Tag Archives: Friends of Rowley Hills

Some recent sightings

On a recent walk from Warrens Hall Nature Reserve, up across Dudley Golf Course, and onto the Portway Hill site, Mike Poulton, Matt Hadlington and Tom Hartland-Smith had several interesting sightings. A regular dog walker stopped to tell them that at about 7pm on a previous evening, as he was returning from a walk, up on his neighbour’s roof was an Eagle Owl! Matt said that there had also been a recent Eagle Owl sighting at nearby Sheepwash Lane in Oldbury – it’s likely that these sightings were of the same individual, possibly an escaped pet or falconry bird. And if that wasn’t enough, on the way back to his car, Tom watched a Red Kite fly across. However the group’s first two sightings were of a tiny Common Toad, and a Pygmy Shrew. The toad was very much alive; the shrew was sadly deceased, but this is not unusual for these incredibly tiny mammals as the following information from Mike explains.

Pygmy Shrews are found throughout the UK; their habitat is woods and hedgerows and they can be seen all year round. They are our smallest mammal, up to 55mm from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. The tail can be up to 45mm long, around three quarters the length of the body (unlike the larger Common Shrew, whose tail is only half the length of it’s body). The average weight is about 4 grams, the same as a one penny coin. 

Shrews superficially resemble mice but with a longer, pointed snout, and even when fully grown are only around a quarter of the size of a House Mouse. The thick fur is brown on top and greyish-white below, and grows thicker in the autumn to help maintain body heat during the winter months.

Pygmy Shrews needs to consume food every two hours or so in order to maintain their body temperature. Their diet consists of spiders, beetles, woodlice, slugs and other small invertebrates. Active day and night searching for their next meal, the Pygmy Shrew literally lives its life in the fast lane. This unmarked specimen could have died of starvation because it hadn’t eaten for a few hours! 

The breeding season runs from April through to August, and female Pygmy Shrews produce between two and eight young per litter, in an underground nest. The gestation period is a little over three weeks, and a female can produce up to five litters in one year. The life span of this tiny mammal is approximately 15 months.

Volunteer days are back!

Now that lockdown restrictions have started to be relaxed, volunteer days are back! Under government guidelines we will be working to the rule of 6, so 5 volunteers for now until restrictions change. Anyone wishing to attend a volunteers day on Portway Hill should register with Natalie Norton beforehand on 07713487405, or at natalie.n@bbcwildlife.org.uk to check that there are places available. Hopefully, this rule of six will change as we move further into the season.

All volunteer days for 2021 are listed below and on our Events page.

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 10th April 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 23rd April 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 8th May 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 28th May 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 12th June 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

TBC – Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 25th June 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

TBC – Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 10th July 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 23rd July 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 14th August 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 27th August 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 11th September 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 24th September 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 9th October 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 22nd October 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 13th November 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 26th November 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 11th December 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

Winter on the Rowley Hills

We hope you are keeping safe and well. The current lockdown feels like the hardest yet, with the short days and wintery weather to contend with – however the hills are always open for your daily exercise and even in winter nature provides ever-changing interest, as these photos taken recently by Mike Poulton illustrate. With spring on the way, there will be even more to see so keep your eyes open when you’re out and about on the hills!

Volunteer days have restarted

The Wildlife Trust have now restarted volunteer days on the Rowley Hills, taking all relevant precautions in light of the coronavirus pandemic. If you would like to attend a volunteer day below, you must contact Natalie Norton at the Wildlife Trust on natalie.n@bbcwildlife.org.uk to book onto the volunteer day prior to the day as volunteer numbers are currently limited to a group of 6. You can find out more about the procedures the Trust have put in place to keep everyone safe in the information on our Events page.

  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 20th November 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 12th December 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 18th December 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 9th January 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 15th January 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 13th February 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 19th February 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 13th March 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 19th March 2021, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch and any other refreshments you require. Make sure you book in advance (details above) and be aware that places are limited.

Rowley Hills now part of a UNESCO Global Geopark, plus some recent photos

On the 10th of July this year, the Black Country became a UNESCO Global Geopark. This prestigious UN status has been awarded in recognition of the Black Country’s internationally important geology stretching back 428 million years, and its cultural heritage; inextricably linked to the area’s geology, this reveals the significant part the Black Country played in the industrial revolution. More than 40 geosites within the geopark have been chosen to tell its story, including the rock face on the Wildlife Trust’s Portway Hill reserve (geosite 23). Click here to read the full story!

Of course, because of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed by lockdown, we haven’t had much to report in 2020 in the way of events. However the hills remain an important oasis where people can spend much-needed time outdoors, and nature has been getting on with things regardless of the virus. Here is a selection of fantastic photos from Mike Poulton taken over the past few months, showing the varied and beautiful life to be found in the Rowley Hills.

Recent sightings from the hills

We hope you have all been keeping safe and well during the lockdown and that nature has been able to provide you with some relief. Mike Poulton from the Friends of Rowley Hills has been able to carry out some butterfly transect walks on the hills while doing his daily exercise, and so far this season has recorded Orange-tip, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White, Small White, Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, and Burnet Companion moth.

On the bird front there’s been a pair of Ravens flying over the site (invariably pursued by Carrion Crows), Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Green Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Swifts and all of the usual common species. FORH member Nick Horton heard a Garden Warbler and a Grasshopper Warbler when he was walking in the hills at the beginning of May.

Another of our members, Mike Siviter, took a fabulous sunrise photograph from Portway Hill in early May. When he got home he sent it to the local BBC television station and it appeared on the BBC’s lunchtime local weather forecast. He has also sent us this rather good photograph of a Whitethroat that he had taken up there.

Wildlife recording during lockdown

Although we’ve all been greatly limited recently in our day-to-day activities and you may not have been able to travel to the places you usually go to enjoy the natural world, nature is all around us. Those of us lucky enough to have gardens might find that they are spending a lot more time in them that they used to, and getting to know the local wildlife as a result. Recording what you see can be a great way to engage with the natural world and enjoy all the benefits that this brings – particularly important in these uncertain times. Even if you don’t have a garden, you may be able to see species just from your window or during your daily exercise.

EcoRecord are always interested in receiving any records of wildlife spotted in Birmingham and the Black Country. It doesn’t have to be anything unusual or out of the ordinary, records of the everyday wildlife you see in your garden and local area are just as valuable as records of rarer species. EcoRecord have ready-made recording forms with full instructions on their website at http://www.ecorecord.org.uk/index.php?q=wildlife/forms, so why not start recording wildlife today?

Peacock (Inachis io) (image © Mike Poulton)

Owls on the hills!

We hope you are all staying safe and well during this very strange and uncertain time. As per  the Government’s guidance, all Friends of Rowley Hills events have been postponed and we’ll keep you updated about when normal service will resume.

Here’s recent some good news from the hills. During one of our volunteer days at the start of March, an owl pellet was found on top of a fence post. Owl pellets are composed of all the parts of an owl’s prey that cannot be digested – mainly bones and fur. As these cannot pass through an owl’s digestive tract, they are instead regurgitated as a neat package. This may sound a bit disgusting, but it tells us 2 very interesting pieces of information – the first one being that an owl has been using the hills, and the second one being what it has been eating! We are uncertain of the species of owl but it is likely to be a Tawny Owl, or possibly a Barn Owl. Tom from the Wildlife Trust dissected the pellet to discover what the owl had eaten, and found that it was a vole species. He was able to reconstruct almost its entire skeleton – see the photos below.

2020 volunteer days

We’ve added the first Wildlife Trust volunteer days of 2020 to our Events page – see also below. Hope to see you at one soon!

  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 3rd January 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 18th January 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 7th February 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 15th February 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Friday 6th March 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 21st March 2020, 10:00am – 3:00pm. Join the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country at Portway Hill for a fun day out meeting new people, helping the environment and learning new skills. Meet on St Brades Close; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. You will need to bring along a packed lunch but tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided. No need to book, just turn up!

We’ve received an award!

The GM2LF Big Local Partnership Red Carpet Awards Night at Oakham Evangelical Church to celebrate and recognise the talents and skills of local people on 23rd October was a great success. To FORH’s great surprise we were awarded a certificate in recognition of our work in enhancing and protecting the open spaces on the Rowley Hills, along with a cheque for £100!  A lot of interest was shown in the display of the children’s artwork from their visit to the Portway Hill site in the summer, and FORH also received some very positive comments for the part we played and what we are trying to achieve.

On behalf of the FORH we would like to thank everyone who played a part in making the evening a success, and our special thanks to the GM2LF Big Local Partnership and the National Lottery for making events like this possible.