Tag Archives: surveys

Small mammal trapping results!

The small mammal-trapping event on Portway Hill a couple of weekends ago went really well despite us only catching one Wood Mouse on this occasion. Everyone who attended was given the opportunity to set a trap and a total of 12 Sherman traps and 3 Longworth traps were placed in the vegetation along the track through the old quarry and on the Wildlife Trust site. In each trap we placed a handful of sheep’s wool for bedding, and baited the traps with a mix of seed, cucumber, castors, lettuce and a small piece of cheese. The location of each trap was marked so that when we returned the next morning none of the traps were missed. They were then left in place overnight.

At 8am on the Sunday a group of 10 people showed up. Our initial disappointment at not catching anything in the first few traps turned to joy when a trap was retrieved containing a Wood Mouse in pristine condition. We carefully transferred the mouse into a small, transparent lidded bucket which was held up so that everyone could get a good look and take photographs. The mouse obliged by sitting there eating seed that had been transferred from the trap into the bucket with him. Although the bait was missing from two of the other traps on this occasion the trap-doors had failed to close.

After safely collecting up all of the traps we headed up the hillside in the direction of the radio masts to look for signs of mammal activity beneath some onduline roofing sheets that had been put down earlier in the year in the hope that any reptiles on the site might find refuge beneath them. No small mammals were detected beneath any of them but several little woven-grass nests constructed by voles were found.

Of the other wildlife we saw over the weekend the biggest surprise was a very late-in-the-season Speckled Wood butterfly, seen on the Saturday flying across the Wildlife Trust land. Buzzard, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were seen overhead, and despite it being so late in the year, many of the hillside’s wild flowers were still in bloom, including Dog Rose, Yarrow, Burnet Saxifrage, Groundsel, Oxford Ragwort, Common Ragwort, Bush Vetch, Common Cat’s-ear, Tall Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Oxeye Daisy, Common Toadflax, Shepherd’s-purse, Smooth Sow-thistle, Red Campion, Red Clover, Black Knapweed and Weld. The exceptionally dry June and July followed by a mild autumn may have had something to do with this.

There has also been a change to the dates of the Wildlife Trust’s volunteer days in December – all the most up to date information is on our Events page so make sure you check there before heading out!

Here are a few photos from the mammal trapping event, with thanks to Andy Beaton for taking these.


Help survey Birmingham & the Black Country’s canals for Otters and Shrews!

Lutra lutra

Image © Peter Trimming via Flickr Creative Commons.

Here is a great opportunity to get involved with some hands-on ecology work! The first ever official survey of Otters and Shrews in Birmingham and the Black Country’s canals has just been launched by the Canal & River Trust and the University of Birmingham. They are looking for volunteers to help out with survey work; you will receive full training – click here for details.

Some training sessions have already been arranged; these will consist of a powerpoint presentation of how to survey for Otters, place Shrew traps, take habitat measurements, and anything else you will need to do for the survey. If possible, the nearest canal may be visited to look for Otter and Shrew signs. The dates and times are as follows:

Wednesday, 25/01/17, 10:00-12:00, University of Birmingham

Wednesday, 25/01/17, 13:00-15:00, University of Birmingham

Wednesday, 25/01/17, 18:00-20:00, University of Birmingham

Saturday, 28/01/17, time to be arranged, Wildside Activity Centre, Wolverhampton.

Apologies for the short notice; however there may be further training opportunities available. For the most up-to-date information visit the Otter and Shrew Birmingham Canal Survey Facebook group or email:

Samantha Mason: ssm385@student.bham.ac.uk (Survey coordinator).

Paul Wilkinson: Paul.Wilkinson@canalrivertrust.org.uk (Canal and Rivers Trust Ecologist).


Rowley Hills butterflies in a new report and book

The large expanse of open, uninterrupted grassland on the Rowley Hills situated between Portway Hill and the Birmingham New Road, known as Portway Hill Open Space, is currently one of the best sites in the West Midlands for Marbled White and Small Heath butterflies. Mike Poulton has been studying populations of these two butterfly species for the past five years and has produced a short report summarising his findings so far. The overall picture is a mixed one, with Marbled Whites thriving but Small Heaths declining. Click here to read the full report.

Marbled White butterfly (Melanargia galanthea) (image © Mike Poulton)

Marbled White butterfly (Melanargia galanthea) (image © Mike Poulton)

Small Heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus) (image © Jane Tavener)

Small Heath butterfly (Coenonympha pamphilus) (image © Jane Tavener)









In related news, Pisces Publications have a pre-publication offer on for ‘Butterflies of the West Midlands’. This new book, the first ever on the butterflies of the West Midlands, includes a butterfly walk on Portway Hill; it will be launched in Spring 2016 and can be ordered from http://www.naturebureau.co.uk/bookshop/butterflies-west-mids-detail.

Butterflies of the West Midlands

Butterflies of the West Midlands book.

Easter on the Rowley Hills

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.

Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) in the Rowley Hills (image ©Mike Poulton)

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.

Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) (image ©Mike Poulton)

Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) (image ©Mike Poulton)

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.


Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) (image ©Mike Poulton)

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io) (image ©Mike Poulton)

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) (image ©Mike Poulton)

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) (image ©Mike Poulton)

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.

Mike Poulton