Saturday, 30 October 2010

Camley Street Natural Park, London Wildlife Trust 2009

Camley Street Natural Park, London Wildlife Trust
Two unique acres of wild green space right in the heart of London, this innovative and internationally acclaimed reserve on the banks of the Regent's Canal is a place for both people and wildlife.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

London-on-sea: exploring marine wildlife in the capital

It may not be a seaside town, but London’s connections with the sea are strong. The moods of the tidal Thames are a powerful, daily reminder of how close we are to the ocean, and the river is home to some fascinating wildlife. An hour’s beach combing at low tide reveals the presence of fish, crabs, leeches, mussels, shrimps and snails living in the pools, rich mud, sand and gravels that the retreating water leaves behind.

Focus on species: the European eel Anguilla anguilla

Any true Cockney will be familiar with the jellied eel, once common fare, now perhaps more of an East End delicacy, or even a culinary dare. The European eel is actually one of the Thames’ most interesting species. Long lived, multi-coloured and with females growing up to a metre in length, this Londoner originates from the mysterious, saltier climes of the Sargasso Sea, migrating back there when it’s ready to breed.

Journeying from the Sargasso Sea to the Thames

The European eel starts life in the Sargasso Sea, in the Northern Atlantic Ocean. The leaf shaped larvae, known as leptocephalii, ride on the currents of the Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Drift towards Europe and North Africa. When they reach European shores, they metamorphose into the transparent glass eels that resemble the eel shape we know. As they move further inshore, and ride the tides up estuaries and tidal rivers, the freshwater mix triggers pigmentation and at this stage they are called elvers. They spend many years in this environment, either hugging the coastline of estuaries or moving into freshwater, where they turn a yellow colour, gain body weight and grow in length. The European eel tends to feed at night, and is partial to fish and invertebrates. During winter months they may become inactive if the temperatures are low. Growth is determined by several factors, including availability of food, average ambient temperature and stock density. The eel is predated upon by birds, and is a favourite food of bittern and cormorants, as well as the otter.

On a dark, moonless, stormy night…

As an eel reaches maturity, the eyes become bigger, the head broader, fat content increases, the undersides of the skin turn silver or bronze and it becomes known as a ‘silver eel’. These changes prepare it for its journey back to the sea. When the conditions are right, eels make their way downriver and back to their breeding grounds. It’s thought that eels favour dark, moonless and stormy nights for their migration back to the ocean. Once at sea, eels live in mud, crevices, and under stones. Spawning occurs during winter and early spring back in the Sargasso Sea. There is currently very little scientific knowledge about this species, so not much is known about their migration back to the North Atlantic.

Conservation issues

Since the 1970s, the number of eels reaching Europe is thought to have declined by around 90%. It’s unclear whether this is part of a normal long term population cycle, or whether this reflects a decline in eel numbers generally. Potential causes of population decline include over-fishing, spread of parasites such as Anguillicola crassus, river barriers such as hydroelectric plants, and natural changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation, Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic drift. Recent work also suggests that PCB pollution may be a major factor in the decline. The European eel has recently been made a UKBAP priority species due to concerns over its decline and has been listed on CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). The UK Eel Conservation Group (including DEFRA, EA, ZSL, academic institutions and stakeholders) meets regularly to inform decisions being made within the EU.

Remarkable eel facts

They’ve been known to reach lengths of 1.5 metresThey can live for up to 85 yearsThey can survive for many hours out of water on damp nightsThey may even travel overland on dark, rainy nights

National Marine Week

Friday, 18 May 2007

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Water voles

The water vole is Britain's fastest declining mammal. The animal, famous as the character Ratty in Wind in the Willows, has suffered considerably as its habitats have been destroyed and it has been preyed on by the feral American mink.
Many of London's waterways and marshes remain a stronghold for the species, however, and a special project officer has been appointed at the London Wildlife Trust to make sure it stays that way. Vole hotspots include the London Wetland Centre and the following rivers: the Crane, the Roding, the Ingrebourne, the Hogsmill and the Cray.
Find out more

London Water Vole Project

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Join Buglife for the Big Bumblebee Hunt this summer

Buglife is running the Big Bumblebee Hunt to raise public awareness of bumblebees and the importance that gardens, parks, brownfield sites and other urban areas can have for them, as part of their All of a Buzz in the Thames Gateway project. They need your help to record sightings of bumblebees in local open spaces, so they can start building a picture of how bumblebees are doing in our towns and cities. This would enable them to direct more conservation efforts to help save bumblebees.

The survey will take place in July and August, and beginners are welcome to take part. There will also be a programme of events, such as bumblebee walks, talks and identification workshops, taking place across the south east. For more information about the project and how to get a hold of a survey pack, visit or contact Diana Cheng at

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Perivale Wood

Perivale Wood - Jewel in the Crown

Perivale Wood is without doubt a jewel in the crown of West London's wildlife sites and is the Borough of Ealing's 'flagship' nature reserve. It is an area of ancient oak/bluebell woodland hidden away in the suburbs of Ealing. It is the second oldest nature reserve in Britain and is owned and managed by the Selborne Society, the country's oldest nature conservation organisation. It is the first known site in the world for two species of fungi.

The Bluebells
Perivale Wood is best known for its bluebells - and rightly so. Although they occur in a few other countries in NW Europe, England is very much their "headquarters". Perivale Wood is one of the finest examples of a "bluebell wood". Spring is the most beautiful time as the dappled sunlight comes through the newly emerging leaves of the standard trees and coppiced hazel onto the carpet of over 4 million bluebells.

SSSI Designation
Perivale Wood used to be a "Site of Special Scientific Interest " (SSSI). This designation is given to the finest wildlife sites by the Government's conservation agency, English Nature. The designation is intended to afford statutory protection to such sites. Perivale Wood has lost none of its value since it became a Nature Reserve and was designated as a SSSI. Indeed, with the continued destruction of habitats and discovery of its unique fungi, it is now more important than ever. Nonetheless, English Nature has removed its SSSI status. Despite repeated requests, no clear explanation was ever given. The real reason is almost certainly that English Nature do want too many SSSIs. Each extra site tends to increase their workload, as English Nature then have to monitor its management and will have to comment if there are any threats to that site. They pointed out that there were other 'good' oak woodlands in the London area.

The Habitats
Perivale Wood is an 11 hectare (27 acre) area of ancient oak woodland in west London. It is bounded to the north by the Grand Union Canal, and to the south by a railway embankment and houses. To the east and west are warehouses, industrial units and recreational open space.

It includes a rich variety of habitats:

7 hectares (ha) of ancient mixed oak woodland
2 ha of grazed pasture land
1 ha of damp scrub
1 ha of relatively recently disturbed land, which has a very different vegetation from the rest of the wood
3 ponds and 2 small streams
Nearly half a km of hedgerow

The Wildlife
Perivale Wood is probably the richest wildlife site in the borough - it is certainly the best studied and recorded. Within the Reserve we have recorded over the years:

1000 species of fungi
300 species of moths
30 species of molluscs
17 species of mammals
24 species of trees
350 species of vascular plants
over 60 species of mosses and liverworts
115 species of birds, of which 40 breed regularly
many insects and other invertebrates (with untold numbers still to be recorded)

The Selborne Society
The Selborne Society was founded in 1885 to commemorate the eighteenth century naturalist Gilbert White, of Selborne in Hampshire. It was originally a national organisation, founded to continue the traditions of this pioneer of environmental study by correspondence between members about their observations of natural history. Today's Selborne Society was originally the Brent Valley branch of the national Society, and continues the work of its founders, observing and recording wildlife in part of west London and managing and conserving Perivale Wood Local Nature Reserve as the Gilbert White Memorial.

To find out more about Perivale Wood or to join the Selborne Society, visit Perivale Wood or send an e-mail to

Monday, 19 February 2007

Lee Valley Birdwatching & Wildlife Fair

I visited this fair yesterday with my son, despite becoming ill half way through the day, It was very enjoyable, my son had visited Lee Valley Park before but this was my first visit, It certainly wont be my last, to find such a oasis of wildlife so close to home was wonderfull, can thoughly recommend a visit to all wildlife lovers,