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Ealing Beaver Day

On Thursday May 26th at 7pm we’re delighted to be hosting our friends from Beaver Trust at Horsenden Farm (Horsenden Ln N, Horsenden, Greenford UB6 7PQ) to give an evening talk followed by a panel discussion to answer some of the questions and concerns arising from our public consultation on beaver reintroduction in Ealing. Our project partners Citizen Zoo, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Ealing Council will be there too to answer questions and join the discussion. Gathering in the courtyard from 7pm, Perivale brewery will be open to provide refreshments. Talk starts at 7.30pm.

Translocated Eurasian Beaver (Photo: Roisin Campbell-Palmer, Beaver Trust)

Earlier in the day we’re hosting a couple of guided tour talks and walks at Paradise Fields to explain our proposed beaver reintroduction in situ. We expect to see and hear lots of wildlife. All welcome. 1pm and 5pm for guided walks starting at the underpass from Westway Retail Park (via McDonalds car park, postcode UB6 0UW), but drop by all day from 1pm.

Paradise Fields aerial view (Photo: James Morton)

Would you like to host Swift nest boxes with your neighbours? We’re looking for Swift street champions!

In recent days the Swifts are arriving back in Ealing! We have pretty much completed phase one of our Swift project, with about 60 boxes already up and ready for inspection by adult breeding pairs who have returned to find their traditional nest site no longer present or accessible. As well as first year breeding birds looking to set up home.

If anyone would like Swift nest boxes installed as we reach phase two of the project, then drop us a line on hello@ealingwildlifegroup.com with your name, street address and whether you’ve seen swifts or know they are breeding nearby.

For efficiency and cost saving with our contractor we are looking to find Swift champions who will recruit 5-10 neighbours on their street or in the immediate vicinity who would each host 1-3 boxes on their houses. And a calling system or two on each street as well. We hope to get phase two complete by July when young birds will start inspecting potential nest cavities for when they return in 2023.

Phase three will be the individuals who have already been in touch who want boxes they already have erected on their house only, or wish to host one or two of our boxes on their own home. If you can be the Swift champion for your neighbourhood and offer a home for lots of boxes then we can get to you quicker. So get in that neighbourhood Whatsapp or Facebook group and gauge interest.

We would love to host more boxes in Acton, Northolt, Greenford and Southall so offers from these areas will now be prioritised.

More info here:

Also as always happy to answer questions in comments, but please do read the article first

Swift W Swift

Ealing Beaver Reintroduction Project: statement of intention.

We are excited to announce that we intend to apply for a license from Natural England to reintroduce Eurasian beavers to Ealing in a controlled enclosure trial at Paradise Fields in North Greenford. This is a joint project between Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG), Ealing Council, Citizen Zoo and Friends of Horsenden Hill, supported by experts at the Beaver Trust. Ealing Council have agreed to provide ranger support and partial financial backing from Section 106 developer funding to improve the local environment and provide community benefit. We will be seeking further funding for the project in order to make it happen should our application be successful.

Site scoping visit at Paradise Fields, January 2022. Left to right: Jon Staples (Ealing park ranger), Martin Smith (Friends of Horsenden Hill), Sean McCormack (Ealing Wildlife Group & London Beaver Working Group), Róisín Campbell-Palmer (Beaver Trust), Elliot Newton (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group), Ben Stockwell (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group).

Following a series of visits, Paradise Fields has been identified as highly suitable habitat for beaver reintroduction, and as a flagship London rewilding project. The intention is to enclose most of the 10 hectare site and uniquely to allow visitors to enter an immersive experience in a rewilding beaver landscape. Studying the impacts of beavers in the urban landscape in an enclosed trial setting at first is very important before wider free-living beaver reintroduction is considered, or before natural recolonisation occurs over the coming years.

Free living wild beavers are already as close to London as Medway in Kent to the South and Oxfordshire in the west. Natural recolonisation is almost an inevitability. Learning to live alongside beavers is something that landowners, local councils, residents, conservation organisations and other stakeholders are going to have to do in future. And excitingly today, the 17th March 2022, Forty Hall Farm in Enfield released a pair of beavers into a woodland enclosure under license in a joint project by Capel Manor College and Enfield Council, the first beavers to live in London in 400 years.

The key objectives of our proposed project are:

1) Learn to manage beavers in the urban context including monitoring flood mitigation effects in an urban catchment


2) Habitat and biodiversity improvements on site, with a view to later reintroduce water voles,  now considered locally extinct 


3) Public engagement of local urban communities with nature, biodiversity and nature based solutions/ecosystem services

Public engagement with the proposed beaver reintroduction is absolutely crucial to all involved in the project. We will be asking site users to modify behaviour to some degree like in taking care to close gates, not to litter, to walk dogs on lead, sticking to paths, cyclists will need to dismount to enter and exit, report any fence damage and so on. And for that reason we recognise there may be concerns from local residents or site visitors about a project of this nature, so we are launching a public consultation survey to request feedback, insights and so we can answer any concerns raised. Please do take part in the survey here, where you can also sign up to our beaver project mailing list:

https://forms.gle/mFPmYdkzDTWQCMbJ9

For more information on why beaver reintroduction is being considered in London, and the associated benefits of projects such as this, here’s a talk by our friend and colleague Elliot Newton from Citizen Zoo:

For further information on beavers and the ecosystem services they can provide, please take a look at the Beaver Trust website (https://beavertrust.org/) and the short film ‘Beavers without Borders’:

For more information or press enquiries please contact hello@ealingwildlifegroup.com.

Could you be an Ealing Swift champion?

We’re very excited to have exceeded our funding goal to help save Ealing’s Swifts. If you’re not aware of the campaign you can read more here: https://ealingwildlifegroup.com/ealing-wildlife-group/projects/save-ealing-swifts/save-ealings-swifts/

But now, we are looking for interested residents, business and organisations who would be happy to host some of our swift nest boxes ahead of their summer breeding season this year. We’re especially interested in public buildings where they can be enjoyed by many. If you’re interested or have a site in mind please read the following to make sure it’s suitable and then drop us a line on hello@ealingwildlifegroup.com.

By hosting some of our Swift nest boxes you’ll be helping this iconic summer visitor and now red-listed bird remain as a thriving species in the borough of Ealing for future generations to enjoy. 

We have a few requirements we hope you can meet to be part of the project which we will outline here. It’s important we have suitable sites and full commitment from one or two Swift champions at each site to ensure the success and sustainability of the project. 

As we have had a good response from interested parties, we’re asking that you run through this list and self-select whether you think your site might meet these requirements before we arrange a visit. We’re happy to chat through any concerns or minor points that might not fully satisfy the list on a case by case basis either by email or phone. 

Physical requirements:

  • A North, East or North-East facing wall on a building to erect boxes
  • Space for at least three, but preferably five boxes at least 0.5m apart
  • A sheltered position under a ledge or eaves if possible
  • A drop of at least 5m height underneath each box, free from any physical obstructions to allow young swifts to drop and take their first flight without becoming grounded
  • In some sites we may wish to host a public education sign or information board to showcase the project and educate about Swift conservation and wider biodiversity

Logistics:

  • Permission from building owners to erect long lasting nest boxes onto the building, affixed using screws and other hardware drilled into the brick or woodwork
  • Access to site with high ladders and/or cherry picker equipment as needed
  • Depending on sites, you may prefer to erect the boxes yourself rather than have our contractor visit to do so (please let us know if this is the case)
  • Ideally we want to get boxes up by the end of April 2022, but some sites may have to be later (young swifts will still check out boxes put up later in summer)

Swift champions:

  • One or preferably two people per site who will act as point of contact for us at EWG
  • Willingness to act as a Swift champion, educating and advocating for Swift conservation at each site and with any residents, occupants, visitors etc 
  • Responsibility to operate calling systems during key periods to attract Swifts to the boxes in the early phase of the project, anticipated to be at least three seasons in early and late summer when Swifts are arriving from and preparing to leave for Africa

Calling systems:

  • We will supply a small electronic device that plays the sound of Swifts at each site to try to recruit returning adult Swifts that are looking for a nest site or have been displaced from a previous one, as well as young Swifts thinking about a nest site for the following summer
  • We can also supply a Swift call CD or MP3 digital file for you to play if preferable
  • Calling systems need to be played in close proximity to the nest boxes to attract passing Swifts to investigate as they like to nest in loose colonies
  • The electronic box can be placed outside on a wall or window ledge and the wire looped back through a window. It needs to be plugged into a USB socket or plug adaptor in order to work and can be placed on an automatic timer. We can provide what is needed at each site
  • Calling system volume can be adjusted, but ideally would mimic the natural sounds (and volume) Swifts would make around the nest site anyway
  • If there are concerns around noise the calling systems can be played at certain times of day only
  • Ideally they should be played for an hour or two in the morning and evening at peak Swift arrival time in late April/early May, and again when young Swifts are on the wing and preparing to leave in late summer (late July/August)
  • We can advise on this on a case by case basis, but the use of calling systems for the first few years of a project until Swifts are established in boxes and the site becomes attractive in its own right to passing swifts is a vital part of the success of the project
  • We’re hoping you can accommodate the calling system until Swifts take up residence but do let us know if there are any concerns about this so we can find a solution that works for everyone

Monitoring:

  • Any Swift sightings and breeding records should be submitted both to EWG and Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL) each year to support ongoing monitoring of Swifts in Ealing
  • We will set up an easy system to do this
  • We would also ask that we can visit the site to observe and monitor Swift activity, and if appropriate bring the public to see the boxes if they are successful in attracting breeding Swifts in future

We hope all of the above is reasonable and can be accommodated. Please let us know if your proposed site meets the requirements or get in touch if you have any concerns or queries. 

If you have a site in mind or would like to suggest one, ask more questions or volunteer with the project then please drop us a line on hello@ealingwidlifegroup.com

More information on swifts and boxes can be found here:

https://www.swift-conservation.org/
https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/safeguarding-species/swiftmapper/about-swifts/

Bringing Beavers back…to Ealing?

Left to right: Jon Staples (Ealing park ranger), Martin Smith (Friends of Horsenden Hill), Sean McCormack (Ealing Wildlife Group & London Beaver Working Group), Róisín Campbell-Palmer (Beaver Trust), Elliot Newton (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group), Ben Stockwell (Citizen Zoo & London Beaver Working Group).

An exciting meeting of various stakeholders took place on January 17th 2022 to scope out the potential for an urban beaver reintroduction project in London. Ealing Wildlife Group are entering talks to partner with Ealing Council park rangers, Friends of Horsenden Hill and Citizen Zoo to apply for a licence for an enclosed urban beaver reintroduction trial.

Sean McCormack exploring Paradise Fields, one of the proposed locations for a London Beaver reintroduction trial

We recently invited the Beaver Trust, London Beaver Working Group and Citizen Zoo to come and assess the proposed release site, Paradise Fields in Greenford, Ealing. And the feedback was very promising and positive that the site is suitable and our proposal would be supported.


Beavers are coming back in the UK landscape and it won’t be long before they reach more urban areas. Indeed there are already free living beaver populations as close to London as Medway in Kent to the Southeast and Oxfordshire to the West. So we need to learn to live alongside them when they do arrive. An enclosed trial in the urban setting therefore could provide us with a lot of learning opportunities.

We are keen to set up an enclosed urban trial in Ealing to assess and monitor:

  1. how beavers can mitigate flooding in the urban landscape
  2. how urban communities engage with beaver reintroduction, rewilding and wildlife reintroduction
  3. how beavers can alter urban wetland habitats and improve their biodiversity
  4. how beaver-human-landscape conflicts can be mitigated in the urban landscape
  5. how we can bring back other threatened or locally extinct wildlife species such as harvest mice and water voles using beavers as ecosystem engineers

Here is a great talk by our friend at Citizen Zoo, Elliot Newton, explaining why bringing back beavers to London is a good idea:

For further information or press enquiries please contact hello@ealingwildlifegroup.com

Update 21st Dec: Ealing Council have withdrawn Junction 2 proposal. (Ealing Council set to host Junction 2 music festival at Horsenden West meadows)

21/12/21 5pm UPDATE: Ealing Council have now turned down the proposal to host Junction 2 music festival following urgent talks today.

We are angry and disappointed to have learned in recent days that Ealing Council has agreed to host Junction 2, a dance music festival with up to 15,000 attendees at the ecologically important meadows of Horsenden West. The proposal appears to have reached the event planning and approval stage, yet neither Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) or Friends of Horsenden Hill (FOHH) have been consulted. This despite both groups being significant stakeholders in habitat management decisions and conservation activities on site. Consultation with stakeholders after a decision has been made and permission granted is not a proper consultation.  

Please sign our petition asking Ealing Council and Junction 2 to consider another more appropriate location for this festival, and read below for more information on why it should not go ahead at this precious site for Ealing’s wildlife and biodiversity.

Petition: https://chng.it/RLZyRVwg

Horsenden West meadows by Sean McCormack
Junction 2 music Festival main stage. Photography for LWE by ShotAway/ Chris Cooper. shotawaydotcom on instagram

Why is Horsenden West unsuitable to host a music festival? 

Horsenden Hill and Horsenden West meadows are a Grade 1 site for London, a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) of the highest priority category – Metropolitan importance, one of 6 such sites in the borough. They are the Queen’s Coronation meadows for London and are outlined as an important site for many priority species in Ealing’s updated but yet to be publicly launched Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). The site is one of the best sites in Ealing for nature conservation and biodiversity with extremely sensitive, rare and threatened flora and fauna, some found nowhere else in the borough. It is a priority site for Local Nature Reserve (LNR) status, something that both FOHH and EWG have advocated for and supported for several years and that Natural England has approved but has yet to be signed off by the Council.

Horsenden West meadows and hedgerows by Caroline Farrow

EWG’s recently launched ‘Rewilding Ealing’ initiative has reintroduced a locally extinct and nationally threatened species, the harvest mouse. Initial efforts have focused on Horsenden West as the best and largest expanse of suitable habitat Ealing has to offer. So far 187 harvest mice have been released here with hundreds more scheduled for release in early 2022.

Harvest Mouse by Cathy Gilman

The meadows are one of the best examples of wildflower-rich grassland in Ealing which has been decades in the making with careful management under a high level stewardship scheme. Over the past 3-4 years as part of EWG’s joint barn owl conservation project with the Council rangers, more of the meadows and field margins are being managed as rough grassland. This is to encourage greater species diversity and crucially to increase small mammal populations. We’ve seen an upsurge in numbers of Kestrels, Little Owls, Red Kites, Barn Owls, weasels and the first reported sighting of a stoat for many years as a result. 

Horsenden West meadows by Sean McCormack

What harm will this festival cause?

To host a massive music festival on these sensitive meadows and rough grassland will significantly degrade their value and suitability for all of these species, being trampled underfoot by thousands of revellers. Junction 2 is set to take place on June 3rd and 4th 2022, a sensitive time in the life cycle of both the wildflower meadows and many of the wildlife species they support.  

In order to prepare for that timeline we believe significant works to allow site access would need to happen imminently, ahead of the birds’ breeding season. Considering the crew, vehicles, equipment and infrastructure needed for such an event we have no doubt some of the 300 year old hedgerows would need to be removed or at least badly damaged and fragmented. It would also mean that the meadows and rough grassland would need to be mown early, at the peak of the meadow flowering season and butterfly breeding season. Wildflowers would therefore fail to set seed in 2022. Noise and light pollution along with such a level of human disturbance would almost certainly guarantee that any owl chicks in our nest boxes would die as their parents will not be able to provision them with food for two days and nights at this critical time.  

Little Owl chicks in an EWG nest box at Horsenden on 14th May 2021.
Photo: Sean McCormack

Could this damage be undone?

This is not damage that can be mitigated for or paid for afterwards as compensation. These precious habitats and ecosystems took years to establish and create. No amount of money from Junction 2 to undo the damage will have them recover. We are living in a climate and biodiversity crisis, something Ealing Council has said they are keen to play a role in addressing. Presumably if this happens in 2022, with all the associated costs and effort to provide infrastructure to host an event of this scale, then this will become an annual event. Altogether devaluing the nature and integrity of the site. The crowds attending this event will undoubtedly have an impact across the site outside the event space itself and in surrounding neighbourhoods too. 

Junction 2 Photography for LWE by ShotAway/ Chris Cooper. shotawaydotcom on instagram

Is this a legal matter?

Yes, there are serious legal ramifications for hosting an event like this on such an ecologically important site. Horsenden Hill and Horsenden West are home to various legally protected, rare and threatened species such as Great Crested Newts, Bats, Badgers, Brown Hairstreak Butterflies, Dyer’s Greenweed, Barn Owls, Common Lizards and many more. It is a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation, of the highest priority for protection in London’s biodiversity strategy. We are seeking advice to bring legal action against both Ealing Council and Junction 2 if this goes ahead for directly and indirectly damaging or destroying protected species and their habitats.  

Great Crested Newt handled by an ecologist under license at Horsenden.
Photo: Sean McCormack

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

The ask at this point in time is simple. Please sign our petition asking Ealing Council to find an alternative location to host this festival. 

Please sign our PETITION here

We would strongly suggest a more urban park with amenity grassland. Horsenden West is not a park, it is a nature reserve and entirely inappropriate for this kind of event. Junction 2 cannot go ahead at Horsenden West meadows. 

Signed

Dr Sean McCormack BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS

Founder and Chair, Ealing Wildlife Group

Martin Smith

Chair, Friends of Horsenden Hill 

‘The Harvest Mouse’ by Maria Lundy

The Harvest Mouse

Running along grasslands green

The smallest rodent goes unseen,

At the woodland edge they stop to feed

On Fruits, flowers, and types of seed

A field of hundreds and there’s more

spread around the farmyard floor

Our fur and white belly reflect our kind

and Camouflage, so we are hard to find,

with rabbits, bats and water vole

we are found near the stoats and European mole.

A field of a hundred and a handful more

spread around the farmyard floor

Builders come and chase us away,

with bricks and houses day by day,

The harvest mice we start to hide

In the ever-decreasing countryside.

A field of fifty and no more

Scattered about the farmyard floor

The fields and farms are fading fast

The beds and hedgerows don’t seem to last,

The cereal crops we cannot see

are left as a lonely plant or tree.

A field of twenty and no more

Scarce about the farmyard floor 

So now we are placed around the UK

To conserve our breed and be ok,

Plant us crops, chemical free

Bring your binoculars and look for me,

In fields in Ealing, and plenty more

Around the farmyards, close to your door.


Maria Lundy 

EWG’s 5th Annual Wildlife Photography Competition opening soon with brand new categories!

It’s that exciting time of year, for you to go back through your photo archives or get out hurriedly snapping more. Because our photo competition is about to open for entries very soon indeed, for the 5th year running!

And this year we are changing it up a little with some new categories alongside some old favourites. Here they are, so get thinking about what photos you enter. As usual 3 photos per person, they must be from within the Borough of Ealing and taken in the last 5 years. All levels and ages welcome, under 16s have their own category. And many previous winners have been taken on phones so you don’t need expensive gear to take part.

  1. Urban Nature
  2. Relationships with Nature
  3. Up Close and Personal
  4. Young Wildlife Explorers (Under 16’s)

And brand new this year…

5. Abstract Nature

6. Community Conservation

More info to come soon! Watch this space.

Heather from Calderglen on Ealing’s Harvest Mice

Heather Ryce releasing her captive bred harvest mice at Horsenden West meadows

“Conservation work involves the protection, preservation or restoration of nature and biodiversity, not a task one would immediately associate with Instagram or TikTok. However, more and more we are utilising social media platforms to share ideas and information, organise events and have conversations with one another regarding wildlife and the environment. It’s blending our very primal need to be one with nature with our newly evolved reliance on technology, and in most cases, it is working to the benefit of the natural world. 

In the case of releasing endangered captive-bred harvest mice back in Ealing we have Instagram Stories to thank. No, really. 

I have followed Dr Sean McCormack and Ealing Wildlife Group on social media for a while. I was inspired by the passion and innovation of both and drawn back each time on my phone by the community spirit and the sharing of wildlife photographs and information.

When Sean posted on his Instagram about a new project to return harvest mice back in a suitable habitat and monitor their population I paused my Netflix show, put my glass of red wine back on the coffee table and furiously began constructing my reply. I had to be involved. 

I work as an Animal Keeper and Education Officer at a small zoo in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. We care for a very successful breeding group of harvest mice and had been on the look out for a while for a project to introduce our mice back into the wild, as we were reaching maximum capacity in their enclosure. 

Some of the first Calderglen mice installed in EWG’s brand new captive breeding programme HQ

We had explored options in the past, but nothing seemed to work out or last. I wanted a project that Calderglen could fully get behind and believe in, and that gave our Scottish mice the best chance at surviving. 

After talks with Sean I knew the area chosen for their release and the people involved offered the harvest mice the best chance at restoring a wild population in Ealing. A species that hasn’t been recorded there since the late 1970s. It was time for that to change. 

After a couple of months of more conversations and planning with Sean the morning arrived for the long journey down to London. I plucked the fittest mice from the safety of their captivity, clinging unknowingly to their corkscrew hazel branch and silently wished each one good luck as I placed them into the travel box, awaiting a life of freedom only wild animals understand. 

It’s not lost on me the control humans have over non-human species and even though in my heart I knew I was doing the right thing for the conservation of harvest mice, looking at each individual twitching face, I also battled with doubt if it was what they would want. 

It may seem silly, after all how could a mouse possibly understand the concept of consent and the importance of its little life in the preservation of its entire species, but it certainly picked at my moral compass regardless. 

It’s why I take so much comfort in Ealing Wildlife Group’s project because out of the many that have been reviewed by Calderglen this one surpassed expectation. 

Heather Ryce at Horsenden Farm, ready to go release her precious charges into the wild

It was a lovely evening when I met with members and volunteers of Ealing Wildlife Group and I quickly felt I was with ‘my people’. Our enthusiasm and passion kept the chat flowing as the sun started to dip and the smiles and laughs just got wider and louder even after we stopped recording videos on our phones. Everyone was excited to be there, everyone wished for the success of the project, and everyone believed it was the right thing to do to give back to nature. 

Heather and EWG’s Caroline and Sean chat to passersby about the mice and reintroduction programme

We let Calderglen’s mice go in thickets of grass and flowers, with a small shelter and some food left behind for a short-term resource if they should need it. I watched one particular brown and white fuzzy ball dart immediately from the travel box and wind its way gracefully into the foliage. 

Heather, Sean and Caroline assess a likely release location for one group of mice

A bubble of emotion rose in my throat as I again wished it a silent good luck. As I uploaded the video to my Instagram with the caption ‘They’re free!’ and watched the mouse get lost behind stalks of green and fade from view, my doubts vanished. The harvest mice were home. “

The door to their soft release tank (with familiar food, water and shelter) is open, and they are free to be wild again…

Heather Ryce

Animal Keeper and Education Officer

Calderglen Zoo

(All photo credits to Council ranger James Morton, who accompanied us on this release alongside fellow ranger Jon Staples to whom we are grateful for collaborating on this project)

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