Ealing Wildlife Group

Ealing Wildlife Group

Celebrating and conserving Ealing’s wildlife and spaces for Nature

Celebrating and conserving Ealing’s wildlife and spaces for Nature

Tag: urban wildlife (Page 1 of 2)

EWG x JE Delve: Engaging Future Conservationists With Urban Nature

EWG x JE Delve: Engaging Future Conservationists With Urban Nature

I had the absolute pleasure of giving a guided tour of Horsenden today to two bright young students, Leshae and Kishan from the late Jamal Edwards’ Acton youth group, JE Delve. Both are interested in biology and nature conservation.
 
They got a behind the scenes tour of the Harvest Mice project with mousewife extraordinaire Lesley Burgess, and we checked some Kestrel and Owl nestboxes and talked about meadow management for biodiversity.
Another group from JE Delve will be joining us at Costons next Saturday for a tour and to plant our new disease resistant Elm tree from Elms4London in Jamal’s honour.
 
EWG & JE Delve were set to collaborate in 2020 but the pandemic halted plans, and then again last year before Jamal sadly died. We look forward to picking up plans now and honouring his legacy helping to facilitate youth engagement with urban nature.
 

Sean’s speech, cut short at Warren Farm Scrutiny meeting

Dr Sean McCormack, Chair of Ealing Wildlife Group speaking outside town hall to the protest gathering

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: 

  • Linnets
  • Barn Owls
  • Peregrine Falcons
  • Swifts
  • House Sparrows
  • Bats 
  • Hedgehogs
  • 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. “

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:

ahmedshah@ealing.gov.uk
kohlis@ealing.gov.uk
aysha.raza@ealing.gov.uk
bainska@ealing.gov.uk
ranjit.dheer@ealing.gov.uk
MidhaM@ealing.gov.uk
gallantju@ealing.gov.uk
seema.kumar@ealing.gov.uk
anthony.young@ealing.gov.uk
anandp@ealing.gov.uk
jon.ball@ealing.gov.uk
herschc@ealing.gov.uk
katherine.crawford@ealing.gov.uk
DonnellyS@ealing.gov.uk
hitesh.tailor@ealing.gov.uk
alexanderv@ealing.gov.uk
Harbhajan.Dheer@ealing.gov.uk
anthony.kelly@ealing.gov.uk
Contifa@ealing.gov.uk
gregory.stafford@ealing.gov.uk
zissimosa@Ealing.gov.uk
yoel.gordon@ealing.gov.uk
hamidim@ealing.gov.uk
knewstubp@ealing.gov.uk
swaran.padda@ealing.gov.uk
SahotaK@ealing.gov.uk
karam.mohan@ealing.gov.uk
daniel.crawford@ealing.gov.uk
hailiho@ealing.gov.uk
hashanib@ealing.gov.uk
iqbalmu@ealing.gov.uk
Amarjit.Jammu@ealing.gov.uk
shital.manro@ealing.gov.uk
brettl@ealing.gov.uk
TigheC@ealing.gov.uk
ray.wall@ealing.gov.uk
DriscollP@ealing.gov.uk
kingstoni@ealing.gov.uk
nagpalk@ealing.gov.uk
costigand@ealing.gov.uk
Ricem@ealing.gov.uk
chris.summers@ealing.gov.uk
bassam.mahfouz@ealing.gov.uk
dee.martin@ealing.gov.uk
lauren.wall@ealing.gov.uk
martinj@ealing.gov.uk
murtazag@ealing.gov.uk
sidhut@ealing.gov.uk
munir.ahmed@ealing.gov.uk
tariq.mahmood@ealing.gov.uk
charan.sharma@ealing.gov.uk
baaklinir@ealing.gov.uk
nijhari@ealing.gov.uk
wessonb@ealing.gov.uk
andersonc@ealing.gov.uk
blackerj@ealing.gov.uk
johnsoy1@ealing.gov.uk
khansar@ealing.gov.uk
kamaljit.nagpal@ealing.gov.uk
anandj@ealing.gov.uk
kamaljit.dhindsa@ealing.gov.uk
peter.mason@ealing.gov.uk
jassals@ealing.gov.uk
mohamedf@ealing.gov.uk
busuttilg@ealing.gov.uk
gary.malcolm@ealing.gov.uk
andrew.steed@ealing.gov.uk
quansahg@ealing.gov.uk
binda.rai@ealing.gov.uk
gareth.shaw@ealing.gov.uk

Imperial College land & Warren Farm ‘rewilding’. A plea to Councillors to vote no & start over.

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

An EWG statement on the proposed future of Warren Farm

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:

A tweet from the Council on the topic

“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. 

Skylark at Warren Farm by Nigel Bewley

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

Hedgehog survey update, it’s good news!

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!)

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

Ealing Beaver Day

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

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

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

Paradise Fields aerial view (Photo: James Morton)

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

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

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

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

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

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

More info here:

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

Swift W Swift

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