On Tuesday 21st February 2023 EWG Chair Dr Sean McCormack spoke at the Warren Farm Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC) meeting called in by leader of the opposition, Liberal Democrat’s Cllr Gary Malcolm. Unfortunately, despite the first speaker Dr Mark A. Spencer speaking for nearly six minutes without interruption, Sean was told he was “well over time” by the Chair after just 3 minutes 25 seconds. Continuing, and only needing a short time to close his statement he was cut off just 7 seconds later when Labour Cllr Deirdre Costigan defending the Cabinet under scrutiny took her own microphone into her hands, and gave a shrug when the sound was cut. Suspicious? You decide, you can view here:
Incidentally Cllr Costigan was allowed to speak to defend her proposal to destroy rewilded Warren farm for sports facilities for 5 minutes 36 seconds before the Chair interjected, and the crowd objected, after which she continued for a further 90 seconds. So in the interests of not being censored, accidentally or otherwise, here is the full transcript including closing remarks that the scrutiny committee failed to offer Sean time to share after this rather unlucky and oddly timed ‘technical glitch’ with microphones:
“Warren Farm Nature Reserve doesn’t need Natural England’s sign off to be recognised as one of the most precious wildlife hotspots in Ealing. If we lose it we lose an extensive area of wide-open, grassland meadow habitat the likes of which cannot be found elsewhere.
We would, it’s true, lose Ealing’s only breeding Skylarks, that account for a significant proportion of London’s breeding population. But this is not just about Skylarks, a little brown bird that sings a nice song. I know lots of you listening tonight are wondering “what’s all the fuss about Skylarks?” Well, Skylarks are a symbol of wild open landscapes, a symbol of times when our countryside was richer for its abundance, humming with life, not depleted, grey and silent. They are an indicator species for the overall health of intact, vibrant ecosystems and for many other less visible or audible species. To have them breeding in Ealing is a jewel in Ealing’s crown. And an asset for this Council’s green credentials. Councillors, eliminate them at your own risk, it will be a PR disaster for this leadership. And despite what was said in the recent Cabinet meeting, they do not breed in any significant numbers across the road in Osterley Farm, nor will they survive on the crumbs of Warren Farm left behind if these plans go ahead. Incidentally they don’t “enjoy long vistas” either.
But let’s get off the topic of Skylarks, there are many other species that rely on this space in our increasingly urbanised landscape and that the Council’s own Biodiversity Action Plan promises to protect and enhance habitat for:
- Barn Owls
- Peregrine Falcons
- House Sparrows
- Slow Worms
- Grass Snakes
- Common Toads (not so common anymore!)
- Pollinators, Invertebrates and wildflowers galore.
All important, and all to suffer or die out if we keep chipping away at their habitat.
The proposed development is in breach of Ealing Council’s BAP but also its own Climate & Ecological Emergency Strategy. The Council’s own Local Plan red-flags the loss of biodiversity, habitat and green space in a parks-depleted area.
The addition of the Imperial College land to the proposed nature reserve would not mitigate this loss. And it is entirely misleading to suggest it would. To label this one of London’s biggest rewilding projects when it will obliterate almost half of already rewilded Warren Farm is a total nonsense. Having recently been through the process for a genuine rewilding project reintroducing beavers to the urban landscape at Paradise Fields, I can tell you Natural England are not likely to look favourably on ecological destruction dressed up as rewilding. It’s greenwashing, plain and simple.
Public and expert opinion is firmly against this proposal.
Since Ealing Council published its plans on 17th January, another 5,000 people have signed the petition asking for Local Nature Reserve status for the entire site, taking the total currently to over 19,000.
A number of high-profile experts, wildlife organisations and charities have criticised the decision and supported the Warren Farm Nature Reserve campaign.
London Wildlife Trust have said they could run the entire site as a LNR and can get funding to do it. An offer to sponsor the site for rewilding has come through Rewilding Britain, brokered by myself to Cllrs Costigan and Mason, yet it wasn’t entertained.
In a climate and biodiversity emergency where wild spaces are being fragmented, depleted and destroyed bit by bit, we cannot chip away at these precious remnants of nature and claim it’s in the best interests of our children and future generations. This space is just too precious to ruin with sports facilities that could be accommodated elsewhere. The proposals are untenable. We need to go back to the drawing board to actually achieve a “win-win” for sports and nature in Southall. This could be a flagship rewilding project that puts Ealing on the map.
Ealing Wildlife Group are willing to collaborate positively to achieve these aims, but we are not willing to stand back and watch a misleading narrative carry out ecocide on one of our richest habitats, or be told that we don’t care about children’s futures for wanting to protect that.
Thank you. “
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 email@example.com
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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:
8. Provide a bee hotel
You can buy one online, or make one yourself from scrap wood, boxes or old plastic bottles and stuff them full of hollow bamboo sticks. Place it on a sunny wall and watch as various solitary bees use it to raise their young. You can also help the more familiar bumblebees by sinking an upturned terracotta pot into a sunny bank or border filled with dried grass or straw. More detailed instructions here:
9. Stop using chemicals
Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides line the aisles in garden centres all over the country. These are poisons, killing far more than their target pests and diseases. So please ditch the weedkiller, go chemical-free and stop the slug pellets. Poisoned slugs are no good for amphibians, hedgehogs, or song thrushes that rely on them for dinner. Use biological controls, like nematodes which are just as if not more effective and eco-friendly. You can order biological control for many common garden pests online as well as organic options for many plant diseases.
10. See the small things
We’re challenging you to go out in whatever outdoor space you have access to and spend an hour just looking at the ground, the leaves, and the world around you. Once you stop to watch and really observe what’s happening down at ground level in your lawn, under a stone, or on the edges of a pond if you’re lucky to have access to one, you’ll discover lots of life. Take a snap of what you find, and post it on our social media using the hashtag #seethesmallthings.
We’ve been so busy this past year, that we’ve forgotten (or run out of time) to keep our website updated. For anyone just occasionally checking in on our Facebook group, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just a forum for people to post wildlife photos and sightings. But there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes.
Here’s a list of just some of the things we managed to deliver for Ealing in 2019, and a snapshot of what’s in store this year.
– countless volunteer habitat management task days (e.g Boles Meadow, Hanwell Meadows, Horsenden Hill to name a few)
– helping manage ponds and surrounding habitat with EWG volunteers and the Friends of Horsenden Hill to preserve vulnerable populations of the internationally threatened Great Crested Newt (GCN) at key locations in the Borough. We also carried out GCN breeding surveys under license with one of our professional ecologists
– getting funding from Tesco for an owl conservation project, erecting approx 20 owl nest boxes for Barn, Tawny and Little Owls across the Borough in association with the parks team
– crucially, for our owl project, working with the Council parks and grassland management team to adapt mowing regimes in key locations to reestablish the rough grassland habitat required specifically by barn owls’ and kestrels’ small mammal prey. Mitigating for the very type of habitat we look set to lose in other areas of Ealing due to proposed development plans.
– running our third annual photography exhibition for residents to enjoy which is proven to boost engagement with and enjoyment of our green spaces (as well as keeping our membership growing year on year)
– community outreach and family fun events in parks including activities like bug hunting, pond dipping and bird spotting to engage young people, families and often under resourced communities with nature and our valuable green spaces
– took part and were funded by the Mayor of London’s National Park City Festival to put on a series of community events called Ealing Wild Discovery Days in July 2019, covering parks and green spaces across the Borough including areas we haven’t previously had much of a presence, such as Northolt, Acton and Southall.
– trips and excursions to share knowledge, build a community and get people outdoors learning about nature. London Wetlands Centre, a camping weekend at Knepp rewilding project in West Sussex, our annual Dawn Chorus walk at Long Wood, Hanwell Meadows and Warren Farm, starling murmuration at RSPB Otmoor in Oxfordshire. All good fun!
– giving talks and walks to several scouts groups in evenings about bats and other wildlife
– free of charge educational bat walks from April to October for the public across the entire Borough from Northolt to Acton which highlight the importance of maintaining wildlife corridors and green spaces for these key indicator species for biodiversity value
– monitoring newly discovered badger setts in the Borough under the advice of the Wildlife Crime Prevention Force to ensure there is evidence of human disturbance should it happen again, like with the last badgers in Ealing that were dug out by men with dogs for sport