Cheltenham Bird Club’s twice-yearly magazine has hit my doormat (many thanks Alan).
As well as some excellent photos and trip reports, there’s Alan Richards’ interesting year-round urban bird diary from Pittville Park in north Cheltenham, the site of the recent Great Northern Diver.

What caught my eye, though, was an intriguing article by Arthur Ball on the decline in bird numbers at Dowdeswell Reservoir and also Cleeve Hill. This is a serious long-term survey – Arthur has been recording at Dowdeswell for 38 years – and he points out that wintering wildfowl have declined dramatically during this time.

It’s not just one species: his numbers show it’s across the board. Although no-one is sure why, Arthur suggests the constant expansion of the Cotswold Water Park, which is much larger than Dowdeswell, may have attracted birds away.

Cheltenham are a more traditional “talks and walks” bird club than NCOS, although our areas (and membership) do overlap somewhat. They are coming to the end of their “talks” season, but this Monday (4/3/13) sees Steve Watson on the Peregrine population at Symonds Yat. It’ll be interesting to compare this Forest of Dean population to the small but growing urban one down the road at Christ Church.
Have a look at their website at

Chairman’s blog – Supporting local birdwatching

The NCOS is in an unusual position of having slightly more money than it actually needs to conduct its normal affairs. This has arisen, not from member subscriptions (which have been unchanged for many years), but from royalties from sale of the Atlas and related ‘one-off’ income. This has presented the Committee with a welcome dilemma – because, on the one hand, we have no desire or need to sit on funds (we had over £9000 at one stage), but nor did we want to fritter it away.  Instead, we have carefully looked at things we want to do locally, related to bird recording and generally furthering knowledge about local birds.

The biggest spend has been on camera equipment recording the activities of our local Peregrines on Christ Church in Cheltenham. This is serving the dual purposes of bringing the NCOS and birds in general to the notice of local people, including many children in Cheltenham, and providing a significant amount of scientific knowledge about the habits of these magnificent predators. We will need to keep some of our money in reserve in case it is needed to maintain this set-up.

In the near future, we are looking to make a financial donation to the BTO Birdtrack service – we think this offers great potential for collecting and collating bird records from local societies such as ours. At the moment it is not possible for us to get our local records when we want them, but I am confident that it could be soon – and we have been in discussion with BTO staff about the possibilities.

On a smaller scale, we are also going to be financially supporting both Mike King, whose Gloster Birder website provides such a magnificent service free of charge to all local birdwatchers, and GOCC, who produce the Annual Gloucestershire Bird Report. We have also been busy constructing and erecting willow tit nest boxes in the Sherborne area – to both study this declining species and encourage it to expand its population.

At the AGM (on 24th April) and in the newsletter, we will be asking members for any other ideas they may have for funding in the local area.

Agri-environment funding under threat….your chance to help

As NCOS members we spend a lot of time out and about in the farmland of the Cotswolds.  Our farmers are helped by the Common Agricultural Policy which is under threat again.

This week David Cameron will be heading to Brussels for the next round of European budget talks. Agri-environment funding is severely threatened. So the tiny proportion of the Common Agricultural Policy that is a lifeline for UK landowners who want to help give our countryside a future rich in wildlife is at risk.

These schemes deliver real public benefits, benefits which the market cannot easily pay for. Please help us fight for the support you need. To learn more and sign the RSPB petition today, click here, but hurry – the talks start on 7 February.