Wildlife presenters speak out on Ealing Council plans to de-wild & destroy Warren Farm Nature Reserve
Ealing Council’s proposal for sports facilities at Warren Farm must be reconsidered. There are much better alternatives for sports provision that will not destroy wild green spaces that are vital for our wellbeing. Spaces that are also vital for our threatened wildlife like red listed Skylarks, Swifts and Linnets, Bats, Barn Owls, Slow Worms and other species clinging on in this country, one of the most nature depleted in the world. We cannot continue to chip, chip, chip away at our remaining fragments of wild spaces and pretend this is in the interest of our children and future generations. We need nature, and sports. And Ealing Council’s plans are pitting one against the other. It is not a ‘win-win’ for all and they are not listening to local experts, the local community, their own Climate and Ecological Emergency Strategy or their own Biodiversity Action Plan.
If you care about nature and want to save it for our children’s future, with provision sports facilities in more suitable locations than rewilded, biodiverse meadow habitat then please take one or all of these actions:
- Sign the petition here: https://bit.ly/3HR1Y0J
- Write to our local councillors urging them to withdraw their support for the current destructive plans, full list is below to copy and paste
- Come join us in a protest at Ealing Town Hall on Tuesday February 21st at 5.30pm.
Full list of local Councillors to email here:
Imperial College have come out with a statement today saying they have no plans for sports grounds on their land in the controversy surrounding Ealing Council’s ambitious plans for sports and ‘rewilding’ at Warren Farm. The truth is that Imperial College land entering the scheme is currently a trashed, horse grazed paddock next door to Warren Farm. The Council can only get away with calling this entire scheme ‘rewilding’ because they are going to allow this single paddocked area to rewild. It will take 10-15 years. Many species will be lost in that time. Meanwhile Warren Farm itself has been rewilding for well over a decade and is now an incredibly precious ecosystem as a result of that time for nature to recover. Destroying half of Warren Farm for soccer pitches nobody needs and cricket pitches that could be placed elsewhere is not acceptable in a climate and biodiversity crisis.
Imperial College are being used as pawns in this flagrant ‘up yours’ to the Council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan and as tokenistic mitigation. It’s like chopping up ancient woodland with 500 year old Oak trees and saying you’ll plant the same number of Oak saplings in their place. It’s simply not equivalent and makes no sense when we have alternative sites for sports available. Biodiversity value comes with scale, intactness and age. It’s also not a good look for an organisation like Imperial hoping to boost their green credentials so I would strongly advise their legal and PR team take a closer look at how this will impact their reputation.
Council leaders are quite incredibly pushing through a plan tonight which has been vocally opposed by the majority of respondents in their public consultation, over 15,000 respondents to the Warren Farm Nature Reserve petition, our 5,500 members of Ealing Wildlife Group and most worryingly they’ve shown they don’t have a clue about very basic ecological principles. Nor it seems will they listen to experts or evidence on the matter. It begs the question why they are stubbornly proceeding with a plan that virtually everyone but them objects to? Is there an ulterior motive? How is it acceptable to ignore and silence objection on this, and then brazenly state it’s democratic. It boggles the mind.
I’m all for social justice and new sports facilities for children and communities in need, but in appropriate locations that don’t destroy incredibly complex ecosystems and rare species. Ones that cannot exist elsewhere and cannot survive on the crumbs left behind when this Council barges its plans through effectively halving the space for Skylarks, Barn Owls, rare plants, Slow Worms, Bats and all the people that want to enjoy Warren Farm as it is. The fact is they won’t survive. A vital urban oasis needs protection. Chipping away bit by bit at these last refuges are why we are one of the most nature depleted countries in the world!
There is still a chance to halt these plans and start from scratch with a solution that favours sports for children as well as saving our last Skylarks and all the other species that rely on this land. I challenge Councillors voting tonight to vote no and let’s start discussions together from scratch, respectfully and collaboratively. Let’s bring children from Southall schools to Warren Farm together and teach them about the unique wildlife that lives there. And let’s ask them if they’d like cricket and football pitches to be installed there, or at one of the 7 other sites earmarked as suitable in the Council’s sports review last July. One of the seven sites that are wholly more suitable and won’t destroy the precious little urban nature we have left.
Our Council leaders say they have to find a compromise. This is the only acceptable compromise.
Dr Sean McCormack BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS
Founder & Chair, Ealing Wildlife Group
Following publication of plans (https://www.aroundealing.com/news/warren-farm-nature) to reinstate sports facilities at Warren Farm by Ealing Council leader Cllr Peter Mason which claims the compensation will be Local Nature Reserve (LNR) status for the remainder and a newly acquired field alongside, we wish to put out a response ASAP:
“I’m very disappointed that our leaders are pushing on with plans to destroy half of one our most biodiverse habitats in the borough, home to many rare species and the only site in Ealing where Skylarks can breed, a red listed bird of highest conservation concern. Having contributed to Ealing’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) which vows to protect and enhance habitat for this rare bird it’s shocking to hear that it’s apparently either Skylarks or sports facilities for children. This is disingenuous and misleading. We can have both. It’s also extremely concerning to see a real misuse of the term ‘rewilding’ when the plans involve the opposite, de-wilding. Warren Farm has already rewilded. It’s ecocide to undo that process.
Warren Farm is not the place for sports facilities. And Natural England will categorically not grant this plan for Local Nature Reserve status when it will cause local extinction of this precious Skylark population if it goes ahead. There are lots of sports grounds that children can use, and far more suitable sites to make new ones that won’t obliterate nature on such a concerning scale. There’s only one place in Ealing where we can show children Skylarks, an indicator species for a really rich and valuable ecosystem. I’m sure many children would agree to save this amazing natural asset we are lucky to have on our doorstep, and if they had a vote, would ask their Council leader Peter Mason to reconsider this ill thought out plan. It’s stubborn, ignoring the overwhelming consensus of the local community and undermining democracy at worst, and ecologically illiterate at best.
The Council needs to listen to experts on this if their Climate and Ecological Emergency policy or Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) mean anything at all. Skylarks, Barn Owls, Slow Worms, rare plants and insects, Bats and many other threatened species rely on this whole vast site to thrive, not a damaged portion of it left after new sports facilities swallow it up and leave the remainder for wildlife to share and make do with alongside a more concentrated public using the site currently for exercise, recreation and enjoying nature. The remainder will be a poor replacement and wholly unsuitable for Skylarks who need the large scale meadows currently there to avoid predators, as they are vulnerable ground nesting birds.
I’m urgently meeting with Cllr Deirdre Costigan and head of parks Chris Bunting next week to discuss implementation of the BAP and how we have got to this stage with Warren Farm as well as wider targets to protect and improve Biodiversity across the whole borough. Ealing Wildlife Group has been very collaborative with the Council over the years to achieve these aims together so we are extremely concerned for our collaborative future with this announcement. I would urge all Councillors to seek expert advice before believing some of the PR spin here being touted as a victory for Warren Farm and its wildlife when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
Dr Sean McCormack BSc (Hons), MVB, MRCVS
Founder & Chair, Ealing Wildlife Group”
More information here: https://www.warrenfarmnaturereserve.co.uk/blog/ggbikuhfj677hdrecokz4xubtiawxy
Our Ealing hedgehog team have been swiftly setting up and collecting another 30 trail cams across Ealing allotment sites.. beavering away reviewing photos of Ealing wildlife, harvesting data to submit to our friends at ZSL London Zoo All puns intended! First site has revealed an unexpected number of visits across the site from our prickliest mammal! 6 out of 10 cameras recorded visits, nightly or much more frequently. Thanks to all EWG members for help with this phase but esp Jane Fernley Jane Hodgkin (and of course Sean McCormack, as ever!)
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?
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?
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.
- Report any hedgehog sightings (recent or historic) to Greenspace Information for Greater London here: https://www.gigl.org.uk/submit-records/submit-a-record/
- 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.
- 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..:)
- 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/
- 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 email@example.com
A PDF of our Hedgehog Slide Deck
Our owl operation outcome has been
We have baby barn owls! Watch the story unfold here!
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!
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?
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!
“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!
Long time EWG member and nature photographer extraordinaire Nigel Bewley has put together two photography tutorials for us! This one is about Wildlife in its Environment and the previous one is Birds in Flight . Thanks Nigel!
Take a step back
It’s lovely and impressive to fill the frame with your subject and make a photograph that is a close-up portrait full of detail but without much of the environment – the place where your subject lives. Just by showing a little of the environment puts the photograph into context. Two goldfinches on a feeder? We know straight away that it was likely to have been taken in a garden with the inference that goldfinches are garden birds.
Set The Scene
If you have wildlife in your garden, set yourself up with your camera, make yourself comfortable and be prepared for a wait. It could be that your subject has become used to you or is so busy that it doesn’t care about your presence.
Try using a piece of material to cover yourself as a disguise. It is always a good idea to keep quiet, move slowly and don’t wear perfume or aftershave. Foxes, amphibians in the pond, birds flying into nest boxes or even rats make great subjects that are right on your doorstep.
Use Props And Build A Set
For this photograph of a coal tit I set up a wooden carry-box and various garden tools and scattered some peanuts. Wait for the right light – you will know when the sun makes its way around the garden and is behind you. Some wildlife photographers can be a bit sniffy about this technique and don’t consider it “proper”.
Many, many successful, published wildlife photographs use props and bait. A fox investigating a tipped-over dustbin? A kingfisher perched on a sign that reads “No Fishing”? A squirrel looking through a camera’s viewfinder? All artifice, guile and imagination.
Go Wide In The Wild
Composition often plays a key role in environmental photographs. Get away from placing your subject in the middle of the frame. A successful environmental photograph may simply be a landscape shot where the subject plays an important role in acting as a focal point.
By including some of this red deer stag’s habitat the image tells more of a story about the animal’s relationship with the environment. We can immediately see two things: it’s a stag and it’s in the mountains.
You don’t have to go to the Cairngorms for this kind of photograph. A nearby green space will works just as well. There’s plenty of wildlife around – like this muntjac. Go and look for it. It will be there.
Wildlife exists alongside us and we exist alongside wildlife. Our lives should be in balance with nature. It never ceases to amaze me how wildlife can be part of our lives – it’s all around us and it’s quite valid to document that with people or buildings etc. as part of the photograph. Wildlife, people and buildings. It often works very well.
Tell a story
Consider a series of photographs of the same subject taken over a period of time to tell a story. It could be of a particular tree seen over the year from bare branches to full leaf, a family of foxes and their cubs or the adoption of a nest box – not necessarily by birds – with their comings and goings.
Use your imagination. Use your love for wildlife.
Please obey and respect the current lockdown rules and advice.
Long time Ealing Wildlife Group member and nature photographer extraordinaire Nigel Bewley has put together two photography tutorials for us! This one is about Birds in Flight and the next one is Wildlife in its Environment. Thanks Nigel!
Getting To Grips With Photographing Birds In Flight
Start with Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority.
Select a shutter speed fast enough to “freeze” the bird’s wings in your photograph. Go for at least 1/1000th of a second to 1/2000th of a second. Even faster is better, if possible.
Select an aperture of around f/8. This aperture is likely to be the lens’s “sweet spot” where it is sharpest and you will also get a decent depth of field.
Set an ISO that will allow for the above combinations of shutter and aperture. On a bright and sunny day, start with an ISO of 250.
The most accurate focus point is the central point but it’s tricky to keep this centred on the bird. Activate all of the focus points or at least a cluster in the centre of the frame. Set your camera’s focus to continuous focus. The camera will continuously focus with the flight of the bird. Canon calls this function “AI Servo”. Nikon calls it AF-C or Continuous Servo.
Your camera’s meter will be trying to expose for the bright sky. The bird that you are trying to photograph is not as bright as the sky so dial in around +1 EV of exposure to fool the meter into exposing for the bird and not the sky. If you are photographing a white bird such as a swan, you may need to dial in around -1 EV to stop the bird “burning out” in the photograph.
Look for a plus/minus button and dial in under or over exposure compensation
The dark plumaged lapwing needed +1 EV but the bright, pale barn owl needed -1 EV for a correct exposure
Lots of practice in the garden or, if lock down allows, in the park.
Having treated myself to a camera bird box for Christmas in 2018 I was disappointed to get no visitors to it on my 4th floor balcony in 2019, but can’t say I was very surprised. Too high for a discerning tit or sparrow, I resigned myself. This Spring I took it to my pal Nigel’s place, where Blue Tits regularly avail of his nest boxes to raise a brood. And he kindly agreed to host the box for the 2020 season, as well as edit and post any footage we managed to capture.
Well for the last few weeks we’ve been on tenterhooks as we’ve been teased by a pair of Great Tits at first, soon followed by a charming little Blue Tit pair inspecting the box and deciding whether or not it might make a nice home.
Let me tell you things have well and truly heated up in the Blue Tit family planning department in recent days, and nest building is underway.
So everyone’s in lock down, confined to their homes for the most part. Every Nature Nerd’s favourite programme, BBC Springwatch, is hanging in the balance of whether it airs or not this year. So we thought it was vitally important to provide you with regular updates of our own little Springwatch experiment here.
Check out the action to date in this, our first #EWGtitcam video, and stay tuned as we’ll be providing more footage of this industrious little pair’s antics in the weeks to come.
Stay safe and well folks, and enjoy.
While we’re all confined, I’ve noticed so many more people taking the time to watch and observe the beauty of nature around us. It’s a pleasure to see people posting about it on our social media channels. Getting outdoors daily and connecting with nature is just so vital for all of our well-being in general, but especially right now. Whether you’ve got a balcony, window ledge or a garden, there are many things we can all do to encourage wildlife to visit. Then sit back and enjoy watching wildlife going about their business as usual!
1. Feed the birds
Birds benefit from having food provided all year round, and the more variety you can offer the more species you’ll attract. Peanuts, sunflower seeds, niger seed, fat balls and dried mealworms will bring in a huge range. Don’t forget a shallow dish of water too. Place feeders near some cover if possible so the birds feel safe stopping by, not out in the middle of a lawn or patio. If you don’t have a garden, not to worry, you can also get suction cup window feeders which will allow you to see your feathered visitors up real close. And everyone has a window!
2. Sow wildflower seeds
Buy some wildflower seed packets or a seed bomb online, and sow on a bare patch of earth, or in a pot, container or window box according to pack instructions. These usually contain a mix of native and ornamental flowering plants that are just perfect for pollinators like bees, hoverflies and butterflies. So not only do they create a wonderful display of colour, but they also benefit some of our most threatened insects. You can get various mixes that suit woodland shade, full sun, dry or damp conditions so choose your spot and get sowing now.
3. Make a container pond
Any water in your outdoor space will act as a magnet for thirsty wildlife like birds, insects and mammals. And it doesn’t have to be a massive pond. Why not try making a pond in miniature using an empty plastic container, plant pot (with no drainage holes) or an old half barrel. Any watertight container will do, and you can do this on a windowsill too. You’ll be astonished what comes to visit; damsel and dragonflies, lots of microscopic water creatures if you look closely, and if you’re lucky maybe even a newt, toad or frog!
4. Stop mowing the lawn
Put your feet up and forget about lawn mowing this summer. Not only is it terrible for the environment, but we’re also running out of grass in urban areas, especially gardens, as people use decking, paving and (cringe alert!) Astroturf instead. Not good for flooding risk either, all this hard landscaping. But it’s also an ecological desert for wildlife. So to counteract it, what if we all left even a portion of our lawns unmown this year? Wildflowers will spring up and the long grasses with their attractive seed heads provide cover and food for an abundance of insects, including lots of butterfly and moth species. Insects are at the bottom of the food chain, so with all this new bug life you’ll get more bats and birds and other creatures too.
5. Put up a nest box
If you haven’t already put up a nest box for birds, get cracking. The avian property market is hot, hot, hot right now so you need to be quick. There are various designs available online; blue tits, great tits and sparrows like circular hole-fronted boxes (a different diameter for each, 25mm, 28mm, 32mm respectively). Robins, wrens and wagtails will use open-fronted boxes. An old teapot or boot placed deep in a hedge can even turn into a robin des res, just be sure to place the teapot spout down and boot toe down for drainage! And if you have a nest box that’s been up for ages and never used, change it to a different location this year. They need to be out of direct sunlight, ideally facing between north and east. Hole fronted ones on a tree or wall 2-4m high. Under 2m high in dense cover for an open-fronted robin box.
Don’t forget to tune in across our social media channels for what happens in our Blue Tit camera nest box!
6. Build a log pile or compost heap
Find logs, branches or even woody cuttings from shrubs and trees in your garden and pile them up in a quiet area, leaving a few spaces in between. Rotting wood is an important habitat for insects and other invertebrates, which feed lots of other creatures in your garden ecosystem. Log piles also attract the nationally rare Stag Beetle, whose larva feeds on dead wood. London and Ealing are hotspots for this impressive insect, so the more dead wood you can provide in the garden the better. You may also attract newts, toads, slow worms and even hedgehogs if you make a teepee-style pile! Log piles for the win!
7. Dig a pond
If you’ve got the space, I can’t recommend installing a pond highly enough. It’s the single most beneficial feature in any wildlife garden. You’ll have hours of entertainment peering into its depths and marvelling at the number of creatures it draws in to drink, feed or breed over the years. So yes, it’s a bit of hard work to dig and install, but it will repay you ten times over. We’d love to see your efforts if you decide that this is the year you finally put in a pond! Great resources here to help you: