The beat of tiny wings

I’ve had an email yesterday from local wildlife expert, Clayhanger lad and old time retired blogger Chaz Mason, sadly one of several recent emails from the fellow that Googlemail has taken as spam and binned without consulting me.

Thankfully, I spotted this one, and it contains some interesting news and views for local wildlife fans.

Marbled Whites can currently be found on Ryders Mere – Image from Wikimedia commons.

Chaz has been an expert on local ecology for decades, and I first saw his articles in the Brownhills Gazette way back in the 1990s. He kept a popular local blog on the Clayhanger Marsh area for over a decade until he’d had enough last year, and still can be found being hairy and remarkably amiable on the marsh at the right times of day.

For a man claiming to be the antisocial birder he’s a genuinely lovely man.

In short, if Chaz has a view on wildlife or the local environment, it’s bang on as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, there’s some news on local Fluttering wings and Chaz’s findings on the heathland restoration on Brownhills Common that has been so controversial in recent years.

Chaz said:

Hi Bob,

Hope you are in good fettle? just thought I would pass on a bit of local wildlife info that some of your followers might be interested in.

Acting on information received, I proceeded in a disorderly manner to Ryders Mere today and was pleased to find that the information received was correct, and I spent a happy half hour in the sunshine watching three specimens of my favourite British butterfly, the Marbled White (Melanargia galathea).

I can almost hear the ‘good for you but so what?’ as you read this however this is actually a quite significant occurrence as the
furthest north I have previously seen this species is Gloucestershire.

I had a single record of one on the Mere last summer and this week I received a text to say that there were two specimens present. I notified a few interested parties today, only to find that so far this year there have been records of this species at various points in the Midlands including Sandwell Valley, Stubbers Green and yesterday on Cannock Chase.

This really does seem to be an almost unprecedented rapid colonisation by a species expanding its range northward (I was monitoring butterflies locally in the eighties when Speckled Wood butterflies were arriving in our area and it took them best part of five years to become established).

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

It also appears that we are on the leading edge of an invasion of
Painted Lady Butterflies (Vanessa cardui) . I have already seen three around Clayhanger so far. This is a species that often goes several years before occurring in the Midlands in any quantity but during occasional eruption years, can occur in very high numbers.

The interesting thing about this species is that the original progenitors of the specimens arriving here were probably hatched on the African side of the Mediterranean earlier this year and the specimens currently arriving were probably born across the channel (so I guess for them, Brownhills is a holiday resort)!

Finally, I will touch on a sensitive wildlife issue. I know that opinion is divided locally about the removal of tree cover from Brownhills Common. I have always said that I support this strategy wholeheartedly as the Lowland Heath that is being restored is statistically a rarer habitat than Rain Forest, so no matter what anyones personal feelings are, we have a duty to the world to support this habitat restoration.

I just wanted you to know that I went over the common earlier this spring and was amazed at the numbers of Small Heath Butterflies (Coenonympha pamphilus) present. This is a species that a few years ago was in massive decline locally and this year I saw more on the common in one morning than I had seen at any local site for thirty to forty years!

Brownhills Common is still beautiful, but a lot of trees have been removed. It’s controversial, but appears to be working. Image from my 365days journal.

I was also aware of a massive increase in the wild flower Heath
Bedstraw. In the past there have been small areas of this heathland plant but this year it has become almost ubiquitous. Great signs that (despite the Nay-Sayers) the work being done is restoring the order of things and having really positive impacts for local wildlife.

Anyway hope this is of some interest, I will go back into hibernation again until Autumn arrives properly (cant deal with this level of excitement – or the sunshine).

All the best Mukka!

Chaz Mason
Clayhanger, West Midlands

Thanks to Chaz for that – nobody has more knowledge of Clayhanger Marsh and it’s environs than he does. And he’s a top bloke, too.

For what it’s worth, to me the work being done on Brownhills Common is very well thought out and it’s nice to see the bug and small mammal habitats that have been made from cut brush on the ground, and the conifer’s relentless march seems to have been arrested.

If you have anything to say, please do comment: either comment here, find me on social media or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.