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!

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.

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!)

Raptor Identification

Hen Harrier       -       Richard Tyler

Hen Harrier – Richard Tyler

Gloucestershire Raptor Monitoring Group is holding a Raptor Id Day on common British birds of prey on Sat 20th June.

It takes place at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent and will include not just info but a chance to see various species flying and close up.

The day costs £15 and numbers are limited, although there are a few places left at time of writing. Booking is via the Glos Raptors online shop.

Dawn Chorus

Wren      photo: Richard Tyler

Wren                                                                      photo: Richard Tyler

There are several walks Dawn Chorus walks coming up around the Cotswolds soon.

On Sat 25th April, Arthur Ball leads a group round Batsford Arboretum (near Moreton-in-Marsh). It starts at 4a.m and finishes up in the cafe. Price £12, details here.

The next Saturday (2nd May) the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have a more relaxed start time of 7a.m. Andy Lewis leads the ‘Birds and Breakfast’ walk from their offices at the Old Prison, Northleach, with a full English breakfast at their Cotswold Lion Cafe included in the £9.

The National Trust gardens at Hidcote Manor (near Chipping Campden) have a walk starting at 5am on Sun 3rd May led by Andy Warren, with breakfast afterwards for £10.

Also on Sun 3rd May the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust are running one starting at 4:30a.m at Whelford Pools in the Cotswold Water Park near Lechlade, price £5, and others at their headquarters at Robinswood Hill in Gloucester and their Lower Woods reserve in South Gloucestershire.

Set your alarm clocks!

How good are your id skills?

With the nights drawing in and if you are fed up with what’s on the telly and trying to find something to fill in the evening, why not try the tests on this Norwegian University site. The tests cover the Western palearctic – you can pick a country or the entire region and try pictures or sounds (or both).

Have fun