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Become a birder in Gloucestershire

PUBLISHED: 16:34 21 November 2013 | UPDATED: 16:54 21 November 2013

Mallard on ice

Mallard on ice

Archant

Birds hold a special fascination for many people and this month, to celebrate the publication of the most comprehensive book about the county’s birdlife, The Birds of Gloucestershire, Emma Bradshaw is going to take a look at how you can get closer to our feathered friends.

SparrowSparrow

A birder is a term used to describe someone who enjoys bird watching as a hobby - whether professional or amateur. Whilst birding might have a slightly nerdy image, over 590,000 people took part in the 2013 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch back in January, making it the biggest and most popular ‘citizen science’ study in the UK.

Inexpensive, birding is a hobby which often starts in the comfort of your own home, by catching glimpses of the birds visiting your garden. For those with more interest, a pair of binoculars and a good bird identification book is the next step, and then you find yourself drawn to different habitats to spot a wider variety of species. In the Cotswolds we are spoilt for choice. From the ‘Wolds’ which are good for farmland birds such as skylarks, linnets and yellowhammer, to the wetlands in the Severn Vale, which attracts wading birds and wildfowl in their thousands especially over the winter months.

This month the most comprehensive book ever written about Gloucestershire’s birdlife The Birds of Gloucestershire is published, detailing the 300 birds recorded in the county to date. It is the perfect winters read for anyone interested in birds and wildlife. To pore through its pages will convert anyone to ‘birder’ status with the pages beautifully illustrated with drawings by some of the best bird artists in the country, including the late Sir Peter Scott alongside contemporary artists like Terence Lambert, Peter Partington, Robert Gillmor and Stroud-based Jackie Garner. The front cover features a hawfinch, a rare species that has suffered severe declines in the UK, to such an extent that the Forest of Dean is now one of the few places where this shy finch with a characteristically large beak can be seen.

Superb photographs also adorn the pages throughout, all taken by local birdwatchers and the foreword is written by HRH the Prince of Wales, who has long taken a personal interest in wildlife and conservation.

RobinRobin

The book has been produced by Gordon Kirk and John Phillips of Gloucestershire Ornithological Co-ordinating Committee with help from county bird groups and over 200 volunteers, all with a passion for wildlife. Over the past four years these dedicated individuals have surveyed every corner of the county, walking a total of more than 10,000 miles in the process! Hundreds of maps feature throughout, showing where each species was recorded, and there are masses of other information about birds and birdwatching in the county, past and present.

What started as a small idea from a group of enthusiastic birders has grown to become the county’s most up to date and comprehensive resource on the birds of Gloucestershire. The book is on sale in bookshops now for £45.

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Top tips for budding birders

Shelduck on the Severn estuaryShelduck on the Severn estuary

1. Buy a good field guide and learn to tell a goose from a grebe.

2. Join a local bird group, there’s nothing better than learning from an expert, and they’re always delighted to be asked for help and share their enthusiasm.

3. Take notes and sketches in a journal, note interesting details such as crown, eyestripe, plumage, colours and patterns, and where and when you saw the bird and the weather conditions too.

4. Invest in a pair of binoculars and when bird watching keep them hung around your neck so you can quickly look through them when something catches your eye. Experts say that when you see a bird don’t look down, keep your eye on the bird and raise your binoculars to your eyes, adjusting the focus.

Coombe HillCoombe Hill

5. Think about your behaviour when out looking for birds, don’t move suddenly or make a loud noise and try to camouflage yourself against your background. Many nature reserves have wildlife watching ‘hides’ - make use of them.

6. Give something back - in exchange for the delight that birdwatching has brought you. Join your local Wildlife Trust or RSPB and make a contribution towards valuable conservation work towards the wildlife you enjoy.

7. Submit your records! Let Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records (GCER) know what you’ve seen and help us safeguard our county’s wildlife - www.gcer.co.uk

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RobinRobin

Wildlife on your doorstep: The Christmas Robin

Each year the robin stars on thousands of Christmas cards all over the world, but have you ever stopped to wonder why this bird is associated with Christmas?

Some say that it was because the robin got its redbreast when it was pierced by a thorn from Jesus’ crown as he hung on the cross. But others associate the origins from the Victorians love of Christmas and the first ever Christmas cards that were delivered by postmen in bright red coats, thus earning them the nickname ‘robins’ or ‘redbreasts’.

The robin is a common species in the UK and in the Cotswolds, living happily in a wide variety of habitats including gardens, parks, hedgerows and woodland. We see them throughout the year, which is probably why it has been named as the UK’s favourite bird.

Gloucestershire snowGloucestershire snow

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Get involved…

If you’ve got a Twitter account, it’s easier than ever to get involved. Simply register your Twitter name by logging on to www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/recording. Once you’ve registered, then all you have to do is geotag your tweet (use the GPS on a smartphone or use the location pinpoint button on Twitter on a computer) then use the #glosducks hashtag saying what you’ve seen and when. Then we can automatically log your records on our database and they’ll pop up on our online map! We’d love to see your pics too!

Keep up to date or find out more about our recording project by visiting www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk/recording

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Things to do this winter...

The Birds of Gloucestershire launch and Annual general meeting

Saturday, Nov 16, from 10am

The Birds of Gloucestershire co-author Gordon Kirk will be launching this NEW book at this year’s AGM. It was produced with data from four years of surveying by over 200 volunteers and includes every bird species in Gloucestershire, from reed bunting to buzzard. To find out more about the book visit www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk and read Gordon’s blog.

Cost: no, but donations welcome.

Pre-book: no, just turn up

Location: Apperley Village Hall, Sawpit Lane, Apperley, GL19 4DP.

Green Christmas Crafts

Saturday, November 30, 10am to 1pm

Enjoy a Christmas-themed craft session using natural materials.

Cost: adult £20

Pre-book: 01452 383333

Location: Robinswood Hill Country Park

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Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust is a countywide charity which manages 60 nature reserves covering over 2,500 acres. Its aim is to secure a natural environment which the people of Gloucestershire and visitors can enjoy for generations to come. Local membership numbers over 27,000 people and 500 regular volunteers give their time to support the Trust’s work. Membership of the Trust costs from £2.25 a month. Join online at gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk, 
tel: 01452 383333

or visit the Trust’s Conservation Centre at Robinswood Hill Country Park, Gloucester. 
Registered Charity No. 232580. Follow GWT on twitter @gloswildlife

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