Aug 062016

Some of the ground ivy Glechoma hederacea leaves in my garden are pocked with white-rimmed craters reminding me of rivet washers on jeans. On closer examination, there are hairy green columns also present on some leaves.  These are caused by the fly Rondaniola bursaria.   Each column, known as a “lighthouse gall”, contains a single larva which falls off the leaf in late summer leaving the hole.

20160806 Lighthouse Gall

Robert Homan, the GNS county recorder for plant galls, confirmed the identification and says that it seems to be a good year for “lighthouse galls”. There are a lot on beech and lime, though these are caused by other invertebrate species. He would no doubt appreciate more records.

Posted on behalf of Juliet Bailey.

 Posted by on 6th August 2016 at 19:24
Aug 052016

Curlews are a familiar breeding bird along the Severn Vale from Gloucester up to Worcester, and along the Avon from Tewkesbury to Evesham. They nest in hay meadows, and their bubbling call is one of the sounds of summer.   Upwards of 50 pairs may nest in this area, making it one of the most important areas for the species in the South-West.  So in spring and summer 2016 a small group of observers has tried to assess the number of breeding pairs, to identify the fields where they nest (they are known to be strongly faithful to breeding fields), and to make an estimate of productivity – given that many chicks are known to fall a prey to predators (notably foxes, and probably crows and gulls as well), and that some fall victim to early mowing, particularly of silage.

The preliminary results are as follows (a more detailed report will appear in due course):

  • About 30 pairs that attempted to nest were found in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.
  • This is probably an underestimate, as some known sites were not covered, and nesting birds were often difficult to find in long grass, remaining particularly discreet when they had young chicks in June.
  • Nesting began late, as many riverside meadows remained flooded until well into April, rather later than in most recent years.
  • Several pairs, presumed (from their behaviour) to be nesting, were located in April and May; very few nests were found, since they are well hidden in the long grass, and it is important not to disturb grass around the nest, thus making them more liable to predation.
  • Some nesting pairs appeared to lose their eggs or young early in the season; the adult birds tended to stay on for a short time at the breeding site, and then to disappear, no doubt departing to the moulting and wintering areas around the coast, including the Gloucestershire sector of the Severn estuary.
  • When the chicks hatch, the females leave the breeding site fairly early (before the young are full-grown), leaving just the male to care for the  chicks in late June and July when the young are learning to fly.
  • At least six adult males with just-flying chicks were found during July, and at least one more was suspected to have young because of the agitated behaviour of the male.
  • When the chicks are able to fly, the male departs for the coast, leaving the chicks to fend for themselves.  For a few days chicks may be seen on their own near the breeding place; at one site six flying juveniles were seen together in early August, suggesting that the total number of successful broods may have been above seven.
  • There are a few records of young birds appearing at non-breeding sites along the Severn, presumably young birds on their way to the coast.
  • It was notable that the majority of farmers and landowners, on whose land Curlews were nesting, were very favourably disposed towards the birds: they were very familiar with the species, recognised them as returning to the same field or fields year after year; in many cases they made special arrangements to avoid disturbing the nesting birds, in some cases suspending hay making if young birds were present.
 Posted by on 5th August 2016 at 11:46
Jul 292016

20160729 Beaver

Dear Partner
Wetlands West would like to invite you to a half day presentation and discussion on beaver re-introduction at Apperley Village Hall on TUESDAY 27th SEPTEMBER 2016, starting at 12.30 pm.  The presentation will be given by Adrian Lloyd Jones and Alicia Leow-Dyke from the Welsh Beaver Project.  The Welsh Beaver Project is investigating the feasibility of bringing wild beavers (Castor fiber) back to Wales. This work is being led by the Wildlife Trusts in Wales as part of their Living Landscapes strategy. Programme for the afternoon is as follows:
12.30   Arrive and registration
13.00   Lunch
13.45   Update from Partners on Wetland Project activity
14.30   Returning the Beaver – the Welsh Experience.  Adrian Lloyd Jones and Alicia Leow-Dyke from the Welsh Beaver Project.
15.30   Questions discussion and next steps
16.00   Topics for future meetings
16.15   Close and Depart

If you wish to attend please email Colin Studholme by FRIDAY 9th SEPTEMBER.

 Posted by on 29th July 2016 at 23:49
Jul 292016

Natural England are leading on the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley Batscape Project (being delivered through the Foresters’ Forest HLF Landscape Partnership Programme), working in close partnership with the Gloucestershire Bat Group and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. As part of this project a Lesser Horseshoe bat survey is being carried out on Saturday 13th August and volunteers are needed!

PDF file with details: 20160729 Forest of Dean Lesser Horseshoe Bat survey 13

Please contact Forest Voluntary Action Forum (FVAF) for more details of how to get involved and to book a place: Tim Fretter or Deb Cook or 01594 822073

 Posted by on 29th July 2016 at 16:25
Jul 192016

The bird breeding season in the Severn and Avon Vales is almost over, so this seems a good time to offer an update on the results, based on observations made by the many birdwatchers active in this area, particularly, but not exclusively, at the two Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust reserves at Coombe Hill and Ashleworth Ham; and not just waterbirds, though they have been the main focus.  We have paid particular attention this year to identifying fields on which Curlews are breeding.

The beginning of the season was unpromising, because of the flooding which lasted well into April; we haven’t had spring flooding for several years now.  Three pairs of Shelducks (rather more than usual; they are more numerous on the estuary, where they nest in rabbit holes) produced duckings  – at Coombe Hill, Ashleworth and Cobney Meadows; two of these were unusually early in mid-May, despite the flooding, which suggests that they were nesting, as is traditional, in the boles of pollarded willows; the Ashleworth pair was seen to lose their young to a passing fox, but at least some of the other two broods seem to have survived.  The usual breeding pairs of Mute Swans, Greylag and Canada Geese and Mallard occurred, but no other ducks have as yet been proved to nest; some Tufted Ducks will no doubt be nesting somewhere.

Grey Herons and Little Egrets have nested at the usual Vale heronries; today at Coombe Hill, the unusually high number of nine Little Egrets was present, most of them clearly recently fledged juveniles, which no doubt originated in a local heronry.  As for waders, Coombe Hill has been the star site, even though successful rearing of chicks has been very poor. For the first time ever, a pair of Avocets attempted to nest; this was hardly unexpected, as there are colonies at Slimbridge and on the Worcs Wildlife Trust reserve at Upton Warren near Droitwich; sadly, they abandoned their attempt fairly early on, but we may hope to see them trying again in future years.  A pair of Oystercatchers successfully raised two chicks on the island.  At least nine Lapwing nests were seen from the hide, but only two produced chicks and both broods seem to have disappeared, which is pretty depressing; there have been few reports from other sites, though one or two pairs seen to be nesting on maize fields in the Vales .  A pair of Redshanks also nested at Coombe Hill for the first time for several years; they produced two chicks, but neither reached the flying stage; no records of nesting Redshanks at any other site have been received.  At Ashleworth, only Coot and Mallard seem to have nested successfully on the reserve, though two pairs of Curlews nested on the SSSI, just outside the reserve, one of them successfully raising two chicks.  No nesting Redshanks and very few Lapwings have been found on other sites in the Vales in Gloucestershire, though several have been successful at other sites on the Severn and Avon in Worcestershire.

As for Curlews, the wet weather of recent weeks has meant late hay cutting, which may have helped them to bring off young chicks successfully.  We have found three adult Curlews with definite broods of chicks in the last ten days, and strongly suspect (from the agitated behaviour of the parent) that at least three more pairs have raised chicks, which are notoriously difficult to find in the long grass.  The Curlew is a well recognised and much loved species in the area, and many farmers are willing to delay hay cutting when they know there is a nesting Curlew on their land.  It is very striking that these adult Curlews (which are highly faithful to the same breeding field, year after year) nest predominantly in ancient hay meadows, so we have been paying greater attention to botany; if you look after the hay meadows (a very desirable conservation objective in itself), you will look after the breeding Curlews – and other ground-nesting birds like Skylarks and maybe other waders too.

Among other breeding birds, there have been no signs of Quail or Sported Crake this year (both probably bred last year).  Ringing at Ashleworth produces good data on nesting songbirds, and it seems that Sedge Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat and Reed Bunting have had a good year, with at least one pair of Grasshopper Warbler.

Autumn migration has already begun, with a lone Spoonbill at Coombe Hill in June, the first returning Snipe and Green Sandpipers from mid-June, and already returning Teal, Greenshank, Whinchats and (rather unusually away from the estuary) a Bar-tailed Godwit.

 Posted by on 19th July 2016 at 15:12
Jul 182016

Below are further notes on the survey of breeding Curlews in the Severn and Avon Vales in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, as of mid July. The survey is being carried out because of the increasing realisation that conservation of Curlews (both on breeding sites and in wintering areas) is one of the principal bird conservation issues in UK. Similar breeding surveys have been carried on in other parts of lowland England, as well as on the upland breeding areas throughout UK.

  • The nesting season started late because of flooding which continued into mid-April.
  • Although the breeding Curlews were quite obvious and vocal (with lots of bubbling song-flights) over their territories in May, they went quiet and became much more difficult to find during June.  In June, when the eggs would be expected to hatch, the adults became much more discreet; they often kept out of the way in the long grass, only emerging if you got fairly close to the area of grass where the chicks were presumably located; if they did have chicks, their very agitated calls made this pretty obvious.
  • Some birds clearly lost their eggs or young; but the adults seemed to hang about close to the breeding sites, remaining much quieter than birds with young; this makes the picture much more complicated and difficult to interpret.
  • Several farmers in the area have contacted me before hay cutting, asking me to check whether there were breeding Curlews on their fields, and offering to delay hay making if breeding Curlews are found with young.
  • By mid July, the breeding season is almost over.  Several adult Curlews have been seen with full-grown young on hayfields.  This rather early date is something of a surprise to me: I thought it was a late year because of the April flooding, but the young seem to be fledging slightly earlier than usual.
  • Because of damp, miserable weather in the last couple of weeks, hay cutting has been delayed; this extra period of grace may well have helped more breeding Curlews to bring off their young successfully.
  • Curlews will no doubt disappear from the Severn and Avon meadows in the next couple of weeks, moving off to wintering sites on estuaries and round the coast; some birds from further north may be seen moving through. From early August, the focus on Curlew observations will change to the estuary.
  • Over the Hasfield/Ashleworth area in Gloucestershire, a Curlew was seen on 6 July, flying high downriver and taking no notice of local breeding birds – probably a bird that had finished the breeding cycle further north and was on its way to the estuary.
  • In the same site (where two breeding pairs had been noted throughout the spring and early summer) a very anxious adult male was giving alarm calls over a hayfield on 7 July; it was still there, equally anxious, on 9 July, accompanying two full grown chicks, which could just fly (an early date, it seems to me); by 12 July there was no sign of them and they had probably moved off to wintering areas.
  • At Upham Meadow, Twyning (Gloucestershire), where hay cutting is always relatively late, and is staggered (leaving large swathes of uncut hay as a refuge for young Curlews), another anxious male was seen on 15 July, with two flying birds of the year nearby.
  • Near Bredon’s Hardwick on the Worcestershire bank of the Avon, another anxious male was found on 16 July and, shortly afterwards, a flying young bird was seen.  This is a site recognised by the famer as a regular Curlew breeding field; he had seen a non-flying young Curlew a week earlier, and had therefore not cut the hay over a large part of the field.
  • It is probably significant that all three of the above sites are very secluded, with little or no disturbance from visitors (especially dog-walkers).
  • At several other sites along the Avon, both in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, very agitated adults with the characteristic alarm call have been seen in the last ten days; young (flying or not) were not found, but were almost certainly present; the chicks’ natural reaction, even if they can fly, is to crouch in the grass, where they are very difficult to find.  So it is thought that at least three other pairs successfully raised young.
  • At some sites where breeding attempts had been noted earlier in the season, adult Curlews have been noted, but without the alarm calls and with no sign of anxiety.  It is thought that at these sites, the adults had lost eggs or young and were staying on near the site after the failure of their breeding attempt.
  • Thus, at the Severn Ham, Tewkesbury, (where a pair successfully brought off chicks last year), the farmers who had hay cutting rights were all ready to delay hay making if young Curlews were found.  But although one (perhaps two) pairs of Curlews had tried to nest there, it seems they lost their eggs or young (probably to predators such as fox, crow or badger), so had no chicks by the time of hay making.
  • I am sure that there are more pairs that I don’t know about, especially further up the Worcestershire Avon.  I would be very pleased to have any more reports on the progress of the season, there or elsewhere.

More long-term issues:

  • Mary Colwell, who earlier in the year undertook a 500 mile from Northern Ireland to Lincolnshire to highlight the plight of the Curlew (see page 61 of the latest RSPB magazine, in a broad article on Curlews and other waders), has been back to Gloucestershire, together with Phil Sheldrake of RSPB.  We are planning an all-day workshop as a follow-up to Curlew surveys throughout lowland England (and as a prelude to efforts next year), probably on next World Wetland Day, Thursday 2 February 2017; watch this space for further details.
  • Despite my limited botanical knowledge, I have been looking more closely at the botany of hay meadows in the Severn and Avon Vales.  It seems to me that most Curlews are nesting on herb-rich ancient hay meadows, and that if you look after good hay meadows (a highly legitimate conservation aim in itself), you will protect many of the nesting Curlews (and other ground nesting species too – Skylark, Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting – and probably other nesting waders such as Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe, though these tend to prefer rather wetter sites than Curlew).   So I shall be talking to county record centres about marshalling botanical data, so that it becomes easier to identify and monitor the best hay meadows in each county (Top Twenty? Top Fifty?  Are they all recognised as SSSIs or Key Wildlife sites?).
 Posted by on 18th July 2016 at 09:58
Jul 182016

LawrenceLawrence Skipp, who died in a road accident in the Forest of Dean on 2 July at the age of only 38, was a general naturalist of exceptionally broad interests.  I have known him for fifteen years or more, and usually met him in the hides and lanes round the reserves at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill.  His base was in the Hartpury/ Tibberton area, and the Severn Vale and the Forest of Dean of the county were the two areas where he was particularly active. I am grateful to his father, Dave, who has provided more details about the life and interests of his son.

He would sit for hours in the hides, usually wearing his green and brown camouflage gear, often very late in the day, or even into the night, since he knew that birds often become more active at that time and do interesting things that can’t be seen by day.  As Dave notes ‘Several times this year I have been in a hide with him around dusk time, when you can hardly see your hand in front of your face, and there he is scribbling away without really looking at what he was writing. He seemed to have a knack at writing “blind”.  I will miss him coming round to check on weather forecasts and sighting websites, to be followed by a running commentary from him on what he expected would be seen in the next few days here & there based on wind / weather/ migration patterns’.

In his youth, as his father relates ‘Lawrence was a keen Gloucester Young Ornithologists Club member, a captain of the Hartpury School Nature Team and a mean sprinter on the track. He always had a wildlife pond wherever he lived, and would spend hours with his backside in the air and his head at the water surface, marvelling at the antics of the newts and general pond life as they went about their daily business. When he wasn’t doing that, he was reading natural history books, drawing, or bird watching. His first real job was with the Gloucestershire Trust for Nature Conservation, until he unfortunately suffered a back problem that needed spinal surgery which left him plagued with pain. Later he did voluntary care work for the Animal Rescue Centre, allied to Hartpury College, where they called him the “Bird-Man”. He was always coming home covered in cuts, bites and bird poop but he absolutely loved it. He was the sort of person who wouldn’t kill a fly, but he would fairly happily feed it to the resident wild spiders in the webs around his flat unless of course it was something special or one he hadn’t seen before, in which case he would capture it under a glass tumbler to view and sketch it thoroughly before release’.

His strength was his attention to detail, of which there are many testimonies in the hide log books at Ashleworth and Coombe Hill, in his characteristic neat and elegant handwriting, done with a fine nibbed pen: he had real artistic flair. As his father notes ‘He loved his art, and was gifted with a keen eye for detail and an ability to transfer it to a beautifully drawn replica. He was so excited when was asked to contribute bird studies for inclusion in the “The Birds of Gloucestershire”, but unfortunately had a bad car accident in 2011 which left him wheelchair bound for almost a year and unable to follow that through. His love of nature, art, and bird-life in particular kept him strong and got him through those bad times back up to relative fitness and back out into “the field” and into drawing again. He never really fully recovered, and pain still plagued him daily, but he soldiered on and fought his demons head on.  Perhaps that’s why he loved his “camo-gear” so much, as you would never really catch sight of him out of uniform, ready for action in the hunt for an elusive rarity or just simply marvelling in the beauty of the humble iridescent Starling’.

He did find quite a number of rare birds in the county: he was one of the few who saw the Scarlet Rosefinch at Ashleworth; he was the one who actually identified the Stilt Sandpiper at Coombe Hill (after Les Brown had seen it without identifying it); he found the singing Spotted Crake at Coombe Hill (late at night of course) last year.  I remember him persuading half a dozen of us to join him at Ashleworth round midnight in early June, when an unusually loud and voluble warbler song had convinced him a Marsh Warbler had turned up: it proved to be ‘just’ a Sedge Warbler, one that had probably failed elsewhere, and had moved in for a fresh breeding attempt, which would explain the sudden bursts of song.  He was with us on 10 May this year when Coombe Hill had such a succession of unusual migrants brought in by a south east wind – Grey Plover, Turnstone and Sanderling, plus overflying Black and Arctic Terns, and he was the one who first picked out the terns.  The log books reveal him writing down details of things as they happened in front of him: he would record individual variations in the plumages of Curlews as they arrived (he was the one who most frequently recorded the colour ringed bird at Ashleworth, and he showed me Curlew chicks in a hayfield near Haw Bridge); he recorded not only birds, but invertebrates too, especially dragonflies.  One of the last text messages I received from him (in his usual textspeak) on 19 June ran as follows: “Would you mind asking Ingrid Twissel if teneral Lestes sponsa ever show pale pterostigma pls?  If not, i saw Lestes viridis at coombe the day I last saw you”.  Sadly he died before I could pass on Ingrid’s reply, so let me pass it on here: “Chalcolestes viridis (Willow Emerald Damselfly) is larger than Lestes sponsa (Emerald Damselfly), and has pale wing-spots outlined in black, but at present is only found in south-east England. Other immature/teneral species of Lestes have pale wing-spots which darken on maturity, so this is likely to be what Lawrence saw. L.sponsa is the only species that breeds at present in Gloucestershire. The only other sighting of another Emerald (Southern Emerald Lestes barbarus) occurred on the R. Avon, east of Keynsham in August 2006.”

So sad that such a gifted and observant naturalist should be snatched away so soon, and that many of his observations die with him.  There will be a simple non-religious ceremony at Gloucester Crematorium at 3.p.m. on Monday 1 August, at which all will be welcome.


 Posted by on 18th July 2016 at 09:23
Jul 162016

Nightjar IMG_3375a      Nightjar IMG_3358b

30th June 2016

For the first of the series of Nightjar meetings the weather didn’t look promising, heavily overcast with low cloud, almost constant drizzle, strong wind from south-west and pretty chilly, so there wasn’t a great deal of optimism. However, 4 brave souls gathered with Andrew Bluett and set off into the gathering gloom in search of crepuscular quarry.

In view of the weather, and with only 5 people to accommodate, we cheated and drove to the viewing area rather than walking, which made things rather easier and also provided for a quick escape route if the weather became significantly worse.

As things turned out we had a real treat, 3 males churring and flying around from 9.45pm, with excellent views of birds coming close to investigate who we were and hunting low over the heath in pursuit of the moths. Several times the birds perched on one of a number of favoured perches and stayed there churring for extended periods. There was also much “chirping” as they flew and some wing clapping at times. We were favoured with 3 sightings of Woodcock, a few Bats and a frog or two, 3 large male Wild Boar and several Fallow Deer. A young Tawny Owl called from the trees on the way back to the main road.

On the way home, Colin & Ingrid Twissell who had travelled with Andrew Bluett were treated to excellent views of two family parties of Wild Boar – a female with 12 boarlets and a second female with 8, in both cases the adult lactating females being accompanied by a couple of “nursemaids” helping to care for the young.

8th July 2016

This meeting originally planned for the 7th had to be changed to the 8th. The weather was not quite as poor as for the previous meeting but was again overcast, chilly and windy. Given the success of the previous meeting, there was rather more hope of decent views of Nightjar which proved to be well founded.

6 members and guests duly met with Andrew Bluett and the party walked through the forest to the viewing area, within a very few minutes after reaching the viewing point at 9.40pm, the first Nightjar started churring, closely followed by others and much aerial activity with birds flying around, coming close and at times chasing one another around over the heath. The same favoured perches were used making it quite easy to keep track of the birds for almost two hours.

The Woodcock was heard several times but not seen and on this occasion no Boar or Deer appeared. On the walk back to the cars, the juvenile Tawny Owl was heard calling again and proved to be visible in the outer branches of a Birch tree by the side of the track before slipping away into cover.

14th July 2016

Eight members and guests turned up for the best of the three evenings weather-wise. It was relatively warm, still and fairly clear with some moonlight. Very shortly after arriving on the viewing point the first Nightjar was sighted and the activity gradually built up as darkness closed in. Again at least three males were performing, floating across the heather and bracken, perching in their favoured spots and churring, some wing clapping was seen and much chirping was uttered as the birds flew about. Several times one bird chased another and at one point, a bird took off from a high perch and rose into the sky in a display flight, quickly joined by a second bird, they then drifted off high overhead towards the woodland.

Very good views were had of birds coming close to the party – Nightjars are innately curious and will investigate intruders and foreign objects on their patch – as was the case with the video camera set up in front of one particular favoured perch with a bird lifting off the dead tree stump and almost landing on the camera and tripod before returning to the perch.

On the way back after a very good evening, a solitary Wild Boar scuttled off through the trees and two deer appeared, they also bounded off into the darkness. David Priddis discovered a few bats with his detector which added something to the evening and finally, the reliable young Tawny Owl was again head calling from the depths of the trees.

My thanks to all who turned out on the series of evening walks, their faith was rewarded and the whole venture was a great success.

A short video clip of a Nightjar can be seen here –


Jul 132016

20130428 CNQ Meet 1

Dean Natural Alliance who with Forest of Dean Friends of the Earth and others have been continuing the legal fight against the development of the Cinderford Northern Quarter today (Tuesday 12th July) sent out a press release after their latest appearance at the High Court.

GNS agrees wholeheartedly with the sentiments that the CNQ development is ill advised, misplaced and seriously detrimental to the mosaic of habitats and plethora of wildlife on and around the site. The regeneration of Cinderford would have been far better carried out much closer to the town, community and infrastructure that already exists for many reasons over and above the damage that will be caused to a wildlife rich area.

It seems perverse that across the Forest, many groups and individuals are working hard to enhance the wildlife, culture, heritage, history and other facets of the area in pursuit of the Heritage Lottery Fund bid under the banner of The Forester’s Forest whilst on the CNQ site, the local authority and Homes and Communities Agency are bent on continuing with a development that will so adversely affect all of these things.

The text of the DNA press release is given below:

“Dean Natural Alliance greatly regrets the decision last week in the High Court not to allow an Appeal to go forward challenging the Planning Consent for the Hybrid Planning Application at Cinderford Northern Quarter.

We continue to believe that the selection of this site by the Forest of Dean District Council and the Homes and Communities Agency was ill-informed and deeply flawed. DNA feel the CNQ is unsuitable both because of its great environmental richness and because the mining legacy and contamination mean this development can never be economically viable; it will continue to be a great drain on the Public Purse and to damage wildlife.

As the Gloucestershire College still does not seem to be in a position to proceed with their proposed move from Five Acres, we believe there is no justification for yet commencing a section of a Spine Road which will lead nowhere, will increase traffic through Steam Mills and will require Public Forest Estate land.

Dean Natural Alliance feel that because the Cinderford Northern Quarter is such poor value for money with the speculative spending of some £18 Million and is so damaging to our heritage that we will continue to oppose it.”

Further information is available at

Jun 202016

Following the success of previous year’s Nightjar evening walks in the Forest of Dean, I plan to do more this year, proposed dates are:

Thursday 30th June

Thursday 7th July

Thursday 14th July

If anyone is interested, please contact me by e-mail and let me know your preferred date.

As previously, the evening meetings will begin with a 9.30pm start and will be weather dependent. The chance of seeing Nightjars on cold, wet or windy evenings is poor, we will therefore be hoping for reasonably clear and still evenings and if necessary, will revise the dates.

I will send out full instructions ahead of the proposed dates to all who wish to attend.

Andrew Bluett, Membership Secretary –

more information . . bandar judi