Category: Ealing Wildlife Group (Page 1 of 3)

Our AGM & new roles available

We are delighted to be getting back up and running with events and new projects as life slowly returns to normal.

As part of our requirements as a Community Group we must hold an Annual General Meeting.  This year the AGM will be on Zoom on Thurs 8th July at 7pm – and everyone is invited!

2020 held back many of the projects we would have liked to have made progress on, so now we need your help to move forward and gain momentum as a local conservation organisation harnessing the power of community and collaboration. 

The AGM will be looking at essentially who we are as an organisation, what we’ve been doing in the community and what we can achieve in the future.  It is also an opportunity for us to focus on specific projects and restructure our committee, including bringing on some new volunteer roles. 

New volunteer roles

I would love to build the EWG team, enabling us to grow and continue to do great work for wildlife and people in Ealing. We have two exciting new volunteer roles to join us as officers on the team.  If you are interested, please have a read of the following job specs and bring any questions along to the AGM – the closing date for applications is Fri 16th July.

Events Officers – there is more than one position available

Volunteer Officer

Ealing Wildlife Group Collage

Agenda

The AGM will be run on Zoom (details below). There are 100 spaces available and they are being allocated on a first come, first served basis. You do not have to sign up for the event, simply join the Zoom meeting on Thurs 8th July. The AGM will start at 7pm.

The agenda will be as follows:

  • 2020 review
  • Financial report
  • Board Structure and new roles
  • Aims for EWG as a Community Group going forward
  • Open Q&A

Please do join if you can so you can take part in the Q and A session afterwards.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Sean and the EWG team

 Zoom details

Ealing Wildlife Group is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Ealing Wildlife Group AGM
Time: Jul 8, 2021 07:00 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82280218635?pwd=NlBLMFBqL0pvQS9SV0ZES2FKZVpWdz09

Harvest Mouse by Amy Lewis, The Wildlife Trusts

Design a t-shirt competition

Friend of EWG, Neera Sehgal, is running a ‘design a t-shirt’ competition to raise money for EWG. The winning entry will be printed onto a t-shirt and sold – with a percentage of the profits being donated to EWG.

Neera is the owner of Studio Inkineeri, a screen printing business based in Ealing. Neera has a little home setup print studio which she intends on using for more community based projects.

Neera has kindly raised funds for us in the past by making some wildlife screen prints and she’d love to help us again!

All the t-shirts she prints on are organic cotton GOTS accredited (fair trade) and she uses more environmentally friendly water-based inks. Neera will not make a profit from this competition, she’s simply doing it to give back to our community.

How to enter

Neera would love you to draw an image based on iconic Ealing wildlife – what species are you most excited by or proud of having in the borough?

Your submission should be simple, with clean lines and not too fussy (so it prints well).

Once you have completed your drawing, take a photo or scan your designs and send them to [email protected]

Please also send full name, age and contact details. If you are under 16, please provide your parent/guardian contact information.

Deadline for entry is 30th June so get cracking and you could see you artwork on an EWG t-shirt!

You can see Neera’s instagram here: neerscreenprints

Neera’s webpage and shop are here: https://inkineeri.co.uk/

‘Help an Ealing Owl’ project update

Back in 2018 EWG and the Council ranger team collaborated on a fundraising bid to erect owl nest boxes all over Ealing for Barn, Little and Tawny Owls, the three most common species found in and around London. Barn Owls were our main target species, as we knew the other two were already breeding here in relatively good numbers. But the Barn Owl situation was less clear. We’d spotted and had sightings reported of them hunting in various areas, but no confirmed breeding.

So we managed to secure £2000 from Tesco Bags of Help to try to help them become established. We bought about 18 nest boxes of various designs to attract all three species and later in 2019 got to putting them up all across the Borough in likely locations. And with the parks team, we set about changing some of the local grassland management to encourage more biodiverse rough grassland habitat, mown on a 3-4 year rotation to encourage voles, mice and shrews. Basically boosting our owls’ and other predators’ food supply! You can see more about the early stages of the project here:

Our 2020 owl breeding season kicked off with a promising start as trail cameras placed on several of our boxes revealed that they were being visited by owls, including some Barn Owls. Unfortunately, the box where we confirmed Barn Owls as regular visitors in January and February fell victim to theft and disturbance later that season. Some men with a ladder were reported to us looking suspicious. and alas our trail camera containing all of our footage was gone. We had left it well alone after our last check in February so as not to disturb the owls if they were breeding. But when we went back to check in May/June the camera and the owls were nowhere to be seen. A hazard of leaving wildlife cameras out in any location, but especially in the urban environment. All was not lost however, as a pair of Kestrels moved in and raised young in the same box. Not a target species, but very welcome nonetheless.

We believe a Little Owl pair attempted to breed in one of our boxes in 2020 but couldn’t confirm if they successfully fledged. Anyway, the pandemic and lockdown restrictions prevented us getting out to monitor and check our nest box success rates for much of the breeding season, but this project was always going to be a long game of providing nest sites, changing habitat dynamics and boosting prey availability. We were patiently impatient that the 2021 season would be better and yield success.

Below is some footage of various owl species visiting, and even scrapping for access to our nest boxes. This tells us that with such competition and defense of boxes, that natural nest sites suitable for owls are in short supply. It makes sense as old trees with large cavities are few and far between in urban environments in particular where human health and safety is a genuine concern to be balanced alongside nature conservation.

2021 saw lots of owl action at various boxes, with all three species investigating. One particularly feisty Little Owl pair commandeered a large Barn Owl box for themselves, fighting off Barn Owls and Tawnys that came to inspect it for their own uses as you can see here:

We’ve been out recently with local licensed bird ringer Phil Belman to check on our nest boxes under license and ring any chicks we found for ongoing population monitoring. And though we are a little disappointed to say we’ve not confirmed any Barn Owls breeding (although there is still one inaccessible box and camera left to check), we have had a great year for Little Owls with a total of 10 chicks from three of our boxes. We tend not to check Tawny Owl boxes too closely as they have a reputation for being aggressive at the nest site. We did find one very early Tawny chick that fledged from a natural nest site locally, you can see him/her in this video:

Hopefully next year the possibly young and inexperienced Barn Owls who have been prospecting for nest sites at our boxes will move in and raise their own chicks. We’ve increased our number of boxes in 2020-21 too, with some of our members kindly making and donating nest boxes to the cause. Thanks Peter Nolan, David Gordon Davy and the Sullivans for making some great boxes for us free of charge. And here’s hoping 2022 is a bumper year for Ealing owls!

In the meantime, enjoy some photos of the adorable Little Owl chicks we ringed recently. Thanks to BTO licensed bird ringer Phil Belman for collaborating with us on this important part of the project to monitor our owl populations and how habitat management is affecting them over time.

Little Owl chick with newly fitted ring and a unique ID number so we can monitor its survival and breeding success for years to come
Three Little Owls just fledged from a box at the base of the tree; if you find them like this just place them up into some hedging or tree branches safe from ground predators. They are learning to fly and scrabble about in the canopy.
Bringing the owl chicks down from the tree in a cotton bag for measurement and ringing
Three Little Owl chicks from one of the latest boxes we erected in February 2021! Success in its first season, along with another box too!
Three Little owl chicks in their (Barn Owl) nest box
Nearly fledged Little Owl
Adult Female Little Owl

Rewilding Ealing update: Harvest Mice are coming!

We have been busy behind the scenes scoping out the habitats, logistics and feasibility considerations for reintroducing Harvest Mice to Ealing. This tiny rodent species has declined significantly nationwide in recent decades, and we believe after much surveying in suitable habitats that it is locally extinct. For more context on Harvest Mice and the project you can watch our kick off meeting here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNbY6TtgJnA&t=13s

As with any reintroduction project, there are ethical and practical procedures and guidelines to follow so as not to:

  • cause harm to the local ecosystem
  • cause welfare issues with the reintroduced species or others in the local environment
  • cause socio-economic harm or concerns
  • introduce disease into natural ecosystems
Harvest Mouse by Amy Lewis, The Wildlife Trusts

We have reviewed DEFRA’s newly released codes and guidance for reintroductions and other conservation translocations. And we feel we have satisfied the requirements as well as carried out the appropriate surveying and preparations needed to justify and carry out a successful reintroduction programme. We’ve also consulted with previous Harvest Mouse reintroduction project managers and rewilding experts who advised us that we have the suitable, sustainable and connected habitat to bring back this lost species again. More info on the codes and guidance can be found here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/987068/reintroductions-conservation-translocations-code-and-guidance-england.pdf

So what’s next and where are our mice coming from? Well, we’ve teamed up with a zoo and country park in Scotland who maintain a large colony of harvest mice and want to collaborate with us on an in-situ reintroduction and conservation project for the species in their natural habitat. We’re also working with renowned rewilding advocate and expert, Derek Gow and his team, who are supplying us with captive bred mice for mass release and to start our own ongoing captive breeding programme.

And we cannot thank you, our supporters, enough for donating to fund the project by sponsoring a mouse (or many mice in some cases!). It’s a project which has obviously captured the public imagination, and it has also attracted some media attention (watch this space!). We hope to start releasing mice as early as July and September this year, and hope to have some of you along to see ‘your’ mice return to the wild. The crowdfunding was a great success, and is still open for donation to support ongoing costs of the project if you wish to sponsor a mouse for just £10.

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ealingharvestmice

Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more information so you don’t miss out on important announcements and our upcoming events schedule.

Mental Health & Nature

“Nature is so central to our psychological and emotional health, that it’s almost impossible to realise good mental health for all without a greater connection to the natural world.”

Mental Health Foundation.

It can’t have escaped many people’s notice that the theme of last weeks’ Mental Health Awareness Week was nature, during which the Mental Health Foundation reported that 70% of UK adults said ‘being close to nature improved their mood’. This certainly resonated with me. 

I work for a large corporate company, and through my job I have had the opportunity to train as a mental health first aider and helped set up the company’s Mental Health program. Talking about mental health and breaking down the stigma of mental illness is hugely important to me after I supported my husband through a long period of mental ill-health and hospitalisation.  

Nature is also a passion of mine, and its importance in my own mental health became apparent following the death of my Dad 14 years ago. Struggling with grief and depression, I found immense relief when completely absorbed in nature; usually observing birds, listening to them and learning their songs. Through spending time in nature, finding comfort in the cyclical nature of life, I was able to find my way back to good mental health. Now, whenever I feel particularly stressed or sense a low mood creeping in, I get myself over to Warren Farm and spend time listening to the skylarks and yaffling woodpeckers and looking for kestrels. It never fails to revitalise me. Over the last four years I’ve benefitted from the knowledge and support of the EWG community on Facebook, or even better, joined a volunteering day. 

At work, whilst planning the program for Mental Health Week an event with Sean seemed the perfect fit, and the response from the business was incredible. With more than 80 people joining the video call, Sean had a captive audience listening to him share his own story of mental health, from his career as a vet to how and why he created EWG. The response to Sean’s talk has been fantastic, with employees planning a nature garden and setting up volunteering days with EWG and other nature groups. My own team are desperate to join a bat walk (followed by a visit to the pub after 😉). 

Thinking about the connection between good mental health and Nature has reminded me of how lucky I am to live in the Ealing borough with such amazing access to green spaces, and to have the EWG share their knowledge of the extraordinary biodiversity in the area, as well as offer a place where like-minded people can come together and share their love of nature.

Costons Lane Nature Reserve Update

Where we were in 2020, where we are now, and where we are going in 2021

Male Emperor Dragonfly

It’s been awhile and circumstances have slowed everything down but things are still moving forward at Costons Lane!

The weather and Thames Water have delayed the pond building until we get the go ahead from TW and it dries out a bit, but we have been working on other aspects of the project! The contractor has lifted the gate (so it opens now!) and will be building the platform for our building and the paths in the front half. Once this work is complete and restrictions lift, we can have volunteer days again! Our first task will be create the wildlife garden. And once the platform is complete we can order our beautiful green roofed recycled shipping container and finally give Ealing wildlife Group a home of its own!

Common Carder Bumblebee and a Bramble blossom

Of course the first priority of a nature reserve is to provide a place for nature to thrive and CLNR is no different. We had a bioblitz last summer, the first of many, to see what kind of plants and animals call it home. As expected most of what we found were insects and arachnids which is very good as the UK is catastrophically losing insect life! We had a few ladybirds, several species of tiny parasitic wasps, two kinds of grasshopper, leafhoppers, dock bugs, blue flea beetles, dragonflies, many different butterflies, bumblebees, honey bees, several spiders we don’t know what they are yet and a few wasp spiders which are always exciting! You can see the full gallery of critters below, the ones we know are named, if you think you can identify any of the others or think we may have got it wrong leave a comment below!

Wood Pigeon in a nest

As for birds we saw and heard robins, starlings, house sparrows, wood pigeons, and a red kite and sparrowhawk over head! On different occasions we have also heard wrens, green finches, and black caps as well! No amphibians or reptiles yet, but creating the pond should help the amphibians and of course we plan on building habitat for slow worms and if we are lucky maybe even grass snakes! The mammals we found were grey squirrels (of course,) a curious fox, and a few pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle bats. We were expecting more bats but again the pond will create food and should attract more, most we saw seemed to be on their way to the river where food is plentiful.

Ranger Jon and some of our volunteers

Throughout the summer and early autumn we had several volunteer days, while it was still allowed and safe to do so. The first one was the biggest, with 30 volunteers and the help of the Ealing Park Rangers we moved enormous amount of rubbish out to the entrance to be picked up later! The area was originally an allotment site (abandoned 20 years ago because of the constant flooding) so much of the rubbish was bits and pieces of old allotment detritus. Unfortunately, it was also used as a fly tip so we found toilets, shopping trolleys, old footballs, shoes, batteries, you name it! Park rangers Jon and James cleared a path around the site with a giant mowing machine and later it will properly mulched. Our second two volunteer days were mostly clearing brambles from the area we plan to turn into a meadow to replace the meadow that will be lost when we build the pond. We still found and moved a tonne of rubbish we even found a bathtub! Then the lockdowns came and the weather turned and volunteering stopped for the winter.

Ranger James carving out the path

So where do we go from here? Anticipating the lockdown easing up in the spring, we will continue to have volunteer days, starting with the wildlife garden. And also exciting news, we have got two shipments of free trees from I Dig and the Woodland trust, so we will have to plan a planting scheme and get planting them out! Then working around the heavy works of pond building and path laying, we will build the bird hides and the pond dipping platform. I plan on setting up a spring bioblitz, as at Boles meadow I’d like to have a bioblitz in every season. After the large projects are complete, it will be different tasks, building and installing bird and bat boxes, different feeding stations, increasing the diversity of plants and micro habitats, and seeing how we could increase our connectivity to other green sites in the area. Later as the building is installed, we hope to build a deck around it to give us more space to teach, and have community events.

So that’s about it, progress is slower than we would like but not too bad considering the circumstances. As always, if you would like to volunteer, pop us am email at [email protected] and put volunteer in the subject heading and let us know what you would like to do. It may be a while until you hear anything back because of lockdown but hold tight and rest assured your help is very much wanted and appreciated! Hope to see you all in the spring!

Night Skies over Ealing: The Winter Circle

I’m trying something new, a night sky guide for us city dwellers. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Ealing and most of West London is very light polluted, on the Bortle Scale ( a scale that ranks light pollution) we are a Bortle class 8 out of 9. Class 1 is true dark skies like you get in the middle of the Sahara or the Atlantic Ocean and class 9 is the greatest amount of light pollution (think central London, NYC, Hong Kong.) As you can see, this is not an ideal place to see deep sky objects or anything faint. However having said that, there are things to see in our skies!

The Winter Circle

The lovely British weather

One thing I should mention is the weather. The weather can really ruin a celestial event if it takes place over a few nights and you end up with clouds the whole time. Fortunately, the Winter circle is something that is in the sky all winter so you can still get a chance to see it at some point even though it feels like the clouds are never going to go away!

The Stars of the Winter Circle

The Winter Circle (or Hexagon) is the name of an Asterism that encompases some of the most prominent stars and constellations in the winter night sky. Seen rising in the Southeast and making its way across the southern sky over the course of the night, it consists of Sirius, the dog star of Canis Major and the brightest star in the sky, Rigel, the foot of Orion, Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus, Capella in Auriga, Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini, and Procyon, the little dog star of Canis Minor. The Pleiades appear to the upper right of the circle and the Milky Way almost perfectly bisects it (that’s not something you will be able to see in Ealing though.) The moon makes a monthly trip though it as do many of the planets, which is something that makes it interesting to observe the whole season.

Deep Sky Objects

There is also one deep sky object you can see from Ealing within the circle, the Orion Nebula found in Orion’s sword. It can be seen with good binoculars and small telescopes, and I even got a snap of it using a telephoto lens. There are loads of nebulae and star clusters in and around the circle, I plan on trying to observe them all from here and see what I can see. I will keep you posted if I find anything good! Please let me know in the comments if you have had any luck with any deep sky objects here in Ealing!

A few other exciting things to see in December provided the weather cooperates!

Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (Hat tip to Kish Woolmore for the link)

Geminid Meteor Shower

10 Ways to Make your Garden a Winter Haven for Wildlife

As the growing season winds down, people are starting to tidy their gardens and prepare them for winter. For wildlife friendly gardens and gardeners however, things are a little different, it’s far less tidy, and far better for the wildlife! Here are 10 things a wildlife gardener can do to prepare the garden for winter that benefit both the garden and the wildlife.

1. Clean feeders, feed the birds!

It’s always important to keep your bird feeders as clean as possible and this time of year is a good time to do it as it the feeders will be very busy over the next few months! Then fill the feeders with fat balls, fat blocks, coconut shells filled with fat, fat pellets, fat filled with berries, mealworms, peanuts! Lots of fat! Don’t use the plastic nets though as birds can get caught in them with tragic consequences! (Also we don’t need more plastic) Don’t forget seeds and fruit, and I was today years old when I found out you can leave out cheese and bacon bits as well (probably go sparingly so you don’t attract too many rats!) A firm favourite with my birds are sunflowers seeds, I think just about everyone likes them, I get the shelled ones, waaaay less mess! Don’t get cheap seed mixes though, they are often made with cheap grains that are too big for anything other than pigeons to eat, I learned this the hard way!

2. Keep water available!

Keep small bowls of water on the ground and/or bird baths available as it’s just as important for wildlife to access water in the winter as at any time of the year. If you have a pond and should it ice over (not super likely in London but it could happen), melt a hole in the ice so the critters can get in and out and drink, and to make sure your pond doesn’t become oxygen starved. Use a pan filled with hot water to melt a hole, do not bang on the ice to break it as this sends out painful shockwaves that can hurt wildlife. (I’m imagining being inside a ringing bell, not a pleasant thought!)

3. Watch out for Hibernating Animals!

Check bonfire material for hibernating animals such as toads, hedgehogs, and frogs before lighting! (Better yet only build the bonfire when you are ready to light it, then nothing can get into it) Be careful turning compost as it’s warm and could be full of slow worms, grass snakes, toads, frogs and other lovely things you want in your garden!

4. Make homes for the animals!

Don’t bag up all your leaves, spread them on the flower beds, it’s good for your soil and it provides shelter for frogs, and insects, and gives Blackbirds and thrushes, and Violet Ground Beetles a place to forage for food. Leave some pots and piles of bricks laying around for newts and toads ( they like the greenhouse too so watch out for them if you are tidying, I have frogs in mine!) Make or buy some bug hotels for the leaf cutter bees and other insects such as lacewings and ladybirds, or just drill some holes in a log! Place clay roof tiles in the pond for the frogs and newts that may be overwintering in the pond.

5. Leave the Soil alone!

If you can help it, avoid digging your garden beds, as many spider eggs and insect larvae (especially moths) overwinter in the soil.

6 Plant some Winter Berries!

Shrubs that feed wildlife in winter are great for gardens because they also provide beautiful flowers in the spring and summer, lovely foliage in the Autumn and striking berries and stems in the winter! I wrote another post with a list of native berries here (such as hawthorn, rowan, guelder rose etc) but other good non-native garden shrubs for wildlife are Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Barberry (Berberis), and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) although be careful with the last one, it can get invasive if not carefully controlled!

7. Leave it Wild!

Avoiding trimming ivy and don’t cut hedges until at least March. Both provide much needed food and shelter for overwintering wildlife. Leave all the herbaceous plants untrimmed until early spring. Leave it messy! Many insects overwinter in hollow stems, ladybirds will all snuggle up on a stem for the winter and if there is one thing you really want in your garden, it’s ladybirds! When you do finally cut the stems down in spring, set them aside in stacks until May so the insects can emerge safely.

8. Clean Ponds!

Winter (Oct through January) is the best time to clean your pond as it is the time of lowest activity. However there are still active critters in there so be careful! Always stack the weeds and debris you clear from a pond on the edge for a few days so things can crawl out and back into the water. Having a little poke around and giving some of the dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, other invertebrates, newts, frogs, and snails a helping hand back into the water is nice too.

9 . Clean out Nest Boxes!

In late winter clean out the nest boxes for the upcoming spring nesting season. Also be aware that some birds will roost communally in nest boxes in the winter to stay warm, especially wrens and house sparrows so making sure they have nest boxes or roosting pouches in you garden in winter could be very beneficial!

10. Help the Butterflies!

There are five species of butterfly in the UK that hibernate in winter as adults, the brimstone, comma, peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral. Two of these, the Peacock and the Small Tortoiseshell usually overwinter in a shed or garage, and if you see them there, leave them be. Sometimes though they will try to hibernate in your house, which would be fine if it didn’t get so warm. When the butterflies get warm they wake up and think it’s spring, and that is not going to be a good time for the poor butterfly when it’s still winter and there is no food in sight. So if you find an awake and confused butterfly in your house, the Scottish Wildlife Trust suggests the following:

The best thing you can do if you see a butterfly flying about in your house in the middle of winter is to help it relocate to a cooler spot. Put it in a cardboard box for a while to calm it down and then leave it in your shed, garage or another suitable location. Somewhere cool and dry is ideal. Remember to set it free when spring arrives!

Laura Preston, Scottish Wildlife Trust

So there it is, ten ways to help make your garden a safe haven for wildlife this winter! You will be rewarded come spring with an abundance of helpful creatures to keep your garden ticking along as well as the knowledge that you are also helping them to survive and thrive when so many are in shocking rates of decline across the country. Gardens make up one of the largest green spaces in the UK so we can have a huge impact on the future of wildlife, one garden at a time!

A Closer Look: Native Winter Berries

By Caroline Farrow

A feast for wildlife when they need it most

In the dark cold days of winter, nothing is more cheery in the grey landscape than colourful winter berries dotting the hedgerows. However not only are they beautiful , they provide a vital food source for birds, insects, and mammals when little other food is available. All of the following berries can be found growing wild and in gardens in Ealing. They are a great addition to any garden/greenspace to help the wildlife through the winter! (I realise that several of these are technically not berries, but I will refer to them as such for the sake of convenience)

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

“Hawthorn Berries” by Acradenia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You can find hawthorn pretty much everywhere in the Borough, on the sides of the A40, up on Horsenden Hill, the Bunny Park, everywhere. Found in hedgerows the fruits are called Haws and are eaten by loads of migrating birds such as Redwings, Waxwings and Fieldfares. Our natives such as Blackbirds, Greenfinches, Yellowhammers, Chaffinches, Hawfinches, Starlings and many other birds enjoy them too!

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

“Eating rowan berries” by hedera.baltica is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Rowan is another winter bird favourite, including Mistle Thrush, Redwing, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Fieldfare and Waxwing. This feeds more than just birds, caterpillars of the apple fruit moth feed on the berries as well!

Dog rose (Rosa canina)

“Chilly Rosehips” by William Parsons Pilgrim is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

These beautiful native hedgerow roses turn into the bright red hips that feed birds such as Thrushes, Blackbirds, Redwing, Fieldfare  and Waxwings, which then disperse the seeds in their droppings, and some birds like finches actually eat the seeds!

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

Blackthorn sloes by Caroline Farrow

The beautiful plum like drupes of the Blackthorn (called sloes) provide insects, mammals, and larger birds like the thrushes and hawfinches a lovely midwinter feast. Humans also use them for making flavoured gin!

Spindle (Euonymus europaeus)

 “Spindle berries” by ngawangchodron is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

House Sparrows, Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, various Tits, and Starlings, and even mice and foxes eat the berries of the spindle. (It’s poisonous to humans though!). I haven’t seen a lot of spindle in Ealing, but I might just not be looking in the right places though as it’s a sign of ancient woodland. I will keep an eye out for it in our local bits of woodland such as Long Wood, Fox Wood, Horsenden Wood, and Perivale wood. Please let us know in the comments if you spot any out and about!

Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

“Holly Berries” by Me in ME is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Most birds leave these until later in the winter; they eat certain berries at certain times in the winter to ensure they have enough to last until spring. Mistle Thrushes, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Fieldfares and Redwings all eat the berries. However the Mistle Thrushes don’t mess around, they will aggressively guard their berries to prevent all the other birds from getting any! Small mammals like wood mice and dormice also enjoy them.

Ivy (Hedera helix)

“Ivy berries” by rcasha is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This is another high fat, calorie dense berry that the birds leave until late winter when the other berries have dwindled and the ground is still too hard to forage for worms and insects and nothing else is growing. Some of the bird species that enjoy Ivy berries are Thrushes, Blackcaps, Bullfinches, Wood Pigeons, Blackbirds, Doves, Warblers, and Jays. And despite popular belief Ivy does not kill trees!

Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)

“Guelder Rose Berries.” by cazstar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Another ancient woodland indicator, the red berries are an important food source for birds, including Bullfinches and Mistle Thrushes. Far from ancient woodland however, the berries are a favourite food of Waxwings coming from Scandinavia who can often be seen scarfing them down in car parks! If anyone knows of a local guelder rose landscaped car park, please comment below so we can all potentially see some Waxwings this winter!

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

“Mistletoe berries” by Hornbeam Arts is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

I almost didn’t include mistletoe because it is relatively scarce in Ealing (and London in general) but can you talk about winter berries and not mention mistletoe? Mistletoe doesn’t grow as a separate shrub, they are parasites and derive most of their nutrients from their host trees. They particularly like Hawthorn, Lime, Poplar, Sycamore, Ash, and in the UK their favourite is Apple trees. They are hemi parasitical however so they do also photosynthesize. Blackcaps love mistletoe, they eat the pith but wipe the sticky seeds off their bills and onto the tree branches, helping the mistletoe find new hosts trees. Mistle Thrushes (unsurprisingly) also enjoy mistletoe berries.

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