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Peregrine in nest at Ealing Hospital

Helping wildlife soar: the fastest animal on the planet

If you are out and about in the borough and look up to the sky, you just might be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the fastest animal on planet earth – a peregrine falcon.

These beautiful and charismatic birds of prey are on the increase in towns and cities, especially in west London – where the combination of plentiful prey such as pigeons and parakeets, and buildings to nest on, are providing ideal conditions for expanding populations.

And dedicated volunteers from the Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) have been giving local peregrines a helping hand to flourish with the installation of a nest box high up on Ealing Hospital in Hanwell, where a pair of peregrines have successfully fledged chicks.

Ealing Council has sponsored the cost of a webcam to provide residents with close-up footage of the nest – giving the EWG a vital insight into the behaviour and conservation of these falcons, as well as hopefully inspiring local people of all ages to pick up a pair of binoculars in the future.

As we reported, the BBC came to film the nesting birds recently for Hamza: Strictly Birds of Prey. Working with the EWG, the crew included the peregrines as part of a 1-hour episode you can still catch on iPlayer now.

They discovered that the falcons have a habit of taking their prey over the road into Brent Meadow and feeding while perched on the Wharncliffe Viaduct.

Fledgling falcons

In the first year, 3 chicks successfully fledged. And there are hopes for more to come. You can find the webcam feed on YouTube or Facebook by searching ‘Ealing Wildlife Group’.

Harvest mice return

Meanwhile, more than 150 harvest mice have been reintroduced to Perivale Wood after a 45-year absence.

harvest  mouse on grass stem
Harvest mouse on grass stem

Owners of the wood, the Selborne Society, teamed up with Ealing Wildlife Group and London Wildlife Trust to release the mice into the wild. It is the fifth site in the borough where harvest mice have been released in the last couple of years by EWG’s volunteers – with a total of more than 1,650 of
the animals being rewilded. Safe travel corridors will help them to reach Horsenden Hill and the other sites to find food and mates.

Perivale Wood is the last place in the borough where harvest mice were sighted, in 1979, before becoming locally extinct.

By reintroducing this lost species, it will help to improve the wood’s ecosystem of other animal life and plants. The UK-wide population had declined by 70% since the 1970s. The ongoing biodiversity project, endorsed by Ealing Council, was made possible with funding from the Mayor of London and Amazon’s Right Now Climate Fund.

Fun facts

  • Swoosh! Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds in the world and can dive up to 240 miles an hour to capture prey in flight, striking in mid-air with outstretched talons, or claws.
  • Eek! Harvest mice have such a strong tail they can use it to hang from grass stems.

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