
Saturday 22nd August, from 10am to 1pm
The trips cost only £35 per person and spaces are very limited, if you would like to book on, please contact Joanne on 02392 663873.
Below are a few photos from a seal boat trip in neighbouring Chichester Harbour. These seals travel up and down the Solent and the mud banks down by the Watersports centre is a particularly popular sunbathing spot for them.
Don’t forget this summer we are running our wildlife photography competition with the RSPB, so if you are out on a kayak and get great shots of the three different birds we a re after, send them in for a chance to win some Strong Island and RSPB prizes.
The Sounds of our Shores project is a joint scheme between the National Trust, the National Trust for Scotland and the British Library and aims to create a collection of sounds from around the Uk shoreline and seasides to form an audible snapshot. With coastal erosion, the changes in tourism, wildlife, fishing, sailing, transport and much more the sounds of the shoreline of the UK have changed over the years and this project hopes to have the public help collect the sounds of today.
Musician Martyn Ware, a founder member of bands The Human League and Heaven 17, will use some of the sounds submitted by the public to create a piece of music for release in February 2016. The National Trust wants to use the thousands of recordings uploaded to build a digital map which will be curated by the British Library.
With Portsmouth being such a mix of wildlife, shipping, tourism and so much more we are in a perfect position to record and contribute to this project. Sounds like the foghorn over the Solent would be a perfect example.
At Strong Island Media we’ve actually worked on a few ‘soundscape’ projects in the last couple of years with schools in Chichester and Bordon. It can be really interesting not thinking about the visual (with photography and film) and to focus on the sounds around you. The project we worked on with Chichester High School for Girls at Chichester Harbour was a soundscape with video clips and a poem filmed and written by the students edited over the top. We’ll be submitting the raw audio to the Sounds of Our Shores project. You can have a watch/listen HERE.
Visit the Sounds of our Shores project website to find out how to get involved.
Photo from our soundscape recorded by Bordon Juniors.
If you have read the write up from our recent RSPB trip around Langstone Harbour you’ll know that even though we live in such a densely populated city we’re lucky to have lots of wildlife living in and around Portsmouth. For birds each season brings flocks of new birds to call the city and harbours home, if only for a short while before travelling (sometimes thousands of miles) onwards.
We’re working with the local RSPB team to suggest three birds to keep your eye out for each season, beginning with summer. Summer attracts many birds to Portsmouth to nest and breed new generations of birds that will return year in year out. These first three birds are Langstone Harbour favourites and can be spotted fairly easily by the naked eye or with binoculars or a camera.
Speaking of cameras, we’re running a competition where we want all you budding wildlife photographers to send in your photos of the three birds for the season. Photo each one and send them in and the RSPB team will pick their favourites for each bird. The three winners will win some Strong Island and RSPB prizes. Obviously, goes without saying, that we recommend you photo the birds from a distance where you will not disturb their nests, chicks, etc.
Send in your bird photos via email to email@example.com and label the email RSPB and be sure to send them in by the end of AUGUST for a chance to win.
The three birds the RSPB suggest you keep an eye out for this summer are:
The oystercatcher is a large, stocky, black and white wading bird. It has a long, orange-red bill and reddish-pink legs. In flight, it shows a wide white wing-stripe, a black tail, and a white rump that extends as a ‘V’ between the wings. Because it eats cockles, the population is vulnerable if cockle beds are overexploited. They are commonly seen in the harbour, we know they breed here, though how successfully we don’t know.
The little egret is a small white heron with attractive white plumes on crest, back and chest, black legs and bill and yellow feet. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989 and first bred in Dorset in 1996. The RSPB was formed to counter the barbarous trade in plumes for women’s hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets and other species who’s plumes had become fashionable in the late Victorian era.
The Sandwich tern is a very white tern, with a black cap on its head, a long black bill with a yellow tip and short black legs. In flight it shows grey wedges on its wings tips and it has a short forked tail. The Sandwich tern is one of 3 species of tern that breed in Langstone Harbour and this year looks to be promising so far. In the UK many of the important colonies survive because they are on Nature Reserves.
We’re looking forward to seeing the results!
On a grey yet thankfully dry Sunday morning if I had a Portsmouth bucket list, I had one of the items near the top ticked off with a boat trip with the RSPB. Personally, I’ve always loved Langstone Harbour. When I first moved to Portsmouth I lived at the Furze Lane Langstone campus of the University of Portsmouth and the harbour was on my door step and one of the first places I explored with my bike and camera. Throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to explore every yard of its edge plus the sandbank and the Phoenix Breakwater with my camera, from high tide to low, but I haven’t had a chance to explore the islands.
The thing, for me, that makes Langstone Harbour extra special is that it is a wild habitat right on the doorstep of the most densely populated city in the UK. Considering the close proximity to well over two hundred thousand people, the harbour is surprisingly biodiverse and a key nesting location for birds on the south coast. More surprising is that for birds, Langstone Harbour has way, way more calling it home through the seasons than its neighbour Chichester Harbour. So…all of this wildlife shares Portsmouth with us, and us with them. Particularly at this time of year: nesting season. So for the very, very novice twitcher side of me, a boat trip out to see the birds with the RSPB was a fantastic opportunity.
We set off from the slipway at Broadmarsh Costal Park south of Havant with Wez at the boat controls and Dawn to help both myself and Tristan find out more about the wildlife and what the RSPB do in regards to the harbour and the bird populations. It was a good start with lots of Mute Swans seeing us off from the quayside and even a low flying Heron passing overhead. We travelled south, in parallel with the shore of Long Island, one of many different islands in the harbour that have (since the late 1970s) become protected bird preserves of the RSPB. We passed the southern tip of the island, which is one of the few areas where the public can land (we saw kayakers taking a break on the small shingle beach) before moving south west to Round Nap Island.
I’ve always been intrigued by the harbour’s islands and as they are off limits to the public this was my first chance to see them up close. Round Nap Island is quite small and at high tide seemed like a very flat and precarious home to the nesting birds and visiting birds too. On the shingle we saw Black Headed Gulls with their brown, fuzzy and big chicks who will be very soon flying themselves. Also on the island we saw quiet Cormorants taking a rest from fishing and curious Oyster Catchers exploring the shingle and waterline for food.
Round Nap Island.
Cormorants on Round Nap Island.
The RSPB routinely (at times, daily) check the nesting islands to ensure the birds aren’t effected by the many different dangers to them, their nests and their young. At low tide some of these islands are accessible by the mudflats so some islands have electric fences to protect against foxes and other predators. Another serious danger to these birds are storms and surging tides. Recently a storm washed away nests and seriously effecting the breeding of some of the harbours most important visitors.
Black Headed Gull.
From Round Nap Island we set off to the much larger South Binness Island, the most southerly of the islands in the harbour. As we travelled along the southern shore of the island we saw hundreds and hundreds of Black headed Gulls and their young plus the sharp edged Sandwich Terns, Common Terns and our first sighting of the beautiful Little Terns that visit the harbour each year. The Little Terns have struggled in recent years to raise young due to weather and tides and in 2013 this island was raised up with 500 tonnes of aggregate with the hope that their ‘scrapes’ would be better protected.
South Binness Island.
Oyster Catcher and Black Header Gulls on South Binness Island.
South Binness Island.
Black Headed Gull chicks on South Binness Island.
South Binness Island.
Little Terns are very special visitors to Portsmouth. Unknown to me until fairly recently, Portsmouth and Langstone Harbour is home to one of the largest colonies of these special birds, along with Blakeney Point and Great Yarmouth in Norfolk and Minsmere in Suffolk. You might find the birds in much smaller groups around the coast of the UK, including Scotland…but right here in Portsmouth is a key nesting site in the UK. Sadly these birds have difficulty in producing young as our weather has been bad in consecutive years but they will continue to try through the rest of the season. There are only 1,900 (approx.) breeding pairs in the UK so the work done locally by the RSPB to support and help these birds is vital. To put it in context, on South Binness Island alone in 2008 the island had 4,886 nesting pairs of Black Headed Gulls.
We travelled west past the island and out to a place I have wanted to visit for years, Oyster Island. Many years ago this small island was home to an oyster watchman’s house built in 1819. I had heard that you could still see the foundations and remains of the house (which was possibly washed away in a storm) still on this tiny island south of Farlington Marshes. As we approached you could clearly see on this tiny island the timber beams of the house plus bricks and more. Hard to believe that someone could live out here, right on the harbour.
From here we travelled to Baker’s Island with it’s northerly wild side. The RSPB obviously tries to not disturb the birds but there are occasions when it is necessary to land on one of the islands. Routinely the RSPB need to count the nests and check for any issues. Sometimes they have to fix fencing and maintain signs, etc, on this occasion Wez had to replace the electric fence battery so we grounded the boat on the beach for a few minutes. Obviously it is vital these islands are not visited by the public so this was an unexpected privilege to see this habitat up close for a minute or two.
Oyster Catcher on Baker’s Island.
Surrounding the boat at Baker’s Island.
We set off from here and travelled east across the harbour and midway saw a large commercial vessel leave the quay at the Lafarge Tarmac site and travel towards the harbour entrance. It was a good reminder that despite being a quiet harbour there is still commercial activity on a day to day basis. There are also fishing vessels that work within the harbour too.
Commercial vessel passing Round Nap Island.
The old oyster beds on Hayling Island’s north westerly edge (next to the ‘Billy’) have a long history, from farming huger amounts of oysters for consumption in London (ending due to pollution) to them being neglected until recent years when they were restored and made a protected RSPB area. These interlinking beds are now home to many different birds and access is prevented from Hayling Island as well as from boats. From here we saw a harbour favourite the Little Egret and also a solo Great Crested Grebe before it dived under the water and disappeared. On the way back to Broadmarsh we were lucky to see about a dozen Common Terns feeding, with them circling, hovering and then diving in to the harbour waters. We also saw some Little Terns too, who only feed around one kilometre from their nesting sites.
Little Egret at Hayling Island Oyster Beds.
Diving Common Tern.
In only a matter of two hours we had an incredible trip around the harbour and were introduced to not just the birds that call Portsmouth home but also the dedicated work by the RSPB, who with a very small team have to protect the habitats and birds. If you want to keep up to date with the work done by your local RSPB team be sure to follow their blog HERE. A huge thank you to Wez and Dawn for the trip!
Interested in seeing some of these birds yourself? It is actually pretty easy from the shoreline of the city of Portsmouth. We’re working with the RSPB on a series of articles starting tomorrow and we’ll be running a competition too. More details tomorrow.
Not really sure when I first noticed the little patch of land on Kings Road in Southsea that has been given over to nature. I used to pass it all the time years ago going down to university and home again and it must have caught my eye. In a part of Southsea that was almost wiped clean off the map during the Blitz and 1960s redevelopment, Gloucester Terrace looping around to Gloucester Place (and backed with Gloucester View) is one of the few pieces of the original Kings Road area still intact.
This old road and its old buildings surround a small, gated park much like a smaller version of those fenced garden squares in London. This garden on the other hand has been given over to nature as a small preserve, slap bang in busy Southsea. Whilst the people of the city go about their work, studies and life, this little part of the island sees insects, plants, trees and birds (and probably snakes and lizards) go about their own lives too.
As Portsmouth gets even more developed and continues to be the most densely populated city in the UK, I hope this little area dedicated to a wilder version of city life goes on untouched.
If you know more about this small garden, please let us know.
I took time out today to visit Portsmouth City Museum and in particular the Birds, Beast and Bugs exhibition. I have a great interest in the craft of taxidermy, perhaps a bit more of an unusual craft than knitting but amazing nonetheless.
Most of the exhibition was collected by Henry Guermonprez in the 19th Century and lots the animals and jars have beautiful little hand written notes by Henry. There are also sweet intricate paintings and drawings by him as well as activities for children. I rather enjoyed the jars containing snakes, octopus and mice. More photos here.
Are you interested in taking photographs of local wildlife? If so, the Langstone Harbour Board would like to hear from you. The Board’s Environment Officer Louise MacCallum is launching a project called the “Langstone Ark” which aims to create a collection of digital images of all the species of wildlife, big and small, that can be found in and around the harbour to build into a website. Anyone with an interest in Langstone Harbour is being encouraged to contribute photographs of wildlife, from local yachtsmen, commercial fishermen to local residents.
Once a photograph of a particular species has been selected, a web page will be created including some information about the species such as its feeding habits and behaviour. The name of the contributor and where the image was taken will also be included. The Langstone Harbour Board hopes that the website will build into an engaging environmental resource which the harbour users themselves have helped to create.
Langstone Harbour is internationally renowned for its wildlife, providing nursery, feeding and overwintering grounds for a myriad of species. A number of internationally recognised laws are in place to protect the harbour’s habitats and associated wildlife, including Langstone Harbour being a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
You don’t need an expensive camera, or a qualification in wildlife photography to take part in the Langstone Ark Project – just the ability to take an interesting picture of one of the harbour’s wild residents and e-mail it to the Environment Officer. And remember, as the project aims to collect images of all the harbour’s residents, a photograph of a Gull or some Gorse will be just as welcome as a photograph of an Osprey or an Orchid.
The Langstone Ark website will launch online sometime in 2011, but harbour users are encouraged to start taking and sending photographs of wildlife now in order to catch some of the harbour’s 2010 winter visitors.
If you would like more information on the Langstone Ark project, or the wildlife and habitats that can be found in Langstone Harbour, please visit the Langstone Harbour Board website at www.langstoneharbour.org.uk. You can contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Quiet Corners
For those keen anglers amongst you the time has come to dig out your tackle box for the freshwater season. Portsmouth & District Angling Association have been operating since 1948 and have control over 13 different sites in and around the Portsmouth area. As well as having an Environment Agency Rod License you can pay an annual membership fee to the P&DAS to fish at one of their rivers, lakes or ponds. The membership fee is worth every penny as it all goes back into protecting the environment and the wildlife at each fishing spot, making it more enjoyable for everyone concerned.
If fishing is something that interests you but you’re not quite experienced to start paying membership fees etc., don’t forget we are situated on one of the prime bits of coastline and fishing in the Solent is absolutely free either from the beach or by boat.
Langstone Harbour is one of my favourite places, in contrast to Portsmouth’s busy main harbour Langstone Harbour is quiet, heavily effected by it’s strong tides and also a haven for wildlife. I looked to see if there was a Flickr group dedicated to the harbour and there wasn’t one, so I decided to create one.
If you have any photos from Langstone Harbour please join the group and add them so we can collectively create a pool of photos that show how special Langstone Harbour is.