November news

Removing and burning hawthorn and bramble on the Wildlife Trust owned land continued all through November. The aim is to create wildflower-rich grassland to provide a nectar and pollen source for butterflies, bees and the many other insects that frequent the hillside. This takes time, and requires a great deal of effort, so to discourage nettles, brambles and hawthorn from recolonising, removing or burning the cuttings is vital as most wild flowers thrive in poor, low-fertility soils. James and Luke have recently joined the volunteers group – welcome to them!
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New aerial photographs of the Rowley Hills

We’ve added three more of Andy Purcell’s wonderful aerial photographs to our Aerial Photography gallery, this time taken from above the site of the former Darby’s Hill Quarry. Visit the gallery now to see all the photos!

Above the site of the former Darby’s Hill Quarry (image © Andy Purcell)

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October news

Over the past month we’ve been busy on the Portway Hill site, cutting, clearing and burning hawthorn, bramble and ivy to keep paths open and reduce risks from fires. While we were up there on one of the days, the sky went dark, and the sun became encircled by a red halo. We later discovered that unusual atmospheric conditions had blown up a sandstorm from Africa, and a thin layer of dust from the Sahara Desert had been carried over parts of Britain, depositing a fine film of sand everywhere. Fortunately, one of us had a camera at hand to photograph the strange-looking sun.

If you would like to get fit and active and do something positive for your local environment, then why not come along and join us on one of our conservation days?

Our next volunteer day is this Friday; for more information and to see all of our forthcoming volunteering opportunities please refer to our Events page. We look forward to seeing you there.

More new aerial photographs!

We’ve added three more amazing aerial drone photographs of the Rowley Hills, taken by local wildlife expert and photographer Andy Purcell, to our gallery at https://friendsofrowleyhills.org/about/aerial-photography/. Follow the link to see them all!

View northwest (image © Andy Purcell)

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Look out for fungi and slime moulds!

As autumn approaches fungi and slime moulds are now appearing on the hillside. Look out for more as you walk across the hills this autumn and send us your photographs. Here are three that we’ve spotted so far:

Dog Sick Slime Mould (Mucilago crustacea) on dead grass stems (image © Mike Poulton)

Parasol Mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) (image © Mike Poulton)

Pestle Puffball (Handkea excipuliformis) (image © Mike Poulton)

Portway Hill recommended to be designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation

Seven green areas across Sandwell, including Portway Hill in the Rowley Hills, are set to be added to a list of nature conservation sites. Portway Hill is currently designated as a Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINC) but its status may soon be upgraded to that of a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC).

Sandwell Council’s cabinet, which met on 20 September, discussed a recommendation to designate Portway Hill as a SINC, as well as 6 other areas at the following locations as Sites of Local Importance for Nature Conservation (SLINCs):
  • Bullers Open Space, Tipton
  • Market Place, Tipton
  • Merry Hill, Smethwick
  • River Tame Corridor, Oldbury
  • Whitecrest, Great Barr
  • Woden Road East, Wednesbury

The designations provide up-to-date evidence for planners to protect local nature when making planning decisions. This could mean that Portway Hill receives better protection from any potential future threat of development.

For more information, visit http://www.sandwell.gov.uk/news/article/4424/seven_green_spaces_set_for_conservation_list.

Part of the Portway Hill site.

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The Life-cycle of the Puss Moth in a Tividale garden

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.

Mated pair of Puss Moths (image © Julia Morris)

Once mating has taken place the female moths deposit small batches of brownish-coloured eggs on leaves of their food plant, in this case two small willow trees in their back garden.

Puss Moth eggs on willow leaves (image © Mike Poulton)

Upon hatching the young caterpillars feed almost constantly for around four weeks and pass through several stages until fully grown.

Young caterpillar well camouflaged on willow shoot (image © Mike Poulton)

Early stage of caterpillar growth (image © Andy Purcell)

In some years predation by birds, wasps and even Harlequin Ladybirds takes a heavy toll, but generally enough of them survive to maturity, ensuring there will be moths again the following year.

Adult caterpillar in disturbed posture, with raised head and pinkish flagellae extending from the twin tails

They spend the winter in a tough cocoon attached to tree trunks or wooden posts, then the newly-emerged moths seek out the food plant, and the cycle begins again.

Vacated Puss Moth cocoon attached to the side of an old wooden table in their garden

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