Ecology and a love of the natural world has been a life-long habit for Mervyn. “As a child I was always interested in living things such as insects and flowers. I’m grateful to my Mother who spent a lot of time helping me to discover the wonders of nature.” Mervyn went on to study Biology at University and taught it in Secondary School, passing on his love of the natural environment on to local students over many years. Mervyn has always immersed himself in nature during his spare time too.
“I have always spent a lot of time in the Forest and retirement has allowed me to do this even more.” He said. Mervyn is involved with the Gloucestershire Naturalists Society (GNS) and through this was aware and involved with Foresters’ Forest right from the start.
Mervyn has involved himself in a wide range of Foresters’ Forest projects including Birds, Ponds, Waterways, Reptiles, Veteran Trees, and the recent Sphagnum Survey. “Birds have been my major interest,” he said, “Foresters’ Forest has provided the opportunity for Bird study groups in the Forest to extend and develop what they do. I’ve been able to lead on two in-depth studies of Dippers and Nightjars (in partnership with another volunteer). This stemmed from many years of having a license to ring birds. And it has been fascinating to study these species in such detail!”
This voluntary work studying both Dippers and Nightjars has led to some important discoveries and achievements. “The Nightjar study is focussed on whether individual males can be identified by their song. This was previously though to be impossible, but we are due to publish a scientific paper sharing our findings, confirming that we can in fact identify individuals in this way.” Mervyn told us. “My work on Dippers has been about breeding success on streams. It has involved surveying local populations and improving nesting opportunities. Numbers had dropped, but I’m now delighted to have seen an increase over the last few years of work on this,” he said.
Mervyn originally got involved in Foresters’ Forest because of his existing interest in the natural world, but over time his volunteering has deepened and broadened his interests further. “I really enjoy doing the Waterways survey,” he said, “but through this I’ve become more and more fascinated by the history and archaeology of the Forest and how this links to the ecology. My interest in other animals and species has blossomed. I feel like I am learning and developing my skills all the time!” Mervyn is a solitary creature but has surprised himself by the joy he has found in meeting other Foresters’ Forest volunteers and being part of a team. “I’ve met lots of great fellow volunteers. I have really enjoyed supporting and sharing knowledge with others” he told us, “and I have felt privileged to work alongside so many experts in their field and learning so much from them.”
Some of Mervyn’s favourite volunteering moments have been through shared experiences with other volunteers. “I remember one day we all looked under a reptile refuge and saw a baby adder. Group experiences like this are a great part of Foresters’ Forest because you all share in each other’s delight!” He said. “I have also had some great solo moments, such as recapturing a five-year-old Nightjar that I had ringed, knowing that it had been to Africa and back four times since then, returning to the same clearing each summer to breed.”Mervyn really enjoys every minute of his volunteering. “The Waterways survey is a particular joy,” he told us, “it is massively fun, like going back to pond dipping as a child!” The programme has also opened his eyes to the importance of engaging and involving people. “It is impacting on my ideas as Chair of the GNS. Inspiring younger people feels very important and we are working hard to develop this through schemes such as Awards to University Students. I want to help spark the same love of nature in young people that my mother gave to me.” Mervyn is passionate about legacy. “I can see that the work of Foresters’ Forest will carry on through volunteers and that the GNS can play a role in this. We are hoping to do more and more with Foresters’ Forest on this!”