Chiswick wildlife focus – birds, bats, hedgehogs and foxes

Image above: Birds at the lake at Chiswick House; photograph Jon Perry

Climate change affecting UK birds

Puffins could largely disappear as a result of climate change over the coming years, according to research carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology. The impact on the UK bird population was assessed by relating long-term trends in their behaviour to temperature and rainfall data and seabirds were found to be especially affected.

The Trust relies on information collated by 60,000 bird-enthusiasts to understand patterns of behaviour. Since 1995 they have run Garden Bird Watch to find out how, when and why birds and other animals use our gardens. The programme provides them with UK-wide data and helps people learn about and connect with wildlife in their gardens.

Image above: Birds at a garden feeder; photograph Jon Perry

WildChiswick talk on Garden Birds

WildChiswick is hosting a Zoom talk by Mike Toms, Head of Communications at the British Trust for Ornithology on Thursday 25 November. A regular contributor to BBC Wildlife magazine and author of several books, including A Garden Bird Year, he will be covering subjects such as: why are birds in our gardens and who wakes first, why birds have different dialects in different parts of the country, why they sing louder in some areas, diseases they suffer from and what we can grow in our gardens to help them.

You can register for the talk on the WildChiswick website –

Images above: Hedgehog drinking – photograph Hedgehog Street; Joanne Gilbert

Want to know more about Chiswick’s wildlife?

Joanne Gilbert set up WildChiswick at the beginning of 2021. She developed an interest in nature as a child, growing up partly in South Africa and partly in Aberdeenshire. Having had a career in marketing, in her mid-forties she decided to pursue her passion and studied Animal Behaviour at Berkshire College of Agriculture. The HND, which covered biology, veterinary science and husbandry, was followed by an MSC in Animal Behaviour, which was more research based.

Having lived in Chiswick for 14 years, she decided to start a project looking at Chiswick’s hedgehog population during lockdown. Using social media to record their whereabouts, she has been able to map the areas of Chiswick where they have been spotted.

READ ALSO: Keeping an eye out for Chiswick’s hedgehogs

Image above: Hedgehog caught on camera at night; photograph Zoological Society of London

Where are all the hedgehogs?

Joanne has found hedgehogs living in Grove Park, in the grid between the A4 and the river, the South circular and the A316, but nowhere else. People used to report hedgehog sightings in Dukes Meadows and Bedford Park, but have not recently. Gunnersbury Triangle, a haven for wildlife, has no reported recent sightings either.

With the aid of London Hogwatch and the Zoological Society of London she laid cameras in parks and gardens around Chiswick, across all the allotments in Dukes Meadows, the Promenade, Chertsey Rd, Staveley Rd and Thames Rd and recorded hedgehog activity in Sutton Court Gardens, Grove Park School and the grounds of Chiswick House to monitor their behaviour.

Having put the cameras out in April she has just finished collecting the last of them at the end of October and is analysing the data.

Images above: Joanne drilling a hedgehog hole

Hedgehog Highway project

Hedgehogs need to range over a mile to find food they need. Their favourite foods are caterpillars, beetles and worms. When they can’t get them they will eat slugs and snails. They travel to find a mate, which they do from March onwards.

To aid their mobility and ease of access Joanne has started a Hedgehog Highway project. The little mammals need to roam to survive, so garden fences are their enemy. She wants us all to cut holes in our garden fences so they are able to pass through our gardens at will, and on invitation she will come and make the hole for you, asking just for a donation to WildChiswick.

Hedgehogs have always been regarded as the gardener’s friend because they eat slugs and snails. Cats and foxes don’t seem to bother them, she says, though dogs can be more problematic.

Image above: Family of foxes in a Chiswick garden; photograph Mark Lawson

Walks and talks

Joanne organises regular talks on wildlife and has held bat walks in the gardens of Chiswick House. Dr Phil Baker told his audience in October that a litter of fox cubs may not all be from the same father and family members help feed the young. Joanne writes:

“Foxes do not grow to the massive sizes shown in the press. The average size of a red fox is 6kg. However in Scotland, where it is colder, they do tend to be larger to deal with the climate.

“They do have the capacity to grow larger, particularly in cities, but they appear to choose not to do so. Despite the fact that family members help feed the young and there is plenty of food to be found, they appear not to increase the amount of food they eat”.

Find out more about Chiswick’s wildlife and WildChiswick events and projects from the WildChiswick website.

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