Tag Archives: guided walks

Portway Hill – Green Hairstreak Search, 25th May

On a dry and mostly sunny May morning, 27 wildlife enthusiasts assembled just inside the entrance to Bury Hill Park off the A4123 Wolverhampton Road in Oldbury, for our walk entitled ‘Portway Hill – Green Hairstreak Search’. The route planned initially involved the ascent of the grassy slope of Bury Hill Park, which at this time of year is dotted with numerous umbels of white Pignut flowers. Small numbers of Chimney Sweeper moths have been seen here in in the past but council grass-cutting restricts this moth to a few small areas where the tractor’s grass cutting blades are unable to reach. At the summit of Bury Hill Park the ground levels out and excellent views of the surrounding urban landscape can be seen. Once everyone had gathered together, we followed the path that descends into and through the oldest of the Portway Hill quarries dating back to the late 1700s. A Speckled Wood butterfly flew by, but despite a brief appearance by a brownish-coloured butterfly or moth that quickly disappeared into the dense vegetation, which we thought might have been a Green Hairstreak, nothing came of it.

This track eventually opens out onto the lower part of the land owned by the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country, known now as Rowley Hills Nature Reserve. The group by this time had split up into two, with the serious entomologists straggling behind searching the vegetation for insects which, on what was now turning into a very pleasant day, were becoming quite active. With such a knowledgeable group of people very little went unnoticed, and soon Dock Bug, Hairy Shieldbug and Bishop’s-mitre Shieldbug were found. Discovery of a plant bug with distinctive orange and black markings, black legs and black antennae by one of our group, was later confirmed by Ecorecord as new to Birmingham and the Back Country. Corizus hyoscyami, sometimes called the Cinnamon Bug or Black and Red Squash Bug was until quite recently only locally distributed in sandy habitats around the coasts of southern Britain, but for reasons unclear it is now rapidly extending its range to a variety of habitats inland.

Heading in a south-west direction the leading part of the group paused at the exposed cliff-face where spheroid shapes peel off in layers during weathering, and good examples of columnar jointing, caused by cracks which formed when the magma originally cooled and contracted, can be seen. It was here that a Green Hairstreak made an appearance, alighting on an Oxeye Daisy flower just long enough for two or three of the party to take a photograph. Soon it was gone and for those at the back, sadly they were not to see a Green Hairstreak, our main quarry, as no further sightings were made during the walk. We did however all get a good view of the Small Copper that obligingly settled on a nettle leaf in front of us. Not the freshest of specimens, with a piece missing from the top corner of one wing, but nonetheless always a pleasing little butterfly to encounter.

Onwards and upwards in the direction of the radio masts on top of Turner’s Hill, we passed the remains of the old double-hedgerow which at one time formed part of a track leading all the way up to Rowley Church, about a mile away. Eventually, having reached the expanse of grassland adjacent to Portway Hill at the highest point of the site, where Lye Cross Colliery once dominated the landscape, and of which sadly, no trace remains today, we looked out at a mosaic of rank grassland and flowery meadow. Ever since the land was levelled and graded with spoil from the old colliery days little has changed other than Hawthorn becoming more dominant. The overgrown Hawthorn hedges marking the old field boundaries shelter the grassland from the brunt of the cold and drying easterly winds, and in doing so provide a certain amount of protection for the many butterflies, day-flying moths and other invertebrates found here. A search of the grassland here revealed Common Blue and Small Heath butterflies, and Mother Shipton and Burnet Companion moths.

To complete our circular walk, we headed back downhill, this time taking the track on the southern side of the site, passing close to the back gardens of houses in Kennford and Wadham Close, and following the wide track along the ridge of the water-stressed banks overlooking Wallace Road, to finally exit the site near to the Total garage on Birmingham New Road. As we descended a Holly Blue was seen and a Brimstone flew swiftly by. Last year small Alder Buckthorns were planted here, with the hope that once they have established Brimstones might breed here.

Today’s visit had been very rewarding with nine different butterflies recorded; Brimstone, Common Blue, Green Hairstreak, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Small Copper, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, and also the larvae of Orange-tip butterfly on the two main foodplants of this butterfly, Lady’s Smock and Hedge-garlic.

Several moths were also seen today, Angle Shades, Burnet Companion, Cinnabar, Mother Shipton, Small Magpie, and two micro-moths, Ruddy Streak, and Cranbus lathoniellis. Additionally, both larvae and their papery cocoons attached to grass stems of Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet and possibly Six-spot Burnet moths were seen in places.

As to be expected, many other invertebrates were also seen. Harlequin Ladybird, 7-spot ladybird, 14-spot ladybird, 16-spot Ladybird, 24-spot Ladybird, Violet Ground Beetle, Umbellifer Longhorn Beetle, Thick-legged Flower Beetle, Cardinal Beetle, Common Red-legged Robberfly, Batman Hoverfly, Grey-backed Snout-hoverfly, Thick-legged Hoverfly, Barred Ant-hill Hoverfly, Empis tessellata, Tipula luna, Dock Bug, Bishop’s Mitre Shieldbug, Hairy Shieldbug, Tawny Mining-bee, Ashy Mining-bee, Red-tailed Mining-bee, Honey Bee, Tree Bumblebee, Red-tailed Bumblebee, Common Carder Bee, Early Bumblebee, Buff-tailed Bumblebee, Orange-legged Furrow-bee, Buathra laborator, Yellow Meadow Ant, Azure Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly.

Two new additions to the floral list for Portway Hill SINC were also made today, Spotted Medick Medicago arabica and Round-leaved Crane’s-bill Geranium rotundifolium.

 

Advertisements

Early morning bird walk on the Rowley Hills

Once again, our annual early morning bird watching walk led by local expert Nick Horton did not disappoint. Following an introductory talk, in which he informed us of what birds we should particularly be looking out for at this time of the year, we headed onto the hillside, taking the track leading through the old quarries excavated back in the 1700s which opens out onto the site of Blue Rock Quarry landfill. As we walked through the canyon, bird calls were evident, and we heard or saw in this area Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Dunnock. Once out in the open, those who had them trained their binoculars on the dense patches of bramble and it wasn’t too long before Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were spotted. It’s hard to believe that these tiny birds have in the past few weeks flown all the way from Africa to breed here, and in the next three months will raise their young and then both adults and juveniles will fly off to Africa to spend the winter in sunnier climes. Those that survive this mammoth journey will be back next year and the cycle will continue. Both species are relatively frequent up here on Portway Hill and Nick informed us that this was the best site he knew where both birds could reliably be seen at this time of the year.

Moving on further up the hillside in the direction of the masts, more birds were added to our ever-increasing list – Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Green Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, a Peregrine, and possibly a fleeting glimpse of a Linnet as it flew off.

As we headed up towards the golf course, crossing Portway Hill, a Sparrowhawk flew quickly by. There was too much human activity on the golf course by this time so from here we turned back, crossed Portway Hill and returned along the track, skirting back gardens in Lye Cross Road where House Sparrow and Goldfinch were added to the list.

Our walk ended shortly after this and Nick was thanked for providing us with his expertise which always makes this early morning walk so much more rewarding. As he walked back home, he reported later that a Buzzard and a Heron had flown over.

The total of different birds either seen or heard in the three hours we were out was an impressive 27, showing just how important the open spaces of the Rowley Hills are for our wild birds.

‘Looking Back’ walk

Not to be put off by the cold easterly wind, those who attended the ‘Looking Back’ walk with Jim Rippin across the Portway Hill site on Saturday 13th April had a great time. To mark the occasion Jim brought along a special edition booklet containing some of his and others’ old photographs. Two of the photographs taken from his booklet (see below) show the entrance to Bury Hill Park as it was, prior to, and just after the A4123 Wolverhampton Road was cut through in 1927. It’s interesting to note that the terrace houses of Bury Hill Road in the middle of the first photograph and to the left in the second photograph are still there today.

Don’t forget that we have our Dawn Chorus walk this Monday 6th May, starting at 7:00am. Join local bird expert Nick Horton for a walk around the Portway Hill site; in December Nick spotted a Red Kite on two separate occasions over Turners/Portway Hill and watched crows mobbing a Raven. We will also be on the lookout for Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, all birds regularly seen on the hillside. Wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the early morning weather conditions. Meet on St Brades Close at the junction with Tower Road.

Looking Back: Walk 2. A guided walk over Rowley Hills with archive photographs

Led by Jim Rippin and Mike Poulton and in partnership with the Friends of Rowley Hills10.00am – 13.00pm, April 13 2019 

Join us for the second guided walk based on archive photos and stories from around the Rowley Hills. Jim and Mike’s carefully designed walk invites us to see the area in new and fascinating ways and reflect on the many changes that have taken place over the last 60 years. Come along and share your own views, photographs, and experiences of this iconic area.

Cost: £6 (all proceeds go to the Friends of Rowley Hills).

A special edition booklet will be available for an additional fee.

No need to book – assemble at the entrance to Bury Hill Park (adjacent to the Wolverhampton New Road and opposite Bury Hill Road) at 9.45 am.

Please wear sturdy footwear and bring appropriate clothing for changeable spring weather. We are sorry but the route is not suitable for wheelchair users. The terrain is at times undulating and possibly muddy in places.

For more information call 0121 559 4886 or visit https://livingmemory.live.

2019 dates for your diary

We’ve added the first batch of events for 2019 to our Events page – see also below:

  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 19th January 2019, 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 1st February 2019, 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 16th February 2019, 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 1st March 2019, 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 16th March 2019, 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 5th April 2019, 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!
  • ‘Looking Back’ walk led by Jim Rippin and Mike Poulton, Saturday 13th April 2019, 10:00am – 1:00pm. Meet at the entrance to Bury Hill Park. Cost £6 payable on the day (all proceeds go to the Friends of Rowley Hills). A guided walk-and-talk over the Rowley Hills with archive photographs. Following on from our very successful ‘Looking Back’ walk in September 2018 by popular request we have decided to repeat the event again this spring. This is a specially designed guided walk-and-talk based around a series of remarkable photographs taken by Jim Rippin over the last 70 years. The walk will invite us to see the area in new and fascinating ways, helping us to reflect on the many changes that have taken place within living memory. Souvenir booklets with old photographs will also be available to purchase on the day.
  • Conservation volunteer day, Portway Hill, Saturday 20th April 2019, 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!
  • Dawn chorus walk, Portway Hill, Monday 6th May 2019, time to be confirmed. Join local bird expert Nick Horton for a dawn chorus walk around the Portway Hill site. In December Nick spotted a Red Kite on two separate occasions over Turners/Portway Hill and watched crows mobbing a Raven. We will also be on the lookout for Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Peregrine, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, all birds regularly seen on the hillside. Wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriately for the early morning weather conditions. Meet on St Brades Close at the junction with Tower Road.
  • Green Hairstreak search, meeting place to be confirmed, Saturday 25th May, 11:00am. More details to follow!

Round-up of recent news from the hills!

Tom Hartland Smith, Senior Conservation Officer at the Wildlife Trust for Birmingham & the Black Country, recently wrote us this summary of the past few months’ events on the Rowley Hills:

If you have not managed to come along to any of the events and volunteer days over the last few months you will have missed out on an exciting look into what moth species we have on the hillside, of which the Chinese Character Cilix glaucata was a first spot for me, but all the moths on the hillside were new records for the site – how exciting! The glorious early morning bird walk for International Dawn Chorus day was a great success and we were rewarded with a lovely sunrise with spectacular views and delightful birdsong throughout. We also had another successful and delightful butterfly walk where we were greeted with a kaleidoscope of butterflies on a hot summer day. On one of the volunteer days we popped out some new reptile mats which we have positioned to gauge if there is a population of reptiles on the hillside (no joy yet but still checking).

During the regular volunteer days we have worked on opening up some of the public rights of way, re-installing PRoW way markers and tidying up the site when we can. We’ve also been monitoring the meadow in which we found Common Spotted Orchid, which is a first for the hillside, and spreading Harebell and Yellow Rattle seeds as well as introducing Alder and Purging Buckthorn to try and increase these food plants for the Brimstone butterfly.

A new replacement interpretation panel has been purchased and is ready to be installed on the cairn on one of the upcoming volunteer days. Myself and Mike Poulton are going to be meeting to sort out doing some small mammal trapping; information about this will be posted on the Friends of Rowley Hills website in due course. If you are interested in getting involved in the surveying of small mammals on the hillside, please email info@bbcwildlife.org.uk.

I hope you are all well and thank you all for making such a massive impact on a cracking site. I always look forward to the volunteer days and events on Portway Hill, as the hillside and people have so much to offer.

‘Looking Back’ walk across Portway Hill

On a fine and dry mid-September Saturday morning nineteen attendees assembled just inside the entrance to Bury Hill Park in anticipation of our Living Memory arranged ‘Looking Back’ guided walk across Portway Hill.

Our leaders for this event, Jim Rippin and Mike Poulton, took us on a circular tour of the Portway Hill site, stopping at pre-determined points to compare the scene that we were looking over today with Jim’s photographs taken in the 1950s when he was a lad. In many instances the view before us was totally unrecognizable from the photograph taken back then, because at the time, towards the end of the 1950s, deep granite quarries dominated the landscape. Names that were familiar to the local people of the day, Sampson, Old Sampson, New Turners Hill and Blue Rock Quarries have little meaning to the people living in this area today but back in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century many local people earned their living here in the quarries.

Jim showing members of the party one of his old photographs (image © Geoff Broadway).

Pages from Jim’s pocket book (image © Geoff Broadway).

To Jim these photographs transport him back to his childhood – this was his local playground, and fortunately for us today, back then he was the proud owner of a camera, somewhat unusual in those days especially for someone so young. Little could he have known then that the photographs he was taking at that time would be so significant today. He was among the very few people who photographed the local scene just as quarrying ceased for ever here in the 1950s. Resurrected, and digitised from photographs tucked away in boxes for most of his adult life, he has now compiled some of them into a pocket-sized book, perfect for carrying around, and a few of these books were handed out at the commencement of the walk so that the photographs could easily be referred to at the various stopping points as we walked across the hillside. A few photographs shown on the walk are exhibited here. To see more historical photographs of the area please visit the History page of our website.

A view of Edale Estate and Oldbury beyond taken from the top of Bury Hill Park in the 1950s (image © Jim Rippin).

A view of Edale Estate and Oldbury beyond taken from the top of Bury Hill Park in the 1950s (image © Jim Rippin).

View towards the mast and water tower on Turner’s Hill in the 1950s (image © Jim Rippin).

One of the stops on the tour took us along the old double-hedgerow which was part of the disused public right of way which met Portway Hill a little to the north of Old Portway Farm. Here we were met by Wendy, the present owner of Old Portway Farm, who kindly invited us to look at the building in greater detail.

Henley’s pig shed in 1953 (image © Jim Rippin).

Working our way back towards the Wolverhampton Road down the south side of the hill Jim pointed out the location of Henley’s Farm and pig shed; this spot is now under housing along Kennford Close.

Our final stop of the day was around the brick-built cairn on the parcel of land owned by the Wildlife Trust where the event concluded with a group photograph.

Livingmemory.live ‘Looking Back’ group photograph around cairn on Portway Hill – 15:09:2018 (image © Geoff Broadway).

Our grateful thanks go to Jim Rippin for his wonderful photographs, to Wendy at Old Portway Farmhouse for kindly inviting us on to her land, and to Geoff Broadway and his team at https://livingmemory.live for their generous support and for making this event happen.

We hope to repeat this walk again in the spring of 2019 so be sure to look out for the details on our website and book early.