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 Swiftsproject 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!
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!
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, 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.
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 water tight 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!
Put your feet up and forget about lawn mowing this summer. Not only is it terrible for the environment, we’re 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 the bottom of the food chain, so with all this new bug life you’ll get more bats and birds and other creatures too.
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!
Blue Tit in our camera nest box, hosted by Nigel Bewley
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!
Volunteers Richard, Jane & Alex build a logpile by Sean McCormack
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:
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 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 and upturned terracotta pot into a sunny bank or border filled with dried grass or straw. More detailed instructions here:
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, 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.
Leopard slug by Rachael Webb. These ones eat other slugs!
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, the world around you. ONce you stop to watch and really observe what’s happening down at ground level in your lawn, or under a stone, or in 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
– establishing links with Network Rail and London Bat Group to survey and monitor local rail assets as potential bat roost sites, hibernation roosts in particular
– establishing links with several large scale developers in the area to provide nesting and roosting provision for swifts, peregrine falcons and bats as well as other biodiversity benefits integral to their future development proposals
– engaging with local business clubs and business owners to put sponsorship money into green initiatives and wildlife projects in the Borough.
Business As Usual:
– Facilitating an online inclusive discussion forum on Facebook on which there are no stupid questions about wildlife or nature, and everyone can learn and be inspired by a community of experts all with different interests, opinions and viewpoints but by and large treat each other with respect
2020 – things to come!
All of our 2019 work is on-going and, on top of that we are adding the following:
– currently we’re applying for grant funding to transform a 4500sq m derelict allotments site into an official nature reserve to protect it from development (and we need donation pledges to help us get match funding! Check it out here:
– repeating a Water Vole survey in 2020 that was last carried out in 2009 by WWT to establish whether we still have a population of Britain’s fastest declining mammal and what we can do to protect them
– soon to be rolling out a schools outreach programme encouraging wildlife gardening, and encouraging kids to take an interest in bugs, birds and bats in their school grounds
– building kingfisher banks and artificial nesting tubes with the ranger team in multiple locations across the Borough. We’ll be looking for volunteers to help us on this and other habitat task days.
So there you have it, there’s lots going on! And plenty more in the pipeline, and some we’ve probably forgotten. If you’d like to get involved, keep an eye on our events page here on our website, on our Facebook group, or email us to be added to a volunteering mailing list on [email protected]
Our photography exhibition is now live and open to visitors in the wonderful Autumnal setting of Walpole Park in the centre of Ealing. If you haven’t yet visited, what are you waiting for?
Now all the winners have had the chance to check it out and see if their images have made it, we’d like to publish the full list of the photographers behind the winning images. To see the images themselves you’ll have to visit the park where they will be on outdoor display until the end of November.
1st Hunting Barn Owl; Nigel Bewley
2nd I’m Nutty For You; Hegarty McGinn
3rd A Frog’s Eye View; Sennen Powell
4th Unexpected Birth; Malgorzata Sikora
5th Ready for lunch; Nicola Butler
6th Triplets; Diana Russell
1st Early morning, Ealing Common; Toby Cross
2nd It’s always worth taking the scenic route; Janet Cree
3rd Autumn returns in Walpole; Ben Harding-Anderson
1st Close Up Inside an Oriental Poppy; Suzanne Tanswell
We’d like to let local businesses and organisations know about an exciting community event coming up which they may be interested in providing sponsorship for.
How successful was last year’s photo exhibition?
In September 2017 we launched our first ever photography exhibition, an outdoor display of all the winning entries from the photography competition we opened one month previously. The exhibition received an overwhelmingly positive response from the public and local press.
Originally planned to be on display for the month of October in Walpole Park, in fact it was extended by a month and ran until the end of November. A testament to the popularity of the exhibition as a celebration of the wonderful wildlife and open spaces for nature we are lucky to have in Ealing.
Who sponsored it last year?
Last year we were kindly sponsored by Ealing Council, who have agreed this year to contribute to the exhibition and to build our official website, currently under construction. Here we will display last year’s entries and promote our 2018 event.
Why do we need funding?
We need further funding to help us put on an even bigger, better event this year, so are asking local businesses and community organisations to consider sponsoring us. Costs we need to cover include:
Installation of exhibition boards in Walpole Park
An opening event
In exchange for sponsorship, there would be visibility and acknowledgement for your brand or organisation both online and at the exhibition itself.
What to do if you’d like to sponsor us
If this is something of interest, please email us on [email protected]gmail.com so we can send you more detail on sponsorship options and a press pack.
For now, feast your eyes on the three overall winning photos from last year’s successful exhibition!
Join us to hear all about our incredible and unique summer visitors, the Swift, why they are in decline and how we can all help to save them. https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84036491572Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading...
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