Protecting Londonâ€™s wildlife for the future WINTER 2013 I 102 I DEER PRUDENCE
News in brief Reaching London’s communities
Wild London winter 2013 Welcome to this winter issue. As the trees turn to their russets and browns, and the fungi flourish amongst the leaf litter, our thoughts are beginning to adapt to longer nights and cooler days. The fauna and flora of London change too, in their character – with arrivals coming in from afar, such as birds seeking warmer climes. Our largest mammals, deer, are increasingly making their presence known in London, but we still know too little about them in the city, as you’ll find out in our key feature. We’re asking people to keep their eyes open and let us know of where they see them. One such place is Bramley Bank, a reserve in Croydon where we’ve carried out a lot of work this year. We’ve had an exceptionally busy autumn, with our Crane Conference at Twickenham to launch the Crane Catchment Plan, a series of corporate work days on our reserves in Hillingdon and Croydon, and the launch of the Living Wandle project. And our volunteers and staff are already preparing programmes for winter work, which includes an innovative biodiversity offsetting pilot we’re exploring with Thameslink and Lambeth Council. You’ll note that this issue is shorter; we’re increasingly putting information on our work on our new website – wildlondon.org.uk. We hope you will keep track of this, as we gather for winter celebrations, and look forward to a wild and productive 2014. Carlo Laurenzi OBE Chief Executive of London Wildlife Trust
Minister visits Lost Effra
Local Environment Minister Lord de Mauley visited Herne Hill to see the work of the Lost Effra project. Led by London Wildlife Trust and funded by Defra and the Carnegie UK Trust, the project is working with community groups to enhance green infrastructure and wildlife, while raising awareness about water efficiency. Lord de Mauley was excited by this project and felt it provided a model for sustainable and innovative water management, which could be replicated across London and other cities.
A survey of Bexley’s assets
For the last six months the Trust has been reviewing important wildlife sites in the London Borough of Bexley. We have surveyed a total of 66 sites, including seven of metropolitan importance. This has provided an excellent opportunity to record biodiversity across the borough. High conservation priority species such as the corn bunting, and nationally scarce plants like dittander, were among those identified. More widespread species recorded include knotted clover and changing forget-me-not, which morphs from yellow to blue with maturity. Our work will help Bexley Council plan and protect its natural environment over the next 15 years.
Old Oak to damage Scrubs?
The Greater London Authority published Old Oak Vision in June, a long-term proposal for the predominantly railway land around Old Oak Common sidings, south-west of Kensal Green. This is strongly linked to a proposed HS2 station for Old Oak, which would stimulate major regeneration in the area alongside the Grand Union Canal, north of Wormwood Scrubs and west of St Mary’s Cemetery. The vision worryingly includes a viaduct for an Overground link, and high-density development immediately abutting the northern edge of the Scrubs; this would significantly impact on the biodiversity interest of the site, which this year is close to recording 100 species of birds. The Trust was involved in the campaign to protect a strip of the Scrubs that was eventually lost to the Eurostar depot in 1987. We have made our views known on the current proposals, and are liaising with The Friends of Wormwood Scrubs to ensure that the future of Old Oak protects the wildlife and landscape of this important tract of land first as enshrined in an Act of 1879. For details visit saveourscrubs.org.uk/
Top: Toadstools © London Wildlife Trust
Above: Winter dawn at Wormwood Scrubs © David Lindo
Front cover: Red deer in Richmond Park © Mathew Frith
Above left: Lord de Mauley visits Herne Hill © Chris Wood
Two of the Trust’s community engagement projects, ‘Wild London Inclusive London’ and ‘Natural Estates’, have come to an end after three years of pioneering work in some of the most disadvantaged parts of our city. Funded by the Big Lottery’s Access to Nature scheme with support from Natural England, these projects have reached groups that have not historically been involved in conservation activity and have inspired thousands of people to embrace the natural spaces in their neighbourhood. Both initiatives leave a legacy of empowered volunteers championing the wildlife where they live.
Getting closer to the river
The Trust’s Wandle Estate Communities project was launched at the end of September as part of the Living Wandle Landscape Partnership scheme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Over the next two years we will work closely with social housing communities near the Wandle in the boroughs of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Wandsworth, helping residents to get more involved in the regeneration of this river.
New roots for prisoners
With thanks to funding from the Bromley Trust, Ashden Trust and Camden Grants for Volunteering, London Wildlife Trust has been able to launch a new project to provide horticultural and conservation skills to prisoners at HMP Pentonville and ex-offenders. The New Roots project will see prisoners growing and caring for plants in the prison grounds, with ex-offenders helping out at local nature reserves.
species to spot this winter
Two short films have been produced to highlight the work of these projects, which you can find on the project pages of our website wildlondon.org.uk.
WAXWING Waxwings are regular winter migrants from northern Scandinavia and Russia. About the size of a starling, they have a prominent crest, black throat, yellow and orange wing markings and a yellow tipped tail. They also have a black mask around the eyes flanked by white and orange feathers, reminiscent of heavy 1980s make-up. They eat berries including rowan, guelder-rose and hawthorn.
Brent Reservoir faces regeneration challenge
In July Barnet Council granted permission to proceed with the regeneration of West Hendon, despite strong and widespread objections from environmental organisations. The Mayor of London did not intervene, although there would be potentially adverse consequences for the integrity of the neighbouring Brent (Welsh Harp) Reservoir SSSI for example high-rise blocks up to 29-storeys, and a footbridge through a sensitive breeding area. Planning conditions have been agreed to meet the environmental objectives for the site, including improved habitat enhancements, a new boundary fence to restrict access to the water’s edge, an ecological management plan, and funding for an on-site warden. Nevertheless fears have not been allayed over the effects on the SSSI and the precedent set by allowing over-development immediately adjacent to one of London’s principal wildlife havens. Above: Food growing at Sycamore Gardens © London Wildlife Trust
Waxwing © Full Moon Images
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Where are London’s deer ? Shy beasts make their presence known Britain has six species of wild deer. Roe and red are the two native species, while fallow deer are considered part of our natural heritage, having been introduced to Britain by the Normans in the 11th century. Sika, muntjac and Chinese water deer were introduced in the last 150 years. Each species varies in its population size, habitat requirements and geographic distribution.
Impact of deer
We need your help to log deer sightings in the capital. Kate Bradbury explains why
Above: Fallow deer © Owen Llewellyn 4
To have wild deer roaming the streets and parks of London is something of a miracle. These shy, elusive mammals are creatures of woodland and moorland, not cities and suburbs. They were here long before London became a thriving metropolis. Our activities pushed them out into the boundaries, but they are slowly recolonising the city, making use of increased woodland cover, milder winters and a greater connectivity between green spaces. It’s estimated that there are around two million deer in Britain, more than at any other time since the post-glacial period. They’re living on the fringes of our cities, turning up in parks and cemeteries, stopping traffic on roads and eating crops from our allotments. “They’re absolutely lovely to see”, explains Croydon’s Tree and Woodland Officer, Richard Edwards, “especially when they’re bouncing around the woods first thing in the morning when no-one else is around.”
Deer sightings in London have been increasing, but at the moment it’s not clear what impact they’re having on the capital’s natural environment. They have long been known to damage plants and eat crops from rural gardens and allotments, they are implicated in road traffic accidents and some people fear they could lead to the spread of ticks in urban areas (they are already in London). But the main impact of deer is probably the threat they pose to London’s biodiversity. High numbers in woodlands can prevent natural regeneration of trees and shrubs, which can have a negative effect on woodland plants and wildlife.
“Muntjac are like little fat foxes, shy and elusive” Simon Levy is involved in the active management of woodland to promote natural regeneration. For him, deer are a problem, but one that’s relatively easy to fix. He explains, “a lot of London’s woodland is of the same age, there’s very little variety. So we coppice hazel and remove the occasional tree to promote natural regeneration and encourage new growth”. This method of management creates the perfect habitat
for species such as bluebell and other woodland flora. But deer browse new growth and, without management, very little is able to regrow. “In most situations with roe deer, deer fencing works perfectly”, explains Simon. “When we coppice an area or fell a tree we simply erect fencing around it to enable seeds to germinate and shoots to grow.” Muntjac deer are the exception, however; “they’re like fat little foxes. They’re very shy and elusive, but they dig under deer fencing and eat all the new shoots.” Muntjac don’t appear to have reached Croydon’s woods yet, but they may do in future. Accurate assessment of deer numbers is difficult because they are secretive and wild. Deer are crepuscular mammals, meaning they are usually active at dusk and dawn – during the day they rest out of the way in deep woodland or in brush or thickets of vegetation. They have excellent hearing and sense of smell, so can dash off the moment they sense danger (i.e. people). This makes them relatively difficult to spot. We already know a lot about the managed red and fallow deer herds living in spaces like the Royal Parks, but we have few records of wild deer that roam the capital’s outer suburbs. Without this information we are unable to develop a strategy for
How you can help us
accommodating a potential increase in numbers, such as erecting deer fences around some of our woodlands. To date, deer have been spotted in nearly all of London’s outer boroughs, including fallow deer around Harold Hill and Claybury, and roe deer in Kingston, Sutton, Croydon, Bromley and Bexley. But there have been some interesting reports of deer living closer to the city. Muntjac, for example, have been spotted on railway lines in Lewisham and near Finsbury Park. Can you help complete the jigsaw puzzle and tell us if you have seen any near you?
Deer to look out for There are just three deer species you are likely to see in the wild in London. These are: Fallow deer – fawny coloured with white spots in summer, becoming long and grey with indistinct spots in winter. Distinctive white rump outlined with characteristic black horse-shoe. Muntjac – small, stocky, and russet brown in summer, fading to grey-brown in winter. Also known as ‘barking deer’ as they are often heard barking at night. Roe deer – reddish brown in colour, fading to a grey or pale brown in winter.
Top: Muntjac © David Martin Top right: Roe hind © Steven Falk Above: Fallow stag © Pauline Leggat
In partnership with Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL), London Wildlife Trust needs your help to understand deer distribution in the capital and determine likely population trends. We need you to tell us when and where you see deer in London, what species you see, whether they are alive or dead, and how many there are. To find out how to help, visit wildlondon.org.uk/deer-survey-2013
Where to spot a deer Wild deer are most likely to be seen in London’s outer fringes. There are regular sightings in the woods of Barnet, Bromley, Croydon, Havering, Hillingdon and Waltham Forest. Some deer have even been reported at Sydenham Hill Wood and Tooting Bec Common. 5
Birds of a cool feather
Northerners flock into London
Restoring Croydon’s heathland and woodland With a habitat indicative of ancient woodland, Bramley Bank is a special place. Find out how we are restoring it
Four to look out for
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) Grey-headed with a yellow-tinged, streaked breast, this large, gregarious thrush can be found in noisy flocks, devouring berry-laden shrubs or gathering on sports pitches or lawns. Listen out for its distinct ‘chak chak’ calls.
London is anything but quiet in winter, argues Peter Beckenham As the feverish activity of spring and summer gives way to the colours of autumn, you’d be forgiven for thinking that all goes quiet in the world of birds. This is far from true, however, and the cooler months bring fresh new challenges as well as a host of new arrivals to the capital. From late-September, London’s gardens and parks, wetlands and wild spaces become home to hundreds of thousands of migrant birds of all shapes and sizes. Many of these, including thrushes, finches, waders and wildfowl will have undertaken an arduous and risky journey across the North Sea from Scandinavia and beyond – with rare occasions seeing birds forced to seek shelter on boats and oilrigs. These remarkable journeys are driven by the onset of tough winter weather in northern regions, making food and shelter scarce, and sparking an instinctive survival response in birds. While to many of us, a winter in London may seem cold and bleak, Above: Woodcock © Tristan Bantock 6
to many birds the milder climate provides a bounty of opportunities. The diverse range of habitats across the capital is reflected in the many species that spend winter here. Ice-free reservoirs are a haven for Taiga-breeding wildfowl like goldeneye and wigeon, while inner London gardens act as crucial feeding stations for Scandinavian thrushes feasting on the fruits of shrubs like hawthorn. During winter, even common ‘resident’ birds such as robin, chaffinch and goldcrest may see numbers swell with migrants from abroad. A more recent trend is the increasing number of warblers ‘wintering’ in London, particularly blackcap – a small, sleek songbird famed for its beautiful song in spring. With many birds competing for food sources, flocks can be highly mobile and unpredictable, but this presents some great birdwatching opportunities. Follow the food and you’ll find the birds. Winter in London is never dull.
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) Named for its rust-red flanks, the strikingly patterned redwing arrives in the capital from October onwards. It’s a small thrush with a prominent white stripe above its eye, and is often seen in gardens and parks where it forages for berries, windfall fruit and worms. Siskin (Carduelis spinus) A tiny yellow finch with a pale, streaked breast, the siskin is often seen in roving parties with goldfinches. It favours alder and birch trees, and also visits gardens to take niger seed. In cold winters, large numbers arrive in London from northern Britain. Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) This stocky, short-legged wader with a long bill is nocturnal and supremely camouflaged. It remains inactive during the day, favouring undisturbed scrub or woodland. In autumn, large flocks migrate to Britain from Russia and Finland, and may be seen flying over London.
How to help birds in winter Feeding birds can improve their chances of survival in winter. Migrants often have a long journey and arrive in London hungry and dehydrated. If you have a garden, leave halved apples on the ground for redwings and fieldfares, and keep feeders topped up with sunflower seeds, suet products and niger seed. If you have space, why not plant a berry-bearing shrub such as hawthorn?
Top: Bramley Bank © Tom Hayward Above: Heather © Amy Lewis
Woodland is such an emotive and enchanting habitat. In spring, dappled shade is cast upon a carpet of bluebells and lesser celandine. In summer the speckled wood butterfly seeks a sunny perch on a bramble patch in a glade. Now we’re moving into winter, woodlands start to take on a different feel. The aesthetic is changing as the canopy withers and distorts. The healthy green hue is replaced by reds and oranges, then the shift to brown accelerates as dormancy creeps in for another year, until we are left with ghostly silhouettes of trees stretching up to the sky. It’s these stark contrasts that make woodlands such special places. And where better to experience this but at Bramley Bank, a two minute walk from Coombe Lane tram stop in the Addington Hills, Croydon. Situated on predominantly acidic and free draining gravelly substrate, Bramley Bank exhibits a character that typifies semi natural habitat found in and around London. Although it’s a secondary woodland there are some clues to suggest that it is ancient in origin (an area that has retained woodland cover since 1600AD). Looking at OS maps from 1930s it’s clear there was no woodland recorded where Bramley Bank is now. However, species typically associated with ancient woodlands such as native
bluebell, dog’s mercury, wood sedge, threenerved sandwort and sanicle are all present. Although the use of indicator species needs to be treated with some caution, these findings suggest that parts of this woodland are ancient in origin, even though the actual wood was cleared sometime before 1930. Another interesting feature of Bramley Bank is the presence of small pockets of heathland and acid grassland nestled within the oak-and ash-dominated woodland. The gravels and sands that form the underlying Blackheath Beds dictate the presence of lowland heath and acid grassland. Both these habitats are increasingly scarce, threatened and fragmented in London. For that reason, we have taken extra measures to restore these important habitats. Supported by landfill funding, we have cut and cleared invading scrub from the remaining pockets of heathland. We created large scrapes to encourage heathland to colonise parts of the reserve that were previously dominated by scrub and rank grassland, and reseeded them with heather brash from Addington Hills. This winter we will be undertaking more scrapes, and harvesting more heather seeds to increase the area of heathland at Bramley Bank. For details on how to get involved with this interesting heathland restoration project please email email@example.com. Words by Tom Hayward
species to spot this winter Long-tailed tit Long-tailed tits are small, fluffy and pinkish, with a really long tail. Adults gather in large family groups in winter, eating moth and butterfly eggs, and other small invertebrates from trees and shrubs. Some have recently learned to use garden feeders. 7
Your wild London Wildlife events
Adopt a hedgehog today
London Wildlife Trust runs a range of events each year. Find out more at wildlondon.org.uk/whats-on or call the Membership Team on 020 7803 4272. We send out monthly events emails to our members. If you’re not receiving them and would like to be added to our list, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org Wildlife Volunteering sessions East Reservoir Community Garden – every Saturday, from 10.30am until 4.30pm Clissold Park – 1st Sunday of the month, from 10.30am until 2pm. Next sessions 3rd November; 1st December For more information contact email@example.com Walk Hillingdon Health Walks Yeading Brook Meadows 2nd Wednesday of the month at 11am Ten Acre and Gutteridge Wood 4th Wednesday of the month at 11am If you’re interested in attending a walk or becoming a volunteer walk leader, please contact Andy Willmore – firstname.lastname@example.org or Julia Heggie on 01895 277 151 Winter Tree ID Sydenham Hill Wood Sunday 26th January 2014. 2pm - 3:30pm Meet at Crescent Wood Road kissing gate. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear. 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.
Contact us Skyline House, 200 Union Street, London SE1 0LX www.wildlondon.org.uk email@example.com Tel: 020 7261 0447 Registered charity number 283895
Pedal power generates £4145 for London’s wildlife
We would like to say a very big thank you to our 10 intrepid riders who took on the challenge of the inaugural Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 this summer, cycling 100 miles along the Olympic route up some steep hills and through amazing landscapes. Over £4145 was raised, with Mace matching the sponsorship raised by four of their staff who took part. The riders were Christopher Daniel, Paul Dever, Leon Hutchinson, Nick James, Graham Knight, Carlo Laurenzi (our CEO), David Membrey (pictured with his finishing medal), Ian Mitchell, Simon Perry and Claire Wren. Want to ride for London Wildlife Trust next year? If you’re confident you can complete the course in less than nine hours and raise £500 in sponsorship, please email firstname.lastname@example.org by 2 January 2014 (perfect for those New Year resolutions!) to register your interest in joining our team. There are 10 places available and names will be selected at random.
The hedgehog is one of Britain’s most iconic mammals. Yet it is suffering huge declines, thanks to habitat fragmentation and loss. It’s estimated that between 2001 and 2011 the hedgehog declined nationally by 25 per cent, while in London it has disappeared from the majority of the big parks, and is found in 45 per cent fewer locations than in the 1980s. By adopting a hedgehog today you can help London Wildlife Trust to safeguard the future of this species by preventing further habitat loss, providing hedgehog boxes (such as at our Gunnersbury Triangle reserve) and developing wildlife-friendly gardens and spaces that help hedgehogs move safely between habitats to find mates and food. For just £20 per year you would receive an adoption certificate, regular updates and an invitation to a special event with one of the UK’s leading hedgehog experts for you and, if it’s a present, the gift recipient. (A cuddly toy hedgehog is included but optional). Adopting a hedgehog would make a perfect gift for friends or family and is easy to do. Simply visit wildlondon.org.uk/adopt or call us on 020 7803 4272.
Top: Rambling © Zsuzsanna Bird Above left: Hedgehog © Julie Watson