The greening up of the Black Country is good news for bird lovers, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The environmental regeneration project A Million People: Black Country as an Urban Park, will create a 12-mile 'green bridge' park between West Bromwich and Walsall town centres, as well as helping in the regeneration of Wolverhampton’s canal network and the re-excavation and unveiling of forgotten caverns and canal tunnels beneath Dudley.
As part of the work, the existing visitor centre at RSPB Sandwell Valley will be extended and improved and Mike Pollard, RSPB regional nature reserves manager said: "The RSPB is thrilled to be involved with an initiative that celebrates the rich historic past of the Black Country and provides a vision for how natural and cultural linkages can be strengthened to benefit local communities and wildlife.
"The project will enable more people to experience first hand the wonderful variety of birds and other wildlife that thrive at our nature reserve in Sandwell Valley."
It is also expected that the overall outcome of the Urban Park programme would lead to improved habitats for wildlife, including many familiar birds such as songthrushes, starlings and house sparrows that have seriously declined.
A Million People: Black Country as an Urban Park is one of four prestigious schemes that will battle it out for public votes in December via internet and on The Big Lottery Fund’s ‘The People’s £50 million Contest’ programme to be screened on ITV.
Kingfishers are thriving on urban waterways in parts of the West Midlands, indicating a good quality water ecosystem, according to the results of a new survey.
More than 300 of the birds were sighted by members of the public on canals and rivers managed by British Waterways in the National Waterway Wildlife Survey.
According to BW, the survey showed healthy numbers of kingfishers, which are seen as an indicator of a good quality water ecosystem, even in urban areas such as Coventry, central London, Manchester, Aylesbury and Preston.
Kingfishers were the fourth most widely spotted birds after mallards, swans and herons.
But there were also some sightings of rarer species including water voles, otters and bats, and even some seals and a massive north American alligator snapping turtle, BW said.
Ecologists for the waterways organisation also said the wet summer and warm autumn had confused a number of species, with common darter dragonflies being spotted later in the year than normal and two southern insects – the saw fly and gristled skipper butterfly – seen in the Midlands for the first time.
In all more than 4,000 sightings of birds, insects and animals were recorded by the public for the survey.
Mark Robinson, national ecology manager for British Waterways, said he was delighted there had been so many sightings of kingfishers.
"As well as being a strikingly beautiful bird, kingfishers are an important indicator of the general health of the waterway ecosystem as, like the big cats on the African plains, they are at the top of the waterway food chain.
"And good populations of kingfishers even in urban areas show the important role waterways have in greening our towns and cities by providing wildlife corridors which help sustain populations of a variety of both common and endangered species including bats, water voles and otters."
British Waterways, which is responsible for about 2,200 miles of canals and rivers in Britain, said there were a number of kingfisher habitat improvements planned, including installation of nesting boxes, posts and tunnels in a number of locations such as the Regent’s Canal in London and the Grand Union Canal at Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.
The waterways organisation also ran a photograph competition, which was won by Carlton Gater, from Stoke-on-Trent, for his kingfisher picture.