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?
Do you have willow or poplar trees in your garden? If so, it’s worth searching for the fascinating caterpillars of the Puss Moth. They are frequent visitors to a local garden on the Rowley Hills where the residents have regularly studied their progress from eggs through to adult moths.
At this time of year, if you’re lucky, you might encounter tigers in your garden…..no not that kind of tiger! We’re talking about Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula) moths, one of our most spectacular moths. These colourful creatures are day-flying, their caterpillars feed on a range of herbaceous plants, and they are on the increase. The photo below was taken in a garden local to the Rowley Hills; the bright scarlet underwings are hidden beneath the forewings but sometimes you might find a Scarlet Tiger with its wings fully spread as shown in this photo. There is also a Scarlet Tiger Project in Stourbridge, formed by local residents who have successfully protected and enhanced habitat for Scarlet Tigers in their local area.
We’ve had some great wildlife sightings in and around the Rowley Hills recently! If you’ve spotted anything interesting, please do let us know.
At this time of year, the Hills host a continuous flow of migrating birds, which stop off briefly to rest and refuel before continuing their journey south. Recent sightings include Tree Pipit, Redstart, Linnet, Grey, Yellow and Pied Wagtails, Siskin, House Martin, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Swift, Spotted Flycatcher, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Raven, Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. Many thanks to Ian Whitehouse who regularly tweets his Rowley Hills sightings and photos!
Local resident Andrew Cook also sent us these brilliants photos of a male Kestrel sitting on his garden fence. The Rowley Hills are a great spot for Kestrels as the grassland provides the perfect habitat for voles and mice, which are the Kestrel’s preferred prey. It looks as though this Kestrel may be resting after having recently eaten, as there is a small amount of blood on his beak and talons.
Another nice local record came from Lukas Large, who recorded this video of a Humming-bird Hawk-moth feeding on nectar from Red Valerian in his garden. As the name suggests, this moth resembles a Hummingbird in flight as it hovers and darts between flowers, its wings humming; Red Valerian is one of its favourite food plants. Humming-bird Hawk-moths migrate to the UK in summer from southern Europe and north Africa.
And finally, some more great news about the Harebells growing on the hillside above Bury Hill Park. Because Sandwell Council very kindly agreed to delay mowing the grass here in order to help conserve these wildflowers, we have been able to collect a large amount of seed from them. For most of the Harebells on that site it is probably the first time they will have produced seed in living memory as by now the whole area would normally have been cut. The seed capsules will now be left to dry out and the resulting seeds sown in suitable locations elsewhere on the Rowley Hills to help to conserve a scarce Birmingham and Black Country plant. This is great news for conservation and biodiversity in the Rowley Hills and we are very grateful to Sandwell Council for their cooperation with our request to put the mowing in this area on hold.
Do you have willows or poplars growing in your garden? If so, look out for the fascinating caterpillars of the Puss Moth which feed on the leaves. These photos were taken a couple of days ago in a garden on the edge of the Rowley Hills. Puss Moths are named for the fuzzy grey fur covering the adult moth’s body, and although the caterpillars can look rather strange they are harmless as long as they aren’t disturbed.
It’s not just the wide open spaces here on the Rowley Hills that contain wildlife. There’s plenty to see in your own back garden if you take the time to look – if you’ve seen anything interesting let us know in the comments below or via our Facebook or Twitter pages!