GNS Pub-Chat Zoom meeting Wednesday 4th May 2022 – Beavers
During this evening’s Pub Chat Zoom meeting there was some discussion about Beavers (Castor fiber) as a follow up to the Field Meeting visit to the Beaver release enclosure in the Forest of Dean on 13th April.
Beavers have been reintroduced in a number of locations in Britain as a whole but there is what might be seen as a feral population, rather than controlled releases in part of Scotland, specifically in the catchment of the River Tay in Perth & Kinross district. A point was made that given how much information is available about the Beaver populations particularly in Scotland, is there really any need for the long and drawn-out studies and consultations that appear to be necessary before any further releases are licensed, or is the English Government dismissing, or ignorant of, the situation north of the border?
To illustrate that thinking, and for general information, the report to the Scottish Assembly prepared by Scottish Natural Heritage is available here…
We have arranged four dawn chorus events, over the weekend 30 April – 1 May, for those who are awake early. They are spread around the county, so there should be one that is reasonably accessible to most people. The meetings start at 05.00 and should finish at around 07.00. Sunrise is about 05.40 so please arrive on time!
These events, along with all our other scheduled events, field meetings and talks, are listed here.
Seventeen members and friends met near Hempsted church on 6 February 2022 for a general-interest morning walk. We had fine weather until the very last stop when a driving rain-shower caught us off-guard, though the sun quickly came out again.
We walked down Rectory Lane from the church and out onto the floodplain of the river Severn. There was little flowering along the lane – just some rather dejected White Deadnettle (Lamium album) which had been nipped by recent frosts.
The first field in the plain was low ridge-and-furrow and in spring is a romantic haze of Cuckoo Flower (Cardaminepratensis) but being late winter there were no flowers in bloom. Still we could see the leaves of it in the grass, together with Sorrel (Rumexacetosa), Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculusrepens) and other plants typical of floodplain meadows including Deschampsiacespitosa, Tussock Grass, known by many Gloucestershire farmers as Bull’s Pate. This is a strong marker of impeded drainage, and here was noticeably in the furrows rather than on top of the ridges. Farmers don’t like it because the cattle won’t touch it. Its leaves have a serrated edge – easy to pull in one direction but cutting like a knife if you run your finger – or tongue – the other way.
There were several people interested in mycology in the party. We admired some Turkey Tail (Trametesversicolor) on some logs lying on the ground, and later Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscyphacoccinea).
At the far side of the meadow a band of trees marks the boundary of the 360-acre Hempsted waste tip which is mostly soil-capped and grassed over. The water in the brook here appears to be clean, with banks of Water Starwort (Callitriche sp.), so the tip must be well coffered. However, the walking became more tricky on this stretch, hemmed in by the brook and the edge of the tip. It had rained heavily over night and the path was narrow and muddy and lined with mounds of bramble.
Much of the bramble is Rubuscaesius, Dewberry, which can be affected by the gall-wasp Diastrophusrubi. No doubt inspired by the GNS zoom talk from Tommy Root the previous Wednesday several examples of this gall were found, together with swelling on a thistle stem caused by the fly Urophoracardui, and willow catkin galls – mystery causative organism, possibly viral or bacterial.
A flock of about 30 Goldfinches (Cardueliscarduelis) were feeding on alder cones in the trees along the brook. We followed the path to the river’s edge where the vista opened out with views across the Severn and the Minsterworth meadows where Curlew can still be heard here in spring and summer. A Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) was perching in a nearby tree. The star bird of the morning was to come later when a few people in the party, that by that time had become a little strung out, were lucky to see a Stonechat (Saxicolarubicola).
Badgers (Melesmeles) were very evident. We did not see one, but saw a massive sett early in the walk and a latrine area right on the riverbank. Badgers are tidy creatures, scraping little pits into which they deposit their droppings, and often as here on the river’s edge, having latrines with half a dozen or more pits marking the boundaries of their home ranges.
Returning back up the hill on the final part of the walk we regrouped at Our Lady’s Well (or St Anne’s Well). This elegant stone well head of the 14th century is a Grade I structure, so the same status as Gloucester Cathedral which could be seen just over a mile away to the north-east. However, the archaeology of the site goes back further still. Roman features, including ditches and burials, with pottery, coins and other material have been found on the hilltop, and indeed it would have been a good lookout point to observe shipping coming up the river towards Gloucester, where the cathedral marks the north-west corner of the Roman fortress and later colonia.
The low earthworks on the hilltop were identified as a ‘Roman camp’ by 19th century antiquarians, and it appears as such on Ordnance Survey maps up until the 1940s. More recent archaeological investigations in advance of modern housing development on the hilltop has shown that the earthworks post-date the Roman activity. They may be pillow mounds for the farming of rabbits, and related to the ownership of the site by Llanthony Secunda Priory.
The site has long been of interest to local natural historians and antiquarians. One has to admire the stamina of our predecessors in the Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club who, on 23rd February 1860, held their AGM at the Ram Inn in Gloucester (now the New County Hotel in Southgate Street), then, after breakfast, proceeded to Hempsted to admire the then recently identified “Roman” earthworks, finishing off with a lunch at Hempsted House, and an examination of material in the private museum. It is good to feel oneself one in the long line of history.
Proceedings Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club, 3 (1861-1865) 17
The Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society AGM will take place on March 25th at 7.30pm and will take place online as a Zoom meeting. The meeting will open at 7.15pm. Following the AGM, Andy Lewis will be giving a talk about the Winter Bird Survey. Both members and non-members are welcome to attend using the joining information below.
The agenda can be downloaded using the following link:
Many more field meetings have been added to the events pages, with 23 currently scheduled between now and the end of the year. This schedule now includes the Botanical meetings. Many members will be aware of the recent and sudden death of Clive Lovatt. Clive was an enthusiastic field botanist and several of these meetings had already been planned by him. In respect for Clive’s memory, Clare and Mark Kitchen have arranged to run these meetings as well as the walks they had planned themselves. Dates and venues have not changed.
As many members will know, GNS held a photographic competition in past years at the Cirencester Branch Annual Members Night in March.
As a result of Covid-19 restrictions, we have not been able to hold meetings at Cirencester since March 2020, so in 2021 it was decided that the photographic competition would be an on-line event, with entries shown and judged at the last Zoom meeting of the year in December.
The entries and winners for that event are now available as downloadable pdf files using the links below.
We do plan to hold another competition in 2022, members are invited to submit entries in the form of digital images by e-mail or any other means to the membership secretary, Andrew Bluett at [email protected].
Photographs should be of anything in the natural world, taken in (or very close to) Gloucestershire, and preferably during the calendar year 2022. We will decide what classes the entries will be placed in at a later date and will remind members to send in their entries from time to time during the year.
Spring is fast approaching, wildlife is coming to life and the light is improving (between the storms!) so get your camera out and venture into the fields, woodland and along the rivers of this beautiful county and see what you can capture.
All members are invited to take up the challenge of sharing their garden observations of wildlife.
What can be included? Just about any original observations made in your garden or from the windows of your residence.
What form might these observations take? • An account or accounts of a memorable wildlife sighting or sightings. • A report of a study made of wildlife in your garden. • A diary of what you have observed. • Annotated list of organisms encountered in your garden. • Original artwork illustrating an observation or study. • Anything you think worth sharing about wildlife from your garden
Some guidelines: • A maximum of one account per month to be submitted. Diary entries and lists should be submitted monthly • Pictures can be included. E.g. photographs or original artwork. • All submissions should have a clear title and name of author. • Your first submission should include a brief introduction about your garden.
How to take up the challenge: Each submission should be sent to our website manager for posting on our website. Some pieces may be used in the “News”. If you do not use the internet, you may still enter, and we will try to include some of your material in the “News”. Post your submission to M. Greening who will get it digitised for the website. Best to send a copy of your work if you can, but if you send original work and want it returned, please include an SAE.
Award: This is not a competition; it is an opportunity for us to share our thoughts about the wildlife we encounter in our gardens. We want to recognise the efforts made by entrants by awarding a prize to the entrant we feel has made the most inspirational contribution each year. The award is a vase, bequeathed to the society by the late Mornee Button. The decision about the recipient of the award will be made by a committee nominated by the executive committee.
Contact details: For entries via e-mail please send to our website manager : [email protected] For paper entries please send to: Mervyn Greening, 23, Lakeside, Newent, Glos. GL18 1SZ.
Mike Smart’s most recent Severn Vale bird report covering the period October to December 2021 has been added to the publications library (see menu at top of site). Click here to download a copy of the report (Word document).
Please note that from February 2022, selected GNS talks will be recorded and made available to view on the GNS website. However, we can’t guarantee that any specific talk will be recorded, so it’s always best to attend talks that interest you as they take place. Keep an eye on the upcoming events to see what’s planned. Two previous talks are currently available already. These recordings are also accessible via the Events menu, as below.
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