Category: Ealing Wildlife Group (Page 1 of 4)

The Dawn Chorus

WHY DO BIRDS SING SO GAY?

(from the song, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”, originally by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers.)

Wren singing, by Caroline Farrow

It’s just after five in the morning and I’ve been up an hour. It’s getting lighter by the minute and getting noisier, too. I’m an early bird today because I’m sound recording the dawn chorus, on International Dawn Chorus Day, 1 May 2022. And it sounds sublime.

On my garden terrace, which overlooks Hanger Hill Park, I’ve set up a pair of microphones running to a sound recorder in the house. I’m inside, with the recorder, to keep warm although it is a very mild morning. The main reason is so as not to add any of me to the recording. I just want the birds as they make themselves heard over the sound of the A40. Even at dawn on a Sunday morning the sound of the A40 is there. Ordinarily, when I’m in the garden, I tune out the sound of the road that is about half a mile away. Microphones, however, can’t do that and hear all. But the sound of the vehicles making their way in and out of London is also part of the recording. The birds live with the A40: it’s an urban dawn chorus. They will sing whether it’s there or not. But why are they singing in the first place? They are not singing for me….

A very enthusiastic robin singing, by Caroline Farrow

The dawn chorus commences about an hour before sunrise and not all of the birds start singing at the same time as if from a musical director’s cue. If I overlooked Warren Farm, one of the first to start singing would be skylarks – there’s some truth to the saying, “up with the lark.” Hanger Hill Park doesn’t have any skylarks but there are plenty of robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and song thrushes to start the chorus off. Corvids join in and smaller, more delicate, birds such as warblers and wrens that are more sensitive to a chilly dawn pipe up when the singing is well underway. Even tawny and little owls may join in along with rhythmical accompaniment from great spotted woodpeckers as they drum in support. (Males hammer against dead trees and other resonant objects to proclaim territory ownership. One regularly uses a nearby ‘phone mast.)

Skylark singing, by Caroline Farrow

As Dawn’s rosy fingers put the stars to flight it’s still pretty dark and foraging for food is difficult. What better time to sing for a mate or reinforce territory ownership? Singing in broad daylight can be dangerous because it risks the attentions of a predator. It’s best to advertise in dim light before the singer’s position is betrayed. The air is often still and more humid at dawn allowing birdsong to travel much further. (It seems to make the A40’s presence more apparent, too!) As the light strengthens the dawn chorus diminishes as birds drift off on the hunt for food. Singing is hard work and depletes energy reserves which may be at a low ebb after a night’s roost. It is the fittest, best-fed males who sing the strongest, loudest, longest and most impressive song. Females choose a mate who sings best, because such a male is more likely to be good at raising chicks, to have a good territory, or to pass successful genes to their young. In many species, once the female has been attracted, the male will sing less often. A bird that sings on and on, late into the season, is probably a lonely ‘bachelor’ who has failed to attract a mate or perhaps an already paired-up male looking to hook up with another female as with dunnocks with their notoriously complicated ‘love lives.’

A young blue tit, eating and singing, by Caroline Farrow

The dawn chorus is well worth getting up for or, if you are a night-clubbing, gig-going raver delaying getting into bed for! Listen to the dawn chorus stereo recording that I made, perhaps in its entirety (it’s just over 45 minutes) or just dip in and out. Whichever way you listen simply enjoy nature’s songsters. They will gladden your heart.

The recording was made with a matched pair of AKG C451E microphones, with CK1 capsules, in Rycote Softie windshields. The microphones were arranged as a spaced pair. The digital recorder was a Marantz PMD661 and the file format was WAV with a sampling rate of 48kHz at 24bits. The listening mp3 file is barely edited – faded in and out only.

Nigel Bewley

Raffle Winners!

From the EWG@Costons Lane Grand Opening Day!

Lesley selling raffle tickets like a boss!

First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who came out to the Grand Opening and supported EWG@C! I will probably do a full post about that in a few days but I wanted to list the raffle winners asap so we can get people their prizes if they didn’t get a chance to pick them up on the day. If you see your name here and didn’t get your prize on Sunday, please email hello@ealingwildlifegroup.com with the subject line raffle winner, and we can arrange pickup. We also should have some contact info from everyone so if I don’t hear back I’ll get in touch. Also wanted to especially say thank you to Lesley Burgess for doing such a bang-up job helping us with the raffle!


Night Safari with Dr Sean McCormack

Sue Philips #343


Pitzhanger 1 year membership

Fred and Sue #203


David Attenborough Print

Dr Aysha Raza #260


Scented Candle

Kay #237


Bottle of Red Wine

Victoria Williams #176


Hosta

Gemma Holmes #421


Succulent Dish

Rebecca #383


Garden Diary

Lorna #377


Allotment Top Trumps

Sinclair #153


Beeswax Wraps

Allison #275


Box of chocolates

Hannah Smith #387


Bottle of Prosecco

Jimmy #146


Thanks again everyone!

Grand Opening Day Costons Lane

The big day is coming – and we can’t wait for it!

This Sunday (08/05/22) marks a very important milestone for Ealing Wildlife Group: it’s the day we will officially open EWG @ Costons Lane to the public and we’re oh – so very excited about it.

There is still a lot we want to do with our reserve to keep it flourishing, but we’re dedicating the whole day to celebrate how much we have achieved so far and to finally share the progress and benefits of the reserve with the wider community.

We would be delighted to see you there so we can show you around, tell you a bit more about our plans for the reserve and perhaps interest you in some activities (and coffee!).

The big day will be 8th May 2022, from 10 am to 4 pm. We are off Ruislip Rd right across the road from Lidl. For a location map please click here.

All-day activities:

  • plant sale
  • tours of the reserve
  • more info about EWG and our work
  • activities for the kids (pond dipping, face painting, building a bug hotel, and a wildlife treasure hunt!)
  • Refreshment table with cakes, coffee, tea, and juice

1pm: Ribbon-cutting ceremony

2pm: Opening of our bird hide

What is EWG @ Costons Lane?

Back in 2020, EWG took over the old allotment site at Costons Lane with the objective of turning it into a nature reserve and education centre. 

With the help of our amazing volunteers, we were able to transform an unused green space into one full of wildlife (we’ve already spotted different butterflies, spiders, newts, slow worms, bats, solitary bees, and even some frogspawn!).

Before and After

A Sneak Preview

You can read more about Costons Lane here and here

We hope to see you there!

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

‘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 

Save Ealing’s Swifts!!

Swift illustration by @mx.momac on Instagram

One of the biggest thrills of spring is when the beautiful and acrobatic swifts return to the UK after a long and perilous journey from Africa.  They tell us that summer is on its way soon and that all is well with the world.  

The sad fact is that Ealing’s swifts, like swifts across the UK, are in serious decline.  Swifts spend their winter in Africa and return to the UK in April with their lifelong partner and offspring to breed in the same area as last year.  Swifts are used to living alongside humans, but modern building design and the refurbishment of old buildings have been depriving them of the nooks and crannies that they use for nesting sites. 

The Saving Ealing’s Swifts project is to combat the decline of swift nesting sites.  Ealing Wildlife Group is planning to erect 150 nest boxes to boost existing colonies of swifts and attract new colonies. The nest boxes will be sited on public buildings across the borough, with signage to tell the public about these wonderful birds.  The project will boost biodiversity in our borough & engage local communities with the conservation of these birds.

The swifts will be returning in April and May 2022, and so we hope to have the swift boxes erected by March, in plenty of time to help protect and conserve this iconic species for future generations.  Can you help by making a pledge to our fundraising effort?  We need to raise £10,000 in total, including £5000 from our followers which will be matched by Future Ealing.  Every little helps and you can pledge at www.spacehive.com/savingealingswifts.  If you are not able to contribute, there are other ways you can help, by offering your time to support some of our work by volunteering.

Thank you all for your ongoing support and for making Ealing such a great place for wildlife!

Photo by Malcolm Bowey

T-shirt Competition Winners!

Back in June we held a ‘design a t-shirt’ competition and asked you to send in your drawings based on iconic Ealing wildlife.  The competition was run by Neera, a friend of EWG and a local artist, who has done other fundraising activities for EWG in the past.

There were some great entries and, as it was too difficult to choose just one winner, Neera chose two!  The winners are:  Stag Beetle by Neven Makan, aged 9, and Hatchling by Poppy Powell, aged 12.  Congratulations to you both and thanks to everyone who entered.

The winning t-shirts are now READY TO BUY!  They come in child and adult sizes, you can  choose from two print colours, t-shirts are 100% organic cotton and GOTS accredited – perfect for gifts or just for yourself!  Best of all, £5 from the sale of every t-shirt goes directly to EWG to enable us to fund initiatives which help local wildlife.

EWG Chair, Sean McCormack, picked his t-shirt up from Neera last week and was proudly displaying it at Horsenden Apple Day last weekend.

Sean and Neera with one of the winning t-shirts

EWG volunteer Sandra Agar, also went along to see the t-shirts being printed:

A massive thank you to Neera for running the competition and to all of you for buying the t-shirts and continuing to support the work of EWG.

2021 5th Annual Photography Competition is now open!

Mission:

An exhibition of photography to highlight the wonderful nature and wild spaces on our doorstep, celebrating the important relationships between people and local wildlife in Ealing.

“Wake me up before you go go” by Steve Morey Overall 1st place winner 2020

Judging criteria:

We want to explore what nature and wildlife means to you. Everyone sees their surroundings through a different lens, so we want to celebrate diverse personal journeys and individual relationships with nature.

This is not purely a technical photography exhibition; equally if not more important is the portrayal of images that will engage the public with the natural world at a local level in Ealing.

We will judge each photograph impartially, without bias and keeping the mission of the exhibition in mind.

The judging panel consists of a panel of wildlife and/or photography enthusiasts, including members of Ealing Wildlife Group, Ealing Council Park Rangers as well as amateur and professional photographers.

Candy-Coloured fly by Sennen Powell 2020 2nd place Up Close and Personal

Categories:

  1. Community Conservation: Showcase people, projects or places coming together to care for, protect, enhance and conserve Ealing’s natural spaces. Or tell a story through an image that captures what community conservation means to you.  
  2. Abstract Nature: Capture the artistry and magic of nature, which could be the play of light and shadows creating fascinating patterns and shapes, or an abstract image exploring an object’s natural shape and form. This category is wide open so let your creativity go wild!
  3. Urban Nature: It’s incredible what creatures and life shows up in urban environment, so show us where the man-made environment meets the wild.
  4. Relationships with Nature: Capture the meaning of nature and wildlife to you and tell us why it makes your heart sing.
  5. Up Close and Personal: This can be taken literally if you’ve captured incredible detail, it can cover macro photography or you can interpret it as imaginatively as you wish.
  6. Young Wildlife Explorers: This is the under 16s category and seeks to celebrate our young wildlife enthusiasts and engage other young people with nature.
Mike Calden, 2017 1st Place Overall Winner

Submission guidelines:

  1. All submissions must be your own work and by entering you declare you have the legal rights to that image.
  2. Each entrant can submit up to three photographic images to be judged for competition
  3. Submission of entries does not guarantee inclusion in the exhibition.
  4. Entries will be eligible for a first, second and third award in 6 categories as well as placing in the overall winner category.
  5. You should specify which category you are entering; judges will appraise each entry using the categories as judging criteria but may award your photo in another category if deemed fit.
  6. High res original jpeg files to be submitted online at https://ealingwildlifegroup.com/2021-photo-competition/  by midnight on Wednesday 13th October 2021.  Maximum size of images is 15MB.
  7. Entries submitted after the deadline will not be eligible. Late entries cause extra admin and will NOT be accepted.
  8. Excessive manipulation of images is not allowed and will be grounds for disqualifying a photograph. 
    • Types of editing that are not allowed:
      • Excessive vignettes.
      • Artificial borders. 
      • Extreme changes to colour, saturation, light, or contrast.
      • Adding, moving or removing objects, animals or parts of animals, plants, people etc. 
      • The removal of dirt, highlights, backscatter, bubbles, debris and similar.
      • Composites.
      • Painting the foreground/painting out the background 
      • Anything that could be viewed as rendering the image a dishonest representation will be disqualified.  
    • Types of editing that are allowed:
      • Digital adjustments including tone and contrast, burning, dodging, cropping, sharpening, noise reduction, minor cleaning work (e.g. removal of sensor dust or scratches on transparencies/scans, removal of chromatic aberration),
      •  HDR, stitched panoramas, focus stacking are permitted providing that they do not deceive the viewer or misrepresent the reality of nature, or what was originally captured by the camera.
  9. No photos of staged wildlife shots, no captive animals, no dead creatures posed as if alive are allowed.
  10. Photographs must have been taken within the Borough of Ealing within the last 5 years; the exact location is to be included in the submission details.
  11. Please include your camera or phone details (e.g. ‘iPhone 10’ is fine, we have winners every year using phone cameras). List the settings if you wish so others who are interested in technical details can learn.
  12. Your description of the photo is just as important as the photo itself and is part of the judging criteria so please fill it in with more than just a name of species or subject and location. We want to hear the story of the photo and perhaps what it means to you. Failure to provide a good description that will be displayed with your entry may lose you significant points in judging.
  13. By submitting your photo to the competition you agree for EWG to share the image in promotional materials in future, with credit to you, the photographer.
  14. Winners will be announced at the opening of the exhibition in Walpole Park this Autumn and a list of winners will be posted online afterwards on Facebook and our website. We cannot guarantee all winners will be informed individually afterwards, and certainly not before the opening of the exhibition. 
  15. Political agendas are not factored into any part of the judging criteria. Photos win on their own merits.

Good Luck everyone! 🍀😊

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)

New Harvest Mouse partnership with Battersea Children’s Zoo

Battersea Harvest Mice

We’re very excited to be partnering with Battersea Children’s Zoo and their sister zoo, New Forest Wildlife Park, both of which will be providing us with captive bred harvest mice to release in Ealing over the coming years. I recently visited Battersea and was astounded by their beautiful Harvest Mouse exhibit, which showcases just how busy (and adorable) these little mice are. Here’s what Head Keeper, Jamie Baker, has to say about the partnership:

“Battersea Park Children’s Zoo has always championed British native species. Alongside our conservation work with other BIAZA and EAZA facilities on European Endangered Species breeding programmes we have always worked to put our own native species at the forefront of our work. As one of most successful zoos working with the Scottish wildcat breeding programme, producing 5 kittens over the last couple of years, we also collaborate on reintroduction projects for native hedgehogs and of course, Eurasian harvest mice, which are increasingly threatened in Britain. 

Battersea Children’s Zoo Harvest Mouse enclosure


We currently have one of the largest harvest mouse exhibits in the country and actively breed mice at the zoo before transferring them to reintroduction projects up and down the country. Education is key in providing a future for our native species, so our dedicated harvest mouse barn is a great opportunity for our yearly 8500 school children to connect with these relatively unheard of creatures. 


We are excited to have struck a new partnership with Ealing Wildlife Group and can’t wait to shine a light on their amazing work to restore wild places in London and reintroduce native species. Our curator Jason and head keepers Jamie and Charlotte had the pleasure of welcoming Sean to the zoo recently to discuss our joint passion for harvest mouse conservation and we look forward to providing captive bred harvest mice to Ealing Wildlife Group’s upcoming release projects. Joining forces to rewild some amazing habitats in West London.”

The team at Battersea and New Forest are also keen to come help us survey for harvest mice to monitor how well the reintroduction project is going over the coming years. There will also be opportunities for volunteers to help with this important work. Exciting times!

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