When I left Nottingham in 1989 to move back down to the Cotswolds, I was warned that it was a ‘bird desert’! Nothing could be further from the truth. In my 23 years here, we have had many rareties turn up – as well as breeding populations of uncommon birds.
I learned about the NCOS through Birdwatching magazine, I think – as a birdwatching organisation in Gloucestershire (which was the featured county of the month). Although I was actually living in Worcestershire, I made contact and found that it was my type of organisation – its remit was to encourage birdwatching and reporting in the local area.
This remains its primary focus – to find out what is about, how many and where – and how it is behaving. Through doing the second Atlas of breeding birds, we took this further – learning about breeding behaviour, and the timing of nesting in the local area, as a by-product of the central aim, which was to catalogue the breeding distribution of the birds of the region. More recently, we have acquired a camera to monitor the behaviour of peregrines on top of Christ Church in Cheltenham.
We are, in essence, a society that observes and records scientific fact (akin to the BTO), rather than a campaigning organisation, such as the RSPB, which tries to change the way things are (or prevent them from changing!). The peregrine camera is one way in which we can pass on our enthusiasm and knowledge to the wider public, while fulfilling our primary role. To be sustainable, we have to make sure that local birdwatchers continue to visit and report on sightings in our area. We are helped in this by the tremendous service provided by the Gloster Birder website – interesting sightings in the area are there for all to see!
We are now trying to focus our knowledge gathering on specific surveys. The Winter Random Square Survey has been running for well over a decade, and has recently been joined by the summer survey. In addition, we are encouraging members to follow up sightings of some of the less common of our breeding birds. This year, we are trying to estimate the number of redstart breeding territories in the region – more on this next month.