Looking for Lizards, Part 2. Calling Existing and Budding Biologists

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We’re currently planning a training session to show people how to take part in some real citizen science, monitoring our Common Lizards – click the links and watch the video for a description of citizen science and to see more information on Common Lizards by Wild About Gardens. We’re excited about our upcoming activities to help these gorgeous little creatures, and we hope you will be too. The training will be on Saturday 16th April 1pm at the Orchard Community Centre, Central Avenue, Cambridge, CB4 2EZ, followed by a short session in lizard habitat nearby. Monitoring will take place in April, May and July to September and we welcome regular help with the monitoring.

Thanks to Steven Allain and Mark Goodman of Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) we found out last year we have a healthy breeding population of Common Lizards in Orchard Park (see Post by Steven Allain on Orchard Park’s Lizards and Common Lizards confirmed at Orchard Park).

Steven and Mark have written an Orchard Park Report describing last year’s activities, and they’ve outlined how to go about monitoring this year, to find out how widespread the lizards are here.

Common Lizards are undergoing dramatic declines in the UK due to habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation – in other words, they have fewer and fewer places to live, some of their homes are of poor quality, and some are too far apart.

It’s important to find out where the lizards are, and how many there are, so that we can maintain their habitat here in Orchard Park for the future. We did some work in the Balancing Pond last Sunday to keep the ground bare there for lizards to bask.

We’re holding the training session in April so that people can learn all about the lizards, how to identify their habitat, and gain science skills to take part in the ongoing monitoring in April and May, then again from July to September.

As the monitoring will involve approaching the animals, and getting close to them, unfortunately the training and monitoring will not be suitable for children under 8 years old. Also please note the lizard habitat has uneven ground, though there is a section with a path worn into the grass.

If you’re feeling particularly keen, you can find some background information on training by the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme here.

If you have binoculars and a camera, it would be good if you can bring them to the workshop.

Happy Holidays everyone 🙂

 

 

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Happier Apple Trees and more basking sites at the Balancing Pond

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Orchard Bob explaining how and where to cut

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Dan from HICOP begins pruning

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Dan from HICOP removes crossing branches, Kate pruning adjacent to path

Yesterday we had our session learning from the very knowledgeable and helpful Orchard Bob. We were shown how to prune and care for our apple trees and we now feel we know enough to take on their management confidently in future.

Bob provided a report with recommendations for the future, so we have a clear plan to work to.

Dan from Histon and Impington Community Orchard Project (HICOP) joined us to brush up on his skills, and we hope to collaborate with HICOP for future events.

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A clean small cut beyond the growth rings should help the tree to heal after pruning

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This is what a well pruned tree looks like

As well as pruning the trees so that they grow into the right shape, we also removed rubber straps which were no longer needed and in some cases were causing problems for the trees.

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Canker (a fungal infection) starting where the rubber strap had damaged the tree. It should heal now the strap has been removed

We were able to do a bit of tree guard recycling to add guards to the apple trees to further protect them from strimmer damage, when the wildflowers and grass around them are cut.

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Recycled guard to protect against strimmer damage

It was great to look back at the Orchard and see the trees looking like they were being well cared for. Lichens have already colonised the trees, and hopefully the area will be really good for wildlife in a few years time.

All cuttings were put in piles in the Wildlife Area to provide habitat for invertebrates.

We also removed seedlings from the Balancing Pond area to reduce scrub vegetation there, opening up basking sites for reptiles and invertebrates.

With many thanks to Bob and Dan, we enjoyed working with you 🙂

20 March 10-12.30 at the Balancing Pond and Orchard, Habitats Management

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The Orchard September 2015

On 20th March 10am-12.30pm  Orchard Park Wildlife Project are doing habitat management at two adjacent but different sites. Meet over at the Orchard Area (next to the sports ground at the end of Ring Fort Road) at 10.00am. See map Do come along for as long or as little as you can – but please note if you want to take part in Orchard activities, please be at the Orchard at 10.00am for tool use and health and safety training. This is a free, fun and informative event 🙂

Bob, an expert on Orchard Management, will show us how to manage our Orchard Area properly. Experienced volunteers from the Histon and Impington Community Orchard Project will also be coming to help practically, and to brush up on their skills. Bob will provide tools. We hope to gain enough skills so that we can ensure the trees are well managed in the long term. We’d love to be able to harvest the apples in a community event in the autumn. Sadly a lot of apples were picked by children then wasted last year.

From Community Orchards: How to Guide (Department for Communities and Local Government 2011)

“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.”

We will also be working at the Balancing Pond, adjacent to the Wildlife Area, which has been identified as good habitat for basking reptiles and invertebrates. Although this area is called a pond, it is a dry pond, designed for road run off from the A14. Whilst it would be great to have another healthy pond in Orchard Park (the school has a pond), the sensitivity of amphibians to pollutants in road run off means it can’t developed as a regular pond for frogs and such. Instead, it’s gentle slopes and bare ground should be maintained for basking. We will be removing tree seedlings to help keep the vegetation sparse in this area. We know we have a healthy population of Common Lizards elsewhere in Orchard Park, so we hope these activities will make the Balancing Pond more suitable for them and other wildlife. During the Wildlife Trust BCN’s survey of Orchard Park in preparation for writing the Habitats Management Plan, Essex Skipper, Comma, and Gatekeeper Butterflies, as well as Common Blue Damselflies were seen at the Balancing Pond. Wild Carrot, Hop Trefoil, Common Bird’s-Foot-Trefoil, Yellow Toadflax, Ribwort Plantain and Hoary Willowherb were also present, and these provide nectar, alongside the range of grass species which create a good structure for insects to exploit. Our activities aim to maintain this structure.

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Photo taken by Steven Allain (Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group) during our Herpetology activity alongside the A14 last year

We expect the activities to last two hours or so. We will have a small supply of tools for use at the Balancing Pond.

Children 12 and under must be accompanied and supervised by an adult. Some activities will be suitable for all ages and abilities. Due to the sloping nature of the Balancing Pond this area may not be suitable for some people unsteady on their feet, and that includes me!

 

 

Robin singing at Topper St play area

imageYesterday I went to Topper St play area to have a look at where a mature tree had been cut down. We think it was an Ash, probably affected by Ash die back. A real shame as mature trees are few and far between in OP.

At the other end of the play area, a Robin was singing loudly. I stayed under the tree for about ten minutes whilst I marvelled at how this tiny bird could belt out its song so loudly and beautifully. The traffic noise was drowned out and the only other loud sound was another bird singing. A little bit of bird therapy 🙂

The sound and pictures are not of great quality as I recorded them on my phone.

Audio / video Robin singing