Letter from the Chair, May 2013

Dear Members

It was good to see many members at the Annual General Meeting, back (after an interval of nearly ten years) at the venue of the GNS Cirencester branch, with the Society’s President, Mrs. Anna Jones, in the Chair. As you will see from the draft Minutes included in this issue of GNS NEWS, there was a full review of the Society’s activities over the past year, together with a series of presentations from Butterfly Conservation on Rough Bank, the new Cotswold grassland reserve to whose purchase GNS made a contribution. The Special General Meeting held alongside the AGM approved an increase in subscriptions to £15 per annum (the first rise in about 20 years, and yet GNS membership remains a real bargain); I hope you will all amend instructions to your bank in line with the new rates, and sign the Gift Aid form. In this way, the Society will be able to maintain its healthy financial situation, without eating into its reserves.

A while ago, I paid tribute in one of these Letters to the outgoing Chief Executive Officer of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Gordon McGlone; it’s now a pleasure to welcome his successor, Roger Mortlock, who has recently started work. GNS is looking into ways of working even more closely with GWT, and a get-together between GWT staff and Trustees and GNS Executive Committee and Recorders is planned for late May. Watch this space for details of new initiatives!

In the meantime the GNS Executive Committee has made a series of grants for conservation projects: the new county moth recording team have received lap-tops to facilitate and standardise moth recording easier; new moth trapping equipment has been purchased; a Dipper ringing project in the Forest of Dean has been supported, as well as a project for Dormouse boxes. One of our recent grants is near to bearing fruit: the Red Data Book on the county’s bryophytes looks like being a landmark volume in many ways: as a compilation of historic and recent records, as an identification aid, as a guide to conservation of this group; and as a wake-up call to other counties.

This issue of GNS NEWS has a something of a birdy flavour. In a way this is very appropriate, as the current issue is accompanied by a flier allowing members to take advantage of a pre-publication offer for purchase of the new “Birds of Gloucestershire”, to be published later in the year, shortly after the latest national bird Atlas. GNS members have contributed, with other bird-watchers in the county, to the fieldwork for the Gloucestershire publication (the first book on the county’s birds since Chris Swaine’s 1982 volume, now well out of date); GNS has made a substantial financial contribution to the new county avifauna. I am sure Chris would have approved: I looked up to him as the ultimate authority when I was a boy birdwatcher, and used to phone him to report on my most recent observations, in fear and trembling as to whether he would approve my sightings.

In conclusion, another piece of good news: in recent years, that typical element of Severn Vale culture and cuisine, the elver, has declined steeply in numbers, just as its price has taken it well beyond the pockets of most people in the area. This spring has seen the best numbers of elvers in decades, carried upriver on high tide cycles; quite why is not clear, but it is a phenomenon observed throughout western Europe, as may be seen from the Sustainable Eel Group’s website. Perhaps coincidentally (but probably not), the birdwatchers among us have noted much larger numbers of passing Arctic Terns than usual along the river; they don’t seem to be feeding on elvers, nor on the tiny shrimps that have also been present in large numbers. As usual there are hidden links across different fields of natural history and ecology, which we must use our time and ingenuity to fathom out. I wish you all a fascinating summer delving into these cross connections.

Yours sincerely

Mike Smart
Hon Chairman

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