OPWP joins Cambridge Conservation Forum



Image credits: CCF

I’m delighted to have just received an email from Roger Mitchell, Chair of Cambridge Conservation Forum (CCF), informing me that Orchard Park Wildlife Project was voted into CCF as a member unanimously.

From the CCF website:

CCF was established in 1998 with the aim of connecting the diverse community of conservation practitioners and researchers working at local, national and international levels based in and around Cambridge. CCF seeks to develop new collaborations across people and organisations engaged in conservation relevant research, including within Cambridge’s large academic community, with those engaged in the practice of conservation – translating research results into changes in policy and practical interventions to make a positive impact for biodiversity conservation.

Cambridge Conservation Forum is an active network of over 50 conservation-related member organisations and institutions based in and around Cambridge and plays an important role as a founder member of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. A special council meeting in 2009 and an interactive session at the 2010 Annual CCF Symposium developed a new CCF Vision document (see attachment below), which set out some of the ways CCF is hoping to develop.

To consider development of CCF over the next five years, the CCF council organised a member-wide consultation to agree strategy for CCF’s further evolution, and to identify mechanisms to overcome any obstacles to achieving its vision and mission. The results of this consultation are in the CCF Development Study Report below. From this consultation process, the CCF Strategy 2013-2018 was developed.

CCF aims to:

1. Foster contacts between people in different organisations.
2. Broaden awareness of the exceptional pool of local expertise and activities.
3. Encourage the development of joint initiatives aimed at tackling common problems.

For more information see: http://www.cambridgeconservationforum.org.uk/about-us



Face painting at the Charity Pot event

Face painting at the Charity Pot event

Honey combs. Lots of people had their faces painted with fabulous wildlife themed designs.

Honey combs. Lots of people had their faces painted with fabulous wildlife themed designs.

A great big thank you to the lovely folks at Lush at Lion Yard, Cambridge for the charity pot party. It raised funds for our activities and allowed us to promote the project in town. All of the staff are so friendly and enthusiastic. They don’t just sell delicious, fair trade, none animal tested products, they also promote some very good causes – have a look at their website. As a bonus, I smell wonderful too 🙂


Walking With Woodlice – crustaceans in your garden

woodlouseDid you know that woodlice are crustaceans, a group with around 45,000 species? Crustacean means hard shell. Woodlouse are therefore related to crabs, lobsters and barnacles. They live in areas like your compost heap and eat dead and decaying matter – they are important in nutrient recycling. This one had gone off piste and came into my lounge, it obliged a close up photo, and I placed it in the wood chips under the hedge.

The Natural History Museum has created an easy identification key so that you can identify any woodlouse you find in your garden – they call it the Woodlouse Wizard: woodlouse wizard.

If you enjoy trying to identify wildlife of all shapes and sizes around Orchard Park, or if you’d like to have a go, join us early evening on 21st July whilst we look at species active in the daytime, before we move onto moths and bats a little later. More details of the event will be provided next week. Thankfully I shouldn’t think we’ll come across any sea louse in Cambridge.

The folks at QI have compiled some words on woodlice:


Woodlice, also known as armadillo bugs, cheeselogs and pill bugs, are not insects but crustaceans. They breathe through gills which are attached to the swimming legs on their abdomen; moist tubes extract oxygen from the air but if submerged in water they can survive for about an hour.

Woodlice don’t urinate, but expel waste through their shell in the form of ammonia vapour. They drink through their bottoms and eat anything from rotting vegetation to their own faeces.

The giant isopod or sea louse, Bathynomus gigantes, is a second cousin (same order, different suborder, family etc) with a striking resemblance to a rather grumpy woodlouse – only it can grow to over two feet long.



Lush Charity Pot Party


Looking forward to meeting the lovely folks at our local Lush store in Cambridge later today. We’ll be planning a Charity Pot Party which they’re very kindly holding to help fundraise for Orchard Park Wildlife Project. The party will be at the Cambridge store in the Grand Arcade on Saturday 27 June 12-4pm. Money raised will help us to purchase equipment for our upcoming events, especially those prescribed in our Orchard Park Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.

They’ll also be face painting for children 🙂

Come and say hello, we look forward to seeing you.

For more information on the fantastic fundraising work Lush does for charities see: <a href="https://www.lush.co.uk/article/charity-support” target=”_blank”>

To bat or not to bat, that’s been the question…

Broken bat box at the wildlife area

Broken bat box at the wildlife area

Last week Chris Vine from the Cambridge Bat Group came to Orchard Park to check if there were any bats, or signs of bats, in the boxes located along the back of the Wildlife Area. After checking boxes on the first 6 poles, sadly no signs of bats were recorded. Boxes on three poles to the far west side of the Wildlife Area, which were inaccessible due to vegetation, remain unchecked.

Clearly this pole has suffered damage so no bats would live there – two boxes are missing and the remaining one is damaged. We should be looking after our bat boxes as bats are a natural pest control and desirable species to have around. To encourage bats we can help by planting a Bat-Friendly Garden – from the Bat Conservation Trust website:

Brown long-eared bat in a hole (Hugh Clark)All our UK bats eat insects – a single bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night, so they need plenty of them! You can make your garden bat-friendly by doing things like:

  • Planting night-scented flowers, which attract insects
  • Creating a pond
  • Putting up a bat box for bats to roost in
  • Letting your garden go a bit wild – neatly pruned gardens aren’t as good for insects
  • Making sure you don’t use any chemicals or pesticides on your garden
  • Ask an adult to help you find out more about how to garden for bats – they can visit our ‘Encouraging Bats’ page for more information

Orchard Park Wildlife Project was planning an evening event for 29th June to have a talk on bats, and to do some monitoring of the boxes by filming them at dusk, as Pipistrelle bats – the most likely species to be there – are so small they can go in and out of the box without us seeing them. They are however detectable when watching a slowed down film.

Instead of a whole evening of batty things, we’ve decided to combine a bat event with moths and a mini bioblitz on 21st July. We can identify and examine some daytime species, then move onto night time critters including looking for bats with a more sophisticated detector than the one borrowed so far.

I remain hopeful that there are bats around Orchard Park as I’ve had a couple of independent reports, and Chris from the Cambridge Bat Group thought the Orchard Park Wildlife Area bat boxes are very likely to be in use at some point in time, so it is well worth monitoring them.

I will go over to the Wildlife Area at dusk (9pm) on 29th June with the borrowed detector and my camera for half an hour or so to check for any activity in the unchecked boxes – it won’t be a full on batty event, but if anyone would like to join me they’d be welcome.

Blackbird near the Wildlife Area


I’ve just been over to the Wildlife Area to take a couple of photos of the bat boxes whilst preparing for our next event. I saw this male blackbird (Turdus merula) on the way near to the balancing pond. Female blackbirds are brown, not black and don’t have the orange eye ring. Blackbirds occasionally visit my garden, they like sultanas so I put them out especially but they’re often eaten by other birds before the blackbirds get to them. This male appears to be showing a little albinism with one or two white feathers on its back. Blackbirds can be seen all year round and if you’re lucky heard too.

Take a look at the RSPB site by clicking on the link below for more information (including videos and sound recordings) on one of our nation’s favourite birds: RSPB Blackbird