FISH have been spotted in the River Crane for the first time since it was devastated by a huge sewage spill.
A 10lb chub, a dozen stickleback and a single fish fry were all seen in the river, which runs through Whitton's Crane Park, at the end of May.
The sightings are the first since tons of raw sewage were released into the Crane and the Duke of Northumberland's River last October, killing an estimated 10,000 fish along a seven-mile stretch, from Cranford to Isleworth.
They will come as a big relief to environmentalists, who had warned it would take years for the waterway to recover from the damage.
However, Friends of the River Crane Environment (FORCE), which reported the sightings, said there was still no evidence of herons or cranes nesting at the site.
There is also no sign yet of dragonfly or water boatman larvae, though both insects were common before the pollution.
FORCE chairman Rob Gray said there were still signs of surface water pollution in some backwaters and there had been outbreaks of algae, potentially related to the sewage release, during the recent hot weather.
"The Environment Agency has reported that oxygen levels in
the river have returned to normal, but they are still advising the public and their pets to keep out of the river," he added. "Our own view is that it may still be too early to conclude that the river water is entirely returned to its normal quality."
The Chronicle reported in December how the tiny mud snail - measuring less than a centimetre - was the only species known to have survived the sewage spill.
Mr Gray said local residents had reported the speedy return of mallards, moorhens and coots to the river.
In the last couple of months, he added, growing numbers of freshwater shrimps, mayfly and caddis fly larvae had also been spotted.
Thames Water accepted full responsibility for the sewage release, which was caused by a mechanical fault.
The company has promised to restore the river to a better condition than before the spill within five years, pledging to spend £400,000 during that period.
However, it is still being prosecuted by the Environment Agency and could face a hefty fine.
A public meeting about the river is being held at Twickenham Library on July 11, starting at 7.30pm.
The audience will be able to learn more about plans for the Crane and quiz representatives from Thames Water.
FORCE has asked residents to continue to send their wildlife sightings, to help it track the river's condition, to email@example.com.