Severn Wader Festival

Golden Plovers, October Richard Tyler

Golden Plovers, Richard Tyler

Some of us up in the Cotswold hills can barely remember what a wader (shorebird) looks like. We get breeding Lapwing, and in winter there are flocks of Golden Plover and some Snipe.

If you need reminding, there is a Severn Wader Festival at Slimbridge over the weekend of 9th September. There are talks, tours and events run by the WWT and Wader Quest. They warn that the traffic may be heavier on the Sunday as the Frampton Country Fair is taking place nearby.



Open Farm Sunday

Join us this Sunday (11th June) for a walk at Guiting Manor Farm as part of their Open Farm Sunday event.

The farm is a mixture of arable land with patches of woodland and coverts, and it borders on the upper River Windrush.
It is a subsiduary of the Guiting Power Amenity Trust, and so it is managed for sustainable farming and conservation while still making a profit.
As well as the common farmland birds, there are a number of Barn Owl and other raptor boxes around, some inhabited.

Open Farm Sunday runs from 10:30 till 4pm. There will be local food, sheep shearing demonstrations, farm tours in trailers (for the lazy!) and other attractions.
We’ll be starting our walk at 11a.m from the NCOS stand.

Guiting Power is here, deep in the Cotswolds between Cheltenham and Stow-on-the-Wold.  The farm is just past the Hollow Bottom pub.




Sherborne Water Meadows

Springwatch returns to our screens tomorrow Monday 29th May. This year it’s right from the heart of our area – the National Trust estate at Sherborne. In contrast to last year at RSPB Minsmere, this series will concentrate on more accessible wildlife – the sort of animals and plants most people could hope to see within half an hour’s drive from their home.

The BBC have been busy finding and filming advance footage with help from the National Trust wardens and local volunteers. It’ll be interesting to see what they make of an area NCOS covers regularly – in fact we had a field meeting on part of the estate about a month ago.

Springwatch is on BBC2 at 8pm Monday to Thursday for three weeks from 29th May, apart from June 8th when the nation apparently has something else to occupy itself. Also morning, lunchtime and afternoon sessions on the red button at 8am, 1pm and 4pm respectively, plus the Unspring audience half-hours each day at 6:30pm. Don’t miss!

2017 AGM

Don’t forget our Annual General Meeting at 10:30a.m on Saturday 29th April.
It’s at Christ Church hall in Cheltenham, on the junction between Malvern Road and Christ Church Road. The post code is GL50 2JH for those with satnavs and map ref SO940223 for those without. Or you could just ask someone.

Peregrine, Christ Church Cheltenham, April 2017

I’d go to the Raptors talk if I could find a babysitter…

The speaker is Andrew Bluett of the Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group, giving us an update on the county’s raptors.
Afterwards you might get a sight of the local Peregrines flying around the church tower. Once again, they are incubating a clutch of four eggs

Barn Owl Talk by Colin Shawyer

Barn Owl photo: Richard Tyler

Barn Owl                                                                                                                     photo: Richard Tyler

Gloucestershire Barn Owl Monitoring Programme and Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group are hosting a talk on Barn Owls on the evening of Wednesday 25th January.
Why two different groups? It was felt that Barn Owls are popular among landowners and farmers (the bird is almost a status symbol with some!). Once you mention raptors the reaction is rather different, so the two groups are distinct and and do different things.

Colin Shawyer 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
In 1988 Colin founded the Barn Owl Conservation Network (BOCN), and he is BOCN Coordinator for UK and Ireland. He oversees and undertakes extensive Barn Owl nest monitoring every season.

Wednesday 25th January, Ribston Hall School, Stroud Road, Gloucester, GL1 5LE
Doors 7pm for a 7.30pm start/ £5/ Refreshments available for a small charge.

Tickets can be purchased here. If you are unable to buy tickets online, do email them and they can reserve your tickets to pay on the door.

Staying with this popular species, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s Barn Owl project is taking shape. The fundraising is complete, and volunteers have built 60 nest-boxes. These will be put up mainly in the River Windrush catchment area and the Cotswold Water Park, the county’s Barn Owl hot-spots and land where the GWT already has a good working relationship with the landowner through other projects.

What is needed most is a group of surveyors who will visit the boxes to see whether they are occupied and if there are young birds present. A training day is being arranged for February explaining the project, the protection around the species – special licences are needed to approach an active nest – and what is required when monitoring these birds.
If you are interested in checking a box (or a few boxes) over spring and summer, please contact any of the following:
the Contact Us page on this website
richard.spyvee @
john.field @

Blue Rock Thrush

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow-on-the-Wold

Blue Rock Thrush, Stow-on-the-Wold                                                                      photo: Richard Tyler

It’s not often that the sleepy Cotswolds becomes the centre of a nation-wide twitch. The last one was probably the Oriental Turtle Dove in Chipping Norton five years ago.

Over Christmas a male Blue Rock Thrush was found on a housing estate in Stow-on-the-Wold. Never mind a first for Gloucestershire (or our North Cotswolds area!), there have only been a handful of sightings in the UK.

Why it should choose the frosty Cotswolds instead of its usual Mediterranean habitat, who knows, but Birds of the Western Palearctic mentions that vagrants occasionally end up in northern Europe, though rarely in winter.

Apparently the bird had been there a week or so until it hit the web and social media, and then 200-plus birders descended on the area from far and near. Will it still be there on January 1st for the 2017 listers?  Or our own NCOS Short Day Count on January 8th?

If you’re going, please park in the Maugesbury Road car-park, and give a donation to Kate’s Home Nursing, a well-respected local home nursing charity, either via the bucket going round or on-line here.

Buzzards – Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group Meeting

Buzzard. Rob Brookes

Buzzard                                                                                                                                           Rob Brookes

Robin Prytherch, a researcher on Buzzards is, giving a talk on the species on Thursday 8th December.

Robin has been studying Common Buzzards in an area south of Bristol for many years, making detailed and extensive observations of breeding behaviour, and monitoring individual birds.

He’s the author of several papers in British Birds, including how territory size and productivity have changed as numbers have increased, and (last March) on nests, trees and prey remains.

7:30pm at the Gala Club, Fairmile Gardens off Tewkesbury Road (A38), Gloucester GL29EB. Refreshments available.
Tickets are £5, available from the GRMG website, or reserve one with them and pay on the night.


On Wednesday 23rd November Mary Colwell is in Gloucester talking about Curlews and their severe decline.

Mary is a writer and produer for the BBC Wildlife Unit who has recently undertaken a 500-mile sponsored walk around the UK and Ireland to draw attention to the plight of this species.

Not only have Curlews seriously declined in the UK and Ireland, but we have a large proportion of the worldwide population anyway.

Weds 23rd November, 7:30pm at the Gala Club, Fairmile Gardens, Gloucester GL2 9EB, just off the A38.
Admission free, but donations welcome on the night.

Red Listed

Turtle Dove Richard Tyler

Turtle Dove                                                                          Richard Tyler

This Saturday (16th April) sees the African Bird Club AGM at the Natural History Museum in London.  There are half-a-dozen associated talks, and the event is open to members and non-members alike.

Of particular interest to us here in the Cotswolds is a talk on Turtle Doves in their wintering grounds in Senegal by Niki Williamson. Fewer and fewer of these birds visit the UK in summer.  They are now scarcely seen in Gloucestershire and no longer breed in the county at all.

Curlew Richard Tyler

Curlew                                                                                         Richard Tyler

And closer to home, don’t forget our own AGM this Weds (13th April) at the Farmers Arms, Guiting Power at 7:30.  Our guest speaker is Mike Smart, the county’s previous BTO rep, on ‘The Decline of the Curlew’  – very topical with members of the Society involved in the RSPB Curlew survey at the moment.

Painswick Falcons

Peregrine and young

Peregrine and young                                                            – Dave Pearce

The Painswick Bird Club is one of the smaller wildlife groups in Gloucestershire. Possibly they are squeezed for membership by the Cheltenham Bird Club to their north and Dursley Birdwatching and Preservation Society not far to the south. They have some interesting talks, though, and guests are welcome there at the Painswick Town Hall.

Last night Steve Watson of the Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group and South West Peregrine Group gave a lively and intriguing talk on Peregrines. Steve is a long-standing (obsessive?!) Peregrine watcher with a fascination for their physiology: just how does this bird manage its high-speed stoops and the huge G-forces when it manoeuvres? How does it focus on its prey, near or far? And what weaponry has it evolved?

Steve’s observations centre on the RSPB site at Symonds Yat. This is a sheer cliff face in the Forest of Dean where you can see great views of the birds in flight, and Steve showed some video clips of this. To complement this, he invited Dave Pearce to say a few words about the Christ Church Peregrines at Cheltenham. The footage Dave has is more restricted but more detailed, with egg-laying and nest behaviour more in evidence that flight.

(The title for this piece became obvious once Steve mentioned that aPeregrine had been seen near Painswick church tower, which is just across the road from the Falcon Inn and the bowling club of that name!)