Tag: conservation (Page 1 of 3)

Ealing’s Hedgehog Highways project launch. Can you help?

Blog post by Natasha Gavin, EWG Hedgehog project lead

When I was growing up in Ealing, it was a rare treat to see a hedgehog. In fact I only saw one once, when I was 12 yrs old, in South Ealing. I tried to pick it up, and that REALLY hurt. I learnt a life lesson: let wildlife be wild. No iPhones back then. Just a vivid memory remained 😉

Fast forward 30 odd years, it’s even rarer to see a hedgehog in Ealing. Or anywhere. Numbers have declined roughly by 2/3 since my first and only sighting of a live hedgehog. But trail cameras now mean I know they exist, in smaller numbers, but in urban safe havens- I have watched dozens of prickly mummies feeding their baby hoglets, in compost heaps, piles of leaves and back gardens all around our borough. As nocturnal creatures, you are unlikely to spot them coming out to feed, but affordable clever technology means we can capture their movements. And then we can help them to thrive.. or at least survive.

What does EWG have planned in our hedgehog project? 

Hanwell Hedgehog by James Morton

ZSL (Zoological Society of London) have been surveying hedgehogs across London for 5 years as part of their London Hogwatch project. We have commissioned them (using grants secured by our one lady fundraising team, thank you Sandra!) to help us survey populations in three hog hotspots across Ealing: Pitshanger Park, Brent Lodge Park (aka the Bunny Park) and Elthorne Park and Extension. ZSL will install about 30 cameras in those parks next week (as hedgehogs venture out to eat as much as possible before hibernating) and review all footage for us after a two week period. We will feed back to EWG members via informative online talks during this project- so watch this space.

We’d like to thank our friends at the Charity of William Hobbayne for getting in touch with us proactively to ask if there were upcoming conservation projects they could help support us on in Hanwell, and The Freshwater Foundation for awarding us further funds to get the local community across the whole Borough of Ealing involved in helping hedgehogs and connecting our green spaces and gardens to allow wildlife like hedgehogs to get around the borough and continue to thrive.  

EWG is also partnering with ZSL to deliver a citizen science project- that’s where you can help. 

How can you as an EWG member be involved in helping hedgehogs?

Phase 1

  1. ZSL will lend us a number of extra cameras, for private residents to use in back gardens adjacent/ in close proximity to the Parks above. Cameras would be loaned for a two week period and EWG members would be asked to review all footage at the end of the period. (The cameras only record for very short bursts when triggered by motion at night so this would not be too onerous.) Get in touch ASAP with me if you are interested in hosting a camera natashagavineo@gmail.com 
  2. We are looking for a Hedgehog champion in each of the three areas. This will involve coordinating and monitoring where private cameras are at any time, and ensuring their safe return to ZSL (via me) at the end of the project. It could also involve helping with phase 2 of this project. 
  3. Report any hedgehog sightings (recent or historic) to Greenspace Information for Greater London here: https://www.gigl.org.uk/submit-records/submit-a-record/ 
  4. Talk to your neighbours now about how to help hedgehogs: create holes in fences between gardens, leave wild corners, provide fresh water, leave out cat food in Spring/Summer months, ensure ponds have escape ramps and stop using horrid pesticides like blue slug pellets.
Tash Gavin, Hedgehog project lead with her very own hedgehog highway

Phase 2

  1. Once we have a better picture (no pun intended) of where the hedgehog highways are (or should be), our dedicated team of hole makers will offer to create CD sized holes in fences, where permission by fence/ wall owner is given. The grants from Freshwater Foundation and The Hobbayne Trust will be used to purchase all necessary equipment- all we need are DIY lovers. So please come out of the woodwork..:)
  2. We will be doing some hedgehog focused habitat management and creation task days for volunteers who want to get involved in a hands-on way. With some of the funding kindly provided by The Hobbayne Trust we will be initially focusing on making the Hobbayne Half Acre site near Hanwell Viaduct a model reserve for hedgehogs to thrive. All ages and abilities welcome to come help. Volunteer dates to follow. If you’d like to keep up to date then please sign up to our volunteer mailing list here: https://ealingwildlifegroup.com/get-involved/volunteering/
  3. We will be running a public information campaign in Spring/Summer 2023- if you want to help with that do let me know. It will involve outreach work, and probably talking to families and children- every child should be able to see at least one living hedgehog during their childhood, shouldn’t they? I have seen three dead ones in the last year. 

Please help us to change that. Any Hedgehog Heros please contact me natashagavineo@gmail.com

A PDF of our Hedgehog Slide Deck

Success! The Peregrines have fledged!

It’s been two years in the making but at long last, the Ealing Hospital Peregrines have successfully fledged 3 chicks! Two females and one male as far as we can tell., and all are strong and healthy and flying around the hospital!

How it started/ How it’s going. Photos by Sean McCormack (L) and David Gordon Davy (R)

There is a photo gallery that tells their story here

And to read more about this incredible journey, take a look at this guest blog Sean wrote for Animal Journal!


We will keep you updated on our peregrine family, we can track the chicks as they are all ringed. I wonder where they will end up?

Ealing Beaver Day

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

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

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

Paradise Fields aerial view (Photo: James Morton)

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

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

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

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

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

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

More info here:

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

Swift W Swift

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

Ealing Beaver Reintroduction Project: statement of intention.

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

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

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

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

The key objectives of our proposed project are:

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


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


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

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

https://forms.gle/mFPmYdkzDTWQCMbJ9

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

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

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

Could you be an Ealing Swift champion?

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

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

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

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

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

Physical requirements:

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

Logistics:

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

Swift champions:

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

Calling systems:

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

Monitoring:

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

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

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

More information on swifts and boxes can be found here:

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

Bringing Beavers back…to Ealing?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petition: https://chng.it/RLZyRVwg

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

Why is Horsenden West unsuitable to host a music festival? 

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

Horsenden West meadows and hedgerows by Caroline Farrow

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

Harvest Mouse by Cathy Gilman

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

Horsenden West meadows by Sean McCormack

What harm will this festival cause?

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

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

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

Could this damage be undone?

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

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

Is this a legal matter?

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

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

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

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

Please sign our PETITION here

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

Signed

Dr Sean McCormack BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS

Founder and Chair, Ealing Wildlife Group

Martin Smith

Chair, Friends of Horsenden Hill 

« Older posts
%d bloggers like this: