Andrew Bluett

Forthcoming Meetings – February / March 2018

The following meetings are due to take place in February and March – please note the changed dates for the field meetings.

Friday 9th February. Indoor Meeting at Watermoor Church Hall, Cirencester. Andrew Bluett will be talking on the subject of Historical Bird Recording in Gloucestershire and elsewhere. 7.00 for a 7.30pm start.

Saturday 24th February. New Fancy View, Forest of Dean. Possible chance to see Goshawk and other raptors, Hawfinch, Crossbill and Siskin. Meet at the car park SO627095. 10.30. Leader Andrew Bluett, 07584 689090.

Friday 9th March. Indoor Meeting at Watermoor Church Hall, Cirencester. Annual Business Meeting and Members Night Photographic and artistic competitions. Bring along your photographs, projected images (digital files) or wildlife related artwork of any sort. 7.00 for a 7.30pm start.

Sunday 25th March. Cyril Hart Arboretum, Forest of Dean. A joint meeting for GNS and Bristol Naturalists’ Society members on the identification of conifers. Meet in the car park just south of Speech House Hotel (GL16 7EL for Satnav users) on the road to New Fancy viewpoint at SO 621118. 11.00. Bring lunch and suitable footwear, and your favourite tree book. The conifers key in Poland & Clement’s Vegetative Key to the British Flora will be used throughout the meeting – please bring a copy or contact in advance for a PDF copy of the relevant 9 pages. Leaders Clare and Mark Kitchen, 01453 810958.

Details of all forthcoming meetings are available on the GNS Web-Site together with a map & directions for Watermoor Church Hall –

Forthcoming Meeting Dates for your Diary

The GNS Annual General Meeting will take place on Friday 7th April at Watermoor Church Hall, Cirencester, 7.00 for 7.30pm, followed by a talk from David Simcox – the fascinating history of the Large Blue Butterfly in the Cotswolds and the story of its re-introduction.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 26th March – A visit to Coombe Hill Canal and Reserve – General Interest to be led by Andrew Bluett (01452 610085 / 07584 689090) – 10.00 am until 12.30. Meet in the reserve car park; follow the narrow lane to the left of the Swan Inn at Coombe Hill traffic lights on the A38 to the car par at the end of the canal. SO 886 272. Please dress appropriately for the weather, you may get away with good boots but wellingtons will probably be necessary.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 9th April – Darkham Wood, Redmarley – A new venue for GNS Meetings in a privately-owned wood; This is a recording meeting and a chance to find out what wildlife is present. Drive through the village of Redmarley from the A417 towards Durbridge Farm, meet at the entrance to the wood SO 740 301 and drive through to the hardstanding area. Leaders are Rick Benson-Bunch and Des Marshall – 01242 245143, 10.00am to 1.00pm. Please dress appropriately for the weather, good boots or wellingtons will be necessary.

Starling Murmuration & Roost 1

For the past few days there has been a big Starling murmuration and roost in the old brick-pits at Walham, just to the north of Gloucester between 5.30 and 6.15pm (SO 822 199); on Thursday 2nd March estimated 3000+ birds, in the first ten minutes being pursued by a small falcon, probably Merlin, also a Sparrowhawk.

 Suggested viewing from the Maisemore Road (SO 817 200) – park safely and walk carefully, it’s possible to walk to the riverbank on the public footpath from the Maisemore Road or walk upstream along the river side path from Westgate to something like SO 821 197.

Urban Wildlife…

The old Gloster Aircraft Company airfield between Abbeymead and Brockworth has a number of areas of old and undisturbed grassland between the housing and the retail / commercial sites on either side of the site; there are several small ponds and a network of drainage ditches and the area still holds some wildlife including Dragonflies, Skylarks and other gems in the habitats that remain.

Over the past few weeks I have seen the two Roe Deer in the photographs below grazing unconcernedly whilst the daily lives of the humans that surround them go on unabated. They seem not to be worried by the traffic and only show signs of wariness when dog walkers appear.

Forthcoming Meetings

The next two scheduled GNS Field Meetings are –

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 22nd January – A visit to Forthampton & Lower Lode, General Interest to be led by Mike Smart (01452 421131) – meet at 10.00 am until 12.30. Meet in front of the Lower Lode Inn (SO 878 317) on the west bank of the Severn (opposite side from Tewkesbury), access past Forthampton Court on the unclassified road off the A438 west of Tewkesbury. Please dress appropriately for the weather, good boots or wellingtons will be necessary.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Saturday 4th FebruaryWinter Wildfowl at Cotswold Water Park to be led by Ken Cservenka (01285 656480). Meet at Neigh Bridge Car Park, SU 017 946, 10.00am to 12.00 mid-day. Come along for a wander in the CWP in search of winter wildfowl, other winter birds and whatever else we can find – Please dress appropriately for the weather, good boots or wellingtons will be necessary.

GNS Field Meeting at Walmore Common, 15th January 2017

In spite of rather dismal grey overcast and drizzly weather first thing, 10 members and guests joined Andy Jayne for a foray onto Walmore Common on Sunday 15th January; the rain had ceased by the start of the meeting, it remained rather grey, though brightened up as the morning went on.

Walking down the lane from the main road the first few birds began to appear, various tits and winter thrushes in the form of Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) and Redwings (Turdus iliacus) in the tops of the Poplar trees and overhead.

From the gate onto the common the party walked along parallel to the bottom of the slope at the eastern edge of the common; more winter thrushes appeared as did a Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorous) and a solitary male Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Andy explained the layout and makeup of the common, the seasonal changes and the means by which water levels can be controlled at the drainage outfall close to the Severn Bore pub on the A48. He also commented on the breeding birds of the common which are, as might be expected, very different from the wintering birds.

As a consequence of the relatively dry winter there had been no appreciable flooding during the autumn and winter so that there were no obvious waterfowl apart from the resident pair of Mute Swans (Cygnus olor). The flash pool was flat clam with no birds present. At the top of the slope close to the A48 Meadow Pipits (Anthus trivialis) were first heard, then seen, a small flock of 19 birds which were unusual for this time of year.

Moving out onto the central area of the common the remains of feathers from an immature Mute Swan were found alongside the Rhyne; venturing further produced sightings of three Brown Hares (Lepus lepus), approx. 10 Teal (Anas crecca) and in the rougher ground at the far edge of the common, three Stonechat (Saxicola torquata) and a single Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus).

The party them met up with a group of RSPB members on a similar walk led by Gavin Black before heading back to the east side of the common and returning to the cars parked by Walmore Hill School.

Other birds seen were Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), a single Moorhen (Galinula chloropus), a few corvids, Wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes) and Dunnock (Prunella modularis) with a small group of Long Tailed Tits (Aegithalus caudatus) as the party returned to the access gate.

The meeting had not produced the hoped-for waterfowl due entirely to the lack of wet weather and accumulations of water on the common, but it was never the less interesting to visit and take a close look at an area that is not exactly over-run with visiting naturalists and is occasionally inaccessible as a result of too much water!

Many thanks to Andy for leading the walk and to all those who took part.

Forthcoming Meetings – January 2017

There are several GNS meetings in the coming few weeks –

GNS Indoor Meeting Friday 13th January

The next GNS Indoor Meeting is due to take place on Friday 13th January 2017 at Watermoor Church Hall, Cirencester, GL7 1JR; 7.00 for 7.30 pm – the subject of the meeting being Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group to be presented by Andrew Bluett. Come and see a presentation detailing the voluntary work of GRMG and have a chance to learn more about birds of prey and owls in Gloucestershire and beyond.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 15th January

A visit to Walmore Common, of General interest but also in search of wetland and winter birds to be led by Andrew Jayne (01452 506502 / 07919 278806) – meet at 9.30 am in the lay-by at Walmore Hill School, SO 747 145, the meeting will last until 12.00 mid-day. A rare chance to visit this area of wetland and meadows with a very knowledgeable guide. Please dress appropriately for the weather, wellingtons will be necessary.

GNS Outdoor Meeting Sunday 22nd January

A visit to Forthampton & Lower Lode, General Interest to be led by Mike Smart (01452 421131) – meet at 10.00 am until 12.30. Meet in front of the Lower Lode Inn (SO 878 317) on the west bank of the Severn (opposite side from Tewkesbury), access past Forthampton Court on the unclassified road off the A438 west of Tewkesbury. Please dress appropriately for the weather, good boots or wellingtons will be necessary.

Indoor Meeting – Wednesday 25th January

Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group are holding an indoor meeting on Wednesday 25th January at Ribston Hall High School off Stroud Road, Gloucester, GL1 5LE, 7.00 for 7.30pm.

Barn Owls, with Colin Shawyer – Colin is a raptor biologist and professional ecologist specialising in birds, mainly birds of prey and has published widely on this subject. He was Director of the Hawk and Owl Trust between 1988 and 1998. He undertook work for the BTO between 2000 and 2010 developing and implementing its Barn Owl Monitoring Programme and in 1988 founded the Barn Owl Conservation Network (BOCN); he is BOCN Coordinator for UK and Ireland. He oversees and undertakes extensive Barn Owl nest monitoring every season.

Tickets are still available via the GRMG web-site at

Details of all forthcoming meetings are available on the GNS Web-Site together with a map & directions for Watermoor Church


Avian Influenza (H5N8) “Bird Flu” UPDATE 5th January

Further to the post on the subject of Avian Influenza a few days ago, inevitably there have been more cases / outbreaks in the UK already, notably in Carmarthenshire and elsewhere. There are exclusion zones in place and specific rules relating to domestic birds.

For the best and most up-to-date information – please refer to the DEFRA web-site at

If you find a dead bird be very careful about handling it, H5N8 is not normally a risk to humans but do not take any chances… and do not risk transmitting it to any other birds, please see the guidance and notes at the same DEFRA web site and on the BTO web-site.

Avian Influenza (H5N8) “Bird Flu”

As we exit the year 2016 and enter 2017, cold weather in the east has provoked a rise in the number of migrants from Europe; waterfowl in particular have started to arrive in greater numbers in search of less frost affected wetland areas.

We have been aware for a number of years of the potential for Avian Influenza in various strains to be carried by long distance migrants and of the potential consequences both for the wild bird populations and domestic (farmed) birds which are concentrated in large numbers in various facilities across the UK where the demand for meat and eggs is high, and especially so in the autumn as Christmas approaches with the spike in demand for Chicken, Turkeys, Geese and Ducks as festive fare.

Outbreaks of the H5N8 strain of Avian Influenza (AI) have been widely reported across the old world with news of slaughter programmes being put in place in for example Iran & Japan where hundreds of thousands of birds are affected. H5N8 is not a threat to human beings but the potential loss of much of the supply to the human consumed meat trade would have other consequences.

By mid-November, eight countries in Europe had reported detections of H5N8 in such species as Tufted Duck, Coot, Pochard, gulls, geese and swans. None of the outbreaks were in the UK but the risk level was increased to medium from low.

Inevitably, the threat was realized in a short timescale; by the first week of December 2016, infections of H5N8 HPAI in wild, captive or domestic birds had been reported in 14 countries across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

By mid-December as a result of an outbreak in Turkeys at a Lincolnshire poultry farm, the BTO issued an advisory note that an exclusion zone had been declared and that all trapping & ringing operations of wild birds in the zone were suspended. On 22nd December WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre was obliged to close as a precautionary measure, following the finding of a dead wild Wigeon on the Loughor estuary. WWT, together with other organizations is vigilant and takes a cautious approach to such outbreaks since there is much at stake, particularly in their collections of captive wildfowl.

From the BTO web-site comes the following information:

General government guidance on avian influenza can be found at:

The latest information from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency on the current outbreaks in poultry, captive and wild birds in Europe can be found at:

What to do

Birdwatchers /naturalists can be of great assistance in staying alert for unusual cases of mortality or sickness in wild birds. If you notice unusual mortality in Great Britain, i.e. five or more wild birds dead in the same location, you should report them by calling the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm) and selecting option 1, or by emailing Northern Ireland such wild bird mortality incidents should be reported to the DAERA Helpline: 0300 200 7840.

Reports are also encouraged when a single dead wild duck, wild goose, swan or gull is found. Not all birds may be picked up for testing, but collating this information may reveal patterns of mortality.

It should be stressed that HPAI is a disease of birds. It is of great concern for the poultry industry but does not appear to be a major issue for human health in the UK. Whilst deaths have occurred in other countries, the numbers of cases have been very low and have been confined to people in very close contact to infected poultry. The advice is that there is no danger from eating well-cooked poultry and there is certainly no danger from normal birdwatching activities. Sensible basic hygiene should be used if you do come into closer contact with birds.

Feeding birds:

It is extremely unlikely that bird flu could be transmitted to people by feeding birds in the garden. Birds carry a variety of diseases, such as salmonella. The single most important action we can take, to protect both the birds that feed in our gardens and ourselves, is to follow hygiene guidelines.

In all circumstances, after handling bird feeders, cleaning bird baths or feeding birds, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Bird feeders should be washed and cleaned regularly to prevent spread of diseases such as salmonella. This should be done outside in your garden with dilute disinfectant (normal household bleach diluted 1:20).

What do I do if I find a dead bird?

Many thousands of birds die every week of natural causes and so it is not unusual to occasionally find dead birds. If, however, you find five or more dead wild or garden birds together in the same place and you are suspicious of the cause of death, do not touch the birds and contact Defra using the details above. This is particularly important for species like waterfowl.

Where possible, avoid directly touching any dead birds. If you move a dead bird (e.g. if a cat brings one into your house or you need to check if it is ringed), invert a plastic bag over your hand and pick the bird up in the plastic. If the bird is ringed, report the ring details to the BTO (, then draw the bag over your hand and tie it up and dispose of it in your usual household waste, then wash your hands with soap and water.

Ringers have been issued with more detailed guidance at

Ringing should be suspended within any 10km Surveillance Zones where these are put in place around infected premises.

Polecats in Gloucestershire

Polecats have not in living memory been very common in Gloucestershire but are now believed to be increasing as the population rises in the west and Wales so that more animals are spreading eastwards into the county. In the GNS News of March 2014, John Field, the county Mammals Recorder appealed for members to “Keep an eye out for Polecats”.

In January 2014 Andrew Bluett found a road casualty near The Swan Inn at Coombe Hill; around the same period, another road casualty was found by Andrew Bluett and Juliet Bailey near Westbury on Severn, both were reported to John Field.

In the past couple of months, a GNS member has accidentally trapped Polecats in his garden near Woolaston, to the south-west of Lydney:

“On Thursday 20th October 2016 I caught a well-marked Polecat in a squirrel trap in our rural garden; it had entered the trap during the afternoon and was released unharmed.  It looked well-marked, with dark paws and was in excellent condition.  I weighed the trap with and without it with a small 7lb spring balance, the net weight of the Polecat being 1lb 12oz.  The Polecat had a very strong smell.

On Sunday 6th November 2016 we caught a second Polecat in the garden – in the same trap but a different Polecat, as evidenced by the very different colouring/markings. This one had a paler head but still had a good mask and brown paws, again it was 1 lb 12 oz.  Not nearly such a strong smell as the first one.  I released it in the garden where it made a high speed dash for a hedgerow!

Our previous polecat records were daytime views on 8th August 2001 and 11th July 2002; we had not seen any since then until these recent animals appeared and none have triggered our infra-red ‘trail’ camera. Perhaps there are many more around than would seem from sightings?”

Polecats are wary of humans and are rarely seen alive, most sightings being road casualties. I had seen many such animals on extensive travels in mid and south Wales on business, often on the hard shoulder of the M4 between Chepstow and Swansea, occasionally I saw live animals in more rural areas in daylight. Clearly there are more to be seen and no doubt most are not reported, but if you see one, let us know, or send your records direct to John Field at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust or to GCER (Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records). If you come into direct contact with a Polecat that is alive, be very careful of handling it, they do bite, hard and deep…!


Road casualty, Coombe Hill, January 2014


Road casualty, Coombe Hill, January 2014


Woolaston Polecat No 1 – dark mask – the smelly one!


Woolaston Polecat No 2 – more distinct mask


Woolaston Polecat No 2 makes a dash for freedom after release