Category Archives: Nature & conservation

Small mammal trapping results!

The small mammal-trapping event on Portway Hill a couple of weekends ago went really well despite us only catching one Wood Mouse on this occasion. Everyone who attended was given the opportunity to set a trap and a total of 12 Sherman traps and 3 Longworth traps were placed in the vegetation along the track through the old quarry and on the Wildlife Trust site. In each trap we placed a handful of sheep’s wool for bedding, and baited the traps with a mix of seed, cucumber, castors, lettuce and a small piece of cheese. The location of each trap was marked so that when we returned the next morning none of the traps were missed. They were then left in place overnight.

At 8am on the Sunday a group of 10 people showed up. Our initial disappointment at not catching anything in the first few traps turned to joy when a trap was retrieved containing a Wood Mouse in pristine condition. We carefully transferred the mouse into a small, transparent lidded bucket which was held up so that everyone could get a good look and take photographs. The mouse obliged by sitting there eating seed that had been transferred from the trap into the bucket with him. Although the bait was missing from two of the other traps on this occasion the trap-doors had failed to close.

After safely collecting up all of the traps we headed up the hillside in the direction of the radio masts to look for signs of mammal activity beneath some onduline roofing sheets that had been put down earlier in the year in the hope that any reptiles on the site might find refuge beneath them. No small mammals were detected beneath any of them but several little woven-grass nests constructed by voles were found.

Of the other wildlife we saw over the weekend the biggest surprise was a very late-in-the-season Speckled Wood butterfly, seen on the Saturday flying across the Wildlife Trust land. Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were seen overhead, and despite it being so late in the year, many of the hillside’s wild flowers were still in bloom, including Dog Rose, Yarrow, Burnet Saxifrage, Groundsel, Oxford Ragwort, Common Ragwort, Bush Vetch, Common Cat’s-ear, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Oxeye Daisy, Common Toadflax, Shepherd’s-purse, Smooth Sow-thistle, Red Campion, Red Clover, Black Knapweed and Weld. The exceptionally dry June and July followed by a mild autumn may have had something to do with this.

There has also been a change to the dates of the Wildlife Trust’s volunteer days in December – all the most up to date information is on our Events page so make sure you check there before heading out!

Here are a few photos from the mammal trapping event, with thanks to Andy Beaton for taking these.

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Meet the mammals!

Later this month the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country will be holding the Rowley Hills’ very first mammal trapping event! All the details are below and also on our Events page.

Mammal Trapping – 2-part event, Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th November 2018. Help us find out more about the small mammals that call the Rowley Hills home! Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill on Saturday 17th November, 3:00pm – 4:30pm to help set out traps to catch small mammals overnight. The traps don’t harm the animals and have plenty of food in them to lure the animals in and keep them well fed while they await their release. Then the next morning on Sunday 18th November, 8:00am – 10:00am, join us again to help open the traps and see what we’ve found. This could include creatures such as Wood Mouse, Bank Vole, and Common Shrew. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. Booking is essential, please email tomh@bbcwildlife.org.uk to book your places. See also https://www.bbcwildlife.org.uk/events/2018-11-17-mammal-trapping-part-1-portway-hill and https://www.bbcwildlife.org.uk/events/2018-11-18-mammal-trapping-part-2-portway-hill for more info.

Photos from our recent volunteer day

Our volunteers day on Portway Hill on the 20th October was very productive. We cleared all of the grass and bramble debris piled up from the previous volunteers day and even managed to find a few new fungi for the Portway Hill site. The reason for removing all arisings from the site is to reduce soil fertility which should in time increase the diversity of the wild flowers and insects found here.

Here are some photos of before, during and after the volunteers’ hard work, as well as lots of lovely fungi!

Butterfly walk, Saturday 30th June

Don’t forget we have our annual butterfly walk in a few weeks’ time on Saturday 30th June, 10:00am -12:00am approx. Join us and the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country for a guided walk around the Rowley Hills. The flowers on the hillside should just about be at their best by this time and if the day is sunny we will see many species of butterflies, including Marbled White; Portway Hill is one of this species’ hotspots in Birmingham and the Black Country. Wear sturdy footwear and ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions. Meet on St Brades Close at the junction with Tower Road at 9:50am. See you there!

Snow on the Rowley Hills!

Here are a few photos taken by Mike Poulton last weekend of the snow-covered Rowley Hills!

Look out for fungi and slime moulds!

As autumn approaches fungi and slime moulds are now appearing on the hillside. Look out for more as you walk across the hills this autumn and send us your photographs. Here are three that we’ve spotted so far:

Dog Sick Slime Mould (Mucilago crustacea) on dead grass stems (image © Mike Poulton)

Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) (image © Mike Poulton)

Pestle Puffball (Handkea excipuliformis) (image © Mike Poulton)

Portway Hill recommended to be designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation

Seven green areas across Sandwell, including Portway Hill in the Rowley Hills, are set to be added to a list of nature conservation sites. Portway Hill is currently designated as a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINC) but its status may soon be upgraded to that of a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

Sandwell Council’s cabinet, which met on 20 September, discussed a recommendation to designate Portway Hill as a SINC, as well as 6 other areas at the following locations as Sites of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINCs):
  • Bullers Open Space, Tipton
  • Market Place, Tipton
  • Merry Hill, Smethwick
  • River Tame Corridor, Oldbury
  • Whitecrest, Great Barr
  • Woden Road East, Wednesbury

The designations provide up-to-date evidence for planners to protect local nature when making planning decisions. This could mean that Portway Hill receives better protection from any potential future threat of development.

For more information, visit http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/news/article/4424/seven_green_spaces_set_for_conservation_list.

Part of the Portway Hill site.

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