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About a dozen members accompanied Andrew Bluett on a walk around the Nag’s Head RSPB Reserve at Parkend in the Forest of Dean on a bright and sunny, modestly warm (circa 10 o C) morning with large areas of blue sky between the scattered clouds.
Autumn was very much in the air with leaves that had turned from green to a range of yellows, russets and reds, it was rather wet underfoot though not so much that a stout pair of boots couldn’t cope.
Wildlife was rather thin on the ground, a couple of Grey Squirrels (Scirius carolinensis) were seen, birds that were mostly heard rather than seen included Blackbird (Turdus merula) , Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), Robin (Erithracus rubecula), Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), Jay (garrulous glandarius), Carrion Crow (Corvus corone), Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo), Nuthatch (Sitta europea), Great Tit (Parus major), a solitary Siskin (Carduelis spinus), Crossbill (Loxia
curvirostra) and Goldcrest (Regulus regulus).
Around the reserve building there was evidence of the presence of feral Boar (Sus scrofa) but no sightings either of them, or of the occasionally seen Fallow Deer (Dama dama). In various places along the walk that took in some time at the Lower Hide overlooking the two pools there were various species of fungus including Candle Snuff (Xylaria hypoxylon) and different types of small brackets and Polypores on dead wood.
GNS joined The Folk of Gloucester for a bird walk over Alney Island, led by Andrew Bluett who not only knows his birds but is full of tales of times gone by, the history and characters of the area. We saw or heard 24 species including three Great Spotted Woodpeckers and flocks of Goldfinches and Long-tailed Tits. The highlights were two pairs of Stonechats, and an aerial squabble between a Carrion Crow and a Sparrowhawk.
Here’s the list of species seen:
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Carrion Crow
- Great Tit
- Long-tailed Tit
- Lesser Black-backed Gull
- Black-headed Gull
- Feral Pigeon
Andrew Bluett had expected to be able to show us waterbirds on the pools, but the floods had dropped and if they were there, they were hiding in the reeds.
The GNS 75th anniversary celebration took place at The Folk in Gloucester on 8 November 2023. Many thanks to everyone who attended and to The Folk and its volunteers for hosting the event.
Members enjoyed local sparkling wine, cheese, apples and apple juice and were able to view an exhibition of wildlife photographs from the Society’s previous competitions. After the welcome address from the chairman Mervyn Greening, and a retrospective from Mike Smart who is an ex-chairman and possibly the longest-standing member, the cake was cut by GNS president Anna Ball. There was a toast to GNS’s next 75 years and the evening continued with much friendly chatting, everyone pleased to be able to meet in person after the covid years.
The exhibition of wildlife photographs will remain in place until mid-January and can be visited whenever The Folk is open.
Please note that our upcoming Oxenhall field meeting was previously advertised as being on the 6th November. This is incorrect, and the actual date of the field meeting is the 5th November. Apologies for any inconvenience caused by this. Further information about the event.
A report on the GNS field meeting on 14th October, by Alan Waterman.
A Mycological Meander at Oakwood Hill Bream, also rather regularly referred to as a Fungal Foray. This Fungi walk, was on Saturday 14th October and lead by John Holden from the Dean Fungus Group. It was attended by 8 people.
Recent preliminary excursions by John and by Alan Waterman had cast some doubt on the number and variety of species we might encounter, it seemed like a poor season for toadstools. However in the event this proved not to be the case. John explained the route he proposed to take at the beginning of the walk and this would include some non native coniferous woodland to start with followed by Oak woodland and then ending with mixed deciduous, as it turned out the Coniferous woodland provided such a variety of species that it was the only region covered and time precluded the rest of the walk.
Mycological meander because maybe fungal foray conjures up more of a collecting trip with an eye on the species with special culinary delights. John was keen to avoid talk of poisonous versus edible and concentrated on diagnostic features to enable identification. Two other members of the group also had quite extensive knowledge of the fungi and all the species found were identified down to at least genus level but generally to the species. Particularly interesting was the use of smell in identifying some of the species, aniseed, burnt rubber, raw potato and a strong mealy (flour) smell were all encountered. John explained to one enthusiastic sniffer that it is best to sniff the cap side rather than the gill side of a fungus to avoid inhaling spores which might be harmful.
Often identification was accompanied by some little anecdote about the fungus for example the rather bright blue cup fungus (Chlorociboria aeruginascens) which tends to grow on Oak also stained the Oak wood bright blue and this is then used by the marquetry workers producing the famous Tonbridge ware items.
Not much else was seen on the walk, just a few birds, Jays, Buzzard, not surprising given that we were in Coniferous woodland and our eyes were concentrating on the ground in front of us. There was a good coverage of mosses and particularly impressive were some banks of one called Pseudoscleropodium and it was on this moss that a small green stripped caterpillar was found, no doubt it had fallen from the trees above.
This is a list of fungal species encountered.
Current Name English Name Associate Substrate
Amanita citrina var. citrina False Deathcap Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Clitocybe nebularis Clouded Agaric Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Clitocybe odora Anise Agaric Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Clitopilus prunulus The Miller Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
* Conocybe arrhenii Ringed Conecap Angiosperm Wood twig fallen
Coprinellus disseminatus Trooping Crumblecap Angiosperm Wood stum
Coprinellus micaceus Glistening Inkcap Angiosperm Soil & Leaf litter
Crepidotus mollis Peeling Oysterling Angiosperm Wood twig fallen
* Cystolepiota hetieri Hetier’s Dapperling Angiosperm Soil & Leaf litter
Gymnopus dryophilus Russet Toughshank Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Hebeloma mesophaeum var. mesophaeum Veiled Poison Pie Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Infundibulicybe gibba Common Funnelcap Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Inocybe lilacina Lilac Fibrecap Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Lepiota cristata Stinking Dapperling Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Mycena leptocephala Nitrous Bonnet no data Wood stump
Mycena rosea Rosy Bonnet Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Pluteus cervinus Deer Shield Angiosperm Wood stump
Pseudoclitocybe cyathiformis The Goblet Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Daedaleopsis confragosa Blushing Bracket Angiosperm Wood branch fallen
* Heterobasidion annosum Root Rot Picea abies Wood trunk fallen
* Ramaria stricta Upright Coral Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Boletus edulis Cep, Penny Bun Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca False Chanterelle Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Imleria badia Bay Bolete Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Xerocomellus chrysenteron Red-Cracked Bolete Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Calocera viscosa Yellow Stagshorn Picea abies Wood branch fallen
Geastrum triplex Clollared Earthstar Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Lycoperdon excipuliforme Pestle Puffball Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Lycoperdon perlatum Common Puffball Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Russula delica Milk-white Russula Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
* Russula queletii Fruity Russula Picea abies Wood branch fallen
Scleroderma verrucosum Scaly Earthball Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Exidia nucleata Crystal Brain Angiosperm Wood branch fallen
Chlorociboria aeruginascens Green Elfcap Angiosperm Wood branch fallen
Hypomyces chrysospermus Bolete Mould Boletus sp. Fruitbody
Otidea alutacea Tan Ear Picea abies Soil & Leaf litter
Xylaria hypoxylon Candlesnuff Angiosperm Wood stump
* = “probably”
Today’s field meeting was something of an experiment, in that it was held on a morning in midweek, rather than at the weekend. Six members visited the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Coombe Hill Meadows reserve, in the hope of seeing early wintering waterbirds and passerines.
There was as yet no flooding, but the scrapes were full of water, and indeed levels had risen slightly in the last week; after a very late hay cut this year, some of the grass not being cut until well into September because of morose summer weather, the cattle were still out on many fields, doing a useful job in controlling the grass and thus encouraging the excellent hay meadow vegetation.
In a willow, one of whose branches had cracked, it was interesting to note a hornet nest, with a few of its inhabitants still active (in previous years, they had built their nest inside the Grundon Hide, which can be disconcerting for human visitors). A group of about 20 Fieldfares were in the tops of the trees along the canal, the first arrivals (probably from Scandinavia) of these winter thrushes. From the Grundon Hide, excellent views were obtained of a range of waterbirds. The most obvious were the mixed flock of Canada and Greylag Geese, numbering roughly a couple of hundred, which had stayed to graze on the lush grass round the scrapes; later in the winter, these numbers will swell and may pass the thousand mark, producing a noisy and impressive wildlife spectacle. Numbers of wintering ducks are gradually increasing: up to 25 Wigeon were now present, grazing with the geese, together with perhaps 200 Teal and 20 Shoveler; most of these ducks were still in the eclipse plumage which they adopt during the moulting period in late summer and early autumn, so as to be less obvious to predators; in a few weeks’ time, they will increase in numbers and resume their full colourful plumage. Two or three Cormorants were also present, some fishing in the scrapes, some sitting on the island with their wings held out to dry. Rather few waders were present as yet, they will need a little more floodwater: as it was, just two or three Lapwings were present, together with a cryptically coloured Snipe, hiding in the bank vegetation. The most surprising sighting was from the heron/egret family: as many as five Great White Egrets were feeding in the grass, to the considerable displeasure of a long-standing resident Grey Heron, who repeatedly tried to chase them away. Great White Egrets are only a recent addition to the county’s avifauna, moving northwards from the Mediterranean, no doubt under the effect of climate change. A couple of winters ago, there were up to a dozen together on gravel pits further up the Severn in Worcestershire, but this is probably the largest group so far recorded at Coombe Hill.
On behalf of the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland (BSBI).
The New Year Plant Hunt is a remarkable citizen science venture that unveils winter’s floral secrets and sheds light on climate change. Warmer winters may be changing the flowering times of plants but BSBI needs your help to track this.
Perhaps surprisingly, many plants are still flowering in midwinter, with nearly 500 different species recorded during last year’s Hunt. Many of these are widespread, common and easy to identify, but we will provide a handy spotter sheet to help everyone, including total beginners, recognise the top 20 species recorded in previous years.
It’s easy to take part. During the four days around New Year, 30th December – 2nd January, take a leisurely walk outdoors, noting wild flowers in bloom. Submit your finds via our online form and you’ll be contributing to vital climate research.
Embrace winter’s beauty, learn more about our wonderful wildflowers and make a difference by participating in the New Year Plant Hunt. Start 2024 by joining the journey to uncover nature’s response to our changing world. Register now at bsbi.org/new-year-plant-hunt
Studies of breeding Curlews (and other waders) in the Severn and Avon Vales have been going on for many years. GNS had developed a ‘Curlew Meadows’ project to look not just at the breeding Curlews, but the botany of nesting fields in floodplain meadows too. An account of studies from 2017-2019 is included in the recently published three-year “Gloucestershire Bird Report” for 2017 to 2019. From 2019 (with a break for Covid lockdowns in 2020) the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust has supported more intensive studies of the breeding birds, and the attached poster summarises the results for the 2023 breeding season. Worthy of note are: the large number of nests found – 24; the poor breeding success – only nine fledged chicks from 24 territorial pairs; and the increasing number of breeding birds which can now be identified from their colour rings and/or satellite tags. The WWT website allows those interested to follow the movements of satellite tagged birds – just search for ‘Curlew tracking’ on www.wwt.org.uk .
The garden challenge is still ongoing so please continue to send any records to GNS News editor (firstname.lastname@example.org) (preferably verified by the relevant county recorder where necessary).
Records are welcome for any taxa, from gardens or other local public spaces.
Our target species for 2023 continues to be woodlice and there are considered to be five common species “the famous five”, to look out for:
Common rough woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)
Common shiny woodlouse (Oniscus asellus)
Common striped woodlouse (Philoscia muscorum)
Common pill woodlouse (Armadilidium vulgare)
Common pygmy woodlouse (Trichoniscus pusillus)
Some links for online ID and recording help are on the GNS website (https://glosnats.org/garden-challenge-2023/). In addition, the autumn is a good time to watch out for and record Fungi. The Dean Fungus Group meet regularly and contact information can be found at https://www.deanfungusgroup.com/.
Also, if you have any flowering ivy in your garden/public space, this can be a real draw for invertebrates in the autumn when other forage is scarce. Whilst a number of species are attracted, keep an eye out for the Ivy Bee Colletes hederae. This looks similar to a honey bee but is solitary and flies late in the year. It can partly be distinguished by the yellow-orange hairs on its thorax and head. More info can be found online including Ivy plasterer bee – Bug Directory – Buglife or from our county recorder.