Headline news


Protection of ground-nesting birds

This year, as in 2018, we have been erecting signs to protect ground-nesting birds at popular places in the Severn and Avon Vales, asking ramblers and dog-walkers to keep to footpaths and to keep their animals under control. The signs have been produced with financial support from the Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society. In February, we erected signs on Upton Ham in Worcestershire, with the support of the local farmers and the Upton Town Council. Articles calling on visitors to help protect the site have been published in the local newspaper and on the town Facebook page.

Now, in early March, signs have been erected on the Severn Ham at Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, in cooperation with the Tewkesbury Town Council. Both sites are riverside meadows, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, subject to flooding in winter, widely used and enjoyed by local residents and visitors from outside the towns. It is planned to put up similar signs on other sensitive sites in the Severn and Avon Vales.

Mike Smart


Letter from the Chair, February 2019

Dear Members

In my previous Letter from the Chair, I mentioned that there would be a change in the make-up of the Society’s Executive Committee after the forthcoming Annual General Meeting; there are candidates for the vacant posts on the Committee but, as noted in my previous Letter, other members are free to stand. As yet, I have not received any proposals, but there is still time before the meeting (on 22 March, at the Gala Club, Gloucester) to put your name forward. I can now announce that the principal speaker at the AGM will be a very long-standing member (indeed an Honorary Member of the Society, and author of the Society’s recent publication “The Beetles of Gloucestershire”), Dr Keith Alexander, on the subject of “Gloucestershire’s Best Beetles”. Do come along to hear him!

This will be my last Letter from the Chair, as I am standing down as Chairman on 22 March. I have been Chairman since 2003, but I originally joined the Society as a schoolboy in 1952: there was a “Hobbies Exhibition” at the Town Hall in Cheltenham, where I signed up as a member of what was then the “Cheltenham and District Naturalists’ Society”; (it later evolved, after a period as the “North Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society”, into its present form). The Society was blessed by the involvement of a whole range of legendary volunteer naturalists (I really don’t like to call them ‘amateurs’; they were genuine experts in their own fields); people like the botanists Miss De Vesian and Miss Park, or RJM Skarratt (both botanist and ornithologist), or keen bird watchers like Terry James and Frank Whittingham, both of whom have died only recently. The Society at that time was (apart from Peter Scott’s then ’Severn Wildfowl Trust’ – which I also joined) the only naturalists-cum-conservation body in the county. It organized indoor meetings in the old Cheltenham Grammar School building on the High Street (right next to the Cheltenham Brewery, when it was a real brewery rather than a shopping mall); best of all it organized a range of field meetings every weekend, with midweek evening meetings in summer; and most of the field meetings were based on travel by public transport, going all over the county from Royal Well bus station. For me, and several other junior members at the time, being a member was a life-changing experience; my whole life has been influenced by it, since I became forever a keen bird-watcher, and in the end a professional conservationist.

So, when I was elected as Chairman in 2003, I felt a debt of gratitude, and a wish to support the Society’s traditional role as a body that encouraged volunteers to enjoy and study natural history. Since the 1950s of course a variety of other conservation bodies, both professional and voluntary, have developed in the county: Natural England, Environment Agency, Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, local bird clubs in Dursley and Cheltenham, to mention just a few. So the GNS role was not hands-on conservation management; and with the creation of the Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records, it was not even to collect and store records. I have always felt that the Society’s role was recording and publishing: helping GCER to verify their records through the network of County Recorders (their range and variety is illustrated in the ‘Wildlife Recording Information Sheet’ section of the present issue); encouraging volunteers to submit their records from a variety of taxa; and to encourage publications on all aspects of the county’s natural history. In the old days, there was a monthly roneo-typed “Journal” (delivered largely by hand!). I believe that GNS members greatly value the now quarterly GNS News, which reports on the latest natural history news and represents a regular link between members in an attractive illustrated format. And of course we should not forget the annual volume of ‘The Gloucestershire Naturalist”: number 32 has just appeared, edited by the indefatigable David Scott-Langley.

During my time as Chairman, the Society has thankfully, owing to generous legacies from many of those former CDNS members, been free of financial worries, allowing it to provide financial support for all these publications and also to provide grants for worthwhile conservation projects carried out by members. The Executive Committee welcomes applications from members who might need equipment or support to carry out projects: this has been an increasing activity in the last few years and is likely to develop. The highest priority for such grants is given to volunteer naturalists; the Society has no professional staff, and its Committee Members give freely and generously of their time, so in most cases the Committee are very reluctant to use the Society’s funds to pay for researchers’ time.

One of the Society’s aims has always been to arouse an interest in natural history, especially among young people. Over the last decade the Committee has spent a long time discussing ways and means of achieving this. I have to confess that we have not made as much progress in this field as I would have liked; perhaps, given the extent of regulations (notably Health and Safety) that surround these issues nowadays, this is something that can best be done by professionals. But we have taken some initiatives, notably with students at the University of Gloucestershire, so let us hope that this brings fruit.

On re-reading this note, I see that I have very frequently used the term ‘natural history’, and I think that this reflects the atmosphere that has always prevailed in the Society: serious, but not too scientific; enjoyable, but requiring thought and study. Long may we continue along this road. I wish my successor every success, and shall be continuing as an ordinary member of the Executive Committee, so shall remain involved in the Society’s activities, and in particular with fieldwork, on subjects such as …. Curlews perhaps?

With very best wishes

Mike Smart
Hon Chairman


Signs at Upton Ham to help protect nesting birds

It is nearly time for the Curlews to return to their spring and summer breeding grounds, so as in previous years, signs are being erected asking dog-walkers to keep their animals under control. Today at Upton Ham, with the support of the town council, the signs were put up in the teeth of Storm Erik.  In the next few days, it is planned to erect signs at Tewkesbury on the Severn and near Eckington on the Avon. Thanks to John Dickinson (with the beard) for designing the signs and to Gloucestershire Naturalists’ Society for funding production.


John Moore Museum – Birds of Prey Day – Saturday 16 February

A Live Animal Event for February half-term week 2019

 

Organiser John Moore Museum
Date Saturday 16th February 2019
Time 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm
Venue John Moore Museum, 41 Church Street, Tewkesbury, GL20 5SN
Details For the start of Half Term week in Gloucestershire, the museum welcomes back J.R.C.S Falconry who will be bringing along a selection of birds of prey from their extensive collection.

Visit us to meet a Golden Eagle, a Hooded Vulture, an Eagle Owl, a Little Owl, an American Kestrel and a Barn Owl.  An opportunity to see birds of prey, from some of the largest to the smallest.

A falconer will be on hand to answer all your questions about these amazing birds as well as on the art of falconry.

Four sessions to choose from

10.00am to 11.15am
11.45am to 1pm
2pm to 3.15pm
3.45pm to 5pm

Admission
Adult: £6.00, Seniors & Students £4.50, Children £2.00
(Tickets include admission to the John Moore Museum & the Old Baptist Chapel)

Contact details Contact: Simon Lawton (Curator)
E-Mail: curator@johnmooremuseum.org
Website: www.johnmooremuseum.org
Telephone: 01684 297174

Festive Tudor Birds of Prey Day – 29/12/18

Last Live Animal Event of 2018  – John Moore Museum

Organiser John Moore Museum
Date Saturday 29th December 2018
Time 10am to 1pm & 2pm to 5pm
Venue John Moore Museum, 41 Church Street, Tewkesbury, GL20 5SN
Details Hunting with hawks was a sport enjoyed in Tudor times.  Nobles, including Kings and Queens, usually employed a falconer, who trained the hawk to fly from its master’s gloved hand.  With tiny bells tied to its legs, the hawk was released to chase birds on the wing and taught to return with its prey.

Henry VIII was a keen falconer and Anne Boleyn chose the falcon as her symbol.  The falcon signifies someone who is hot or eager in the pursuit of an object much desired and is often found on the coats of arms of kings and nobles.

During the festive period you can learn how important birds of prey were to the Tudors, as a costumed falconer from J.R.C.S Falconry will be at the museum to tell you all about these amazing creatures and answer your questions.

Plus you’ll meet a Kestrel, a Buzzard, a Peregrine Falcon, a Barn Owl and an Eagle Owl.

Four sessions to choose from

10.00am to 11.15am
11.45am to 1pm
2pm to 3.15pm
3.45pm to 5pm

Admission
Adult: £6.00, Seniors & Students £4.50, Children £2.00
(Tickets include admission to the John Moore Museum, the Merchant’s House & the Old Baptist Chapel)

Notes for editors Contact: Simon Lawton (Curator)
E-Mail: curator@johnmooremuseum.org
Website: www.johnmooremuseum.org
Telephone: 01684 297174

 


Letter from the Chair, November 2018

Dear Members

The Society’s Rules stipulate that we must give members three months’ notice of the Annual General Meeting; we have duly observed this obligation, by posting advance notice of the meeting both in GNS NEWS, and on the Society’s website; (by the way, I wonder whether you are in the habit of looking at the website, in between quarterly issues of GNS NEWS? Lots of interesting information there, plus reminders of upcoming events, both indoors and outdoors, of interest to GNS members; do take a look at www.glosnats.org). Just to confirm, the AGM will be held on Friday 22 March 2019, at the Gala Club, Fairmile Gardens, Gloucester, with the Society’s President, Mrs Anna Ball, in the Chair.

However the 2019 AGM will see a number of changes to the Society’s Executive Committee. David Scott-Langley is stepping down as Vice Chairman, after a very long stint, during which he has also been Chairman of the Cirencester branch and of the Scientific and Publications Committee, and in addition has been County Recorder for a variety of invertebrate groups; and as if that was not enough, he has continued to edit the annual volume of “The Gloucestershire Naturalist”. David is moving out of the county, but the good news is that he plans to continue acting as an invertebrate recorder, and to continue editing “The Gloucestershire Naturalist”. Since David stepped down as Chairman in 2016, the Cirencester Branch has continued its activities (notably the indoor meetings), with a group of three members – Ken Cservenka, Andrew Bluett and Rob Curtis – acting as a steering committee. Furthermore, Juliet Bailey took over from David as Chair of the Scientific and Publications Committee in 2016; Juliet is a long-standing member of the Society, is active in many fields of natural history in the county (notably botany and ornithology), and has for some time been the county Lichen Recorder; so we can be confident that the Society’s scientific activities and publications are in good hands.

Since I became Chairman of GNS in 2003, I have tried to strengthen links between the Society and the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust; to pursue this end, I have for many years been a Trustee of GWT, but my permitted period as Trustee is now up and I stood down in September. Both GNS and GWT were keen to maintain the close links, so Andrew Bluett, the GNS Membership Secretary, was elected to the GWT Board in September. An initial meeting has already taken place to look more closely at how GNS, with its corps of very experienced volunteer naturalists, can cooperate even more closely with GWT. So, all in all, this seems to me to be a good opportunity for me to step down as GNS Chairman at the 2019 AGM.

The Society’s Executive Committee has obviously been considering this situation, and a number of existing members of the Committee have indicated that they would be happy to stand for election at the coming AGM. All are active field naturalists, with a long record of involvement in the Society’s activities: Mervyn Greening (a trained biologist, until recently a science teacher in Gloucestershire secondary schools, an active bird-ringer, and a keen botanist) will stand for Hon. Chairman. Juliet Bailey is to stand for Hon Vice Chair. In addition, I am delighted to say that Barrie Mills, who has recently been co-opted to the Executive Committee, is standing as a candidate for the post of Hon Secretary, a position which has remained vacant for far too long. Most of the other current Committee members are standing for re-election, notably Andy Lewis who has been a member of the Committee during the amalgamation between GNS and the North Cotswolds Ornithological Society, which is now happily almost complete. I too (with the approval of the other members of the Committee!) shall be standing again, as an ordinary member of the Committee.

Please note that there will be an election at the AGM. The members mentioned above are for the moment candidates for the various positions in the Society; if any other GNS members wish to put their names forward, this will be very welcome: don’t hesitate to contact me. Above all, please do come along to the AGM, to join in the latest episode in the history of GNS, which began way back in 1948.

After the AGM there will be an address by Dr Keith Alexander on ‘Gloucestershire’s best beetles’. Keith is an Honorary member of the Society, a former invertebrate recorder, author of the recent GNS publication in the TGN series on “Beetles of Gloucestershire”, and he took part in the field surveys in the county in the last two summers of Cosnard’s Net-winged Beetle. His presentation will undoubtedly throw new light on the invertebrates – often the most neglected, yet perhaps the fundamental component of biodiversity. Do come along to hear him speak; it should be an interesting and inspiring  event.

Until then, I send compliments of the season to all members and wish you a year full of inspiring natural history experiences in 2019.

With very best wishes

Mike Smart
Hon Chairman