Below is a compilation of information about how to help our local wildlife in Autumn.
From Gardeners’ World Website:
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.
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.
Put bundles of twigs at the back of borders, or in a plant pot on its side, where invertebrates and small mammals can shelter.
Leave herbaceous borders intact in winter so decaying plants can act as a ‘winter duvet’ for small mammals and insects. Clumps of ornamental grasses…
As Covid continues to rise, unfortunately it’s not possible to arrange activities. We hope to be able to start again soon. There are still plenty of things you can do to help our wildlife, including taking part in Citizen Science projects.
Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count started on Friday last week, it runs until 8 August, so there’s plenty of time to spend 15 minutes to count what you see. Even if you don’t see any butterflies, it’s important to submit the results of your time spent looking.
From Butterfly Conservation’s website: “The Big Butterfly Count is a UK-wide survey aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment simply by counting the amount and type of butterflies (and some day-flying moths) we see.”
It’s easy to take part and they provide all the information you need, including the downloadable ID sheet below, and there’s a free app available too.
As lockdown eases and the weather improves, we’re finally able to start thinking about arranging some events. We’re looking for volunteers to help us look for lizards. Mario from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) is leading surveys to look for Orchard Park’s viviparous lizards that were translocated to Bramblefields Local Nature Reserve because their home in OP is being built on. Mario needs more people to help. He’s skilled and knowledgeable and will provide all necessary training.
Due to lizards requiring warm weather before they can move around, they need the sun to warm up their muscles, the surveys will be weather dependent. We will post times and dates here as soon as they’re confirmed.
Monitoring will be from May to September, and ideally anyone wishing to volunteer would be able to join weekly, or at least every other week.
This activity isn’t suitable for young children as the lizards are easily disturbed by people moving around, those aged 12+ are welcome, children must be accompanied by an adult.
Bramblefields LNR is wheelchair accessible, though the lizard basking site is not.
Please contact Mario and/or OPWP for details, thank you.
Mario: 07512 268427 Instagram: @shimboviswild Twitter: @MarioShimbov or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on previous monitoring and OP’s lizards see below and: http://lizards
If you’re looking for something free to do with the kids, look no further
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 29 – 31 January
From the RSPB website
“Join thousands of people taking part to see the drama unfold on your doorstep.
We might not be able to get together with loved ones at the moment, but you can make plans with friends and family to take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey, all from the comfort of your own homes.”
Join their course to gain an understanding of why #Nature connectedness matters for human and nature’s #Wellbeing and find out how to improve your nature connectedness. Register now: https://buff.ly/39IcG8J
It’s been a strange time these last few months. The media suggests many more people have been taking an interest in their local wildlife given the extra time spent at home. I sincerely hope this interest is maintained and translates into action to help our wildlife and habitats.
There’s been a bit of action in a small OP garden, centred around a little bowl of water. I called the video ‘Just Add Water’ to show what can be attracted with very little effort – it shows how important such a seemingly simple action can be to our local wildlife.
The Wildflower Bank was looking very colourful a couple of weeks ago too. If you haven’t had a look at the bank yet, maybe stop and take in the variety of plants there and the invertebrates it attracts. Don’t forget to check the sign near the school entrance to help you with plant ID and some of the invertebrates we’ve recorded there.
Here’s a video showing the length of the bank. A few flowering plants have been labelled. Stop the video when you see the label to see if you can ID the plants mentioned.
On Saturday, thanks to On the Verge Cambridge and Orchard Park Community Council, native bluebells were planted in the Wildlife Area. On the Verge, who kindly provided the plants free of charge, is a voluntary group set up to promote wildflowers and pollinating plants around Cambridge. They aim to “provide an abundance of food sources for pollinating insects which are in catastrophic decline. By providing joined-up corridors of food for pollinators we can help them feed without having to fly long distances. We can make the city of Cambridge welcoming to pollinators through simply planting what they need. Increasing plant biodiversity in our city can have a positive impact on the insect population immediately.” (Source: On The Verge Website).
Thanks very much to Andrew Chan, Chair of OPCC for planting them, obviously we were unable to do this as a group activity in the current circumstances.
The Woodland Trust say “enchanting and iconic, bluebells are a favourite with the fairies and a sure sign spring is in full swing.
Value to wildlife
Many insects reap the benefits of bluebells which flower earlier than many other plants. Woodland butterflies, bees and hoverflies all feed on their nectar. Bees can ‘steal’ the nectar from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the flower, reaching the nectar without the need to pollinate the flower.
Bluebells are unmistakable bell-shaped perennial herbs. They actually spend the majority of their time underground as bulbs, emerging, often in droves, to flower from April onwards.
Leaves: are narrow, around 7mm to 25mm wide and 45cm in length. They are strap-shaped, smooth and hairless, with a pointed tip.
Flowers: usually deep violet-blue in colour, bluebells are bell-shaped with six petals and up-turned tips. These sweet-smelling flowers nod or droop to one side of the flowering stem (known as an inflorescence) and have creamy white-coloured pollen inside. Some bluebell flowers can be white or pink. Up to 20 flowers can grow on one inflorescence.
Not to be confused with: Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), which is very similar in appearance to the British bluebell. However, Spanish bluebells grow upright, with the flowers all around the stem, not drooping to one side like the British bluebell. Hybrid bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana) is a mix of the British and Spanish bluebell. It is often very similar in appearance to our native bluebell, but might threaten its existence by out-competing it and diluting the gene pool.” (source information above was taken directly from the Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) page at The Woodland Trust).
The Cowslips are coming out too, they’re quite prolific on the bank closest the Premier Inn. They’ll be out on the Wildflower Bank outside the school soon, along with the rest of the flowers. For more information on Cowslips click here.
It’s a difficult time for all at the moment, but if there’s any consolation it’s that we’re going into it in spring. I hope people will use it as an opportunity to watch wildlife – it’s good distraction, proven to be good for your wellbeing and could create a greater sense of nature connectedness, which in turn might increase actions people take to help wildlife.
We will reschedule once the Coronoavirus has passed its peak
What, well there’s all sorts, something for everyone, all ages and abilities welcome, the event will be held at an accessible ♿️ venue:
😀 Meet your neighbours 🧁 Eat nice food ☕️ Have a cuppa 🛹 Skate lesson with Shredder – Contact Max to book your session at: email@example.com (help with the litter pick and/or tree planting to qualify for your free lesson) 🚯 Litter pick 🌲 Plant a tree 🎨 Create art about our Orchard 🏍 Learn about Orchard Park’s Shared Electric Trike 🎥 Watch films about our local wildlife and how to help 🦔 Make a pledge to help our community and wildlife
When: Sunday 5 April 10-4
Cost: FREE £0.00
Where: Meet at Orchard Park Community Multi Function Room CB4 2GW, next to Orchard Park Skate Park and Wildlife Area – see map below
Help us cleanup Orchard Park, and plant a fruit tree or two in return for a free lesson with Max from Shredder Skate School, who strive to bring the joys of skateboarding and stunt scootering to anyone that wishes to start. Contact Max to book your session at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll be creating art to make a sign for the Orchard, showing the importance of orchards for wildlife “A variety of flora and fauna can be supported by this environment – insects, birds, bees, bats, foxes and small mammals as well as wild flowers…. Orchards can protect bumblebees simply by creating a habitat for them to exist. Both honey bees and bumblebees are beneficial in pollinating orchards.”
🦠Coronoavirus – If you’re feeling unwell and experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus – a cough, a high temperature, shortness of breath – please do not attend the event, stay at home and seek medical advice by calling the 111 coronavirus service. Facilities for hand washing – the Government’s focus to control the disease – are available at the Multi Use Room. Look out for the latest NHS advice. Of course if the latest advice suggests public events should be cancelled, we’ll postpone our event and reschedule.
Thanks so very much indeed to everyone that made our 2019 events possible, in terms of providing funding, sharing knowledge and expertise, lending a helping hand at our activities, or coming along to learn and take part.
We hope to see some regulars and meet some new people at our 2020 events.
Looking back to much warmer times, here are the photos from the mini Bioblitz at the Wildflower Bank held on 5 July this year. Most of the species are things we’ve seen there before, but there are one or two new invertebrates too.
Many thanks to Carol Inskipp of OPWP for all of the following photos and species identification, and Tim Inskipp for ID expertise.
The community at Marmalade Lane have taken in several underweight Hedgehogs to look after over winter. They wouldn’t have survived their winter sleep being as lightweight as they were.
Marmalade Lane is appealing for paper, even leftover Christmas present wrapping paper will help for the Hedgehog’s bedding. They are low on newspaper to line their ‘runs’. On top of the newspaper they have torn up newspaper strips. Please leave any newspaper, or wrapping paper outside the Common house, Number 9 Marmalade Lane. They are open to visitors from Orchard Park, if you would like to visit the hedgehogs over the holidays send a message to Frances Wright via Facebook Messenger and the Inside Orchard Park Facebook Group.
Here they are a day or two after they’d been taken in, I hear they’re doing much better and looking a lot healthier now. They should be good to go out back into the wilds of Orchard Park when the weather has warmed and they’re up to a safe weight next year.
The autumn garden can, with planning, provide a larder of berries, fruit and insects that form the natural diet of our local wildlife. However, as many of our gardens are small, and without varied plants, structure, and wild areas, we need to give the wildlife a helping hand as food begins to dwindle after the summer plenty. Have a look at our blog post from last autumn for tips: tinyurl.com/opwpautumn
As hedgehogs became a such feature at each of the summer events: there’s a hedgehog character in our play Saving the World, Starting at Your Doorstep, Horace/Prickles/Spike the sculpture is now living happily at Marmalade Lane, and a hedgehog is at the centre of the artwork created for the skate park by Kadero – we’ll start with tips on how we can help them – they’re now a symbolic reminder in Orchard Park to look after our wildlife. They’re good in this reminder role because their prickles can tend to get them in pickles, particularly where litter is concerned. When hungry they’ll get into any cans, packets, and bags lying around as they look for scraps of food – and due to their backwards facing spikes, they’ll often get stuck. Because they’ve been declining rapidly in the UK since the 1950s, they’re also a species of conservation concern. They really do need a helping hand in urban areas where thankfully they seem to be doing a little bit better.
One of the main things you can do to help is to make sure your garden has access for hedgehogs. Many of our front gardens have hedgehog friendly fencing, but what about your back garden if you’re lucky enough to have one? If you’ve got fence panels all the way around sealing your garden off consider cutting a CD sized hole in one of the panels, and ideally in a panel that connects to your neighbour’s garden. If everyone did this, it would create a hedgehog highway allowing access to a significant total area for hedgehogs. They need to be able to roam to find food and a mate – males can cover about three kilometres in a single night.
Plant some shrubs or a hedge, as they prefer to move around under cover.
A compost heap or log pile will give them a safe and cosy spot to spend the winter.
Provide some supplementary food – chicken cat biscuits are a favourite and they need help at this time of the year to put enough weight on to ensure they can survive their winter sleep.
Please don’t use slug pellets, weed killers, and other poisons in your garden. We had reports of two or three dead hedgehogs on the school field a couple of years ago, it’s thought they died because of slug pellet use – hedgehogs eat the poisoned slugs which in turn of course poison the hedgehogs.
Both species photographed in Orchard Park home
Autumn is the time when you’re likely to see a large, brown, hairy spider scuttle across the carpet or find one in your bath or sink. Some information suggests they’ve just moved in temporarily to find shelter from harsh conditions outside, whilst other reports say they’re inside our homes all year round, but we only notice them in autumn when they come out of their hidey holes looking for a mate. For the arachnophobes, see if you can learn to live with them for the natural pest control service they offer, left alone they’ll rid your home of aphids, flies, and ants. You could even try giving them a name and watch them as though they’re a pet.
The Zebra Jumping Spider shown above in real life is only about half a centimetre and actually quite cute if you take a proper look at it. You can see four of its four pairs of eyes. The two eyes at the front can move but the eyes at the side are fixed, and as a result of their eight eyes, they have excellent vision.
The Large House Spider on the other hand has a body length of 10-16cm. The one in the photo was about ten centimetres including its legs.
If you’ve not fed the birds before now, try offering some mixed seeds as they’re versatile and will attract a variety of species. Fat balls and fat cakes are particularly good as we go into the colder weather to give energy to our feathered friends. You can make your own seed feeder using a plastic bottle or fill a half coconut shell with fat.
Remember to keep your bird feeders as clean as possible – this is very important for the health of our visiting feathered friends!
Make a small pond to offer a bathing and drinking space for birds. Even a washing up bowl will help.
Habitats can be made next to ponds to offer vital spaces for hibernating species like the Common Toad. Twigs, log piles, flowerpots and leaves can usually do the trick in providing a suitable home.
Autumn is a good time to remove any dead leaves from your pond to reduce the possibility of poisonous gases that could affect any underwater creatures should the pond freeze over during winter. Native oxygenating plants such as Water crowfoot can help your pond provide oxygen to any aquatic wildlife.
Preparing your garden for Winter
Although it can be tempting to give your garden a bit of a spruce in Autumn by removing all the decaying plants, our wildlife really loves these as places to hide and shelter from the cold. Herbaceous plants and hollow stemmed plants are great little living spaces for overwintering insects. Even seedheads can make excellent habitat for insects as well as a great source of food for visiting birds and other wildlife.
Any fallen leaves that you may clear from paths can be used as mulch on flowerbeds – perfect for foragers such as blackbirds.
Try to avoid pruning hedges as they are havens for wildlife over winter, providing food, shelter and protection. Adding different species to your hedge will attract a wider variety of wildlife. For example, ivy can be a great source of food for insects, including late-flying bees such as the Carder bee, whilst berry-producing plants can help entice many birds to your garden.
If you don’t have a garden, you can still put up a nest box to provide shelter from the harsher weather. Nest boxes can be vital for the survival rate of certain bird species such as the Wren and members of the Tit family, increasing the possibility for more breeding birds once spring arrives.