December 2001 - Newsletter 81 PDF Print E-mail

Some Musings from A Departing Chairman

This short note is a personal viewpoint and in no way reflects the stance of the Society on environmental matters.  I would encourage those who hold similar or opposing views to write in to The Dipper.  Please keep contributions concise and to the point.

For some time I have been thinking about wider environmental issues other than birds and their habitats.  This was reinforced by the talk on birds, weather and global warming given by Stephen Moss on Saturday November 17th.  The talk came to a depressing conclusion regarding the future; as the impact of humans is felt on this small, fragile planet (viewed on an astronomical scale).  Unfortunately, I share Stephen’s pessimism and the more I read about the problem, the worse it seems.

The human race seems to be acting like a baboon.  If you want to trap a baboon, drill a small hole in a pumpkin.  The animal will insert its hand and grasp the seeds, but as the hole is so narrow it cannot withdraw its arm without letting go of its prize, something it will not do.  The human race seems to be in the same bind.  It cannot give up living at an unsustainable level although the evidence suggests it will end in tears.

There seems to be no chance of the rich, developed world changing its lifestyle sufficiently to prevent climate change caused by mankind’s activities.  I see no prospect of us adopting Ghandi’s maxim ‘we need to live life simply so that others may simply live’.  Some say that technological solutions will come to our aid.  I hope that they are right, but I would not bet on it in the medium term.  Others tell us that any change is so far in the future that we should not worry.  If the evidence of past climate changes in ice core samples are to be believed, past changes have occurred over very short periods of time, even down to a few years.  My position therefore is that global warming is inevitable and it is likely to have significant effects on climate in a relatively short time-span e.g. a few generations or less.  If the Gulf Stream is switched off, which is possible, much of northern Europe will be unable to support current population levels.

In spite of my gloomy forecast I am optimistic that the planet will survive with much of its life intact.  Does it matter if humans have a less prominent role?

What has this to do with you, members of GOS?  By joining such a society you are part of a large group of people who share concern for their environment.  That is a good start.  What more can we do?

The main function of a County Ornithological Society such as ours is to provide a central repository for the observations of the amateur enthusiasts that form a significant proportion of the membership.  This is the role of the annual report, a publication that comes as part of your membership.

Bird observation can be a useful marker for wider environmental purposes, for example by showing the effect of weather patterns, habitat destruction and agricultural practices just to name a few.  The arrival and departure of summer migrants, for example is showing a clear trend of earlier arrivals and later departures over a period of 30-40 years.  This demonstrates that birds are taking advantage of warmer summers in the Northern Hemisphere.

Our records are a useful data source for developing bio-diversity action plans, a process that local authorities are embarking on.  We can observe the longer-term effects of farming practices on bird populations, and maybe see some of the impact the foot and mouth outbreak has had on wildlife.

On a personal level we can reduce our ecological footprint so that we use less of the planet’s resources.  By insulating our homes, recycling our rubbish, repairing and refurbishing instead of buying new and using public transport or walking/cycling wherever possible, we will save money as well as the planet.

So keep up the good work of the past 40 years.  Our contribution may be small but it is part of thinking globally but acting locally.

Alan Williams

Annual General Meeting 2002

the Annual General Meeting will be held on January 19th 2002, in the Village Hall, Goytre, starting at 7:30pm

This year sees Chairman Alan Williams stepping down after 5 years in office. Because we have not had a Vice-Chairman for the last year there is no natural successor and Andrew Baker has volunteered to be the next Chairman. Nominated by Alan Williams and seconded by Trevor Russell, Andrew’s election would seem to be a formality.

All Officers of the Society have to be elected annually and this year we still need to elect a Vice-Chairman.  All other Officers have indicated their willingness to stand for re-election, though new nominations are always welcome.

Four Committee members retire by rotation this year, Muriel Hamar, Norman & Rosetta Lawrence, and Chris Hatch. Three nominations for Committee membership have been received so far, from Tony White John Davies and Steve Butler whilst Ian Smith and Chris Hatch have offered to be seconded onto the Committee (this means that they do not have voting rights).

The Constitution allows for up to 8 Committee members in addition to the Officers, so if you would like to volunteer and make a contribution to the way your Society is run, or would like more information, please contact:

Trevor Russell, The Pines, Highfield Road, Monmouth, NP25 3HR

Both the Proposer and Seconder should sign nominations with the agreement of the nominee.

Nominations must be received by January 12th 2002

In the event that a Committee seat is contested, selection will be made by ballot at the AGM.

The AGM will be followed by a Members’ evening which will be an opportunity for members to get rid of those mince pies and sausages rolls left over from Xmas, and to show and discuss their holiday slides and experiences.

Contact Alan Williams or Trevor Russell should you wish to show any of your slides.

BTO News

Jerry Lewis

The BTO Birdwatchers Weekend (7-9 December at Swanwick) marks a change from previous years when separate conferences have been held for general birdwatchers and for ringers.  This year’s theme is migration, and much of the information to be presented has been generated by ringed birds.  This wealth of information will feature in a new book due out next spring, The Migration Atlas, which will form a companion volume to the existing breeding and wintering atlases. Congratulations go to Jerry.  He has won a copy of the Migration Atlas by correctly interpreting movement maps of British Birds that had appeared in BTO News this year.  Nine people had interpreted all 8 maps correctly, and Jerry was the winner drawn from these (Ed.).

Closer to home, a South West England meeting on 26th January 2002 may be of interest to BTO and GOS members.  The theme is “Migration from the Isles of Scilly to Slapton”.  See page 6 for details.

The Swallow Appeal has already raised £50,000 towards research into the problems faced by swallows and other migrants.  A book Rusty Flies South is aimed at 3-6 year olds and will make an ideal Christmas present.  It can be obtained from BTO Swallows, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU, cost £5.00, inclusive of p&p.

The composition of birds feeding at birdtables is always changing, and 278 householders across the UK made weekly counts from October to March in the Garden Bird Feeding Survey.  During the winter 2000/01, record rainfall, a super abundance of some forest seeds and changes in feeding behaviour all contributed to a different scene at birdtables.  In all, 74 species either took food or water, with the greatest variety (46 species) in a Devon garden. Blue Tit was the only species recorded at every birdtable.  Other widely distributed species were Blackbird, Robin, Great Tit, Dunnock, Greenfinch and Chaffinch.  Species reaching an all-time record were Goldfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Wood Pigeon, Pheasant and Goldcrest, and a new addition to the list was Shelduck.  In the 31 years that the survey has been running, 161 species have been recorded.

Recent results of the Waterways Bird Survey, which has been running for 25 years, indicate that some species have done very well over the whole period: Mute Swan, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Reed Warbler.  Other species have declined over the period: Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail and Reed Bunting.

2000 was the final year of the Common Bird Census (CBC) and was a much better year than in 1999.  There were 15 significant changes in population levels, and 14 were good news.  Only Blue Tit numbers showed a significant decline.  The increases were seen in some species that have shown an overall decline during the 25 years that the CBC has been running: Red-legged Partridge, Tawny Owl, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush.  The main scheme to monitor wild bird populations is now the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), which has been running in parallel with the CBC since 1994.

The Heron population is also at a high level and has been increasing since 1988.  Even at this high level, there are only some 10,000 pairs in Britain (one for every 6,000 people, so very rare when compared with our numbers).  No counts have yet been received for the Gwent heronries at Glebelands, Llandegfedd and Piercefield for 2001.  If anyone has information for these sites, please let me know.

Fieldwork for many surveys in 2001 was severely disrupted due to foot and mouth disease.  Because of the uncertain situation in some parts of the country, the main counts for the Winter Farmland Bird Survey will not take place this winter.  However, if you do a regular farmland walk, or note winter flocks whilst travelling around this winter, your records will be of use to the BTO to help understand the use many wintering birds make of the different farmland habitats.  Forms are included with this Dipper.

Other surveys postponed, but likely to take place in 2002, are the Peregrine and Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows surveys If anyone is able to help with these or the Breeding Bird Survey let me know.

New volunteers are always needed for BBS, and if you missed my recent talk I’ll be able to explain how easy it is.

A Nightjar survey is also planned for 2002.  If anyone has a young plantation in a clear-felled forest in their GOS Breeding Atlas square, and would be willing to stay up late on a couple of June evenings, please let me know.

Reports of Outdoor Events, October to November.

Brian King

It goes without saying that the outdoor programme in 2001 has been almost totally written off because of Foot  & Mouth Disease, and it is only in recent weeks that we have begun to pick up the threads.  My thanks go to the walk leaders who have so willingly given their time and expertise to make the walks that could proceed so successful.  I am also very appreciative of the many members who come along and support the leaders and make the walks enjoyable.

I look forward to a more productive season in 2002, and hope to rearrange walks in new areas cancelled this time around and I offer my thanks and appreciation again to all those who have given their help and support for the coming year.

Peterstone, October 14th.

It was good to get out again with a good group, on a misty and still afternoon.  The following species were noted:

Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Wigeon, Teal, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Shelduck, Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Goldfinch and Meadow Pipits.  Groups of Swallows were seen moving south, and Kestrels were watched on several occasions.  A Kingfisher gave a quick sighting to round off a pleasant afternoon.

WWT Llanelli, October 27th.

Again a pleasant, still day for this informal visit, with a good party gathering over time.  Many species were noted.  Stonechats were seen at several places, and many finches and tits were observed on feeders.  From the hides, we watched Grey Heron, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Shelduck, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Moorhen and Coot.  Walking along the reedbed paths, close views of Kestrel were obtained at several points.  Later, a Short-eared Owl was seen at close range and was watched being mobbed by crows for some time.  It appeared again, briefly, over the reeds.  This was a worthwhile visit to this improving reserve.

Cadira Beeches Wentwood, November 3rd.

A small group set out on a very still and slightly misty afternoon for this woodland walk. Very few birds were seen and both hearing and observation skills were tested to the full in order to find the common species noted: Kestrel, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Goldcrest, Fieldfare, Raven, Crow, Jay, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Bullfinch.  Close to the wood, flocks of Redwing and Buzzard were also seen.

Monmouth, November 18th (report by Trevor Russell).

During the previous week all five common species of Thrush had been seen together near the Monnow Valley vineyard, Siskin flitted in the alders near the River Wye, even salmon were seen trying to leap up the weir at The Forge on the river Monnow! It doesn’t get better than that at this time of year!

Came the day and the first bird for the group of 10 was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a tick for many present! Next was an obliging Siskin, where it should be, in the alders. Sadly no Redpoll, perhaps they knew it was about to drizzle and so they hid from view with the rest of the birds. A walk along the old stone railway viaduct gave a new and unusual perspective for many but still no birds of note. Even the vineyard let us down, though we did see individual Blackbirds, Redwing, Fieldfare and Song Thrush, but not the spectacle of the week before.

In birdwatching, nothing is guaranteed but at least we learned some new and fascinating areas to walk around Monmouth.

Causes of Death in Goldcrests

Helen Parry Jones

Jean Iron, a GOS member living in Canada, recently came across a number of dead kinglets in burdock plants.  She has a feeling that there has been a report of something similar to this happening to Goldcrests in the UK.

In Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds, (Golden-crowned Kinglet chapter under "Enemies", James G. Needham 1909) photographs of a number of Golden-crowned Kinglets that had become entangled in the hooks of the ripening heads on several clumps of burdocks was accompanied by the following information.

“They were visible in all directions, scores of them sticking to the tops of the clumps on the most exposed clusters of heads. The struggle had ended fatally for all that I saw, and its severity was evidenced by the attitudes of their bodies and the dishevelled condition of their plumage. I examined a number of the burdock heads to determine what attraction had brought the kinglets within range of the hooks, and found insect larvae of two species present in considerable abundance. Most abundant were the seed-eating larvae of an obscure little moth (Metzgeria tapella), but the larvae of the well-known burdock weevil were also present in some numbers. Doubtless, it was in attempting to get these larvae that the kinglets (mostly young birds) were captured”

Has anyone come across this in relation to Goldcrests?  If so, please let me know.

Recent Bird Highlights

Compiled by Chris Hatch from information received on the GOS / Hamdden Bird Line

September began with good numbers of waders present at coastal locations, including significant numbers of Little Stint (max 40 at Goldcliff), Ruff and Curlew Sandpiper, with a few Spotted Redshank. Good numbers of Little Egret were present at a number of sites throughout the month, with a maximum count of 23 at Goldcliff. Other interesting sightings included an Osprey at Llandegfedd from the 2nd to the 5th, a Hobby at Goldcliff on the 9th, a Little Gull together with a Black Tern at Llandegfedd on the 17th and a Sandwich Tern at Llandegfedd on the 22nd.  But perhaps best of all, was a Pectoral Sandpiper at Collister Pill on the 22nd and 23rd.

October saw a significant passage of terns through the county.  Black Terns were present at Uskmouth on the 3rd (1 bird), Llandegfedd on the 7th (1), 8th (4), 10th (2), 13th (2), 15th (1) and Ynysyfro on the 9th (2).  Arctic Terns were present at Llandegfedd on the 8th (3), 9t (1), 10th (1) and 13th (1) and Ynysyfro on the 8th (1).  Little Gulls were recorded at Llandegfedd on the 5th and 9th.  Cetti's Warblers were recorded at Uskmouth on the 3rd (2 birds), 27th (2) and 28th (between 5 and 7 birds).  A female Ring - necked Duck appeared at Goldcliff on the 4th and stayed until at least the 17th. Interestingly a male bird of the same species was present at Ynysyfro on the 16th and moved to Uskmouth on the 17th. Other sightings of note included a 1st winter Grey Phalarope present at Llandegfedd from the 4th until the 8th, a Merlin at Goldcliff on the 4th, a Barnacle Goose at Ynysyfro on the 9th, and a Common Scoter at Llandegfedd on the 10th. A possible Marsh Harrier was reported from Peterstone on the 26th, with a Short-eared Owl present at the same location on the 27th. A Whooper Swan appeared at Uskmouth on the 27th, staying until at least the 10th of November whilst a late Osprey was recorded at Llandegfedd on the 28th. Winter visitors started to make an appearance towards the end of the month, with 3 Brambling at Uskmouth on the 28th and a flock of 4000+ Redwing at Abergavenny on the same date. Remarkably, 11 Water Rails were reported from Uskmouth on the 28th.

November saw a juvenile Mandarin Duck at Cwmbran boating lake on the 3rd and a Great Northern Diver at Llandegfedd from the 5th until at least the 19th.  Other sightings included Merlins at Chepstow on the 9th and Abergavenny on the 22nd, a Hen Harrier at Uskmouth on the 10th, Cetti's Warbler again at Uskmouth on the 10th (5 birds) and 22nd (3 birds), a Water Rail and 4 Bewick's Swans at Llandegfedd on the 12th, 6 Scaup at Uskmouth from the 18th until the 22nd, and 2 Short-eared Owls and a Brent Goose, also at Uskmouth, on the 22nd.


Annual Report, 2000

Brian Gregory

The report for 2000 was published in September; I hope you liked it. There is no question that John Marsh’s beautiful photographs again made a huge difference to the appearance of the report.

The 2001 Report will be short of records for many species after the foot and mouth restrictions. Please resolve now to submit all that you possibly can.  The current Report will remind you of the many gaps in the tables where no counts were submitted in whole months for species that were surely present at sites.  Also, I am trying to list all breeding references for species, e.g. Mute Swan, Coot, and Lapwing, that are often passed by.  So please send records if you have any.

I could have the Report ready by the end of April, but only if records are sent promptly (by the end of January at latest), and especially if descriptions of unusual species are submitted early (to allow time for their proper consideration). Articles, notes, photographs and artwork are all extremely welcome too.                                                                                              

Winter Access at  Llandegfedd

Keys are not required during the fishing season, 1st March to 31st October, when the gate to the Fisherman’s Car Park is open from dawn to 1 hour after sunset.  From 1st November to the end of February, the gate is locked so a key is required, and is available from the Rangers Cabin at the Dam.  A number of members who regularly birdwatch at the reservoir also hold keys.

News from from the Gwent Levels Wetlands Reserve

Adam Rowlands, CCW Warden

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) team presented CCW with a report on their recommendations for developing access and interpretation on the Reserve at the end of September.  These recommendations are now being considered by CCW and the Reserve Steering Group partners (RSPB and Newport County Borough Council).

The WWT report proposes the main development of visitor facilities at Uskmouth, with low-key facilities (including hides) at Goldcliff and Saltmarsh.  We have been liasing with the Environment Agency, who are intending to improve the sea-wall around the Reserve during 2002 – 2004, to see where we may link work to develop facilities for the public with the sea defence improvements.

Work to upgrade the access through Fish House Lane, which links the Reserve car park with Farmfield Lane, was completed.  This work will allow us to control water levels in the fields either side of the lane and will provide additional access for the public.  The hedgerows along the lane are very attractive to migrant warblers and thrushes.  A television crew visited to record footage of the Reserve and estuary for the next series of Birdwatcher with Dee Doody.

Management work included clearing the shingle islands at Goldcliff (which had been delayed due to Foot and Mouth precautions), removing some of the Sea Buckthorn and other scrub that is encroaching on the grasslands at Uskmouth and erecting a series of access gates.  Way-marked trails were established at Uskmouth to allow new visitors to the Reserve to find their way around the site.     

Late autumn bird sightings included up to 23 Little Egret (with small numbers lingering into November), a single Whooper Swan remaining at Uskmouth, a single dark-bellied Brent Goose, 4 Black Tern, 3 Short-eared Owl a single Marsh Harrier and male Hen Harrier.

Wildfowl counts included up to 473 Wigeon, 21 Gadwall, 459 Teal, 765 Mallard, 51 Pintail, 2 Garganey, 49 Shoveler, the female Red-crested Pochard from August, 8 Scaup, 4 Goldeneye, male and female Ring-necked Duck (but unfortunately the female departed on the day the drake arrived) and a female Red-breasted Merganser.

Wader numbers were up to 49 Grey Plover, at least 95 Knot, 26 Little Stint, 28 Curlew Sandpiper, 1200 Dunlin, 8 Ruff, 355 Curlew, 5 Spotted Redshank, and 5 Greenshank,

Good numbers of Water Rails have taken up winter residence in the Uskmouth reedbed creation lagoons.  Up to 20 Stonechat were also present at Uskmouth in early November, with a late Whinchat on 28th October.  A big movement of Wood Pigeon on the morning of 29th October involved at least 10,000 moving west in forty minutes.  The actual number of birds involved in this movement was probably much larger, with some flocks estimated to be up to a mile long!

Other wildlife interest included two Otter watched for five minutes by Kevin (Assistant Warden) near the Uskmouth car park in broad daylight on 9th November.

Birds, Weather and Climate

After Stephen Moss’ excellent talk on 17th November, you may be tempted to attend the meeting organised by the Royal Meteorological Society on Saturday 2nd March 2002 at the Zoological Society of London Meeting Rooms, London Zoo, Regent's Park 10:30am to 16:00pm.  It costs £5.00 for members of the Royal Meteorological Society, the RSPB or BTO, and £10.00 for non-members. Pre-registration is preferred. To receive an information sheet and form, please contact the Society (telephone 0118 9568500).

The programme includes:

Birds and the weather S Moss, BBC Natural History Unit  

Weather and bird migration N Elkins, Met Office Forecaster, Retired

The impact of climate change on nesting birds H Crick, Head of Demography Unit, BTO

The influence of weather and climate on ptarmigan and capercaillie numbers in Scotland B Moss, Centre for Ecology, Banchory

The Margary Lecture: "Climate Change And The Timing Of Bird Migration" T Sparks, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Migration, Devon, Cornwall and Beyond

This meeting will be held at Derriford Hall, Plymouth on Saturday 26th January 2002, 10:00am to 4:30pm, at a cost of £8.50 which includes coffee, lunch and tea.   To book, send a cheque, made out to Roger Swinfen or John Woodland, to Roger Swinfen, 72 Dunraven Drive, Plymouth, P16 6AT, tel. 01752 704184 e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or John Woodland, Glebe Cottage, Dunsford, Exeter, EX6 7AA, tel. 01647 252494, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  There is ample free parking and places were still available as of 23rd November


  • 30,000 Maps and Still Sane, Mike Toms (one of the new Migration Atlas editors)
  • Ringing the Changes (Slapton Ley), Nick Ward
  • Feral Pigeon, Raising its Profile, John Tully               
  • Counting Kingfishers and Downloading Dippers, John Marchant
  • Westenders – the Choughs Return, Mike Lord
  • Song Thrush, and the cost of living in Paradise, Peter Robinson

Records Wanted for the  2001 Gwent Bird Report

Chris Jones

It’s that time of the year again and yes; I’m making my annual plea for your records for 2001.

Its incredible how quick this time of the year has come around again, it only seems like yesterday that I was asking this very question for your records for 2000.  It is only by the continued support of all members that the society is able to produce the quality report that is the envy of many neighbouring societies.

With the events of Foot & Mouth during a substantial part of the year [February – August, and even up until quite recently for some areas of the County], it is anticipated that the number of records submitted may be significantly less than in previous years.  Because of this, can I please urge all members to try to submit at least something and hopefully we will be able to produce a full report albeit a little thinner than in recent years.

Many of you are aware that the work involved in the production of each annual report is extremely time-consuming for both the County Recorder and the Report Editor.  However, you may not be aware that because of the late submission of records, it means that many sections of the systematic list have to be re-written to incorporate them, thus making the task even more time consuming.  So to ensure that your records appear in the 2001 Gwent Bird Report, and to help those giving up their time to produce the report, please submit your records by the end of January.

For guidance on what records should be submitted, see the section on Submission of Records on pages 52-53 of the 2000 report.

Hopefully, with your help, we can avoid producing a report on just the scarce and rare species recorded in 2001.  This I believe would be a major backward step for the Society.  As I have mentioned above, our report is the envy of many neighbouring societies but this can only be maintained with your support in the form of the submission of your annual records.

Record Slips / Scarce bird report forms can be obtained from Chris Jones either or by post – 22 Walnut Drive, Caerleon, Newport, NP18 3SB, 01633 423439, or from the Library at indoor meetings.  A page of 4 slips is included with this Dipper

Records can be handed in at either an indoor meeting or posted [address as above].

Thank you for your support

Tawny Owl Atlas Reports

Al Venables/Helen Parry Jones

Tawny Owl is Gwent’s commonest owl, and probably breeds in most of the county’s woodlands. However, as with all nocturnal species, it tends to be under-recorded in Atlas studies because observers cannot always arrange night-visits to the tetrads they are covering. So far in the current Atlas project we have evidence for “confirmed” or “probable” breeding in only about 150 of our 400 tetrads, compared with 223 in the first Atlas (1981-85). This figure certainly suggests under-recording, though it might mean that Tawny Owls have decreased since the first Atlas – we need to know which!

The reason for raising this subject at present is that Tawny Owls set up their territories in the late autumn/early winter and are at their most vocal at this time. So if we listen for Tawnies over the next couple of months we can count the records for next year’s Atlas results. A single record of hooting will count as a “possible” breeding registration, while two records a week or more apart will count as a definite territory and a “probable” breeding registration.

Please listen out for them, and ask your friends who live in other parts of the county if they hear Owls regularly from their homes – this sort of record will count as “probable” breeding. The aim of the Atlas is to get as many “probables” as we can.

You can send records to me (or add them to your card next year if you are contributing to the Atlas, and the records are on one of your tetrads).

The list below gives all tetrads for which records are required.  The initial letters, SO & ST and 10, 11, 20 etc indicate the 10Km square in which the tetrad squares A-Z (excluding O) occur

lower case letters  = no Tawny Owl records at all yet.

Capital letters = only  “possible” breeding which we would like upgraded to “probable” breeding

To find the tetrad, first locate the appropriate 10km square from the following diagram.

First locate your 10km square from the following diagram.

The SW corner gives you the number of the 10km square. E.g. Grid ref. 200100 is the SW corner of Square 21.

Each 10km square is then divided into 25 2x2km squares (or tetrads) identified by a letter A-Z, (excluding O).

Tawny Owls generally breed in holes in trees in deciduous or mixed woodlands, tree-dotted farmland, parks, large gardens, and churchyards, often in built-up areas.  They are not uncommon in mature coniferous forests plantations and are, exceptionally, in open country.  Egg laying is from late February with a single clutch of 2-5 eggs, depending on food supply.  Incubation is 28-30 days and fledging period is 32-37 days, though young usually leave the nest at 25-30 days (Snow & Perrins, Concise Birds of the Western Palearctic Volume I page 909).

Archiving Records for GOS

Helen Parry Jones

I have started to archive the GOS records using a programme called MapMate.  So far I have been able to put in records manually from record slips, and electronically from a spreadsheet containing sightings on the Gwent Levels Wetland Reserve.  The programme allows mapping and also easy analysis of the data by species, site, recorder etc.

The archiving will be more successful if we can input locations accurately, so if you could put grid references when you submit records, it would be very useful.  If you can’t do that, could you give a bit more detail about the recording area?  For example rather than just saying Newport, include Maindee, Summer Hill, St Julian’s etc, or instead of saying “my garden”, state the postcode.  I don’t want to put you off sending in records, but I hope that gradually more of you will start including more precise location details.

I am sure that many of you are now keeping electronic files of your records and these would be of use for archiving.  If you want to try sending me records, let me know and I can send you the formatting requirements.

So far, the manual records have been of owls recorded in 1998, and the distribution of sightings of Little Owl is shown in the following map with 1 dot representing sightings in a 1km square.

Questionnaire Results   

Trevor Russell

First of all I should like to thank all of you who completed the questionnaire. I received 50 replies, which is an approximate 20% response rate. I hope this means that 80% of the membership want to leave things as they are and that it is, in fact, a vote of confidence!

Indeed the majority of returns do want to leave things as they are but there were a few sizeable minorities who would like to see some changes of emphasis;

More talks on bird identification: Apart from leaning very heavily upon Al Venables, Jerry Lewis, Steve Roberts, Ian Smith and other members, outside speakers on bird identification are very difficult to find. Having used Al, Jerry and Steve in 2001, Ian and Steve form part of the programme for 2002.  It should also be pointed out that nothing beats an outdoor walk to really sharpen your ID skills. See the Outdoor Programme! If you know of any other good speakers please let me know.

Change the day of Indoor Meetings: Sadly, suggested alternatives ran through all 7 days of the week, including Sunday! Many speakers cannot travel long distances mid week.

More Out-of-County Trips: From your comments it is clear that many members miss the social aspect of belonging to a Society that shares a common interest. Out-of-county coach trips provide exactly that 'glue' but are often fairly expensive and a lot of hard work to organise. If a coach trip IS organised during the next year please be prepared to support it and please don't complain that it's cheaper by car!

Many of you made other interesting comments and suggestions that will be discussed further in our committee meetings.

Thank you again for your help, let us hope that we can take the appropriate actions that will enable us retain not only your interest and enjoyment, but your membership too!

Committee Comentary

Trevor Russell

Charitable Status.  Following the agreement to make minor changes to our Constitution at the EGM on September 22nd, the Society has now been granted Registered Charity status. We are on the Central Register of Charities with number 1088830. This means we are now eligible to become owners of Goytre House Wood and transfer of ownership should take place in November 2001, Solicitors permitting.

Suggestions are invited for a suitable memorial for benefactor, Betty Morgan.

Following delays, Alan Williams has now notified me that we will have the wood in our possession on or before 11th December (Ed).

Correspondence. Colin Sweetman of Blaenau Gwent Council (BGC) sent a correction following reference to habitat destruction at Dunlop Semtex Pond in the September issue of The Dipper.  “I would like to point out that on page 5 you incorrectly assert that Blaenau Gwent was responsible for the removal of reedbeds and trees from Semtex Pond, Brynmawr. It was in fact Brunswick Construction (now in liquidation) on the instruction of the site owners, Maincourse Ltd. that have been responsible for the destruction of marginal habitats at Semtex”.

Following further correspondence with BGC they have promised to involve GOS in notifications for Planning Approval to the council and we have written to the landscaping consultants for a copy of their proposals for a wildlife area around the Pond.

Membership Survey.  Nearly 50 Questionnaires have been returned and the main headlines are:

  • the majority of members seem content with the way things are at present
  • sizeable minorities want more talks on bird identification (though it was pointed out that better information can be given during Outdoor walks)
  • more coach trips out of county (reinforces the social element for many members)
  • more walks on a Saturday

More disturbing were two comments that new members were not spoken to at indoor meetings. Whilst it is often difficult for Committee members to spot new members they will be given name badges to enable new members to introduce themselves and initiate a conversation.

Chairman & Committee.

Andrew Baker volunteered to become the next Chairman, following the retirement of Alan Williams at the next AGM (January 19th 2002).  Committee members Chris Hatch, Muriel Hamar and Norman & Rosetta Lawrence retire by rotation in January. Some nominations have been received but more are needed. We need to bolster the female representation on the Committee! Any lady volunteers?

Atlas.  Finally, if you have not sent your Atlas Record Cards to Al Venables or Jerry Lewis yet would you please do so ASAP.  (GOS Casual recording and Winter bird recording forms are included with this Dipper – please use them.  Ed.)