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 Swiftsproject 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Relationships with Nature: Capture the meaning of nature and wildlife to you and tell us why it makes your heart sing.
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.
Young Wildlife Explorers:This is the under 16s category and seeks to celebrate our young wildlife enthusiasts and engage other young people with nature.
All submissions must be your own work and by entering you declare you have the legal rights to that image.
Each entrant can submit up to three photographic images to be judged for competition
Submission of entries does not guarantee inclusion in the exhibition.
Entries will be eligible for a first, second and third award in 6 categories as well as placing in the overall winner category.
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.
Entries submitted after the deadline will not be eligible. Late entries cause extra admin and will NOT be accepted.
Excessive manipulation of images is not allowed and will be grounds for disqualifying a photograph.
Types of editing that are not allowed:
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.
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.
No photos of staged wildlife shots, no captive animals, no dead creatures posed as if alive are allowed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Political agendas are not factored into any part of the judging criteria. Photos win on their own merits.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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. “
Animal Keeper and Education Officer
(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)
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.
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!
We’ve recently kicked off our ‘Rewilding Ealing’ initiative with the reintroduction of locally extinct and nationally threatened species, the diminutive Harvest Mouse. Also known by its scientific name of Micromys minutus, or the ‘minute micro mouse’, it’s the UK and Europe’s smallest rodent, and the only one with a prehensile tail designed to cling to the finest of grass stalks and vegetation as it climbs.
Last year we outlined the aims, preliminary survey work and preparations for the project in a live webinar, recording available to watch here:
We were thrilled with the reaction to our crowdfunding campaign to raise funds not only to source mice in large numbers for release but also allow us to buy equipment and housing for our very own captive breeding facility. We asked our community of wildlife fans to sponsor a mouse for £10 and reached our target within days. The crowdfunder, which is still open to donations to support our borough wide conservation efforts, can be found here:
We’ve partnered with Calderglen Zoo in East Kilbride near Glasgow who have been breeding Harvest Mice, and a few weeks ago delivered our very first mice to be released as well as to form the foundation of our own captive breeding colony.
And since the initial release we’ve had quite a bit of interest and coverage including BBC London and Scotland news. Check out the release and see these amazing little rodents being set free into the wild after a potential absence of 30-40 years from our borough here:
Group reintroduces the threatened Harvest Mouse back to London!
Harvest Mice are set to be released in a new location in London by a local community group in Ealing, West London – bringing the rodents back to the area for the first time in decades.
Harvest Mice are Britain and Europe’s smallest rodent, and, in recent decades, these miniature mammals have undergone rapid declines due to changes in land management nationwide. The mice live mainly in grassland areas and eat seeds, fruit and invertebrates and build their spherical nests high up in tall grasses.
Reinstating the harvest mouse population is important for a number of reasons but, most significantly, their presence in the Ealing area can support the wider food chain and will be a welcome addition for Ealing’s growing populations of birds of prey including Barn Owls, Kestrels and Little Owls.
Local community group, Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) are behind the project. EWG are focussed on bringing nature back to urban areas and have spearheaded a number of other successful projects in the area including driving the increase in bird of prey species nesting in the borough.
In order to release the Harvest Mice, Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) successfully crowdfunded their project to purchase hundreds of captive bred mice from one of the UK’s leading rewilding experts and set up small breeding colonies of their own. The plan is to release the mice into the wild over the next couple of years.
Sean McCormack, Chair of local conservation community Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG), believes that communities and councils can work together to create suitable space for nature, and the Harvest Mice reintroduction project is just the latest in a long line of projects being spearheaded by EWG. Dr McCormack said:
“After extensive surveying of likely locations in Ealing, we believe Harvest Mice are locally extinct here due to historic habitat loss and fragmentation. Over the last few years however, there has been an effort to manage some of Ealing’s green spaces more sympathetically for nature. What this has done has enabled several sites within the borough to now have habitats suited to the reintroduction of Harvest Mice.”
After holding a webinar with the local community to outline the details of the project, McCormack set up a crowdfunding page to help fund the reintroduction – asking funders to ‘sponsor’ a mouse for £10. The money raised will go to buying mice from a responsible breeder, one who supplies many rewilding projects with rare and threatened native wildlife, plus equipment for setting up some small breeding colonies of their own – enabling EWG to continue releasing mice into the wild in Ealing over the next couple of years.
EWG are also partnering with a number of conservation organisations already breeding Harvest Mice including Calderglen Zoo in East Kilbride near Glasgow, who have supplied the first cohort of mice to have been set free into the wild in Ealing.
EWG will also spend an extra £500 on Longworth live mammal traps, enabling the harmless monitoring of small mammal populations in Ealing. This monitoring will ensure the habitat management continues to be successful and that populations of the harvest mice, as well as other small mammals such as voles and shrews, can continue to thrive for years to come.
Fundraising has been incredibly successful and the £2,500 target was hit within days of set up however, if you would like to contribute to this exciting urban rewilding project, you can find the Harvest Mice Reintroduction page here.
If you would like to watch the Harvest Mouse webinar to hear more about this exciting project, you can find it on YouTube: youtube.com/c/EalingWildlifeGroup/
About Dr Sean McCormack
Sean McCormack, vet and Chair of local conservation community Ealing Wildlife Group is passionate about nature and biodiversity. He has a large instagram following and offers content across a variety of topics (animal welfare, biodiversity and allotmenting). He also showcases some of EWG’s practical conservation projects on their highly subscribed YouTube channel. Sean hosts the popular podcast ‘Sean’s Wild Life’ talking to relevant experts and celebrity guests to explore topics in nature conservation, rewilding, sustainability and our connections to nature.
EWG is an inclusive community of locals interested in nature and wildlife in the Borough of Ealing and beyond. Set up in early 2016 by Sean McCormack, a vet and lifelong naturalist, the overall aim of the group is to build a community of like-minded individuals, who are passionate to learn more about nature and who see the value in actively conserving it. Since 2016 it has grown steadily in membership and secured funding for several community environmental projects. The main hub of activity and discussion remains the Facebook group, where members can truly appreciate the diversity of wildness on our doorstep through others’ observations and posts.
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.
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:
Board Structure and new roles
Aims for EWG as a Community Group going forward
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
Ealing Wildlife Group is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: Ealing Wildlife Group AGM Time: Jul 8, 2021 07:00 PM London
Exciting times ahead. Are you or your kids talented illustrators or artists? Well we would love you to draw an iconic species of wildlife (animal or plant) found in Ealing and send it in to be featured on our new EWG T-shirt design.
Just draw your design and email it to [email protected] from Inkineeri.co.uk following the guidelines above and below. Best of luck!
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!
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.