Protecting London’s wildlife for the future
SUMMER 2013 I POLLINATION NATION
It’s summer. Get outdoors and explore the wonderful world of bees, butterflies and beetles with the help of our spotters’ guides, and enjoy free events and guided nature walks at many of our reserves. London Wildlife Trust works to improve local habitats for the benefit of its people and wildlife. Discover how, with your help, we have saved many London landscapes, and how to get involved with further projects.
SUMMER 2013 Issue 101 Editor Kate Bradbury Editorial team Ed Dean Mathew Frith Cathy Gale Daniel Greenwood Catherine Harris Leah McNally Design Metalanguage Design Printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper, with vegetable based inks. Cover photograph Thick-legged flower beetle © Penny Frith London Wildlife Trust is the only charity dedicated solely to protecting the capital’s wildlife and wild spaces, engaging London’s diverse communities through access to our nature reserves, campaigning, volunteering and education. Registered charity number 283895 President Chris Packham
Welcome to the summer issue of Wild London. Summer in London is one of my favourite times of year, when the city comes alive with wildlife. It’s a time when our reserves chatter with the song of warblers, and hum with the buzz of the capital’s pollinators. In this edition we celebrate the hoverfly, moth and pollinators of London, such as the stunning thick-legged flower beetle featured on the cover. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Gunnersbury Triangle in Chiswick being saved from development after a vociferous local campaign. It was a landmark case, the first time a Public Inquiry had ruled in favour of a locally valuable natural site as deserving of protection. Would such a ruling happen today? It’s a question asked in our feature on page six, which explores how we are working with partners to assess the current state of London’s nature. Wishing you a wonderful wildlife-filled summer. Thank you for your vital support for the Trust. PS: Our stag beetle survey is running again this year. If you’re lucky enough to see one of these majestic beetles please do let us know. See page five for details. Carlo Laurenzi OBE Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust
Patrons Lord Peter Brooke Simon Hughes MP Lord Peter Melchett Bill Oddie Lord Chris Smith Contact us Skyline House, 200 Union Street, London SE1 0LX firstname.lastname@example.org www.wildlondon.org.uk @wildlondon Above: Hare © Mike Rae/mikerae.com Right: Common blue © Metalanguage Design 2
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News in brief Survey stag beetles
Pesticide ban may help bees
Threat to Welsh Harp reservoir
London Wildlife Trust is calling on Barnet Council to reject proposals for a large residential development adjacent to the Welsh Harp Reservoir in Brent. A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the reservoir is home to nesting birds and is also nationally important for a variety of overwintering birds. The enormous West Hendon development – proposed by Barratt Homes – will involve the demolition of nearly 600 existing houses, which would be replaced by 2000 houses and flats, including four tower blocks. Among the proposals are plans to build footbridges over Silk Stream and beside Cool Oak Bridge, which could potentially pollute the water during construction.
Welsh Harp Reservoir is one of just 37 SSSIs in the capital, and the only one in inner north-west London. Mathew Frith, Deputy CEO (Director of Policy and Planning) of London Wildlife Trust says, “We are extremely concerned about the impact this development will have on an important wildlife site in London. “Wildfowl will be disturbed both during and after construction… light pollution will affect birds and mammals such as bats, and the construction and use of proposed bridges could damage woodland habitat and further disturb scarce breeding wildfowl”. Top: Poppy © London Wildlife Trust Left: Welsh Harp reservoir © Matt Brown Right: Bombus lucorum © Penny Frith
A decision to restrict a group of pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, has been welcomed by London Wildlife Trust. Use of the three most common neonicotinoids, Imidacloprid, Clothianidin and Thiamethoxam, will be banned on crops deemed to be ‘attractive to bees’. It’s expected that the temporary restriction, imposed by the European Union, will come into effect from 1 December 2013. The European Commission will review the conditions of approval of the three neonicotinoids within the next two years to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments. For more information on helping bees, visit wildaboutgardens.org.uk
The Draft Environmental Statement has recently been published by HS2 Ltd, and is now open to full public consultation. We encourage you to make your views known – you can have your say until 11 July. In London a number of wildlife sites are likely to be damaged by HS2, including the country’s second oldest nature reserve, Perivale Wood. For details on how to have your say, visit wildlondon.org.uk/News/ hs2-still-time-to-have-your-say
Help London Wildlife Trust gain valuable information on the distribution of the globally threatened stag beetle in London. The beetle’s distribution has contracted in the last 40 years, although it’s still locally common in a number of areas, including the New Forest, the Thames Valley, north-east Essex and London. It’s thought that the destruction of habitat through the removal of dead wood from woodlands, parks and gardens, is the prime reason for the stage beetle’s decline. In urban areas the impacts of traffic and predators are also significant. Building on existing stag beetle records in the capital, London Wildlife Trust is hoping to gather enough data to hold an up-to-date assessment of London stag beetle habitats.
Wildlife at Brent Cross Shopping Centre
In February we opened our first temporary ‘pop-up’ wildlife reserve. Thanks to Hammerson, for nine weeks we were able to use an empty retail unit at Brent Cross Shopping Centre to raise shoppers’ awareness of the wildlife and environmental issues impacting this area of London, the local Trust reserves they could visit and activities they could get involved with. Along with running a series of workshops and providing advice on subjects such as wildlife gardening, we also undertook a wildlife survey to build up a picture about the wildlife and green spaces local people are most concerned about. Thank you to all the staff at Brent Cross Shopping Centre and the members of our local Barnet group for their support, as well as everyone who stopped to talk to us.
Not only will this aid conservation efforts, but it will also identify areas that could be managed better for this threatened beetle. For more information and help with ID, visit wildlondon.org.uk/stag-beetle
Stag beetle © Gareth Bellamy
The Lost Effra Project
This is a new initiative led by us and funded by Defra and the Carnegie UK Trust. The Effra is an historic tributary of the Thames, now underground, which runs through the boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. Despite being some of the driest boroughs in London, buildings near the Effra have been identified as at risk from flooding. In 2004, flash floods resulted in floodwater and sewage entering residents’ homes. The project aims to produce a water management strategy to prevent further flooding. We will work with local community groups as well as the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, Greater London Authority, Thames Water, Environment Agency and Natural England. If you live in the area and want to find out more about water management techniques, we will be at Dulwich, Ruskin Park and Lambeth fairs. For more details visit wildlondon.org.uk/lost-effra-project
Bramley Bank restoration
London Wildlife Trust has successfully secured grants from two landfill funders – Biffa Award and The Veolia Environmental Trust – to improve two habitats on Croydon’s Bramley Bank reserve. Volunteers will work to improve the pond and area of lowland heathland over a period of two years. The lowland heathland project aims to increase and improve the condition and diversity of the existing area. So far, patches of scrub have been cleared, nutrient-rich topsoil has been removed, and the area has been re-seeded with heather brash cut from neighbouring Addington Hills. The pond restoration project seeks to re-profile the pond and remove some of the silt that has built up since it was last dredged in 1991. Once excavation works have been completed next year, we will introduce a range of marginal and aquatic wetland plants. It’s hoped that provision of new ‘shallows’ will provide frogs with the perfect breeding habitat. For information on how to get involved in this exciting project, please contact Tom Hayward at email@example.com
Common frog © Julie Watson 5
The state of nature One step forward, two steps back?
Mathew Frith looks at the state of London’s nature, and wonders what the future holds for the conservation of our wildlife and natural green spaces
Top left: Lesser spotted woodpecker © Vitaly Ilyasov Top right: Greater knapweed and kidney vetch © Julie Watson Left: Pepper saxifrage and oak at Totteridge Fields © Mathew Frith 6
In May a coalition of 25 nature conservation organisations including The Wildlife Trusts launched the State of Nature, a commentary on the status and trends of species and habitats within Britain. Despite highlighting some significant conservation successes over the past few decades, it makes for depressing reading: 60 per cent of species are in decline, about 30 per cent of them significantly so, and just under 10 per cent in danger of extinction. The situation is as bleak in urban areas, but in London we do have cause for celebration. Due to improved air quality, 72 species of lichen are now found in London parks compared with nine in 1970. More than 120 species of fish now breed in the River Thames after decades of better regulation of our water and waste management systems. We’ve also increased tree cover, making London one of the most verdant in Europe. But losses and declines are felt across the rest of the urban environment. State of Nature reports that almost 60 per cent of urban species have declined and just under 40 per cent have declined strongly. Four of the six truly urban birds have declined, including the house sparrow and swift.
Since the late 1940s there has been a squeeze on urban habitats due to suburbanisation. About 10,000 playing fields were sold off for development between 1979 and 1997, and the number of allotments has dropped by 10 per cent from its 1945 peak. The loss of garden vegetation, which we revealed in London: Garden city? in 2011, is worryingly significant; an estimated 3000 hectares have disappeared between 1998 and 2007. If this trend continues at the current rate, we will have none left by the end of the century. Further pressure to focus on brownfield sites for development means that many wildlife rich havens are also disappearing (more so in London and the south-east than in northern England). Although the government appears to be making good progress on the Common Fisheries Policy and European Marine Sites, as a whole it appears to be galloping backwards. In 2011 it published the Natural Environment White Paper, the first for over 20 years. The government claims that this sets out a radical vision outlining its aims for the next 50 years, along with practical proposals to realise this ambition. Some of 7
state of nature key findings Bad news: • 59 per cent of urban species have declined and 39 per cent have declined strongly • Four of the six truly urban birds have declined, including the house sparrow and swift • Urban habitats have decreased since suburbanisation after the Second World War • An estimated 10,000 playing fields were sold between 1979 and 1997 • The number of allotments has dropped by 10 per cent from its post war peak • Wildlife rich brownfield sites in cities are often lost to development Good news: • Due to improved air quality, 72 species of lichen are now found in London parks compared with 9 in 1970 • Urban flowering plants are bucking the downward trend – more species have increased their distribution. But most native plants are much less frequent in urban areas than other habitats Top: Swift © Tristan Bantock Above: Lichen © Joy Russell Above right: Field scabious © Julie Watson 8
these had evolved from ideas developed by the Wildlife Trusts and others over years of practical experience of land management and working with communities.
We are arguably rolling back a quarter century of steady progress to the days of the 1980s Yet in June the badger cull started in the West Country. This followed on from the authorisation of licensing buzzard and lesser black-backed gull control, opposing an EU ban on neonicotinoids, attacking European environmental legislation, undermining Natural England, dismantling the Biodiversity Action Plan framework, proposing to deregulate river dredging, putting through an inadequate number of Marine Conservation Zones, and the earlier abolitions of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the cuts to funding that led to the closure of CABE and the Sustainable Development Commission. Combined with a number
of destructive road scheme proposals and plans for High Speed 2 pushed by other parts of government, the nature in Britain – as well as those of us working to protect and conserve it – is now facing an almost unprecedented challenge. We are arguably rolling back a quarter century of steady progress to the days of the 1980s, when legislation was weaker, planning protection almost invisible, and the need to stand in front of bulldozers ever high on the agenda. If the threat to the railway land that is now Gunnersbury Triangle occurred now, would it be saved? I have my doubts. To some degree, in London, we enjoy a level of protection within the ambitions of The London Plan (the only remaining regional spatial development strategy), and programmes such as the All London Green Grid. Nevertheless, the increasingly loud mantra is one of ‘jobs and growth’ no matter the environmental costs. Longdropped road improvement schemes and river crossings are back on the agenda, as well as a number of development schemes that threaten treasured natural greenspaces, such as the West Hendon regeneration, and the South London Energy Recovery facility at Beddington. In the background hovers the shadow of airport expansion – either within or on the fringes of our city.
While we read of opportunities through green infrastructure, ecosystem services, and Nature Improvement Areas, what’s becoming clear is that through smoke and mirrors a new landscape is emerging. This is one of weakened regulation, a growing distrust of science-based evidence, constrained public authorities, and where our natural environment is being given an economic value (or not), which can then be traded off to serve the push for growth. Yes, we can point to the increased popularity of our parks and greenspaces, the fascination for bees and local food-growing, and a cultural renaissance in home-crafts with strong links to the natural world. But does this add up to cohesive commitment to protect and conserve nature wherever she flourishes? Over the course of 2013 we will produce a report on the status of biodiversity conservation in London. Huge gains have been made thanks to the efforts of many thousands of people over the last 30 years to benefit many habitats, species and places of special natural value. However, uncertainty is afoot, and we need to highlight what the real priorities will be in London in these austere times. Will it be back to the banners and barricades, or more subtle ways of raising the status of nature within the public’s eye?
Above: Greater yellow-rattle © Mathew Frith
Above: Ox-eye daisy @ Julie Watson
Kestrel Count 2011-12 The kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) is still widespread across London, but potentially undergoing a long-term decline that may have steepened over the past seven years. This appears to be the message from our Kestrel Count carried out in 2011-12, in collaboration with GiGL. Since our first count in 1988, we have gathered data that has contributed to a picture of London’s kestrel population trends over the last 25 years. In 1988 it was estimated that there were 400 pairs living across London, with sightings at iconic landmarks such as the Tower of London, Palace of Westminster, St Giles’ Church in Covent Garden, and the Barbican. Many recent sightings have again been recorded at our central landmarks, but the highest densities were seen around north London’s large, open green spaces such as Alexandra Park, Hampstead Heath, Hackney Marshes and the Olympic Park. Suburban London’s green spaces also correlated with high kestrel counts, particularly Minet Country Park, South Norwood Country Park and Kew Gardens. This demonstrates how vital natural green spaces are to the kestrel, a predator that requires a healthy foodchain of prey to support it. From the total sightings recorded, the majority of kestrels seen were individuals – only 18 pairs were recorded. However, from the data obtained, it’s difficult to
ascertain how many pairs London is currently supporting. The picture from the latest London Bird Report (albeit with a wider recording area than Greater London) indicates on-going declines: 113 pairs were recorded in 2005, 99 pairs in 2006, 70 pairs in 2009 and 48 pairs in 2010. This reflects the national picture as well. The Breeding Bird Survey found that kestrel populations had declined severely (down by 64 per cent, 2011). The State of the UK’s Birds 2012 report, published by BTO, JNCC and RSPB, reveals a 32 per cent drop in the kestrel population between 1995 and 2010. However, it’s apparent that the cause of the recent steeper decline has not been identified and, therefore, further investigation is essential to understand why kestrel populations are at an all-time low. Some suggest that elements of prey – such as the decline in the house sparrow – are a factor, as well as the presence of peregrines in London. Ultimately, it’s evident that this species must remain on the Amber List of Birds of Conservation Concern. London Wildlife Trust would like to thank everyone who participated in our recent Kestrel Count. The survey is still open, so please record your sightings. Find out more at wildlondon.org.uk Above: Kestrel © Ian Rose 9
Access to nature Wilding residential neighbourhoods
From tower-blocks to parks, London Wildlife Trust is bringing the natural world closer to London’s residents. Gareth Morgan and Kirsten Downer explain how
Above: Watering at Churchill Gardens Estate © London Wildlife Trust 10
How easily can you access nature from your doorstep? Do you have a local wood, wildflower meadow or pond you can visit? Or do you find it difficult to access nature from where you live? London Wildlife Trust has run a cluster of projects over the last three years, in order to increase residents’ access to nature. Based in the estates, day centres and community gardens of London, the Natural Estates, Cockney Sparrow and Wild London Inclusive London projects have reached over 15,000 people across 30 communities. These are predominantly in areas of social and economic deprivation. Through these projects, our community engagement team encourages people to explore the natural world around them. Part of this is organising trips to local nature reserves that people never thought to make, but accessing nature isn’t just about getting people to defined ‘wild spaces’ in the city. A living landscape is also about all those spaces in between – the gardens, the abandoned corners of an estate, the rail corridors and rooftops. In Wild London Inclusive London, we have taken the time to get to know the communities we’re working with and observe how people interact with the green spaces right on their doorstep. We talk about how the space is used (or not), what they would like to see happen and then help them realise their ideas.
It takes time to build these relationships and gain people’s trust, navigating the politics of landlord/resident relations and balancing the competing interests of different groups. We sometimes encounter scepticism that anything we do will last, but people come round when they see we’re making a difference. Of course, understanding the psychogeography of people and their places helps. Living on an estate, residents have to pass through the space between building and street, so we ask them what is their experience of this? Where do they walk? What do they notice? The Natural Estates project promotes positive activities in such spaces, offering a means to connect with it in simple ways, such as planting bulbs, building bat boxes and filling a bird feeder. These are simple activities that re-establish a physical, perceptual or emotional connection with the land as a natural space. Sometimes the interventions have been as simple as letting the grass grow a little longer, coupled with a sign explaining that ‘wildlife lives here’. To attract people’s attention we have to be bold. We plant our flag in the ground, set up marquees and roll out activities that draw in curious passersby. Most people join in activities having merely seen something going on in a hitherto underused space. We’ve planted wildflower meadows, constructed raised beds for growing food, conducted bio-blitz surveys, built ‘stag beetle
loggeries’ and wildlife hotels, gazed at the clouds and thrown wildflower seed bombs. And we’ve reassured people that nettles and teasels are not dangerous for children and that the bats will not fly through their bathroom window and nest in their hair! We humans like to compartmentalise space in our minds, but this can mean we miss what’s right in front of our eyes. If we see our city as the wildlife does, it can change our perceptions. The pipistrelle bats holed up in the cracks of Lillington and Longmore estate don’t discriminate against social housing, and the sparrows and foxes in that strip of land behind our houses don’t recognise ‘garden’ boundaries. Hedgehogs trundle through Larkfield Close estate as if it were simply an extension of Hayes Common which, of course, it is. For more information see wildlondon.org.uk and neighbourhoodsgreen.org.uk
Natural Estates project More than 5000 London residents have taken part in over 700 nature-based activities, thanks to the Natural Estates project, now in its final year. Led by London Wildlife Trust and working with eight social landlords, the project has involved creating wildlife gardens and spaces to grow food in housing estates all over London. Jeannine Moros-Noujaim, our Natural Estates Project Officer, works on three housing estates in Thamesmead, Bromley and Beckton. She got involved with the Natural Estates project because it felt like an active way to create community resilience. She says: “I love that I get to be so much outside, to be active, to be practical, and to really engage with people.” Jonothan Starkey has lived on the Churchill Gardens Estate, Westminster, for 18 years and has been volunteering with the Natural Estates project for the past few years. He says “the Natural Estates project has helped me to feel better about the estate, partly because I’ve got to meet other like-minded people who are also trying to do things to improve it. I’ve loved the trips, especially to the Chelsea Physic Garden and Kew, which have been absolutely wonderful.” The Natural Estates project has led to Jonothan using his skills to put on tree ID courses for residents and even leading a hedgelaying course for Trust staff. ‘It’s helped my general confidence”, says Jonothan. “And it’s opened my eyes to the amazing amount of things I’ve never noticed before in my estate. When I was mapping all the bird boxes, I felt I had permission to explore areas I’d never been before.” Starkey says that from the wildlife point of view, things have improved on the estate over the past decade, and especially over the last three years: “There used to be hardly any small birds, but since they put in more shrubs and bushes we’ve seen wrens, tits, robins and goldfinches.” Top left: Wildflower Garden at Larkfield Estate © Jeannine Moros-Noujaim
Top right: Pembury Estate visit to Epping Forest © Sam Lewis
Left: Hedgehog © Julie Watson
Above: Building a stag beetle loggery at Cleverly Estate © Daniel Harris 11
The other pollinators Celebrating flies, moths and beetles
Bees and wasps
There’s more to pollinators than bees and butterflies, writes Tony Canning ‘Pollinator’ is a popular media term, but it’s often unclear if it refers to bees, other insects or all insects. In the eyes of many, bees – honeybees and bumblebees in particular – are surely the quintessential pollinators. There’s much more to the pollination story than just honeybees and bumblebees, as you can easily see on any sunny day in the garden or a wild meadow. Pollinators are actually found in four insect groups: Hymenoptera (bees, wasps and ants); Diptera (true flies, most notably hoverflies); Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths); and Coleoptera (beetles).
Globally, many kinds of animals can act as pollinators, including bats, hummingbirds, monkeys, rodents and even lizards. But in the UK, the only significant animal pollinators are insects. Most flowering plants produce nectar in return for pollination, although pollen itself is rich in protein and is an important food source for many species including bees, which feed a mixture of pollen and nectar to their grubs. Not all pollinators actually pollinate plants. Several insects, including some bumblebees, have evolved to take nectar from flowers while avoiding the burden of pollinating. For example, if you grow
Red mason bee Osmia bicornis Wool-carder bee Anthidium manicatum Tree wasp Dolichovespula sylvestris Hoverfly Volucella zonaria Hoverfly Myathropa florea Bee-fly Bombylius major Peacock butterfly Inachis io Hummingbird hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum Elephant hawkmoth Deilephila elpenor Thick-legged flower beetle Oedemera nobilis
broad beans, look for tiny holes in the top of the flower tube. These are made by short-tongued bumblebees, which pierce the flower to reach the nectar. Similarly, some plants, including several wild British orchids, attract insects by producing fake pollen rewards or an absence of nectar. Above: Bee-fly © Metalanguage Design Top left: Wool-carder bee © Penny Frith Centre right: Volucella zonaria © Penny Frith Bottom right: Elephant hawkmoth © Tristan Bantock
Solitary bees As well as social honeybees and bumblebees, solitary bees are also major pollinators. The red mason bee emerges earlier than the honeybee and is actually a better pollinator of spring flowers and some orchard crops. A lovely solitary bee to look out for in the summer is the wool-carder bee. One of our largest, it has distinctive yellow markings on the abdomen, head and legs. The female collects pollen on the underside of the abdomen in a brush of hairs which makes her an excellent pollinator. Fiercely territorial, the male can be seen defending his territory vigorously against intruding males. Wasps Wasps are under-appreciated as pollinators, despite the fact that many flowers such as orchids depend on them. The broad-leaved helleborine is pollinated by the tree wasp, and the fly orchid uses mimicry to encourage male digger wasps Argogorytes to attempt copulation, transferring pollen in the process.
Diptera is the group with the largest number of pollinating species. Many flies are tiny and their relationships with flowers are largely obscure, but hoverflies are large and easy to observe. Hoverflies usually outnumber bees in gardens and meadows, but as many of them are excellent mimics of bees and wasps, this may not be obvious. They’re harmless to humans but many of their would-be predators mistake them for bees or wasps, giving them ideal protection. Usually seen all year round, their diversity and sensitivity to changing weather patterns make hoverflies important indicators of the
health of town and countryside. Many are worth attracting to the garden as their larvae are voracious predators of aphids. It’s not difficult to distinguish between bees and wasps and hoverflies. Like all flies, hoverflies have large compound eyes and one pair of wings. As their name suggests they hover while feeding at flowers. The largest and most spectacular are Volucella, which are hornet and bumblebee mimics. Other common hoverflies in London include Myathropa florea and Eupeodes luniger. Another unrelated pollinating fly which mimics bees is the bee-fly, which is easily recognised by the extended spine-like mouthparts, much longer than the head.
Butterflies and moths
The third big group of pollinators is the moths and butterflies. A large number of species are dependent on nectar for food as adults, and many butterflies can be seen refuelling at flowers during spring and summer. Most are not thought to be among the most important pollinators (skippers are perhaps the most effective), but many moths are; hawkmoths are one of the more important groups. These are large and can feed while hovering. Hummingbird hawkmoths are fairly common day-flying summer migrants from Europe and Africa, and there are also several native species, including the elephant hawkmoth and the privet hawkmoth.
Beetles were among the first insects to form a mutual relationship with flowers as they were well established when the first flowering plants appeared. With about 350,000 described species, some 40 per cent of insects are beetles. However, they are ecologically more diverse than bees, flies or moths, feeding on insects, wood and seeds, rather than pollen or nectar. Because of this they are less important pollinators than the other three groups. Many beetles do visit flowers to feed on nectar or pollen, however, and all of these are potential pollinators. One of the easiest to identify is the metallic green thick-legged flower beetle. Large longhorn beetles are also notable – look out for the wasp beetle which mimics the common wasp to warn off predators. Above: Wasp beetle © Metalanguage Design
FACTS Roughly 90 per cent of flowering plants exploit animals as pollinators. About 20 per cent of UK farmland crops are insect pollinated. One of the first scientists to observe and describe the intimate relationship between flowers and their insect pollinators was Charles Darwin. His book ‘On the various contrivances by which British and foreign orchids are fertilised by insects, and on the good effects of intercrossing’ (1862) describes in intricate detail how the sole purpose of the flower is to attract and mechanically manipulate an insect pollinator. 13
Andy Willmore explores how climate change may be impacting London’s fish, and throws a spotlight on one of his favourite London species – the chub
Fish out of water Exploring London’s hidden world
In the spotlight: Chub (Leuciscus cephalus) An old favourite with anglers, the chunky looking chub can be found in many of London’s rivers, as well as parts of the Grand Union canal. It’s known as one of the greediest river fish, thanks to its voracious appetite for large invertebrates (including crayfish), worms and fish fry, as well as berries and bread intended for ducks. It has a huge mouth with which to eat! Chub can live for up to 12 years, and reach a weight of nearly 10kg. Mature fish are silvery in colour, and have black tails and grey or greenish backs, with brass coloured flanks and orange anal fins. They can be found in rivers, streams and canals, sometimes in large shoals. Chub prefer areas with overhanging trees, and have been known to feast on elderberries that drop into the water.
Above: Chub © Dave Kilby/ davekilbeyphotography.co.uk Right: Perch is also increasing in size, thanks to the presence of signal crayfish © Dave Kilby/davekilbeyphotography.co.uk Far right: A volunteer weaves faggot bundles between stakes to recreate an actively meandering river, as part of our river restoration project © Andy Willmore
Bees and birds easily capture the public’s imagination. Yet few people are aware of the incredible fish we have living in the Thames and its tributaries. People talk about the impact of climate change on all sorts of species, but rarely think about what’s living in our rivers and streams. Like many species, fish are affected by drought and flood conditions. The prolonged drought in 2011 and subsequent flooding last year resulted in the decline of Atlantic salmon in many rivers, which found it difficult to spawn in the new conditions. Changes to the weather may impact on breeding seasons, and it’s possible that, as a result of climate change and periods of milder weather, populations of certain species are increasing in London. These include members of the cyprinidae family such as barbel, chub, bream, tench and carp. Not only are many species increasing, but some are getting bigger. Records show that 20 years ago, rod-caught barbel weighed up to 7kg. Now the record stands at 9.5kg. One reason for this increase in size could be the presence of signal crayfish. While this non-native and invasive species is a problem in many river systems, it may also be a food source for some of London’s fish. The milder weather brought about by climate change is also a factor, as the fish now have longer periods in which to feed. But other factors could include increased predation from cormorants, and habitat destruction, resulting in fewer fish and therefore less competition for food. And, as rivers become warmer, some fish will undoubtedly suffer. Members of the salmonidae family such as grayling, trout, and salmon prefer colder water, so it’s possible that climate change will affect their migration and lifecycle and, potentially, other parts of the ecosystem like insect populations. Will they be able to adapt and survive? Andy Willmore is our Regional Development Manager for west London.
What does London Wildlife Trust do for London’s fish?
• We run river habitat restoration projects • We get people involved in their rivers, running river dipping, fish ID and river habitat restoration courses • We work with volunteers to recreate river habitats, reviving natural rivers as part of the Living Landscapes project, such as Crane Valley • We conduct surveys and sampling HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED Why not get involved with improving the River Crane for wildlife? There’s always something to do to, such as helping to remove invasive species or planting wildlife friendly plants. Volunteers meet on the last Sunday of every month. Call 0208 894 2802 for more information. For other volunteer opportunities in the Crane Valley please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Your wild London
London Wildlife Trust runs a range of events each year. Find out more at wildlondon.org.uk/getinvolved or call the Membership Team on 020 7803 4272.
A Good Parcel of English Soil by Richard Mabey This lovely book offers a history of the Metropolitan line in the context of the huge transformation that lead to the creation of ‘Metroland’, the suburban areas built to the north west of London in the early part of the 20th century, where Mabey himself grew up. The book takes the reader through the continued development of these areas – sold to residents as a ‘rural idyll’ – against a backdrop of the nature it displaced. It’s a very personal book, written with Mabey’s usual flair and passion for the natural world, while providing an insight into the expansion of London into the suburbs, and the consequences that unfolded.
We now send out monthly events emails to our members. If you’re not receiving our emails and would like to be added to our distribution list, email us at email@example.com
Wild summer in the city With urban breaks taking over the top spot for holidaying in Britain, you’ll find there’s so much to do on your doorstep this summer that you hardly need leave the city. From free activities on our own reserves to organised events as part of the BBC’s Summer of Wildlife, there’s plenty to keep everyone busy. Why not take a walk along your nearest river or canal? You’ll see ducklings and goslings, the odd heron, butterflies, bees and other insects. You might even catch a glimpse of a kingfisher. Enjoy a day communing with animals at one of London’s city farms. Or check out what’s happening at our reserves – choose from a variety of free events and activities, including an evening wildlife walk in Frays Valley looking for glow-worm, bats and water vole, and a butterfly and bug hunt at Gutteridge meadows. If you like butterflies, don’t miss the guided walks at Sydenham Hill Wood, where you might catch a glimpse of the rare purple hairstreak.
Species to spot this summer This time of year is best for spotting bees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, bugs and all sorts of other minibeasts, as well as birds, bats and flowers. Butterflies – small tortoiseshell, red admiral, peacock, painted lady, comma, speckled wood, large white, green-veined white, and small white: and these are just the butterflies you may have visiting your garden or window box. Visit other habitats for a chance to see some of our rarer butterflies. Swallow and house martin – by late summer, most swifts have returned to Africa, but the swallow and house martin stay to have a second brood. Look out on London’s rural fringes for adults and juveniles gathering on telephone wires, or swooping over lakes to catch insects. The house martin is blue-black with a white underside that’s visible from below, and has a forked tail. The swallow also has a forked tail but has much longer tail streamers, and is a metallic blue with a white underside and a reddish brown forehead, throat and chin.
Top to bottom: Strolling in Gunnersbury Triangle © London Wildlife Trust, Green-veined white © Helen George, Swallows © Daniel Greenwood, Rosebay willowherb © Paul Lane, Common pipstrelle © Hugh Clark/Bat Conservation Trust 16
Rosebay willowherb – one of the most spectacular of London’s wildflowers, rosebay willowherb emerges on heaths, woodland edges and railway linesides in mid-summer, with clusters of tall rockets of pink that eventually explode with fluffy seedheads from late August. It’s also known as fireweed for its propensity for growing on recently burned ground – it proliferated in the Blitz bomb sites in the Second World War. Bats – look for bats just after sunset in woodlands, parks and larger gardens, or on your nearest canal. They can see, but fly and feed at night using echolocation, sending out shouts and listening to the returning echoes to give them a sound picture of what’s around them. The most common species are the pipistrelles, which have a fast, jerky flight as they hunt insects.
Glow-worm walk in Frays Valley Denham Lock Wood 12 July, 10pm Join us on a late evening walk to spot glow-worm, water vole and bats. Wellies are advisable. Contact Roger Taylor on 01895 448 028 to confirm attendance. Walk the Chalk and Family Open Day Hutchinson’s Bank, Chapel Bank and Saltbox Hill 21 July Enjoy the wildlife, plus a series of wildlife talks and walks across these chalk grasslands. Visit wildlondon.org.uk for details. Butterfly and Bug Hunt Gutteridge Wood, Hillingdon 5 August, 2-4pm See how many butterflies you can identify during our guided walk across the meadows. Contact Roger Taylor on 01895 448 028 to confirm attendance. Great North Wood Walk One Tree Hill, Sydenham Hill and Dulwich Woods, Crystal Palace 4 August Explore the largest stand of ancient woodland in London. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Butterfly and Wildflower Walk Sydenham Hill Wood 11 August Explore the butterflies and wildflowers of Sydenham Hill wood. Contact email@example.com for details.
Membership survey results Thank you to all 300 members who completed the membership survey sent out with the last edition of Wild London. We really appreciate the suggestions on future articles you’d like to see in the magazine, as well as how we can improve our communications and opportunities for you to get involved in what we do. Some key findings show that: • • • •
The sections of Wild London members most enjoy are news about Trust’s nature reserves and sites (81 per cent), and seasonal wildlife to spot/latest species surveys (76 per cent) The introduction of monthly email updates seems popular with local/borough events and activities and events, walks and talks at Trust sites the most sought after content. Information about volunteering opportunities and conservation activities also rated highly. 47 per cent of members are happy helping wildlife through their membership, while others are keen to get more involved, particularly through attending events, activities and walks in our reserves. We have a number of members willing to share their particular skills and interests with other members – we’ll be in touch soon!
We always welcome feedback and ideas so please do share them with us by post, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 020 7803 4272.
Support our team! On 4 August, our brave team of members, volunteers, corporate supporters and Carlo Laurenzi, our own CEO, will be taking to the saddle to ride 100 miles in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. The route starts at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, takes riders uphill at Box Hill, and finishes on The Mall. Please come along to show your support. You can also sponsor the team at justgiving.com/Ride100ForLondonWildlifeTrust
Gunnersbury Triangle 30 years of fighting for a tranquil local oasis
Helen Wallis talks to Jan Hewlett and Anne Mayo, two of the founders of Chiswick’s Gunnersbury Triangle Gunnersbury Triangle is a secluded wildlife haven in the heart of West London, home to a diversity of species including rare ferns, woodpeckers, stag beetles and toads. The reserve celebrates its 30th birthday this year, but without the efforts of local people, this unique oasis could have become just another industrial estate. The Triangle was originally bordered on all three sides by railway lines, although only two remain today. Allotmenteers grew vegetables on the land during World War Two, but by 1945 it had been abandoned and nature took over. Silver birch and goat 18
willow colonised the area to form a natural woodland, and broom flourished on the stony railway banks. It was 1981 when British Rail proposed building warehouses on the site. Local resident Anne Mayo spotted someone chopping trees down in the woodland, and contacted Hounslow Council. She persuaded them to protect the trees with a Tree Preservation Order until the planning process was complete. It soon became clear that many local naturalists were familiar with the Triangle, despite the fact it could only be glimpsed
from passing trains (there was no public access at this time). With planning plans afoot, local wildlife experts, journalists and TV personalities attended a public meeting in the local Wimpy Bar to campaign to save the Triangle. Anne recalls how the entire cafe was packed with ecologists, botanists, zoologists and experts from Kew and the Natural History Museum, as well as local journalists and representatives of the fledgling London Wildlife Trust. Soon the Triangle was receiving national coverage in publications ranging from broadsheet newspapers through to the New Scientist,
Spectator and even Vogue! Private Eye called it the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ and the local press updated the story on a weekly basis. BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Geoff Hamilton declared: “it is imperative wildlife be allowed to live unmolested”. The Wimpy Bar meeting saw the formation of the Chiswick Wildlife Group (CWG), one of the Trust’s first local groups. Anne and other members worked tirelessly to gain support from local community groups, councillors, Hounslow’s Parks and Education Departments, The Woodland Trust, and the former Greater London Council’s first ecologist Dr David Goode. As the campaign grew, local artist Judy Brook created banners and posters to publicise the campaign. Anna Jackson, a local TV producer, introduced wildlife presenter David Bellamy to the team. Even Prince Charles agreed to wear one of the Triangle badges when volunteers campaigned outside a meeting of the World Conservation Strategy in central London. This high-profile campaign led to a public inquiry in July 1983, which ruled that the Triangle should be devoted to nature conservation. Jan recalls “I clearly remember the call from the Council telling us the good news. We could hardly believe it, and were almost numb with joy as we gathered to celebrate in a local pub.” This was the first time a British Public Inquiry had ruled in favour of nature conservation as a Land Use in a city. In fact, Gunnersbury Triangle has
become a test case, setting a precedent for protecting other urban wild spaces, such as Finchley’s Coppett’s Wood. In 1985 the Triangle was opened to the public. The Greater London Council granted enough money to enable Hounslow Council to buy the land from British Rail and allow it to be managed by London Wildlife Trust. The first task was to clear rubbish and develop a network of footpaths. A local company donated a second hand portakabin, providing a base for operations, while the Shell Better Britain campaign donated funds to hire a small JCB to dig out the pond. Woodland management has included regular coppicing of some of the willows, to encourage growth of wildflowers and new shoots. Nectarrich flowers have been planted around the volunteer hut to enhance the welcome at the Reserve’s entrance. The Triangle’s status has gone from strength to strength. Hounslow gave the Triangle its protected Local Nature Reserve status in 1987, and Ealing followed suit in 1991 (the northern bank of the Triangle lies within Ealing).
Today the Triangle continues to delight visitors, although the need to campaign has not disappeared. Despite the reserve’s protected status, developers have been quick to spot the enhanced land value of sites with a view over the woodland, and so it’s being squeezed on all sides by new buildings. In 2012 Ealing council gave permission for a large development along the Triangle’s northern boundary, despite opposition from Hounslow council and local campaign group HOOT (Hands Off Our Triangle). The new building will inevitably change the Triangle’s ‘secret’ atmosphere, but we hope that the developer and future occupants will respect the reserve and be sensitive to the needs of its wildlife.
Opposite: Campaigning to save the Triangle in 1981 © London Wildlife Trust
Top: Digging the pond which has become a thriving oasis © London Wildlife Trust
For information on events at Gunnersbury Triangle or how you can volunteer there, visit wildlondon.org.uk or why not pick up our new Gunnersbury leaflet from the reserve?
Right: Sparrowhawk has made a welcome return to the Triangle © Amy Lewis
Thick-legged flower beetle The thick-legged flower beetle Oedemera nobilis can be found feeding on the pollen of flowers between April and August. A beautiful metallic green, only the male has enlarged thighs.