Pied Wagtails and Wildlife Area Litter Pick 5 December 10-12.30


Pied wagtail in OP photo credits: Tim Inskipp

Pied Wagtails were the first birds I saw in any number when I moved to Orchard Park, and the first to arrive in my garden.

The RSPB describe them as “A delightful small, long-tailed and rather sprightly black and white bird. When not standing and frantically wagging its tail up and down it can be seen dashing about over lawns or car parks in search of food. It frequently calls when in its undulating flight and often gathers at dusk to form large roosts in city centres.”

A fitting description. I passed one yesterday on the way to the busway, and it reminded me of the large roost I saw over on the grass at the entrance to the sports ground in 2012 when I moved here. They appeared for a few consecutive days, but I haven’t seen them roosting since then – they’re here all year round – does anyone else see the roosts?

Their Latin or scientific name is Motacilla alba and they belong to the Family of Pipits and wagtails (Motacillidae). You can listen to their call here Pied Wagtail Audio

pied wagtails quick facts



They occur in a wide range of habitats. This time last year Pied Wagtails were the BTO bird of the month, they are declining in watery areas of their habitat – near canals and rivers. They feed on both ground and aerial invertebrates such as flies and caterpillars. In winter when these food sources are scarce they supplement their diet with seeds.

The next activity being organised with the Community Centre is an Orchard Park and Wildlife Area and surrounds litter pick Saturday, December 5th from 10 – 12:30. I’ll be at the entrance to the Wildlife Area at 10am to meet anyone who wants to help there. Please contact Lewis at the Community Centre for more details of the wider litter pick – the Community Centre are offering a light lunch for volunteers after the pick.



Our Next Event and Helping Wildlife Through the Winter

So it’s definitely starting to turn chilly out there….see below for some advice from the Royal Horticultural Society on how to help wildlife in gardens, and even on balconies, through the winter.

Our next scheduled event as recommended in the Orchard Park Habitat Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust BCN is maintenance of the balancing pond over by the Wildlife Area. The area is an example of early colonisation by plants and it is beneficial to insects and reptiles to maintain this stage of succession. This can easily be done by disturbing areas of the ground and removing most of the plants present which will provide open ground for new plants to establish into. Yellow Meadow Ants; Butterflies: Essex Skippers, Comma, Gatekeeper; and Damselflies: Common Blue were seen during the survey there last year. The date and time for this event will be announced shortly. It will be a family event suitable for all ages and abilities, though the ground is rough and not wheelchair accessible, the edge of the small site is accessible. We will be working on just one quarter of the site.

From the RHS @ https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=382

Helping Winter Wildlife

It is surprisingly easy to do something to help garden wildlife in the lean and cold months of winter. Even if you carry out just a few of the following tasks, it can make a difference.

Helping birds

  • Help birds in winter by placing fat blocks in wire cages. Balls in plastic nets are not recommended as birds such as woodpeckers can get their tongues caught
  • Create your own fat blocks by melting suet into moulds such as coconut shells or logs with holes drilled in
  • Alternate different recipes to entice a range of birds; peanut cakes for starlings, insect cakes for tits and berry cakes for finches
  • Put out finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese for small birds such as wrens
  • Although fat is important, do also provide a grain mix or nuts to maintain a balanced diet
  • Sparrows, finches and nuthatches will enjoy prising the seeds out of sunflower heads
  • No-mess mixes are more expensive but the inclusion of de-husked sunflower hearts means there is less waste. Inferior mixes are often padded out with lentils
  • Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed. Specially designed feeders are needed for the tiny niger seed, loved by goldfinches
  • Feed placed on a wire mesh held just off the ground will entice ground-feeding birds such as robins and dunnocks
  • Thrushes and blackbirds favour fruit. Scatter over-ripe apples, raisins and song-bird mixes on the ground for them
  • Consider planting berrying and fruiting trees and shrubs such as Malus,Cotoneaster and Pyracantha to fill gaps

Looking after other creatures

  • Check bonfires before they are lit for sheltering and hibernating animals, such as hedgehogs, toads and frogs
  • Melt a hole in the ice on ponds to allow the wildlife to drink, and enter and exit the water. Fill a sauce pan with hot water and sit it on the ice until a hole has been melted. Do not hit or crack ice as this can send shockwaves through the water that harms wildlife
  • Be careful when you turn compost heaps. As these are often warm, they can be the winter resort of frogs, toads and other animals
  • Provide a shallow dish or container of water at ground level. This will benefit other garden wildlife that needs to drink, as well as birds
  • Make an insect or bug hotel and put up in a sheltered position. Overwintering ladybirds and lacewings will find this useful
  • In late winter, clean out bird boxes so they are ready for new nests in spring
  • Leave herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects




Citizen Science: Collect Goldfinch Information for the BTO

Goldfinch survey BTO

Photo by Jill Pakenham as used by BTO website

BTO Goldfinch Feeding Survey

We’ve got lots of Goldfinches in Orchard Park, they look and sound lovely. Why not take part in a citizen science project being run by the British Trust for Ornithology to find out why they’re increasingly common in our gardens? Click on the link above for more information.

From the BTO:

The Goldfinch Feeding Survey is running between November 2015 and February 2016 inclusive. You do not need to provide bird food to take part in this survey.

This survey will support new research being undertaken by BTO Research Ecologist Kate Plummer, to investigate whether the increasing use of garden bird foods by Goldfinches is helping their national population to grow.

A HUGE Thank You to LUSH :) and a thanks from the Hedgehogs








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Thank you again to Lush for the second Charity Pot Fundraiser for Orchard Park Wildlife Project. We are very grateful to receive these funds to purchase equipment for our activities.

Thank you also to all Lush customers who chose an activity from the Wild About Gardens Week ‘help the hedgehogs’ list, and pledged to take measures in their gardens to assist our spiky critters. We’d love to see what you did. If you can take a photo of your hedgehog home, feeding stations, or hole for the hedgehog highway, then send it to opwildlife@gmail.com and we’ll put it on the website. We look forward to seeing them 🙂

Also, if you made a hole in your fence using the template, don’t forget to map it at Hedgehog Street: http://bighedgehogmap.org/

If you haven’t taken any hedgehog action yet but would like to, then see the previous blog post with plenty of suggestions: how to help hedgehogs