The unseasonable warm, dry weather we are currently experiencing has really brought out butterflies in good numbers. Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orange-tip, Speckled Wood and even a Brimstone have been seen on the hillside over the past week. Hopefully, this spring will be much better than last year, which was wet and cold right up until the end of May, and these last few days are just a taster of more fine weather to come. Please remember, if you have any wildlife sightings from the Rowley Hills that you would like to tell us about, or any interesting photographs you would like to see on the website, then please let us have them – you can comment below, or on Facebook or Twitter.
The Wildlife Trust put on two very successful AFA (Awards for All) Lottery-funded events for us over the Easter week. On Wednesday Natalie Bellfield had a very good turn out for her Mothers and Toddlers walk from Oakham Library up onto View Point Open Space, where the children participated in a treasure hunt and various activities that the Wildlife Trust had set up. Afterwards, we continued our walk along the highest point of the site, admiring excellent views across to Cannock and Barr Beacon and beyond on what was turning into a sunny and pleasantly warm, early-spring day. Back at the library the children did some colouring, and prior to leaving, were all given Easter eggs. This was an excellent day that brought together the library, Wildlife Trust, Friends of Rowley Hills and many local people.
On Thursday the weather was even better for our AFA event in Bury Hill Park.The spring sunshine was a bonus and we even saw an occasional Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on the wing. Throughout the day a steady stream of people visited our stall and at mid-day some of the attendees joined Mike for a circular walk around Portway Hill Open Space, taking in the Wildlife Trust cairn and geological exposure, before heading towards Wolverhampton Road and back into Bury Hill Park.
Many of the children took advantage of their visit to the park by making use of the various play apparatus that the park has to offer.
During the afternoon representatives from the Wildlife Trust and FORH scattered Harebell seeds across the Portway Hill site which they had collected last autumn thanks to FORH’s successful appeal to Sandwell Council to temporally cease mowing of the hillside while the Harebells were flowering and producing seed.
Next Wednesday 30th March we have two events; first up is a Easter Mums & Toddlers walk with Sandwell Leisure Trust. Natalie Bellfield from Sandwell Leisure Trust will be leading a walk specially for mums and toddlers going from Oakham Library to View Point, before heading back to the library and ending with some refreshments. Our Vice Chair Mike Poulton will be accompanying the group and giving a short talk about the wildlife and views from the hillside. The Friends of Rowley Hills are also going to put on a display of Rowley Hills photographs in the library for this event.
Then from 11:00am until 3:00pm on the same day we will be up on View Point Open Space with the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country running lots of fun, FREE, family activities including arts and crafts, walks and talks and a treasure hunt.
On Thursday 31st March we will be in Bury Hill Park, 11:00am – 3:00pm, with the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country running lots of fun, FREE, family activities including arts and crafts, walks and talks and a treasure hunt. All of these events are completely free for anyone who wants to come, thanks to our funding from the Big Lottery Fund. You don’t need to book, just turn up! Take a look at the posters below for further info and location maps:
8th April 2015
On Monday, plant and butterfly expert Mike Poulton carried out the first of his 2015 butterfly transects on the Rowley Hills, on the lookout for butterflies, birds, plants and other spring interest. Here is his report from the transect.
It’s Easter week and spring has finally arrived here on the Rowley Hills. The sun was shining brightly as I strolled across Portway Hill Nature Reserve on my first Butterfly Transect walk of 2015.
The main aims of a butterfly transect is to count numbers of each species of butterfly seen on a weekly basis at a given site throughout a full butterfly recording season from April to September inclusive. The chosen transect or route remains constant from year to year and is divided up into a maximum of 15 sections. A count of the butterflies seen in each section is carried out each week and the results entered onto a recording sheet. These records are then submitted to Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Butterfly Monitoring Scheme’. By keeping weekly records comparisons with previous years can be made showing which species are prospering and those that are doing badly. Comparisons can also be made of the dates when different butterflies first appear. For example, here on the Rowley Hills, in an average year the first Marbled Whites can be expected around the middle of June, reaching a peak during the first 10 days of July and then slowly tailing off through the second half of July with just an odd individual or two persisting into the first few days of August. A cold spring could delay this emergence by as much as two weeks. A warm spring will advance the first sighting by several days.
There was a great deal of bird activity on the hillside; Magpies, Robins, Blackbirds, Carrion Crows and House Sparrows I see regularly, and today I also noted Chaffinches and caught a fleeting glimpse of a Lesser Whitethroat, or was it a Whitethroat? Unfortunately the encounter was somewhat brief as it flew off in pursuit of one of two Long-tailed Tits that departed from the same Hawthorn bush. I also heard and then had a good sighting of a Chiffchaff calling from the top of one of the Cherry Plums that grow here. This shrub is very obvious on the hillside now with its leafless twigs smothered in 5-petalled, white flowers that open just before the leaves unfurl. Further into the site I spotted two Foxes blissfully unaware of my presence sleeping side by side in the warm sunshine half way down a secluded steep bank.
There was a great deal of butterfly activity from Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells. These two showy butterflies have only just emerged from hibernation having overwintered in sheds, garages and old buildings. The male Peacocks were having aerial tussles with each other, darting off in an instant at the sight of a passing female of the species. The eggs of both are deposited on newly emerging stinging nettle leaves with a preference shown for plants growing in sunny places. The resulting caterpillars build a communal web in young leaves near the top of the plants and remain quite conspicuous, feeding both by day and night. Feeding continues until around mid-summer when the caterpillars pupate to produce the next generation of butterflies that will be seen on the hillside later in the summer.
Apart from Cherry Plum and the golden bloom of Gorse which covers the bank near the Wildlife Trust land, there are very few plants in flower on the hillside so far this year. I saw the occasional Pussy Willow, Colt’s-foot, Dandelion and Lesser Celandine in flower but the main display of flowers is still more than a month away.