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Black nightshade in maize stubble

Fodder maize in a Standish field was harvested during the week. Gulls and woodpigeons are feasting on the dropped cobs. I’ve taken the opportunity to check the weed flora hoping to find some unusual alien plants, but the ground is overwhelmingly dominated by Black Nightshade, Solanum nigrum, which is also common in my garden. It is a member of the potato family, and has small starry white flowers and round fruit that turn from green to black without going through a red stage (unlike Woody Nightshade, Solanum dulcamara, that has purple flowers and fruit that go from green to yellow to red.)


Discovering Bats Day – John Moore Museum – Saturday 28th October

A Live Animal Event

Organiser John Moore Museum
Date Saturday 28th October 2017
Time Four sessions to choose from:
10.30am to 11.30am
11.45am to 12.45pm
2.30pm to 3.30pm
3.45pm to 4.45pm
Venue John Moore Museum, 41 Church Street, Tewkesbury, GL20 5SN
Details Discovering Bats!
Why do bats hang upside-down?
How do they find their way in the dark?
What different types of bats live in the UK?
How can I encourage them to visit my garden? 

Renowned bat expert David Endacott will be at the museum with a selection of live, rescued British Bats to explain all about these fascinating creatures of the night.  Also displays by the Gloucestershire Bat Group where you can learn about their work and how to join.  This is the perfect opportunity to find out the truth about these much misunderstood animals.

PLUS
Pick up FREE information on how you can help bats, and take part in our craft activities – make your own origami bat!

Tickets available on the door or in advance from the museum
Adults £4.00 / Seniors & Students £3.50 / Children £2
(Tickets include admission to the John Moore Museum & The Old Baptist Chapel).

Notes for editors Contact: Simon Lawton (Curator) – very happy to give interviews
E-Mail: curator@johnmooremuseum.org
Telephone: 01684 297174

Tubular water-dropwort in Gloucestershire

As part of our HLF funded pond monitoring project PondNet, Freshwater Habitats Trust are seeking records of a number of declining wetland plant species including Tubular water-dropwort Oenanthe fistulosa from counties across England and Wales http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/twd-gwp-2017/ this is to update current records, and where possible set up (long term) structured monitoring at ponds in each county.

We have two different ways of recording the plant; either a very basic rapid assessment form which can be used on any habitat type: http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/twd-gwp-2017/recording-twd-gwp-other-habitats/ Or, a more detailed survey if the species is found at a pond (this is our priority): http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/pondnet/twd-gwp-2017/recording-twd-gwp-in-ponds/

Have you or members of your organisation seen this species in Gloucestershire recently? If so, would you be willing to share the record with us? All data gathered will be made available to local and national records centres. GCER have kindly provided the records they hold, unsurprisingly most of which are from the floodplain of the Severn in wet meadows and ditches. We are particularly interested in finding ponds where tubular water-dropwort is still growing from anywhere in the county – any info you have would be appreciated.

If you are interested in helping to revisit a site where the species has been recorded in the past to complete a survey, please let me know and I will attempt to find you a local site.

Best wishes,
Pete Case
Regional Officer for Central England
People Ponds and Water
Email: pcase@freshwaterhabitats.org.uk
Mobile: 07703 808520
Twitter: @peterbcase
Web: www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk


New Curlew conservation website – www.curlewcall.org

As noted in several recent issues of GNS NEWS, much attention has been devoted in recent years to Curlews in Gloucestershire, both wintering birds on the Severn Estuary, and breeding birds in the Severn and Avon Vales. This reflects a wider interest in Curlews and a growing realisation (throughout UK, and indeed internationally) that the Eurasian Curlew has undergone a sharp decrease in numbers in recent years. Much of the interest in the UK has been devoted to birds breeding in upland sites in northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland; but appreciable numbers continue to breed across lowland southern England too, and should not be neglected: a workshop devoted to this topic was held in Slimbridge in February 2017, and now a website on this topic (with much support from GNS) has been established at www.curlewcall.org. Do take a look and add your comments.

 


Another ringing session at Ashleworth Ham on 1 August

This was the ninth session out of twelve in the British Trust for Ornithology’s Constant Ringing effort at Ashleworth, three each month from May to August.  This study has been going on at Ashleworth for twenty years now.

Starting before sunrise, it didn’t look, at first sight, as though there were many birds about: little birdsong (just a few bursts of Willow Warbler: were these adult birds having a last session at the end of the summer, or newly hatched young ones, trying out their song for the first time?), nor much sign of bird activity early in the morning; yet the ringing session showed there were still quite a lot of birds about. 

Conditions were quite good to start with (overcast, no wind), but unfortunately the wind rose rather earlier than forecast soon after half past seven (the wind makes the nets belly out like galleon sails, so that the birds bounce off instead of getting caught).  So the catch, although just above the average for the time of year, was limited to 73 birds; 44 of them were summer visitor warblers all the same; interestingly, the vast majority of them were juveniles (probably locally bred as they were nearly all still in post juvenile moult), so it looked as though most of the adults had moved out already. Birds caught: 1 juvenile Grasshopper Warbler (another indication of local breeding, picture below by Mervyn Greening); 4 Sedge Warblers (all juveniles); 23 Whitethroats (not a single adult); five Blackcaps (one adult); 6 Chiffchaffs (just one adult in moult); 5 Willow Warblers (one adult in moult); plus the usual array of residents: as many as seven Reed Buntings (all juveniles); a single juvenile Great Tit; one juvenile Long-tailed Tit; no Blue Tits; 2 juvenile Treecreepers; one Blackbird; couple of Dunnocks, couple of Robins, five Wrens (all juveniles); three Linnets , three Goldfinches, two Bullfinches. 

Other birds on the reserve: 1 Sparrowhawk; 2 Buzzards; 1 Green Sandpiper; one Redstart; about 10 each of House Martins and Swallows hawking insects, probably migrants on their way south; one Raven; a flock of at least 50 Goldfinches (autumn coming!)  

No hay has been cut as yet on the reserve (which no doubt gave the Reed Buntings time to raise their second broods).  Water levels low on the scrapes, but a nice stand of Flowering Rush in the middle pool.  


Interesting observations at Coombe Hill, even in dry conditions

Recent rain in Gloucester hasn’t raised water levels at the GWT reserve at Coombe Hill; the north scrape is completely dry, and the south scrape is almost dry – just a dribble of water left yesterday 29 July.  There is still water on the Long Pool however, though the Long Pool hide is closed (as in previous years at this time), because of a hornet’s nest.

Interesting stuff however: at first sight, there were no birds on the north or south scrapes.  But occasional Little Ringed Plover calls could be heard from the Grundon Hide; after a while these became ever more anxious, as two Kestrels landed in the short aquatic vegetation in the north scrape; the Kestrels appeared to be an adult female accompanied by a juvenile, probably recently out of the nest, and were clearly hunting on the ground.  The adult LRP kept running around on the floor of the scrape, then undertaking nervous circular flights round  and round; the chicks (which ought to be fledged by now, as they were first seen on 3 July and someone recorded them during the week as fledged) never showed any sign of flying and stayed round the scrape – there was no sign of LRPs on the Long Pool.  Not sure what the outcome was: the Kestrels were never seen actually to catch any prey, while the chicks were never seen to emerge from the vegetation unscathed.

Surprising, on one hand that the chicks didn’t try to fly, but just lay doggo, on the ground; they can’t yet be confident of flying away; and on the other that Kestrels were trying to catch them on the ground: any other raptor, you might have thought, but surely the windhover is an aerial predator.

Otherwise, mostly on the Long Pool, which still attracts passing waterbirds:  eight unringed Canada Geese, 100 Mallard, 180 Lapwings, five Green Sandpipers, and two Snipe; still at least eight Sedge Warblers (generally churring rather than singing) in the thick ditch side vegetation through the reserve.

And lots of wild flowers now; Corky-fruited Water Dropwort and Flowering Rush among others


Ringing at Ashleworth

Yesterday 22 July we carried out another of the regular Constant Effort Site ringing sessions at Ashleworth, where no hay has as yet been cut on the GWT reserve.

Outwardly, it appeared that there were few birds about: scrapes almost dry, little or no birdsong, not much activity.  But the ringing showed that in fact there were large numbers of recently fledged young birds present, recently emerged from the nest, often just completing their post juvenile moult, before setting off on their long migration journeys to the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa.  It is very likely that all these juveniles were locally bred, as they would hardly move off before completing this moult, and almost none of them showed any additional fat (which migrants arriving from outside the reserve would be likely to do).  So, this represents a snapshot of breeding attempts and successes.  After Friday’s fairly heavy rain, conditions were surprisingly favourable: windless in the early morning, with a light cloud covering which made the nets more difficult for the birds to see.  We had a catch of 93 birds, slightly above the average for the mid July visit, and made up as follows:

  • One juvenile Kingfisher; unusually, no Redstarts caught, though there had been several adults earlier in the season; one juvenile Grasshopper Warbler (particularly interesting, as on earlier visits we had caught an adult male and female in breeding condition: this is a very strong indication of local breeding); no Reed Warblers caught or heard, which suggests that they did not attempt to nest this year; nine Sedge Warblers (mainly juveniles, but a couple of ringed adults, caught earlier in the season; so they haven’t left yet, but will be going soon); as many as 32 Whitethroats (all but one were juveniles, showing that this species has increased greatly in the hay meadow hedges in recent years); seven Blackcaps (two adults and five juveniles, probably birds that had nested in slightly higher ground round the edges of the reserve, and were now moving into lower areas; like Whitethroat, more than usual); no Lesser Whitethroats this time, though we have caught juveniles on previous visits; eleven Chiffchaffs (every man jack of them a juvenile); two Willow Warblers (one adult and one juvenile); nine Reed Buntings (again, all juveniles; late hay cutting may have helped this species which nests in long vegetation in hayfields).  Also, as usual, a variety of resident breeders: one juvenile Dunnock; seven Wrens (nearly all juveniles); three juvenile Robins; one juvenile Great Tit; one juvenile Blue Tit; five Long-tailed Tits, mainly juveniles; one adult Linnet; one juvenile Goldfinch.

Few other birds of note around the reserve: one adult male Peregrine perched on a dead willow; about 20 House Martins and 20 Swallows hawking insects (probably locally bred juveniles as well).Mervyn Greening, Mike Smart

Mervyn Greening, Mike Smart


Strawberry theft by small animal

We have several raised beds with strawberry plants, and nearby another bed with courgette plants. They are all contained in a cage covered in chicken wire, to keep out the deer and pheasants, among other animals that would eat our vegetables. This is out in the country, near Caudle Green.

We noticed that we were not getting many strawberries and sometimes we found unripe ones cut off from their stems and lying on the ground under the plants. Today we found part of the answer. On going to pick some courgettes we found this huge stash of rotting strawberries. A creature has been picking the strawberries and carrying them to the courgette bed.

We have a huge population of voles in the garden, so perhaps it is them, or perhaps a mouse?

Richard and Jenny Beal