New WeBS site in Gloucestershire

Alney Island (photo: Andrew Jayne)

The Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) is a nationwide survey, administered by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), which aims to make monthly counts of water birds at as many wetlands as possible, in order to assess numbers of birds, and to pinpoint the principal sites important for them. (Similar surveys are carried out all over Europe and Africa, so this is part of an international effort).

Many Gloucestershire sites are already covered – on the Severn estuary, in the Severn and Avon Vales, at pools and reservoirs, along Cotswold rivers and at the Cotswold Water Park. The counts are carried out by a large group of volunteer observers, many of then GNS members, whose results contribute to the national picture, with an annual report produced by BTO; (new volunteers always welcome!).

The latest addition to the county list of WeBS sites is Alney Island, an area of low floodable meadow alongside the Severn, very close to the centre of Gloucester, part of which is a reserve managed by Gloucester City Council. In times like the present, with extensive flooding, the site holds a variety of surface-feeding ducks such as Teal, Wigeon and Shoveler, as well as birds that frequent thicker vegetation like Water Rail and Coot; in addition the site is a winter home to Reed Buntings which roost in the Typha bed at Port Ham, and rarer birds like Yellow-browed Warbler or Siberian Chiffchaff.

Sightings from GNS meeting at Ripple Lakes

Ripple Lakes are two former sand and gravel pits in the floodplain of the Severn in south Worcestershire, very close to the Gloucestershire boundary, one on each side of the M50, on the left (east) bank. These new lakes, where extraction has only just been completed, hold fairly deep water throughout the year, in particular in late summer and early autumn when other natural wetlands in north Gloucestershire and south Worcestershire (such as Coombe Hill, Ashleworth/Hasfield Ham or Longdon Marsh) often dry out (though not in autumn 2019!). As such they represent a new wetland for the area, and are attracting water birds, both diving ducks which seek deeper water, and surface-feeding ducks and geese which can graze around the grassy edges. Clearly a topic worthy of further investigation by a recording society like Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society: a field meeting had been scheduled in early December, but had to be postponed because the whole of the floodplain was deeply flooded. Nothing daunted, a doughty band of GNS members (with some guests from the Cheltenham Bird Club) gathered on 19 January, in bright frosty conditions with brilliant light, to investigate the birds present.

As expected, numbers and variety of diving water birds were greater than in shallower Gloucestershire sites: 35 Pochard, 65 Tufted Ducks and a Goldeneye, plus ten Great Crested Grebes. Numbers of geese and surface feeding ducks proved disappointing – just 100 Greylags and 60 Canadas (some of which may already have returned to nesting sites further north) and only 4 Wigeon and 2 Shoveler (perhaps the bigger numbers of these surface-feeding ducks were still back in shallow floodwater at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth). Another bird of interest was a Great White Egret, a still rare Mediterranean heron which has only recently begun to occur, like its smaller cousin the Little Egret, in southern England. Finally an interesting series of waders was noted: a Green Sandpiper and three Snipe would have been winter visitors. as was a most unexpected Common Sandpiper (which normally winters south of the Sahara). On the other hand two Oystercatchers on the island in the south lake were no doubt early returning birds, just arrived to assert their territorial rights on this island which holds a variety of nesting waders; spring must be just around the corner!

Talk by Julian Hector at the AGM on 6th March

Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society 
Presents: 

“Big Natural History Television and the Conservation of the Natural World”. 

A Talk by Julian Hector, 
head of the BBC Natural History Unit. 

Julian heads up the BBC Studios Natural History Unit, a department of nearly 300 staff making best in the world content for BBC channels, digital platforms and broadcasters around the world. Julian has worked for the NHU for over 25 years with an executive producer portfolio across radio, TV and digital. Under his leadership the NHU has delivered Planet Earth II, Blue Planet II, Dynasties, Springwatch, Blue Planet Live, Seven Worlds One Planet and other cutting edge series such as Earth from Space and Animals with Cameras.

Date: 6th March 2020

Venue: Gala Club Gloucester, Fairmile Gardens, Longford, Gloucester. GL2 9EB

Time 19.30

Talk to be preceded by short (10 minutes) AGM of the Gloucestershire Naturalists Society.

Refreshments available

Winter wildlife of the Cotswolds – 8th December, Edge Common/Haresfield Hill

On a fine winter’s day, the beech woods and the limestone grassland near Edge are lovely. The light flooding through onto the woodland floor, the twittering flocks of little birds in the canopy, the elegant boles of the trees, then out onto the common where the  landscape is laid out before you from the micro scale of the ant hills, to the old quarryings, to the Painswick valley and arrow-straight horizon of the Cotswold tops.

Juliet Bailey will be leading a general interest meeting of the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society, Sunday 8 December, starting at 10am from the Shortwood car park on Beacon Lane (SO832086, GL6 6PP gets you close). All are welcome.

The first hour will be round Shortwood to the topograph where there are magnificent views down the Severn Vale and across to the Forest of Dean and beyond. Then at 11am we will set out to explore Edge Common and Haresfield Hill. We will finish by 1pm.

WWT Slimbridge – Estuary Tower Opening Weekend – Lots of events – 16-17 Nov

WWT Slimbridge are having a huge celebratory weekend with lots of activities on 16th and 17th November.  All the details and event booking information is on their website here.

Join us for a celebratory weekend as we launch the NEW Estuary Tower Hide with ecologist and presenter Mike Dilger.

This new, fully accessible tower offers unprecedented views of the spectacular variety of wildlife here at Slimbridge. With two spacious floors and a wide open terrace, it really does fulfil Sir Peter Scott’s vision of bringing people closer to nature.

To celebrate, we’re hosting a packed weekend of activities, talks and demonstrations. We’ve invited some special guests, too, including the renowned naturalists Mary Colwell and Mike Dilger. So whether you’re a keen birdwatcher, or someone who simply enjoys the great outdoors with your family, there’s something for everyone to enjoy this weekend.

On all weekend

  • Head out to our hides and meet our expert ‘guide in the hide’ volunteers who will be on hand to help you identify a wealth of wildlife across the reserve.
  • Visit the South Lake Discovery Hide to find out how you can take part in the Wetland Bird Survey, and help us monitor and conserve our precious waterbirds.
  • Marvel at the expert skills of the Severn Wildlife Carvers as they shape pieces of wood into breath-taking pieces of art with their display and demonstration in the Visitor Centre Foyer.

Saturday’s special events

  • 12 noon – 1pm: WWT’s Jackie Harris explains how Slimbridge 2020 is transforming the reserve with immersive, stimulating experiences:BOOK NOW
  • 11am, 1:30pm & 3pm: Take a fascinating tour of Scott House Museum where Sir Peter Scott championed the cause of conservation throughout his life: BOOK NOW
  • 2 – 3pm: Watch us guide wild birds into our historic duck decoy, allowing our team to catch them and attach identification rings. Book on arrival at admissions desk.
  • 4 – 4:30pm: As the light fades, enjoy the spectacular sights and sounds of thousands of wild birds being fed by floodlight at a Wild Bird Feed. No booking required, just meet in the Peng Observatory.
  • 5 – 6:30pm: Join naturalist and broadcaster Mike Dilger for an entertaining evening as he shares his unbridled passion for nature: BOOK NOW

Sunday’s special events

  • 11 – 11.45am: Hear naturalist Mary Colwell’s expert insights into the plight of one of our most beloved and endangered birds, the curlew: BOOK NOW
  • 12 noon – 1pm: Find out how we’re working with farmers and landowners to save the curlew, Europe’s largest wading bird: BOOK NOW
  • 2 – 3pm: WWT’s Elle Von Benzon explains how we’re working to repair, restore and conserve the UK’s precious waterscapes: BOOK NOW
  • 2 – 3pm: Watch us guide wild birds into our historic duck decoy, allowing our team to catch them and attach identification rings. Book on arrival at admissions desk.
  • 11am, 1:30pm & 3pm: Take a fascinating tour of Scott House Museum where Sir Peter Scott championed the cause of conservation throughout his life: BOOK NOW
  • 1:30 & 3pm: Join our willow weaving experts as they show you the techniques involved in shaping this fine, flexible wood.

National BTO award presented to Mike Smart

Each year the British Trust for Ornithology presents awards for outstanding contributions to ornithology.  They are sponsored by the Marsh Christian Trust and therefore known as the Marsh Awards for Ornithology.  There are five categories: one for a professional ornithologist; one for innovation; one for international work; one for local ornithology; and one for a young ornithologist.

This year’s Marsh Award for Local Ornithology was awarded to our very own Mike Smart for his work on Curlews.  The presentation was made at the Mall Gallery in London on October 23rd, coinciding with the opening of the annual exhibition of the Society of Wildlife Artists.  The photo shows Mike receiving his award from Frank Gardner, President of the BTO (and the BBC’s security correspondent), with BTO’s Director Andy Clements in the background.

Mike’s breadth of experience and popularity is evidenced by the fact that his nomination was put together by myself (as Gloucestershire’s BTO representative), the Curlew Forum, and a RSPB conservation manager, with enthusiastic support from GNS’s Mervyn Greening and from Roger Mortlock, Chief Executive of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.  Here is the citation from the programme for the award ceremony…

“Mike’s passion is the Curlew and he has worked tirelessly on this species’ behalf for decades, seemingly almost single-handedly at first.  Winning over landowners and involving them in conservation measures, he laid the foundations for the establishment of new nature reserves and, mostly importantly, undertakes meticulous fieldwork to monitor breeding outcomes.  Mike’s regular Curlew reports are legendary for their completeness and attention to detail and are an extraordinary example of how regular monitoring can lead to conservation actions.   As the plight of the Curlew worsened, Mike’s determination and work-rate on its behalf accelerated.  Mike’s vision, powers of persuasion, endless list of contacts and his enthusiasm have enabled the Curlew Forum to establish the multi-agency Severn Curlew Project, based at WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire and launched in 2019.  This professionally staffed project aims to help Curlews using the techniques being used for Black-tailed Godwits, Cranes and Spoon-billed Sandpipers.”

 Gordon Kirk

Discovering Bats Day at John Moore Museum, 26 October 2019

Discovering Bats Day – Event for October Half-Term Week 2019

A Live Animal Event

OrganiserJohn Moore Museum
DateSaturday 26th October 2019
TimeFour sessions to choose from:
10.30am to 11.30am
11.45am to 12.45pm
2.30pm to 3.30pm
3.45pm to 4.45pm
VenueThe Old Baptist Chapel, Old Baptist Chapel Court, Church Street, Tewkesbury GL20 5RZ
DetailsWhy do bats hang upside-down?
How do they find their way in the dark?
What different types of bats live in the UK?
How can I encourage them to visit my garden?Bat expert David Endacott will be at the museum with a selection of live, rescued British Bats to explain all about these fascinating creatures of the night.  Also displays by the Gloucestershire Bat Group where you can learn about their work and how to join.  This is the perfect opportunity to find out the truth about these much misunderstood animals.

PLUS

Pick up FREE information on how you can help bats, and craft activities for children – make your own origami bat or bat mask!

Tickets available on the door or in advance from the museum
Adults £6.00 / Seniors & Students £4.50 / Children £2
(Includes admission to The Old Baptist Chapel & The John Moore Museum).

Notes for editorsContact: Simon Lawton (Curator)
E-Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 01684 297174

 

Talk on Carnivores at John Moore Museum, 23 November 2019

Small & Deadly: The Changing Fortunes of Britain’s Carnivores – a talk by Lizzie Croose of the Vincent Wildlife Trust

OrganiserJohn Moore Museum
DateSaturday 23rd November 2019
Time11am to 12pm
VenueThe Old Baptist Chapel, Old Baptist Chapel Court, Church Street, Tewkesbury GL20 5RZ
DetailsThe fortunes of Britain’s carnivores have changed greatly over the last couple of hundred years. This presentation will discuss changing population trends and the current status of Britain’s carnivores, including Vincent Wildlife Trust’s conservation and research programmes on pine marten, polecats, weasels and stoats.

Did you know a weasel needs to eat roughly one-third of its body weight per day?
Did you know that stoats can take on prey more than five times their size?
Did you know that polecats were hunted almost to extinction in the UK by gamekeepers in the 1900s?
Did you know that pine martens are omnivores? They have a diverse diet which includes eggs, squirrels, rabbits and insects.

Tickets available on the door or in advance from the museum
Adults £6.00 / Seniors & Students £4.50 / Children £2
(Includes admission to The John Moore Museum).

Notes for editorsContact: Simon Lawton (Curator)
E-Mail: [email protected]
Telephone: 01684 297174

University Award Scheme – Hybridisation of Bluebells

This paper was presented by Guy Copperthwaite as part of the requirement of an award within the Undergraduate Modular Scheme at the University of Gloucestershire.

NS6244 Ecological and Environmental Science Dissertation
Topographical and Plant Density Effects on the Rates of Hybridisation of Bluebells (Hyacinthoide) (PDF).

Ecology and Environmental Science Assessment 02
May 2019