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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

How to build a low cost moth trap

By Kish Woolmore

How to make a cheap low-cost Moth Trap:

Generally retail price for readymade moth traps relatively expensive, starting around £150 with good ones being several hundred pounds. Most commercial ones relying on mains power or heavy batteries and not always easy to transport to sites.

Being inspired by a Trap which Katie Boyles from Warren Farm Nature reserve is trying out I decided must be easy enough to make from readily available items with only a limited amount of construction required.

Most of the parts required can easily be purchased from online suppliés like Amazon or Ebay and in some cases may even be sourced from local skips or back of the shed….. Using LED lighting means the unit isn’t as bright and intrusive as the commercial units and thus makes them more suitable for use in urban gardens without causing a disturbance to the neighbours.

What is required a container to trap the moths in and a suitable light source and power supply.

For the container I used a 30litre bucket with lid (I am also going to try a smaller bucket that fat balls come in), for entry into the container I used 20cm dia funnel with the end cut off giving a 60mm hole. Then cut a hole in the bucket lid to fit the funnel snuggly (probably needs a bit of skill to get it good fit and may be easier with specialist compass cutter tool).

For the Light I got a UV LED Strip, these come in various lengths and take some searching especially if you don’t want to wait for delivery from China (where most seem to come from). This is fixed in a spiral around a piece of 32mm Dia plastic pipe. They normally come adhesive tape. You can get 12V or 5V versions, with 5v they usually come with USB plug on the end suitable for directly connecting to mobile phone power pack. The 12 volt version you will need an adapter cable (easy to get online) to step USB voltage up from 5V to 12V. The light unit has to be suspended over the Funnel, there are various different ways this could be achieved but the simplest require least amount of messing around was to get a plumbing fitting (Bulkhead connector) size to match the pipe used and fit this to the frame of a lampshade. It can then stand freely over the top of the funnel, the lamp shade used should be large enough. If you can’t find an old lampshade there are online suppliers that you can get lampshade making frame kit (some even sell just the lamp holder frame).

I already had USB Phone power pack so just needed to put the parts together and plug in. The total cost using new components (excluding the power pack) was around £35.

Note the LED strips are available with silicon covering to make the splash/water proof… But online articles suggest the silicon deteriorates and they aren’t as effective as the non waterproofed versions.

I used a 5v LED strip which I think isn’t as bright as the 12V ones Katie had, so I intend to try a 12V one later and compare for effectiveness.

Unlike many commercially available traps this one doesn’t have any light baffles (not sure if these affect the performance or just to assist in mounting the light), these would need to be custom made from plastic, so something to try at a later date depending on success I get without them.

Another possible consideration is some form of shield to protect from rain. The ones Katie is trying out have Light Switch so they automatically turn off when it gets light, but I considered this wouldn’t be necessary for where and when I am likely to use mine.

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?

A Nature Walk around Warren Farm

I first heard of Warren Farm from the many diverse posts shared on the EWG Facebook page, seeing numerous photos of red kites, kestrels and skylarks soaring high above the 61-acre space, little owls looking out from the tree hollows of oak and a rainbow of insects and spiders.

Photo by Chantal Anita

I have only visited once before and with Spring fully upon us, a second visit was well overdue.

Over the last few years, my bird identification skills have improved, but other than bees and wasps, it is rare for me to catch a glimpse of invertebrates, let alone try to identify them.

As such, my mission was to spend more time in nature to improve my knowledge, focusing in on birds and insects. Yet, with an estimated 27,000 insects across the UK, I realised that I needed to go with people who could help me identify what I saw.

Julian, a member of EWG, an amateur entomologist and amazing macro photographer, who regularly frequents this space, had kindly offered to let me accompany him on one of his solo photography walks. Unbeknownst to him, I ended up hijacking his kind offer and using it as an opportunity to have other people come along.

Photo by Chantal Anita

The walk was to start at 10 am outside the Fox Pub in Hanwell. A popular meeting point for the Ealing Wildlife Group.

A group of 9 of us, plus Max the very well-behaved dog, headed in via the Green Lane entrance, crossing the River Brent on our way. Upon our arrival, Katie, Trustee of the Brent River & Canal Society running the campaign seeking Local Nature Reserve designation to save Warren Farm from development and frequent visitor, had arranged for some members of a local nature group to attend. Quickly our group of 9 turned into closer to 20.

The precious acid and neutral grassland meadow habitat, perfect for native wildflowers and grasses, creates a rich and diverse environment for a multitude of insects and spiders. As with any species-rich ecosystem, invertebrates are key in making it perfect for the mammals and birds which feed on them.

‘The world is full of magic things, waiting for your sense to grow sharper.’

W. B. Yeats

‘So, where do we start?’ someone asked.

Julian knelt down over some foliage and said ‘Getting low is the best way to see things.

Realising that getting low opens up a whole new world of discovery! Photo by Chantal Anita

I leant over the nettles and brambles and stopped to focus in on a few leaves for no more than a few seconds. I spotted the rich red ladybird and then immediately, I saw another, then another. It was as though the first one gave me the key to sight. I looked at them with the same wonder a small child sees the world.

My eyes moved slowly over the leaves in front of me. Within the space of a few meters, crickets and grasshoppers clustered next to one another, more ladybirds including a yellow 14 spotted, caterpillar webbing, flower beetles, wasps, butterflies, bees and spiders. 

Those knowledgeable among us happily helped to identify what we saw. At times, the owners of well-thumbed ID books were keen to show us what we were seeing. I found there to be something very special about a group of strangers coming together to both share their knowledge and learn from each other all whilst having fun. 

Learning as we go. Photo by Chantal Anita

I saw for myself the kestrel and red kites hunting high up in the sky. The numerous binoculars were shared around to help us get better views of the screaming parties of swifts and linnets, passing overhead like bullets. 

I watched nesting pairs of skylarks rise into the sky, singing as they went, before hurtling back down, disappearing into the knee-high vegetation of the field. 

The little owl was spotted in the oak, however, I missed out on a glimpse.

We spent the next 3 hours walking around this important habitat, witnessing this space which had been allowed to succumb to nature and create a much valued and needed ecosystem.

During a short break, Katie used it as yet another learning opportunity to show us feathers she had collected and test our knowledge.

Up close and personal Photo by Chantal Anita

I have no doubt I will be back, hopefully next time with even more people to show this vast and diverse space to.  I look forward to the summer months, when the grasses will be higher, bringing even more life – given we never stop learning, I hope that next time, I will be more attuned to spotting and identifying more of what I see.

There is currently a campaign to turn this space into a designated nature reserve and I can see why – it really is a treasure so make sure it’s your next destination.

I am grateful to those who helped bring such knowledge to our day:

https://www.warrenfarmnaturereserve.co.uk/

Sign the Petition

@julian_with_a_camera

@warrenfarmnr

@wanderfulldn

The Dawn Chorus

WHY DO BIRDS SING SO GAY?

(from the song, “Why Do Fools Fall In Love”, originally by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers.)

Wren singing, by Caroline Farrow

It’s just after five in the morning and I’ve been up an hour. It’s getting lighter by the minute and getting noisier, too. I’m an early bird today because I’m sound recording the dawn chorus, on International Dawn Chorus Day, 1 May 2022. And it sounds sublime.

On my garden terrace, which overlooks Hanger Hill Park, I’ve set up a pair of microphones running to a sound recorder in the house. I’m inside, with the recorder, to keep warm although it is a very mild morning. The main reason is so as not to add any of me to the recording. I just want the birds as they make themselves heard over the sound of the A40. Even at dawn on a Sunday morning the sound of the A40 is there. Ordinarily, when I’m in the garden, I tune out the sound of the road that is about half a mile away. Microphones, however, can’t do that and hear all. But the sound of the vehicles making their way in and out of London is also part of the recording. The birds live with the A40: it’s an urban dawn chorus. They will sing whether it’s there or not. But why are they singing in the first place? They are not singing for me….

A very enthusiastic robin singing, by Caroline Farrow

The dawn chorus commences about an hour before sunrise and not all of the birds start singing at the same time as if from a musical director’s cue. If I overlooked Warren Farm, one of the first to start singing would be skylarks – there’s some truth to the saying, “up with the lark.” Hanger Hill Park doesn’t have any skylarks but there are plenty of robins, dunnocks, blackbirds and song thrushes to start the chorus off. Corvids join in and smaller, more delicate, birds such as warblers and wrens that are more sensitive to a chilly dawn pipe up when the singing is well underway. Even tawny and little owls may join in along with rhythmical accompaniment from great spotted woodpeckers as they drum in support. (Males hammer against dead trees and other resonant objects to proclaim territory ownership. One regularly uses a nearby ‘phone mast.)

Skylark singing, by Caroline Farrow

As Dawn’s rosy fingers put the stars to flight it’s still pretty dark and foraging for food is difficult. What better time to sing for a mate or reinforce territory ownership? Singing in broad daylight can be dangerous because it risks the attentions of a predator. It’s best to advertise in dim light before the singer’s position is betrayed. The air is often still and more humid at dawn allowing birdsong to travel much further. (It seems to make the A40’s presence more apparent, too!) As the light strengthens the dawn chorus diminishes as birds drift off on the hunt for food. Singing is hard work and depletes energy reserves which may be at a low ebb after a night’s roost. It is the fittest, best-fed males who sing the strongest, loudest, longest and most impressive song. Females choose a mate who sings best, because such a male is more likely to be good at raising chicks, to have a good territory, or to pass successful genes to their young. In many species, once the female has been attracted, the male will sing less often. A bird that sings on and on, late into the season, is probably a lonely ‘bachelor’ who has failed to attract a mate or perhaps an already paired-up male looking to hook up with another female as with dunnocks with their notoriously complicated ‘love lives.’

A young blue tit, eating and singing, by Caroline Farrow

The dawn chorus is well worth getting up for or, if you are a night-clubbing, gig-going raver delaying getting into bed for! Listen to the dawn chorus stereo recording that I made, perhaps in its entirety (it’s just over 45 minutes) or just dip in and out. Whichever way you listen simply enjoy nature’s songsters. They will gladden your heart.

The recording was made with a matched pair of AKG C451E microphones, with CK1 capsules, in Rycote Softie windshields. The microphones were arranged as a spaced pair. The digital recorder was a Marantz PMD661 and the file format was WAV with a sampling rate of 48kHz at 24bits. The listening mp3 file is barely edited – faded in and out only.

Nigel Bewley

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

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 

Save Ealing’s Swifts!!

Swift illustration by @mx.momac on Instagram

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!

Photo by Malcolm Bowey
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