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24 September 2014

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You are in: Birmingham > Your Birmingham > Walk Through Time > Birmingham City Centre > Page 3
New Street
New Street

Birmingham City Centre

New Street

Continue straight on to Victoria Square.

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As the ice melted 10,000 years ago, the clay areas of Birmingham became boggy and waterlogged. The first people to settle in Birmingham sensibly chose to live higher up, where you're standing now, where the rock underneath your feet is sandstone.

Sandstone is red, yellow or brown and it looks like compacted sand… because that's what it is! The sandstone you're standing on formed between 290 and 205 million years ago when the area was a dry plain. The heat and pressure caused the sandy earth to compact to form sandstone. Water drains away easily through sandstone and who'd want to live in the clay bog when you could live on solid rock?

audiopHow does sandstone form? Listen to Ed Hough »

Have you ever wondered why Birmingham doesn't have a subway trains system? It's something the council are looking at, so perhaps one day, we'll have a tube network like London and Newcastle.

Most people think Birmingham is very flat, but New Street is a slope - you can see the land rise towards Victoria Square.

New Street coffee shops
The top end of New Street

Walking through the heart of the city, it's easy to think there's no wildlife here at all but all around you, creatures are making it their home. Roofs, canals and parks provide a habitat for enterprising birds and animals. The city centre supports an urban 'ecosystem'. Plants attract insects, then larger creatures move in and feed on the insects.

Birmingham is home to some very rare birds - black redstarts. There are only a handful of breeding pairs in Britain, most of them in London and Birmingham. They're about the size of a sparrow; the males are black with a dark red tail which can be seen when they're flying. It's unlikely you'll see them but you might hear them - they make a high-pitched chirping, which, if you're familiar with the songs of more common birds, definitely sounds unusual!

Black redstarts nest in rubble walls, cavities and roofs - they like Birmingham's 'brownfield' sites - derelict areas. The Wildlife Trust are putting up redstart boxes which are long and narrow in attempt to encourage more of them to nest here. Their habitats are protected and developers have to take care not to disturb the birds.

Find out more about these birds at www.blackredstarts.org.uk.
Find out more about The Wildlife Trust at www.wildlifetrust.org.

Kestrels and sparrowhawks live in Birmingham, especially in older buildings like churches, and recently a pair of peregrine falcons are known to be nesting up the BT Tower!

If you're out in the city at night, you might see bats - another of Birmingham's rare creatures. Find out more about them on page 6.

Some animals are pests in cities. Pigeons feed on waste food and all their droppings have to be removed because they damage buildings. Rats are also a city problem. The best way to deal with pigeons and rats is to take away their food - so the public are encouraged not to feed birds and to use rubbish bins.

Some stranger animals are becoming pests... Wild minks (which may have escaped or been released from mink farms) are fast breeders, very resilient and rapidly becoming a pest in the rivers and streams they inhabit. They eat all kinds of small creatures and birds' eggs. They're already living in Birmingham but they've not been sighted in the city centre... yet.

Arrive at Victoria Square.

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Map of Birmingham city centre (© Crown copyright. All rights reserved. BBC licence number 100019855, 2004)
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On Science & Nature
Fox illustration, on Science & Nature
Big Chill - are we heading for another Ice Age?
British Bats
Birds - cams, sounds, facts
Visit Open2.net's Natural History section
bullet point Glossary - not sure what a term means? Look it up here
bullet point Toolkit - explore the rocks of Britain with this cool interactive feature
bullet point open2.net index

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