Fledglings, Flowers, Insects and Formulating Plans

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Photo credit: Peter Trimming. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I was lucky to see a juvenile blackbird in the garden this morning. I stepped away to get my camera but sadly it moved away before I could get a photo, so I’ve used this great picture by Peter Trimming.

It’s the time of year when we’ll be starting to see fledglings around. So far I’ve seen just a single blue tit fledgling, calling continuously and flapping it’s wings rapidly to attract the attention of its parent to beg for food. If you find a baby bird and you’re concerned about it, check the RSPB info below , and see their website for advice on what to do.

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Feeding birds is to be encouraged all year round, but at this time of the year it will help them feed their young too. See the RSPCA’s Guide to Feeding Birds for more information.

It’s also the time of year when we’re starting to get more flowers too. The Wildflower Bank on Ring Fort Rd has had Cowslips this year so far, but we’ll have to wait a little while before it’s in all it’s flowery glory.

Education Services 2010 have kindly provided funding, and some structural materials were donated generously by Kettles Yard, to make a sign for the Wildflower Bank showing its variety of flowers, and the invertebrates that each type of flower supports. Orchard Park Primary School children will be helping to create content for the sign.

We’re also looking into the feasibility of running a mini bioblitz, an activity when naturalists and members of the public work together to find as many species as possible within a set location and time, at the Wildflower Bank during National Insect Week 18-24 June. National Insect Week’s video shows why insects are so important.

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Greenfinches – New Visitors Given the Weather

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Greenfinches. Photo: OPWP

This is the first time I’ve seen Greenfinches in the garden. No doubt they were attracted here for the food I put out. I’ve also seen a Song Thrush, again not a usual visitor. The garden is in general, much busier than usual. It’s good to know I’m doing a little to help them get through this cold snap.

Birds will be having a difficult time trying to find food at the moment. The following is taken directly from the RSPB and explains simple but important steps you can take to help. Read more by clicking: here

“To keep their energy up during the colder months, the best way to help your garden birds is by providing them with a variety of food, but fatty food will be especially helpful. For example, fat balls or homemade bird cakes, which only take a few minutes to make and can be a great children’s activity, are perfect for your feathered friends. These can be made cheaply with kitchen scraps and lard. If you prefer, seeds, fruits or dried mealworms are also among birds’ favourite snacks.

Another vital support for vulnerable birds is fresh water for drinking and bathing. Finding sources of water can be hard for birds when there’s been a frost, but with a simple trick you can help to keep a patch of water ice-free. The RSPB recommends floating a small ball, such as a ping-pong ball, on the surface of the water as a light breeze will stop an area of water from freezing.

Finally, providing shelter from the harsh weather is extremely important. By carefully planting dense hedges such as privet or hawthorn, or allowing ivy or holly to grow: you’ll be giving birds a great place to roost in and shelter from the elements. Nestboxes can also make good roosting sites.”

Source: https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/cold-snap/

You could consider purchasing Ecopond’s Ice Free for Bird Baths to prevent water supplies from freezing down to -4C or put out some warm water. It is a specialist product that won’t harm birds. It’s very important NOT to use any salt or antifreeze products.

The Holly and the Ivy

Ivy flowers

The holly and the ivy….. their ripening fruits are a sign Christmas is coming soon. Plant some ivy! It’s a great addition to a wildlife garden. It provides some of the latest flowers of the year, full of nectar for insects – butterflies, such as the Red Admiral, and some species of bees will rely on it. As well as late nectar, ivy produces late fruit for birds such as thrushes.

Ivy can also provide winter shelter for hibernating moths, and nest cover for small birds like Wrens and Robins.

Although it is a hardy plant, I managed to kill an ivy plant. Knowing its wildlife value though, I’m going try again this year……

Helping Wildlife in Autumn, Leave the Leaves :)

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autumn-leaves

Below is a compilation of information about how to help our local wildlife in Autumn.

From Gardeners’ World Website:

Leaves

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.

Ponds

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.

Twigs

Put bundles of twigs at the back of borders, or in a plant pot on its side, where invertebrates and small mammals can shelter.

Borders

Leave herbaceous borders intact in winter so decaying plants can act as a ‘winter duvet’ for small mammals and insects. Clumps of ornamental grasses may offer the perfect hibernaculum for a hedgehog, while hollow plant stems and seedheads provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates. Seedheads are also a source of oil-rich food for birds which may visit to feed.

Plant pots

Leave stacks of plant pots in a sheltered spot to offer shelter for bees and other insects needing a cool, dry place.

Compost heaps

A variety of species, including hedgehogs and queen bumblebees, find compost heaps the perfect place to hibernate. if your heap is in a plastic bin with a lid, this will keep it dry, but be sure to provide access for hibernators at the base by standing the bin on bricks. If you have an open bin, cover it with a thick piece of old carpet to keep it dry and insulated. Avoid disturbing the bin between autumn and April, when all species will have finished their long snooze.

From House Beautiful Website:

Ivy

One of the best plants for your garden wildlife is ivy, especially in autumn and winter. Many flowering plants will start to die during the colder season, whereas ivy flowers are only starting to flourish. These prove to be an important source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators when other nectar-bearing plants are dying off.The evergreen nature of ivy is perfect for sheltering birds and insects while other trees lose all their leaves. If that wasn’t enough, ivy also produces winter berries that are a wonderful food source for birds, who use their energy to control their own body temperature.

Nurturing garden ivy is probably the most important piece of advice for helping nature survive this autumn and winter.

Bird Food

It’s important to keep their food and water sources topped up in your garden. As soon as the temperatures drop and the natural berries disappear, birds will appreciate your offering – they rely on high-energy, high-fat winter food to fuel them through the colder months.

 

From The Mammal Society

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From The Mammal Society: The once familiar hedgehog has declined dramatically over the past few decades.  Surprisingly, for such a well-loved creature, very little is known about why the hedgehog is in crisis.  This makes it difficult to target conservation efforts to where they will be most effective.  It is presumed that road accidents, and the loss of suitable, well-connected habitat might be important.  Yet in some areas the hedgehog still seems to be thriving.  It is not known whether this is because they are being given supplementary food in people’s gardens.

We are therefore appealing for you to help with our Big Hedgehog Watch Project.  We want to know how long it is since you last saw a hedgehog; whether any were spotted in your garden or neighbourhood last year; and whether you feed your prickly visitors.  Last year, almost 4,000 people responded in just 4 weeks and the survey revealed that:

  • 87% of people that reported sightings saw them in their garden;
  • Almost 70% of the people that saw hedgehogs in their gardens fed them
  • Almost 70% of the people that fed them saw the hedgehogs more than five times
Fiona Mathews, Chair of the Mammal Society says “Hedgehogs sadly, are experiencing an unprecedented decline throughout the UK and we are still not sure of the cause. We are therefore appealing for people to fill in this survey and let us know of their last hedgehog sighting, dead or alive.  Even if it more than a year since you saw one, please tell us because it helps us to identify where hedgehogs are disappearing”.

The online survey is available on the Mammal Society website and takes just a few minutes to complete. All completed surveys will go towards the conservation of one of our most loved species. You can also help hedgehogs by contributing to the Mammal Society’s hedgehog appeal. To donate or to fill in the survey, visit www.mammal.org.uk/science-research/surveys

The survey will be open until 1st December 2017.

Cambridge seems to be a good place for hedgehogs, let’s keep feeding them to ensure we help to maintain our local population. For more ideas on what you can do to help see: https://hedgehoggardens.wordpress.com

 

From the BTO: Garden BirdWatch preliminary results, and attracting birds in Autumn

The following are taken directly from the email newsletter from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), written by Claire Boothby, Garden BirdWatch Development Officer. They feature information on the Goldfinch, a bird commonly seen in Orchard Park, Waxwings seen in large numbers early this year in the nearby Science Park, and how to attract birds to your garden.

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Source: BTO

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Source: BTO

Sowing Seeds

 

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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

 

 

#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!