The aim of GOS is to encourage the study and recording of birds in the Swansea and Neath Port Talbot area. GOS does this through arranging guided bird-watching walks and putting on talks on a wide variety of bird-related subjects.
For over 50 years the Society has published collated ornithological data in an annual report, Gower Birds. This provides an indelible record and helps confirm our charitable status. GOS is closely associated with the Gower Ringing Group which collects long term data sets at sites throughout the recording area.
History of GOS
The Gower Ornithological Society was founded in 1957 after the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) asked some keen bird-watchers if they would help with a survey of buzzards in the peninsula…
The team realised that to promote the recording and protection of birds, a society was needed. The original committee included Fred James (Chairman), Mike Powell (Treasurer), Jo Hambury and Neville Douglas-Jones (joint secretaries), Bob Howells and Dick Hart. Early members included Harold Grenfell, Carl Stockton and Edward Harris. A large contingent were local wildfowlers. During these early years GOS organised field trips that included forays to Ireland and Suffolk as well as to more local sites. The Society began publishing Gower Birds in 1968.
While not generally a campaigning organisation, GOS, under the chairmanship of Dick Hart, was instrumental in putting a halt to the misguided culls of oystercatchers on the Burry Inlet. The species became the logo of the Society, and the Burry Inlet’s internationally important oystercatcher population was recognised when it was awarded Special Protection Area status.
GOS members have also been responsible for the collection of long term data sets on birds in the area. Bob Howells has collected over 50 years of wetland bird survey data for Blackpill and the Burry Inlet (and was awarded the Welsh Ornithological Society Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018), Heather Coats has co-ordinated long term data collection on pied flycatchers in the Swansea Valley instrumental in understanding their decline, while Bob Tallack has been a driving force in county-wide studies of herons, rooks and sand martins for many years.
Letter by Neville Douglas-Jones
This letter sets out the origins of the Society in the words of one of the founder members, Neville Douglas-Jones. It was published in ‘Gower,’ the Journal of the Gower Society, in 1957…
Last year, Norman Moore, the Director of Nature Conservancy, was short of an organiser to undertake the census of buzzards in Gower. I was asked to help and I am happy to say it was not long before I had gathered a small group of enthusiasts; between us we gladly undertook to cover the peninsula. The fact that these arrangements were impromptu was very much in our minds and we there and then decided that Gower should have a specialist organization for its birds. The existing records were those of individuals. There was no local clearing-house for information which should he verified and passed to the British Trust for Ornithology and to the Editors of “British Birds”.
A. Frederick James (your contributor of long standing), H. J. Hambury, Norman Atkinson and I then wrote to the Evening Post for support for our proposed Society and as a result we had a founders’ meeting in the Royal Institution just over a year ago. It is interesting to record that forty-two people attended and now our membership is over seventy.
Col. H. Morrey Salmon is our President, Mr. A. Frederick James our Chairman, Mr. Michael Powell our Treasurer and Dr. H. J. Hambury and I are the joint Secretaries.
Now what exactly are the aims of an Ornithological Society? This has often been put to me and the answer is quite a simple one. First, the sharing and exchange of knowledge; secondly, the collecting of permanent records for the peninsula; thirdly, the giving of support to the Protection of Birds Act and fourthly, contributing to the field studies of the British Trust for Ornithology and Nature Conservancy. Already our bird-watching has been enriched. Many of us know far more now about birds than we did a year ago and our enthusiasm is increasing.
We were firmly determined to confine our Society to Gower. Strictly speaking we should be keeping records on a county basis it does not need one to tell you that Gower is unique and we specialists in the peninsula are as anxious as you to keep it that way. Gower is a most rewarding place for collecting new records because we are making a beginning and the varied habitats provide a very large variety of species. There are geese, duck, waders, sea birds, predators and of course the passerines.
We publish a bulletin for our members at quarterly intervals and already the back-numbers are much sought after. Our Society has now had its first birthday and we think that it is a healthy infant with strong affinities with the Gower Society.