It’s Big Garden Birdwatch time again….27 – 29 January 2018

 

robin

Robin with snow falling on its head, photo taken through the window, Orchard Park Garden

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Source: RSPB Website

Spend an hour looking at the birds in your garden, at the Wildlife Area, in the Orchard or in the older trees near the busway.

From the RSPB Website:

“Request a pack
To help you get ready for Big Garden Birdwatch, enter your contact details…. to request a FREE pack. Thanks for taking part!

Due to overwhelming response, we currently only have download packs available. They’re still crammed full of the same great information to help you make the most of your Birdwatch.”

Birds recorded in Orchard Park that you might see if you take part:

Blackbird
Blue Tit
Collared Dove
Chaffinch
Carrion Crow
Dunnock
European Jay
Goldfinch
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Great Tit
Hobby
House Sparrow
Jackdaw
Linnet
Long Tailed Tit
Magpie
Pied Wagtail
Robin
Rook
Starling
Sparrowhawk
Wood Pigeon
Wren

Use the RSPB’s identifier for any you’re not sure of: Bird Identifier

Read more and request a Big Garden Birdwatch pack at: RSPB BGB 2018

Do let us know if you find any new species 🙂

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Hopes for 2018

 

We normally try to end the year on a positive note. However this time, I’m posting on the state of the Wildlife Area again. Whilst improved efforts by the OP Community Council and OP Wildlife Project (OPWP) to keep the area clean have made a positive difference overall these last few years, it’s still very disheartening to see littering and vandalism continuing to be major problems. These photos were taken on the 9th November when Andrew from the Community Council and I had a look around.

OPWP has given talks to OP School children and OP Scout Group about dangers of litter to wildlife (Litter at the Wildlife Area) and both have helped enormously with litter picks. We’d like to thank them for their efforts. It’s a shame to see them go to waste though when the area returns back to this state after a matter of weeks.

OPWP will be arranging more litter picks for next year and we’d be grateful to anyone that can get involved. Most folks that join in find litter picks strangely addictive and children generally really enjoy them.

The purpose of OPWP is simple: WE AIM TO MAKE ORCHARD PARK BETTER FOR PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE THROUGH COMMUNITY ACTION. There are benefits for volunteers too, and although this post is from someone based in the USA, the points raised are valid here in OP too: Benefits of volunteering Being in contact with nature has also been proven as beneficial to our health: Nature benefits. Free, fun and good for you, what’s not to like? Do join us.

After a series of successful collaborations with OP School in 2017, we will be running more sessions there again in 2018. We’ll be planning our events for the community soon too, and will post details here and on Facebook. Sadly last year turn outs to some community events were much lower than in previous years and our community planting for food and pots for pollinators projects had a slower start than we’d hoped (Raised bed at the Community Centre). The bug hotel was also destroyed Bug Hotel Destroyed.

We hope 2018 will be better in terms of community involvement but we really need your help to realise that.

We’d like to thank everyone that helped out last year either by collaborating, giving time, expertise, or financial support to the project.

Anyone that has something positive to bring in 2018 is very welcome to join us.

 

State of the UK’s Birds 2017

Blackbird near Orchard Park Wildlife Area

Blackbird near Orchard Park Wildlife Area

A report released today by Hayhow et al. (2017) and published by the RSPB confirms that Starlings, which appear common in Orchard Park, are actually undergoing major declines nationally. The long term trend for 1970-2015 shows an 81% decrease in their abundance, and for the 1995-2015 period, a 51% decrease in abundance.

Other birds seen regularly in Orchard Park such as the Great Tit, Robin and Goldfinch are increasing in abundance. Blue Tit abundance has shown little change from 1995-2015. Populations of Dunnock, a little brown job that many people think are House Sparrows, have declined over the longer term period, but increased from 1995-2015.

The full report can be found at: State of UK Birds 2017

It’s important that we do what we can to help our local birds by feeding them through winter, and by providing shelter and water. For ideas see:

Recycled Bird Feeders

From the BTO: Garden BirdWatch preliminary results, and attracting birds in Autumn

helping wildlife

You can also contribute data to such surveys by being a citizen scientist and taking part in the RSPB’s next Big Garden Birdwatch 27-29 January 2018. Registration opens 13 December 2017. See: Big Garden Birdwatch 2018

The Holly and the Ivy

Ivy flowers

The holly and the ivy….. their ripening fruits are a sign Christmas is coming soon. Plant some ivy! It’s a great addition to a wildlife garden. It provides some of the latest flowers of the year, full of nectar for insects – butterflies, such as the Red Admiral, and some species of bees will rely on it. As well as late nectar, ivy produces late fruit for birds such as thrushes.

Ivy can also provide winter shelter for hibernating moths, and nest cover for small birds like Wrens and Robins.

Although it is a hardy plant, I managed to kill an ivy plant. Knowing its wildlife value though, I’m going try again this year……

Helping Wildlife in Autumn, Leave the Leaves :)

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autumn-leaves

Below is a compilation of information about how to help our local wildlife in Autumn.

From Gardeners’ World Website:

Leaves

Remove leaves from paths or lawns but transfer them to a corner or beneath a hedge, where hedgehogs and other animals can crawl for shelter.

Ponds

Male frogs often spend winter in the muddy depths of ponds, breathing through their skin. But if the pond freezes over, gases caused by decaying plant material can get trapped and poison them. Remove debris from ponds now, and float a tennis or golf ball on the surface to prevent ice from sealing it.

Twigs

Put bundles of twigs at the back of borders, or in a plant pot on its side, where invertebrates and small mammals can shelter.

Borders

Leave herbaceous borders intact in winter so decaying plants can act as a ‘winter duvet’ for small mammals and insects. Clumps of ornamental grasses may offer the perfect hibernaculum for a hedgehog, while hollow plant stems and seedheads provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates. Seedheads are also a source of oil-rich food for birds which may visit to feed.

Plant pots

Leave stacks of plant pots in a sheltered spot to offer shelter for bees and other insects needing a cool, dry place.

Compost heaps

A variety of species, including hedgehogs and queen bumblebees, find compost heaps the perfect place to hibernate. if your heap is in a plastic bin with a lid, this will keep it dry, but be sure to provide access for hibernators at the base by standing the bin on bricks. If you have an open bin, cover it with a thick piece of old carpet to keep it dry and insulated. Avoid disturbing the bin between autumn and April, when all species will have finished their long snooze.

From House Beautiful Website:

Ivy

One of the best plants for your garden wildlife is ivy, especially in autumn and winter. Many flowering plants will start to die during the colder season, whereas ivy flowers are only starting to flourish. These prove to be an important source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators when other nectar-bearing plants are dying off.The evergreen nature of ivy is perfect for sheltering birds and insects while other trees lose all their leaves. If that wasn’t enough, ivy also produces winter berries that are a wonderful food source for birds, who use their energy to control their own body temperature.

Nurturing garden ivy is probably the most important piece of advice for helping nature survive this autumn and winter.

Bird Food

It’s important to keep their food and water sources topped up in your garden. As soon as the temperatures drop and the natural berries disappear, birds will appreciate your offering – they rely on high-energy, high-fat winter food to fuel them through the colder months.

 

From The Mammal Society

HH MS

From The Mammal Society: The once familiar hedgehog has declined dramatically over the past few decades.  Surprisingly, for such a well-loved creature, very little is known about why the hedgehog is in crisis.  This makes it difficult to target conservation efforts to where they will be most effective.  It is presumed that road accidents, and the loss of suitable, well-connected habitat might be important.  Yet in some areas the hedgehog still seems to be thriving.  It is not known whether this is because they are being given supplementary food in people’s gardens.

We are therefore appealing for you to help with our Big Hedgehog Watch Project.  We want to know how long it is since you last saw a hedgehog; whether any were spotted in your garden or neighbourhood last year; and whether you feed your prickly visitors.  Last year, almost 4,000 people responded in just 4 weeks and the survey revealed that:

  • 87% of people that reported sightings saw them in their garden;
  • Almost 70% of the people that saw hedgehogs in their gardens fed them
  • Almost 70% of the people that fed them saw the hedgehogs more than five times
Fiona Mathews, Chair of the Mammal Society says “Hedgehogs sadly, are experiencing an unprecedented decline throughout the UK and we are still not sure of the cause. We are therefore appealing for people to fill in this survey and let us know of their last hedgehog sighting, dead or alive.  Even if it more than a year since you saw one, please tell us because it helps us to identify where hedgehogs are disappearing”.

The online survey is available on the Mammal Society website and takes just a few minutes to complete. All completed surveys will go towards the conservation of one of our most loved species. You can also help hedgehogs by contributing to the Mammal Society’s hedgehog appeal. To donate or to fill in the survey, visit www.mammal.org.uk/science-research/surveys

The survey will be open until 1st December 2017.

Cambridge seems to be a good place for hedgehogs, let’s keep feeding them to ensure we help to maintain our local population. For more ideas on what you can do to help see: https://hedgehoggardens.wordpress.com

 

Bug Hotel Destroyed

bug hotel destroyed

Remnants of the Bug Hotel. Photo Credit: Andrew Chan OPCC

OPWP is sad to announce that the Bug Hotel, constructed near to the Orchard Community Centre was destroyed a couple of weeks ago. The Bug Hotel had been made in the summer with wood, sticks, pine cones and other things with nooks and crannies to provide a shelter for invertebrates. Even though the wood sections had been screwed together, someone, or several folks, decided to dismantle it. Very disappointing after the effort to build it.

From the BTO: Garden BirdWatch preliminary results, and attracting birds in Autumn

The following are taken directly from the email newsletter from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), written by Claire Boothby, Garden BirdWatch Development Officer. They feature information on the Goldfinch, a bird commonly seen in Orchard Park, Waxwings seen in large numbers early this year in the nearby Science Park, and how to attract birds to your garden.

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Source: BTO

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Source: BTO

Raised bed at the Community Centre

At the penultimate summer event with the Youth Group, one of the raised beds was painted and potted up. We’re planning work with the 1st Cambridge Scout Group to ensure it’s maintenance. The addition of Ivy means that pollen and nectar will be available as late as possible into the season for honey bees and other pollinators. Thank you to the Youth Group, Orchard Park Community Council, and Education Services 2010 for making this project possible.

Orchard Park Wildlife Project will add some educational signs to the raised beds very soon.

For background information on this project, the importance of pollinators and more on how to help them see previous blog post: Sowing Seeds

 

Seeking funding to investigate the presence of the amphibian chytrid fungus in a non-native species

Swabbing midwife toad. Photo by Steven Allen

Swabbing midwife toad. Photo by Steven Allen

By Steven J R Allain and Mark James Goodman, text taken directly from experiment.com

Backed by Brian Colin Eversham, Talita Bateman, Lindsay Stronge, and Clare Worden

About the project 

Click here for comprehensive information and how to fund from experiment.com

We’re currently studying a population of the common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans) in Cambridge, England. The species is non-native and our current goal is to screen the population for the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), which has been implemented in amphibian population declines worldwide. As an introduced species, the disease is one of the biggest threats to our native herpetofauna.
What is the context of this research?

This project has been ongoing for the past couple of years. In 2015, the first midwife toads were confirmed. Since then, we have continued to swab toads for the fungus, although only a small number of samples have been analysed. Currently we are working on producing a manuscript to be published in a peer-reviewed journal with our initial results. We hope to raise the funds to pay for the analysis of the swabs currently in cold storage and also allow us to continue the project into the next year or two.

What is the significance of this project?

The chytrid fungus has already caused the extinction of 200 amphibian species and threatens hundreds more around the globe. One of the main introduction routes for the disease is through the introduction of non-native species. The disease affects different species and populations differently and so infected animals may not show clinical signs of infection. This means that screening them by swabbing for the disease is the only way we’ll know whether or not they are infected.

What are the goals of the project?

We aim to establish whether or not, as a non-native species, the midwife toads we are studying are acting as a vector of the chytrid fungus. Through analysis we also wish to determine how prevalent the disease is, if it is present, and how we can mitigate the spread to local amphibians. We’ve been taking morphometric data of all of the toads we swab (including tadpoles) so that we can build a better idea of the population structure too. This, twinned with the results from the swabs, will allow us to see which individuals were infected, the location they were found and their age-class. Using this information we should be able to track transmission pathways (if the disease is present).

Budget

Chytrid Swab Analysis$1,500
The only real cost we have is the analysis of our samples which cost ~$30 per sample. This analysis is a qPCR test which tests the samples for chytrid fungus DNA, which will be carried out at the Institute of Zoology, London Zoo. We estimate the population to be between 50 and 100 individuals, we’d like to sample at least half of these if possible. The budget will allow us to pay for the analysis of approximately 50 samples and will only be used on analysis.