Gawcombe field meeting, 16 July

The GNS walk on 16 July at Gawcombe near Bourton on the Water was notable for the range of species encountered and the occasional intense shower. 
With an unpromising start in heavy rain, the sky suddenly cleared as we descended the lawns, where a group of some 50 swallows put on an entrancing display skimming low over the grass, then jinking back, swarming over an insect prey that we could not see. A little further on, hornets were nesting in an old owl box high in a tree, but they took no notice of us. There were lots of little frogs in the grass, no bigger than a thumbnail, which must just have emerged from the lakes. Following the stream course (and treading carefully) we saw five species of dragonfly, and about a dozen kinds of butterfly particularly in the sunny glades were the bramble and hogweed were in full bloom.
Out into the farmland, where the hay had yet to be cut, there were the flowers of meadows, waysides and limestone grassland. An intense shower struck again as we headed back to the start via the shelter of woodland, but the rain passed as quickly as it had arrived so it was sunny again by the time we got to the cars.
This site was chosen as one of three finalists of the Gloucestershire  Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group’s annual Silver Pintail Award for the farm which had done most for biodiversity in the last year. The birdlife is known to be varied  but this visit proved interesting to many different natural history interests and merits further recording visits from specialists. Thanks to Andy Lewis for leading the party, and Mr and Mrs T Morris for letting us walk the estate.

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