Tag Archives: spring

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!

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Dawn chorus walk report

Following on from our successful dawn chorus event last year, on Sunday May 7th we held our second annual Dawn Chorus walk on the Rowley Hills, once again led by local bird expert Nick Horton. Eleven attendees met at 7:00am at the cairn on Portway Hill in sunny, still weather conditions with a little chill in the air. We headed through the canyon to Bury Hill Park, across Portway Hill towards Turners Hill, and then down towards Warrens Hall Park, passing Warrens Hall Farm Riding School. In total we saw or heard 38 bird species.

Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) (image © Andrew Cook)

Before setting off from the cairn Nick briefed us on which birds we should be particularly looking out for at this time of year and made us aware of some of his recent sightings on Portway Hill. Almost immediately, one that he had mentioned, our first Whitethroat of the day, and almost certainly a male, was seen launching itself skywards and then dropping down into a nearby patch of bramble in which there was probably a nest. Whitethroat is a summer visitor to our shores, arriving from Africa during April. The breeding habitat requirements of this bird are met with perfectly up here on Portway Hill, dense patches of scrub for nesting and an abundance of insects in the surrounding grassland on which to feed their young. Their numbers, Nick told us, are on the increase on this site, with many pairs noted in suitable habitat all over the hillside.

As we headed along the recently opened-up right-of-way through the old canyon leading out onto the top of Bury Hill Park we saw Long-tailed, Blue, Great Tit and Chiffchaff and a Blackcap was heard in the distance. High up above us, recently arrived House Martins and Swallows were a reminder of the summer yet to come.

After taking in the panoramic views towards Cannock, Barr Beacon and Birmingham city centre from the top of Bury Hill Park we set off in the direction of the masts on Turners Hill pausing briefly to count 13 Swifts soaring overhead. Stopping near the extensive patches of bramble and other rank vegetation about halfway up the hillside Nick pointed out where he had previously seen Lesser Whitethroat, and as if by order, one was spotted flying low over the bramble into a nearby hawthorn bush. With similar habitat requirements to Whitethroat the Lesser Whitethroat is much less common and more secretive and can be difficult to spot.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

As we approached the upper regions of Portway Hill a Kestrel was hovering above the open grassland and provided a perfect photographic opportunity for those of us with a camera and telephoto lens. Nearby, from the top of the nearby hawthorn hedge, a Blackcap obligingly made its presence known.

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) (image © Andrew Cook)

As we neared the masts on Turners Hill, two of our larger raptors were noted; a Buzzard was soaring high overhead and a fleeting glimpse of a Peregrine was made by just a few of the group. A rabbit foraging in the nearby horse field was a first on this site for most of us. The morning sunshine had brought out the golfers so on this occasion the golf course was avoided and instead some of the party continued down Oakham Road towards the riding stable. By now the sun was high in the sky and it was becoming quite warm with butterflies becoming active. As we headed along the track which runs along the back of the stables and then descends, passing the fishing pond on the right, we noted Speckled Wood, Orange-tip and Green-veined White. Numerous Long-awned Moths, flitting about and alighting upon newly opened Wych Elm leaves were a pleasant distraction in the morning sunshine and a Holly Blue butterfly was yet another addition to our butterfly list.

Buzzard (Buteo buteo) (image © Mike Poulton)

A small warbler noted in the hedgerow was confirmed by Nick as Garden Warbler after consulting his bird book to compare it with the very similar and much commoner Chiffchaff. Debatably, the most memorable sighting was probably our last of the day. There before us in a large Ash tree, whose leaves were not yet open, sat a Buzzard, totally oblivious of our presence. Through binoculars it was apparent just how large this bird is and how fortunate we are to have them here on the Rowley Hills in such good numbers. Our thanks once again go to Nick for leading us and for passing on his invaluable knowledge of the bird life of this area and we look forward to him leading another bird walk for us towards the end of the summer.

Birds Butterflies and Moths
Blackbird Garden Warbler Mallard Orange-tip
Blackcap Goldfinch Moorhen Speckled Wood
Blue Tit Great Tit Peregrine Green-veined White
Bullfinch Green Woodpecker Peregrine Falcon Holly Blue
Buzzard Greenfinch Robin Long-awned Moth (species not confirmed)
Canada Goose Heron Song Thrush
Carrion Crow House Martin Starling
Chaffinch House Sparrow Swallow
Chiffchaff Kestrel Swift x 13
Collared Dove Lesser Black-backed Gull Whitethroat
Common Gull Lesser Whitethroat Woodpigeon
Coot Long-tailed Tit Wren
Dunnock Magpie

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Dawn chorus walk this Sunday!

Don’t forget it’s our dawn chorus walk this Sunday (7th May), starting at 7:00am at the cairn on Portway Hill. Join local bird expert Nick Horton to look and listen out for the Rowley Hills’ resident birds such as Kestrel, Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Mistle Thrush and Buzzard, as well as recently arrived migrants including Chiffchaff, Swallow, Blackcap, Whitethroat and maybe even a Lesser Whitethroat, Wheatear or Ring Ouzel. This event was very popular last year with some great bird sightings and we hope for similar successes this year! No need to book, just turn up; ensure you are dressed appropriately for the forecast weather conditions, and wear sturdy footwear. Bring binoculars if you have them!

A few photos from Portway Hill

The Portway Hill site is really coming to life now with spring flowers appearing and Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Orange-tip, Green-veined White and even Green Hairstreak butterflies putting in an appearance. Here are a few photos of some of the flowers, including a couple of fruit trees – most likely to have been seeded on the hills via bird droppings.

Warm weather brings out the butterflies!

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.

Rowley Hills dawn chorus walk report

On Saturday we held our first dawn chorus walk on the Rowley Hills, led by local expert Nick Horton. Ten attendees met at 6:30am at the cairn on Portway Hill in perfect weather conditions – sunny, mild and still. We headed across Portway Hill, past the farm and over to Turners Hill before checking out the golf course, then heading back the way we came. In total we saw or heard 33 species.

Portway Hill (image © Jane Tavener)

Portway Hill (image © Jane Tavener)

Willow Warbler (image © Andrew Cook)

Willow Warbler (image © Andrew Cook)

At this time of year, many migratory birds have recently arrived from Africa to breed in the UK and we saw good numbers of these. The bird we probably saw (and heard!) the most on our walk was Chiffchaff, a small warbler which generally spends the winter in north Africa and parts of the Mediterranean, although in some parts of Europe they can be seen all year round. A close relative of the Chiffchaff, the Willow Warbler, was also spotted several times on the walk; this species likes young woodland and we saw a few in the area between Bury Hill Park and the Wildlife Trust cairn on Portway Hill.

The masts on Turners Hill (image © Jane Tavener)

The masts on Turners Hill (image © Jane Tavener)

Two other closely-related warblers that we saw were Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat; Whitethroats in particular are very common on the Rowley Hills as they breed in low scrub and brambles, a common habitat here. Although we were hoping to see a few birds of prey, these were surprisingly difficult to find – up to four species can regularly be seen on the Rowley Hills (Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine and Buzzard) but on this occasion we only saw Buzzard, and a brief glimpse of a Peregrine.

Turners Hill, as the highest point in the West Midlands, is a stop-off point for many bird species on migration, which take a brief break to rest and refuel before heading off again to their breeding grounds. Early in the morning before the golfers arrive some of these birds can also be seen on the golf course, and one of our best sightings of the walk was here – a Wheatear quietly resting next to a ditch. This is an attractive bird of mountains and moorland, related to robins and thrushes; probably the closest breeding site to the Rowley Hills would be the Clee Hills in Shropshire.

We also had lovely views of both Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush, and we all finished the walk feeling much more confident that we could now tell these two similar-looking species apart!

Mistle Thrush (image © Andrew Cook)

Mistle Thrush (image © Andrew Cook)

Song Thrush (image © Andrew Cook)

Song Thrush (image © Andrew Cook)

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hope to repeat this walk in October, to catch migrating birds heading south for the winter – but it will be a daytime rather than early morning event. Keep an eye on our Events page to find out when this will be happening!

Here’s the full list of birds we saw or heard:

Blackbird Linnet
Blue Tit Long-tailed Tit
Bullfinch Magpie
Buzzard Mallard
Carrion Crow Mistle Thrush
Chaffinch Peregrine
Chiffchaff Robin
Collared Dove Song Thrush
Dunnock Starling
Feral Pigeon Stock Dove
Goldfinch Swallow
Great Spotted Woodpecker Wheatear
Great Tit Whitethroat
Greenfinch Willow Warbler
House Sparrow Woodpigeon
Lesser Black-backed Gull Wren
Lesser Whitethroat

More Awards for All successes!

Our recent Lottery-funded AFA (Awards for All) events have been a great success! Here’s a summary of what we’ve been up to:

On Thursday 7th April our AFA event involved planting 470 native Bluebells and 50 wild Daffodils in the woodland we have previously been working on at View Point. We also spread 250g of Red Campion seed throughout this block. In the westerly block with the path running through the middle we sowed 50g of Red Campion seed and planted about 30 native Bluebells ad hoc. We also spread 50g of Red Campion seed in the most easterly central woodland plantation block.

On the afternoon/evening of Thursday 14th April Tom and Doug from the Wildlife Trust organised a Spoon Carving event for local youth group “U-Choose Youth Project” on the Wildlife Trust site on Portway Hill. After a short guided tour of the site each of the group were given a block of wood to carve and instruction on the safe use of the carving knives. The group then set about carving their own wooden spoons. We received great feedback from their youth group leader David King who said “a really good day today on the hill….the kids loved it….we are definitely going to visit again….keep us posted with future things”.

On Saturday 16th April we had another event on View Point Open Space where 25 Hazel and 25 Field Maple were planted into the woodland block thinned previously, and Foxglove seed was sown mainly around the edge. We also spread Foxglove seeds around the path in the westerly block.  1kg of Yellow Rattle was scattered on the meadow block directly downhill from the thinned woodland. In addition a litter-pick was carried out and 2 bags of rubbish removed from site.