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.
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
“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.
Where we were in 2020, where we are now, and where we are going in 2021
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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
This Friday Dec 4th at 8pm, join Sean McCormack for an online discussion about a potential reintroduction project of Harvest Mice in Ealing. We’ll be exploring whether we have Europe’s smallest rodent species in the Borough, how we might find out with some help from our members, whether we still have suitable habitat and why such a project might be beneficial to people and biodiversity.
This is hopefully the first in a series of talks exploring rewilding and nature conservation in Ealing.
There are 100 spaces; first come, first served. Please do join live so you can take part in the Q&A afterwards. A recording of the session will be posted after for those who missed the live event.
The meeting will be on Zoom, details as follows:
Ealing Wildlife Group is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
As many are aware, the long and complicated battle to save Warren Farm from development by QPR reached another milestone earlier this year with the football club pulling out of the proposed redevelopment scheme. This is perhaps in no small part due to the renewed pressure, most recent legal challenge and determined campaigning from local group Hanwell Nature over the past couple of years. There were undoubtedly also factors around the plans for runway expansion at Heathrow changing which have altered the situation for QPR, and of course Covid-19 having an impact on everyone’s budgets and future plans.
It should also be recognised that many groups and individuals have played a role in creating the remarkably rich site for biodiversity it has become today. Whether that was the previous campaign group ‘Save Warren Farm’ delaying the site’s development with their legal challenges. Or individuals influencing planning departments within QPR and Ealing Council with a more collaborative than combative approach behind the scenes. Or indeed the Council Parks and Ranger team themselves deciding to stop mowing the site so that it could rewild and be of value to nature whilst the legal challenges rumbled on. In any case the situation we’re in today has been a cumulative effort. The site is a wonderful biodiversity asset which shows what happens when nature is allowed to do its own thing for a while.
Since the inception of the QPR plan in 2013, time has moved on and the world is a very different place. A climate emergency has been declared and biodiversity is in catastrophic decline. In an increasingly urbanised environment, the importance of large scale and connected green spaces for local residents and nature cannot be underestimated. We’ve all seen the mental wellbeing benefits of getting out in nature during Covid-19 lockdown.
Although, in the past, the issue of Warren Farm has attracted heated debate, differing opinions and at times hostile relations between stakeholders and members of our local community, there’s a unique opportunity at this point in time to reassess and re-unify on what is important for the site. Together, moving forward.
So I personally was delighted to see the Brent River and Canal Society (BRCS), who Ealing Wildlife Group have worked closely with in the past, come out yesterday with their alternative vision for Warren Farm. Take a look here:
It’s very similar to the alternative vision for Warren Farm that I drafted several months ago (but haven’t yet posted publicly). I’ve discussed it briefly with both the Council and Hanwell Nature. Local Lib Dem members have spoken out on the need for a new vision too. We’re all suggesting a similar thing because it makes sense. It’s practical, collaborative and solutions based. We need to get behind nature based solutions to the dire state our planet is in at the moment.
The vision I’ve discussed could take several approaches including making the Warren Farm site an official Local Nature Reserve (LNR), as BRCS are now calling for. It could also be a collaboration with the Council to make sure there is space for nature alongside sports facilities, if indeed that is still the plan for the site. Or it could be that a newly formed collective leads the way on a ‘bigger, better, more joined up’ scheme incorporating Long Wood, the Earl of Jersey Field, Warren Farm and the Imperial College land adjacent to create an even larger scale flagship and pioneering London urban rewilding project with a visitor centre. Wouldn’t that be something?!
There’s lots to consider and I’m sure many in the community are wondering ‘what’s next’ for the site? It doesn’t seem the Warren Farm saga is over especially considering this quote from Council leader Julian Bell following the announcement that QPR had pulled out:
“Warren Farm has always been a playing field and our ambition to develop first class sporting facilities for the borough’s young people remains unchanged. We will be looking at how this can be funded once the Covid-19 emergency is over”
The time is now ripe for change and to see an alternative vision suggested. There have been exorbitant legal costs on both sides of the Warren Farm debate which have only resulted in the stalemate scenario we see today. Money that could have been put to very good use in a constructive way for the site. So I congratulate and commend BRCS for putting such a well thought out document and proposal together to put forward to the Council. I truly believe the only way forward is to be open to all possibilities, explore and respect all stakeholders’ opinions or needs, and work together for the best solution for people and nature. And I hope the Council will take the suggestion seriously and consider it carefully in their decisions.
Ealing Wildlife Group firmly and fully support it. Well done BRCS!