Letter from the Chair, August 2013

Dear Members

In the Letter from the Chair in the last issue of GNS NEWS, I drew attention to the new subscription rates approved at the 2013 Annual General Meeting of the Society (incidentally, the first increase for about 20 years!). I’m delighted to say that most members who have renewed their subscriptions in the last couple of months have done so at the new rates. May I thank them for this sign of support for the Society. I hope that other members will follow suit in adopting the new rates, thus ensuring that the Society’s finances remain on a sound basis.

And now, a date for your diaries: Saturday 16 November 2013, when the launch of the “Birds of Gloucestershire” takes place at the Nature in Art centre at Wallsworth Hall, Twigworth, on the main road between Gloucester and Tewkesbury. The volume, edited by Gordon Kirk and John Phillips, reflects a huge amount of field work by volunteer bird watchers, including members of GNS and of the other bird clubs in the county, between 2007 and 2011; it is a local distillation and refinement of the national Bird Atlas which will be published at the same time. I have seen proofs, and can assure you that it is a high quality production, with authoritative texts by local authors, maps of summer and winter bird distribution, and high quality artwork and photographs. Do come along on 16 November, when the original artwork will be on show, and when you can meet the authors, artists and the production team. The GNS Committee agreed at the outset to make a grant towards the cost of publication, so we have been closely involved at all stages. The whole week-end of 16 November is being is coordinated with GWT, (the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust), whose Annual General Meeting is being held nearby in Apperley Village Hall, and whose reserve at Coombe Hill will be hosting bird watching tours and visits, based on the new hide, over the weekend.

A recent issue of GNS NEWS carried on its cover a striking photograph of the wreckage of the old Grundon Hide at Coombe Hill; the boardwalk through the old osier bed at Broad Mere as well as the hide itself were completely destroyed last winter by the pressure of floodwater pushed by the prevailing wind. Plans for a new hide have been under active discussion, and the new one is already in place, thanks to much hard work by the Jackie Birch, the Reserve Manager, and her volunteers over the summer. It transpires that very few, if any, other hides are built within river floodplains: most are on eminences overlooking the flood area and offer only distant views; the Coombe Hill hide is therefore unusual in permitting access into the core of the flooded area, and giving observers a real sense of being surrounded by water birds, plants and insects. The new building is more sturdily built its predecessor, with the hide more strongly attached to its base, and the supporting pillars more firmly anchored; it is also a metre or so higher than the previous model, which should not only keep it out of the water, but allow better views of the scrapes and wetland area. Of course such hides cost money: part of the cost of replacement is covered by insurance, but if any GNS members would like to show their appreciation of this splendid and unique facility, they can make a personal contribution through the GWT website.

In the last Letter from the Chair, I also noted that GNS and GWT were looking into ways of cooperating more closely. Personally, I have always felt that the opportunities of working together are legion: GNS’s concentration on recording natural history in the county, and its network of Species Recorders and experienced naturalists make it a natural partner for GWT, with its wide membership (over 25,000 members) and broad portfolio of nature reserves. So, shortly after I was elected as GNS Chairman, I became a Trustee of GWT, with a view to promoting exchanges and joint operations. GNS members have taken part in recent GWT events, notably the “bio-blitz” at GWT’s Siccaridge Wood reserve, where the aim was to identify 600 different species, of any taxa, in a day. The planned get-together of GNS Committee and GWT staff has taken place, and there is general agreement that we will work together much more closely in future. The next meeting of the GNS Executive Committee will be looking at precise ways of doing this, including joint events, training courses at different levels of expertise, and in particular the training of young naturalists, a theme which GNS has always aspired to promote, as yet with very limited success. So, as I said in my last Letter, keep watching this space!

Best wishes

Mike Smart
Hon Chairman

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