Annual General Meeting

The GNS Annual General Meeting is due to take place on the evening of Friday 26th March 2021; as we are unable to hold conventional meetings at present, the AGM will be carried out as a virtual Zoom meeting via computers, tablets and smart phones. Please don’t be discouraged by Zoom, it’s not that difficult.

Members can participate in this meeting free of charge – please e-mail our secretary, Barrie Mills at [email protected] and he will send you an invitation link to the meeting. If you have any comments, questions or other observations relating to GNS and its business, please e-mail either Barrie or Andrew Bluett at [email protected] as soon as possible before the meeting so that they can be properly considered.

Some of the documents that will be referred to during the meeting can be downloaded from here.

You are all welcome, please do join us if you would like to.

Winter twig identification

The sheet illustrates twigs of common trees in the British countryside. It was used during the GNS Zoom members’ meeting on 20 January 2021. The twigs are arranged so that twigs with similar features are close to each other.

Thus, both elm and field maple often have very ridged bark on quite small twigs, but the buds on an elm twig zigzag along it, whereas field maple buds are opposite each other.

Sycamore is another member of the maple family, and it shares the feature of buds opposite each other, but its buds, especially the end one, are much larger and usually bright green.

Another twig with opposite buds is ash, but in this case the buds are sooty black (ash – sooty – get it?).

Willows are very confusing, with twigs in a range of colours often with buds in a matching colour. If you look closely you will see there is just one scale covering the bud, which comes off as a single unit when the bud bursts in spring. Lime twigs can look quite like willow, with the twigs often coloured red on the sunny side, but the buds are placed zig-zag fashion. The buds of lime are often a rich red, and each bud has a covering of two or three bud scales which are different in size to each other making the bud look a bit like a mitten.

Both oak and cherry can have clusters of buds together on the end of twigs with side buds spiralling up the stems. You may see long extension twigs on cherry with more evenly spaced buds and just two or three at the top. If in doubt, look at the ground because oak leaves are very tough and will survive the winter intact. Cherry leaves are less durable but you may be lucky.

From a distance a walnut tree can look quite like ash. Walnut has dark buds, but they are not opposite each other. In walnut the leaf scar, where the previous year’s leaf stalk dropped off, is a bit like a monkey’s face, broad, with the marks of the vascular bundles looking like two round eyes with a smiling up-turned mouth below. In ash you just get the smile. Another fun clue to walnut is that the twigs have laddered pith, which is a rare feature not found in other common trees in the British countryside. There will always be twigs on the ground that can be split to check.

The twigs of sweet chestnut are rough, unlike the silky smoothness of lime, for example. The sweet chestnut leaf scar is offset at the side of bud, not directly below it which is the more normal placement.

In poplars the buds spiral up the stems, but the side-buds sit directly over last year’s leaf scar. The illustration is of a twig with leaf buds, but beware that in poplar, and indeed in many trees, flower buds can look very different, much larger and rounder. In poplar, at least, they are often on little side-shoots. The balsam poplars are easy because the buds are sticky and smell strongly of sun-tan lotion. Poplars sucker, so you will often see young stems coming up in the field 50 yards or more away from the parent tree, and they can
grow fast – more than 6ft in a year.

Beech separates out easily because the buds are very long and pointed, zigzagging up the twig and sticking out at an angle of more than 45 degrees. Hornbeam buds are pressed tight up against the twig, sometimes with the tip curving inwards. Both beech and hornbeam can retain dead leaves on lowest branches over the winter, especially as hedges, but the angle at which the buds are held will easily differentiate them.

This is an introduction to get you looking at some of the important features. There will be plenty of exceptions and of course many more species to examine. For rigour, consult John Poland’s The Field Key to Winter Twigs (2018).

Juliet Bailey

Winter Bird Survey cancelled

Just a note to remove any doubt – the Gloucestershire Winter Bird Survey for February is cancelled.

As you know, the situation has become worse since November and we now have a do-not-travel-if-avoidable rule.

The intention is to start the survey up again this November, and if you took part in the last one you’ll be contacted in October unless you decline in the meantime.  If you have not taken part and would like further information please email [email protected]

‘Connecting People to Nature’

How connected do you feel to nature?

This inspiring, short 5-minute film from Foresters Forest and Wye Valley River Festival shares
how National Lottery Heritage funding in the Forest of Dean has helped improve the habitats of
birds, reptiles and butterflies whilst also encouraging us to feel more connected to the local
landscape. Explore the natural world around you and experience a sense of well-being.

GNS Winter Walks

The society is proposing to organise some walks this autumn, though any plans put in place may of course change at a moment’s notice. Outdoor meetings with groups up to six are possible given the following guidelines:

  1. Members will need to pre-book with the walk leader and receive a confirmation that they have a place.
  2. Equipment and books should not be shared or passed around.
  3. Members are asked to maintain two metres between each other.
  4. You are advised to bring hand sanitizer and face masks.
  5. Be aware of your own risk level and the suitability of this activity.
  6. Please do not come if you are showing any symptoms of Covid-19.

We have arranged six walks before the turn of the year. They are spread around the county, and each will last about two hours, though members can come and go in the usual way. Most are general walks to see what natural history is around and are not primarily intended as recording exercises, though we shall record what we see.

Please see the events page for the full list of upcoming walks.

Gloucestershire Bird Report 2014-16

The latest edition of the Gloucestershire Bird Report covering the years 2014 to 2016 is now available to purchase from Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society, cost £15.00 + £3.25 Post & Packing = £18.25. Click here to purchase.

Published by Gloucestershire Ornithological Co-ordinating Committee, this is a combined 3-year report in a new size and format for the 21st century with a fresh and different look from previous issues and is intended to deliver all of the essential information required from a county report whilst being rather more interesting and entertaining than a bland dates and numbers document.

In essence it takes some of its design features from the Birds of Gloucestershire (2013) by Gordon Kirk and John Phillips, features many photographs and personal views of the Gloucestershire avifauna, contains a wealth of information and is an essential document for ornithologists with any interest in the county’s bird life.

Introducing Gloucestershire’s Robberflies

Adult robberflies (Order: Diptera, Family: Asilidae) are effective daytime hunters, relying on sight to target moving insect prey which they then seem able to immobilise by injecting posion through their mouthparts. Martin Matthews has prepared a basic introduction to the adults of the 16 species of robberflies (12 of them illustrated) that have been recorded in Gloucestershire at least once since 1950. The guide can be downloaded from the invertebrates section of our publications pages.

Upcoming GNS events

Due to the country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, and our efforts to minimise the spread, GNS obviously cancelled all our scheduled events that were due to take place during the ‘lockdown’. We will continue to schedule events in accordance with government advice, and have therefore cancelled events up to and including 10th May. The government plans to announce the way forward as far as restrictions are concerned this coming Sunday, and we will of course comply with any rules or guidelines set out in that announcement. Therefore it’s quite likely that further cancellations will have to occur. If and when lockdown restrictions are relaxed, some leaders of field meetings may feel that they would still prefer that their respective meetings do not go ahead, so even at this point we will review each meeting individually. Please keep an eye on this website for up to date information.

UPDATE 14th May – In light of the recently revised guidelines from the government which still forbid meeting with more than one person from another household at a time, we have cancelled all meetings that were scheduled to take place during May.

UPDATE 29th May – We have cancelled all meetings that were scheduled to take place during June.

GNS Garden Challenge

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.

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 an annual 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, and will be given out each year at the AGM. 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.

Head over to the Garden Challenge page to view the latest submissions.

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