Sowing Seeds

 

seedlings

Photo credit: Andrew Chan. Seeds sown at the Youth Group event

Last Thursday Andrew Chan from Orchard Park Community Council showed members of the Youth Group how to set up self watering pots to sow seeds. Sunflowers, and wildflowers for pollinators were planted, along with cucumber and sweetcorn for people.

Once the seeds are sprouting, they’ll be moved to the new raised beds which will be installed at the Orchard Community Centre soon. We hope lots of locals will get involved with tending the beds which will grow flowers and food plants. We’ve had funding kindly donated for the beds by the Orchard Park Community Council, tools we need to look after them by Education Services 2010 and Young People’s Workers from the Council are leading the activities.

Over the summer we will be doing a series of sessions to create a home for pollinators, and to make and plant the raised beds. We’d really like you to join us if you’re aged between 10 and 17 years old at the following sessions at the Orchard Community Centre:

Monday 31st July from 2pm to 4pm – Making a Bug Hotel

Thursday 17th August from 3.30pm to 5pm – creating and painting the beds

Thursday 24th August from 3.30pm to 5pm – creating and planting the beds

In the meantime for folks of any age, do get in touch if you’d like to help, learn, or have gardening knowledge to share 🙂

Bees and butterflies are declining due to habitat loss amongst other reasons, so it is important to do whatever we can to help. Click the link below to see a video on pollinators by Butterfly Conservation Plant Pots for Pollinators Video from Butterfly Conservation.

Screen grab pot for pollinators BC

Screen grab, Butterfly Conservation Website, Plant a Pot for Pollinators video.

Using things like yoghurt pots is great way to repurpose, and these self watering planters provide everything the seeds need to get going. Coir dehydrated compost disks were rehydrated, a wick made from kitchen cloth was threaded through the holes in the small plant pot, and a few centimetres of water put in the bottom of the yoghurt pot – the kitchen cloth pulls the water into the pot to water the seedling. Coir dehydrated compost is an environmentally friendly choice because it is peat free (see why go peat free) for more info on coir see: Eden Communities Gardening

self watering seed starter

Adapted from modsprout.com

 

 

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#GreatBigWalk Walker’s reception at Nightingale Park last night

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Wildlife Pond at Nightingale Garden

Wildlife Pond at Nightingale Garden Photo credit: http://www.nightingalegarden.org.uk

Last night around 30 people, mainly from Nightingale Volunteer Gardeners, assembled to meet and greet the team doing the Eden Project’s #GreatBigWalk. The walkers are winding their way through the UK heading home and working up an appetite in time for the #GreatBigLunch. Eden Communities aims to “connect people and communities, encouraging everyday people to make positive change where they live.” There certainly was a lot of good community spirit, as well as delicious home made food, in the amazing garden, not far from Addenbrookes @CB1 8SQ, last night. I’m sure Orchard Park Wildlife Project ‘up north’ can learn a thing or two about as we embark with our Community Council on our raised beds and community gardening journey. Nightingale Garden has a wildlife pond, lots of lovely wildflowers as well as food plants.

Nightingale Volunteer Gardeners are a “community gardening group for RHS-affiliated Queen Edith’s in Bloom”. Anyone ‘down south’ wishing to join them, or willing to travel down south, they meet Sunday and Monday afternoons 2-4, with ‘Gardeners tea at 3’, you can go along for however long you like. For information see: www.nightingalegarden.org.uk or contact Rebecca (volunteer) 07792 531 400.

 

 

Making Recycled Bird Seed Feeders with the Youth Group

Last Thursday OPWP held an event with Young People’s Workers at the Orchard Community Centre for the local youth group to make seed feeders from bottles. Some of the bottles had been collected during the scout’s recent litter pick. We demonstrated how to make the feeders and repurpose the bottles and how to fill them with a mix of seeds and suet (it stays in a bit better if suet is heated and added to the seed mix – just make the opening a little larger than suggested in the instructions below). We also had some bird books on hand to show the types of birds the feeders are likely to attract locally.

Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to work with you, and we look forward to the events we’ve planned for the summer: making the bug hotel, and getting everything going with the raised beds 🙂

Click on the links below for information on making seed feeders:

RSPB Instructions for making seed feeders

And for the seedy suet mix see the Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Watch activity sheet:

seed suet mix

All of the nest boxes were painted and we hope to see them around Orchard Park soon :)

 

All of the nest boxes are gone. Many thanks to the Community Council for funding them and to Scotsdales for providing free delivery. Do post pictures to show where your bird boxes have been placed around Orchard Park 🙂

For advice on where to put them click here

Many thanks for all the help setting up, running and taking the stall down too!

Planting for Improved Garden Security and Wildlife Benefit at Crime Prevention event tonight

 

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Op Hunter security event – Orchard Park

Wednesday 29 March 17:00 – 19:30 hrs

The Orchard Community Centre, Central Avenue, Orchard Park, Cambridge, CB4 2EZ

Cambridgeshire Constabulary are holding a crime prevention event at Orchard Park community centre to highlight security improvements that residents can make to protect their homes and reduce opportunist crime.

Officers and staff will be available to provide advice and information. A senior officer will be providing a crime prevention seminar at 6.30p.m.

There will also be security products available at a discounted rate, as well as information about property registration and coding.

Neighbourhood teams will be patrolling and visiting local streets, to increase security awareness.

Please come along to find out more (Source: https://southcambscops.org/2017/03/22/op-hunter-security-event-orchard-park/)


Orchard Park Wildlife Project will be there to advise on plants that can help with security at the same time as being beneficial to wildlife – idea by Kate Parsley.

Plants recommended for their defensive properties on the Crime Prevention Website that also benefit wildlife

 

Shrubs and small trees

Please note the top of the table is not showing all of the information. Scroll down to the link for a PDF complete version

Plant and defence grade (1st-3rd)1 Defensive Properties1 Flowers / berries Height1, type, and how to plant Wildlife benefits
Berberis sp.

 

Berberis thunbergii
(3 effective defense)

Berberis stenophylla
(2 very effective defense)

All Berberis are spiny and make excellent barrier hedges Deciduous varieties have good autumn colour, flowers April-May, has berries2 3m Best planted in a group with other shrubs. An evergreen, it prefers full sun and a moist soil, growing slowly2 Food and shelter

 

B. thunbergii can provide berries into autumn and winter2

Birds are attracted to the berries, whilst the thorns provide a barrier for safe nesting sites2

Japonica, Japanese Quince

Chaenomeles speciosa
(2 effective defense)

A thorn-bearing shrub with white flowers that is often wall trained Attractive red or orange spring flowers which are followed by sizeable yellow fruit3 2m A thorny, spreading shrub that can be allowed to do its own thing. Will tolerate some shade3 Food: flowers and berries3

 

Birds eat fruit and use dense branches as protection and nest sites.

Flowers attractive to bees and bumblebees3

Provides nectar and pollen for solitary bees4

Hawthorn

 

Crataegus monogyna

(1 extremely effective)

Crataegus prunifolia a compact variety

(1 extremely effective)

Ideal hedge barrier, thorny and dense White flowers in late spring followed by bright red berries5 7+m Tolerates a wide variety of conditions, including polluted and exposed sites5A Food and shelter5

Blackbird, Bluetits, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Crows, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Robin, Starlings, Waxwings etc feed on berries5

Black Veined White Butterfly caterpillar food plant. Flowers also visited by adult butterflies seeking nectar: Brimstone, Chinese Character, Grey Dagger, Lackey, Lappet, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Light Emerald, Mottled Beauty, Mottled Pug, Swallowtailed, Vapourer and Yellow-tail Moth food plant. Small Eggar Moth food plant when hedges left untrimmed in summer5

Host to innumerable insects5

Small mammals e.g. mice, bank voles and foxes take berries5

Common Holly

Ilex aquifolium

(2 very effective defense)

Ideal for barrier plantings Male and female flowers are on separate shrubs; for a female shrub to produce berries, it must be pollinated by a male growing nearby6 2m Grows in any soil and copes well with full sun or shade6 Food and shelter6

 

Bees and bumblebees collect its nectar and pollen.

Caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly eat buds and flowers.

Birds: Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, finches etc. use it for nesting as it provides excellent protection.

Blackbirds, thrushes etc. eat berries.

Hedgehogs, small mammals, toads and slow worms hibernate in deep leaf litter that builds up beneath it6

Oregon Grape

Mahonia aquifolium
(3 effective defense)

Mahonia media

(2 very effective defense)

Low growing shrub with spiny leaves Clusters of bright yellow flowers are produced in spring, followed by spherical, blue-black berries7 1.5m Vigorous, suckering shrub that can cope with most soils and thrive in shady spots where many other plants succumb7 Food7

 

Nectar and pollen may be taken by Blackcaps, Bluetits and House Sparrows. Berries eaten by Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes7

Excellent early-flowering nectar source for bees and bumblebees.

Bright-line Brown-eye, Cabbage and Peppered Moth caterpillar food plant7

New Zealand Holly

Olearia             macrodonta

(3 effective defense)

Shrub for exposed sites, with silver-toothed leaves Clusters of white, fragrant, daisy-like flowerheads8 1.5m Sun-loving plant which is hardy in warmer parts of the country. It tolerates wind, and do well in towns8 Food8

 

Flowers are attractive to bees and many species of fly8

Blackthorn, Sloe

Prunus spinosa

(1 extremely effective)

Excellent dense defensive shrub or small tree. Snowy white blossom appears in very early spring before the leaves and is followed in late autumn by the purplish-black fruits10 1.8m Very tough and tolerant of most soils and situations, including wet, exposed sites10 Food and Shelter9

Flowering, blackthorn provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees in spring. Its foliage is a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the Lackey, Magpie, Common Emerald, Small Eggar, Swallow-tailed and Yellow-tailed. Also used by Black and Brown Hairstreak butterflies.

Birds nest among the dense, thorny thickets, eat caterpillars and other insects from the leaves, and feast on the berries in autumn9

Roses
(2 very effective defense)Dog RoseRosa caninaField rose
Rosa arvensisIt is illegal to plant Rosa rugosa in the wild or allow it to ‘escape’!11
Dense and thorny vegetation Flowers 2-9m dependent on variety. Old-fashioned varieties are fragrant and disease-resistant11 Food and flowers11

Hybrid tea roses, are also useful addition11

 

Fruits popular with birds.

Wide range of insects attracted to the flowers including bees and butterflies11

Gorse

Ulex europaeus

(1 extremely effective)

Superb barrier shrub Small yellow flowers12 1.5m Grows well on poor dry soils1 Food and shelter12

Nest sites for birds, important for invertebrates12

Refuge for birds in harsh weather. In flower for long periods – an important nectar source in early spring and early winter, when little else is in flower12

Idea by Kate Parsley, Chair, OPWP

Please note some of the information at the top of the table is obscured due to the automatic layout of the webpage. To see a full PDF version of the table, click here: table summarised

Sources:

1 https://thecrimepreventionwebsite.com/garden-%20boundaries-fences-and-defensive-plants/618/defensive-%20plants-shrubs-and-trees-shrub-fences/

2 https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/b/berberis.aspx

3 http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/plants/shrub/chaenomeles-japonica.aspx

4 http://www.joyofplants.com/wildlife/picklist.phpname=meadow&pl=5&adv=1&ot=&r=0&g=0&p=4&o=926

5 http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/plants/tree/crataegus-monogyna.aspx

5A https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/h/hawthorn.aspx

6 https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/h/holly.aspx

7 http://wildaboutgardens.org.uk/plants/shrub/mahonia-aquifolium.aspx

8 http://www.joyofplants.com/wildlife/picklist.php?name=common&pl=5&adv=1&ot=&r=0&g=0&p=4&o=984

9 https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/blackthorn/

10 http://www.britishhardwood.co.uk/prunus-spinosa-blackthorn/155/

11 https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/r/rose.aspx

12 https://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/advice/gorse/

Meet the locals, give a bird family a home and contribute to conservation, whilst improving your own wellbeing

 

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Come along to Unwin Square, in front of the shops, on 1st April from 10.00-14.00. Orchard Park Community Council are organising an Easter Fun Day, click here for more information via the OPCC Facebook page. It’s a great chance to meet local folks, or to come along with your neighbours if you already know them.

Orchard Park Community Council have very kindly offered to cover the costs of some nest box kits (donations are welcome to help recoup some of their costs) which you can decorate and place in your garden, next to your window or balcony, to provide homes for our feathered friends. These boxes are most likely to attract birds from the Tit family (Paridae). They’re gorgeous and energetic little things, a joy to watch in the garden.

As mentioned previously, watching birds has been proven to improve our health and wellbeing. One study by the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and University of Queensland, involving hundreds of people, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighbourhoods.

blue tit

Blue tit, Orchard Park garden winter 2012

We can help you to find a suitable place to put your nest box up and let you know which birds you’re likely to see in your garden. Although many birds will have already started nesting, it’s not unusual for them to change nests for a second clutch, and if you’re not in time for them this year, there’s always next.

More information on nest boxes from the Gardenature website:

When is the latest time to put up a nest box in the season?

Garden birds generally start breeding around mid February, ideally you should have put a nest box in place by the end of Feb beginning of March. This said, we have known bird boxes to be put up in April that have had successful results.

When and how do I clean out the nest box ?

The nests of most birds harbour fleas and other parasites, these can remain to infest young birds that hatch the following year. We recommend that old nests be removed from August onwards or once you are certain the birds have stopped using the box.

Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the front or top panels. Insecticides and flea powders must not be used.

How do I position my nest box ?

There are a number of guidelines you can follow to help maximise your chances of birds using a nest box.
It is highly recommended that you face the nest box between North and East. What is important is that you do not face the hole towards the prevailing wind as this will almost certainly mean that rain will get into the box in wet and windy weather. Try to avoid placing a nest box where there will be prolonged exposure to sunlight as overheating inside the box can sometimes result in heat stress to the chicks.
Placing a nest box in close proximity to a feeding device or feeding station may well put off birds from nesting in the box. Most nesting birds are highly territorial and do not like intruders on their territory. Either remove feeders just before and during the breeding season or place the nest box well away from the feeding station.
Make sure that the birds have a clear flight path to the nest box without any clutter directly in front of the entrance. Tilt the box forward slightly so that any driving rain will hit the roof and bounce clear.
To attract Blue Tits, Great Tits etc, ideally your nest box should be fixed two to five metres up a tree or wall to prevent predators such as cats reaching them.
Open-fronted boxes for robins and wrens need to be low down, below 2m, well hidden in vegetation. Those for spotted flycatchers need to be 2-4m high, sheltered by vegetation but with a clear outlook. Woodpecker boxes need to be 3-5m high on a tree trunk with a clear flight path and away from disturbance.
There are several methods for attaching your nest box to a tree. If using a nail try to make sure it is an aluminium one as this will cause the least damage to the tree and pose less of a hazard at a later date if the tree is cut down or trimmed using a chainsaw. Alternatively boxes can be attached with garden wire around the trunk or branch. Holes can be drilled on either side of the bird box roof to help do this. Use a piece of garden hose or similar around the wire to prevent damage to the tree.”
Also see the BTO Website.
Why do we need to provide birds with nest boxes?
From the BTO (see their website for additional information): “Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired.”
Benefits of nest boxes 
Adapted from the BTO: “Whether you’re a family with space for a box in your garden, a teacher, a member of a local wildlife group, or you belong to a bird club and could organise a work party, providing a nest box gives you the chance to contribute to the conservation effort in the UK whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your garden.”
If you’re really keen you can monitor the box and provide feedback to OPWP and the BTO: https://www.bto.org/about-birds/nnbw/monitor

Getting Your Garden Surveyed

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Would you be interested in having your garden surveyed? Cambridge Natural History Society are looking for people who’d be happy to have a survey team identify the animals and plants living there. By taking part you’d be contributing to a Cambridge wide project mapping our local fauna and flora.

From the Cambridge Natural History Society website:

“Urban domestic gardens occupy a substantial proportion of the area of British towns – about 20-25% according to a study in Sheffield. They are a notable resource for wildlife and full of interesting plants. In summer 2016 we developed a protocol for recording species in gardens and tried it out in four. We are looking for gardens in as many Cambridge monads (1-km squares) as possible. We are trying to spread the gardens out so that we have only one in each monad.

In each garden we note the plant species, and ask the owner to tell us of the vertebrates that they have seen in the past two years. We also record what we find when we go there. We ask the owner for information about management, in particular pest control and wildlife management. Then we go and make records of (1) Vascular plants (summer), (2) Small mammals (autumn) and (3) Bryophytes (winter). As part of the plant recording we take soil samples and note the weeds in two squares of size 1 m² placed in flower beds.”

 

They’re also interested to see what we’ve found at the Wildlife Area, so we’ll provide our records.

Please let us know if you’d like to take part if you’re in Orchard Park by sending an email to opwildlife@gmail.com we’ll pass your details on to Cambridge Natural History Society and we can provide some assistance to identify what’s living on your doorstep 🙂 If you’re outside Orchard Park and/or you have ID skills and are willing to help with surveys, please contact NatHistCam@gmail.com

2017 and RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

rsbp-bgb

Image credit: RSPB

OPWP is working with the OP Community Council and others to create our activity plan for 2017. We will announce the activities soon.

In the meantime, to get going with wild fun this year, why not take part in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, it’s the world’s largest wildlife survey and happening on 28-30 January.

Click here to request a free pack from the RSPB to get you started.

Click here to download a free pack.

The packs offer food ideas, activities, bird identification guides and a calendar showing all types of wildlife, not just birds, that you’re likely to see each month from January until December.

It would be great to hear what you see around Orchard Park during the birdwatch – use the form below to let us know.

During this cold and wet weather, I’ve had more Blackbirds than usual in my garden. Although I see Pied Wagtails regularly around Orchard Park, they’re not normally visitors to my garden, but I’ve seen a couple hopping around this last week. I’ve put some extra food out, hopefully something suitable for most visitors, and I need to make sure I’ve replenished my stock of food for Robins in time for the Birdwatch. The wider the variety of food you offer, the wider variety of birds you’ll attract.

Sparrowhawk in OP Garden

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Sparrowhawk with Collared Dove prey, Orchard Park garden

I heard a new noise on Saturday in my garden. I always look when I hear something I can’t recognise from its call. To my surprise when I opened the curtains I saw the yellow eyes of a small bird of prey staring at me from my little tree. At first the bird appeared to be trapped amongst its tight, twisted branches, flapping around and seemingly unable to free itself. I closed the curtains briefly to think about how best to release it and wondered if it was sick or injured. When I opened the curtains again I realised the bird was absolutely fine, it had moved out of the tree and was holding down a struggling Collared Dove which I hadn’t noticed previously, it had obviously taken it in, or near to, my garden where lots of them congregate to take the food I put out. I was able to have a proper look at the bird of prey by now, as it was focussed only on finishing off the Collared Dove and plucking its feathers, and was not at all bothered by me just a couple of feet away. It was a Sparrowhawk. Over the course of an hour or so, I watched it pluck the feathers, then the meat off its prey. Quite gruesome, but it was also fascinating to see this beautiful and efficient killer so close up, I felt quite privileged, as this was happening outside my window, in Orchard Park!

Sparrowhawks can be seen all over the UK throughout the year. As this one has a brown back, it’s likely to be a female. Their scientific, or Latin name is Accipiter nisus and they belong in the family Accipitridae with other hawks and eagles.

More info on Sparrowhawks from the RSPB website:

“Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey. They’re adapted for hunting birds in confined spaces like dense woodland, so gardens are ideal hunting grounds for them. Adult male sparrowhawks have bluish-grey back and wings and orangey-brown bars on their chest and belly. Females and young birds have brown back and wings, and brown bars underneath. Sparrowhawks have bright yellow or orangey eyes, long, yellow legs and long talons. Females are larger than males, as with most birds of prey.

Where to see them

Sparrowhawks breed in woodland but also visit gardens and more open country. They can be seen in towns and cities, as well as rural areas. Listen for the alarm calls of smaller birds as they spot a sparrowhawk and will alert other birds in the area to the danger. In the UK sparrowhawks are found everywhere, except for parts of the Scottish Highlands, the Western Isles and Shetland.

When to see them

At any time of year; you might see birds displaying to each other in early spring, when males perform a ‘rollercoaster’ flight, climbing up and diving back down again to impress females.

What they eat

Mainly small birds, but 120 different species have been recorded. Males can catch birds up to thrush size, but females, being bigger, can catch birds up to pigeon size. Some sparrowhawks catch bats.

Population

Europe UK breeding* UK wintering* UK passage*
35,000 pairs

* UK breeding is the number of pairs breeding annually. UK wintering is the number of individuals present from October to March. UK passage is the number of individuals passing through on migration in spring and/or autumn.”