Verge-ing on wonderful madness at the Orchard Park BioBlitz

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How inspiring to see youngsters in Orchard Park being positively encouraged to find and collect creepy-crawlies of all types in the little verge of meadow grass and flowers outside the Primary School. Off they set, these budding entymologists, with magnifiying glass strips, identification cards, insect pooters and nets. And the parents couldn’t fail to blush with pleasure at their excitement and end up joining in as much for their own interest as for the kids. What better than to be able to bring back miniscule, colourul, horned and multi-legged creatures and actually have them identified and noted down by real-life ecologists from the Wildlife Trust! – because the BioBlitz is a citizen science initiative to record the wildlife in our green spaces around the UK.
What a great initiative by Mandy Haywood of Orchard Park Wildlife Project with the support of the OP Primary School, Wildlife Trust and Lush…

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Lush Charity Pot Party

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We thank Lush for their previous support to Orchard Park Wildlife Project. Their funding has allowed us to purchase our bat detector, and all sorts of other equipment and supplies we need to run our varied events, and manage OP’s various habitats.

They’re holding another Charity Pot Party for us in the Cambridge store in Lion Yard this weekend. OPWP will be there from around 10am-2pm on Saturday 16th June – do come and say hello.

We’ll be promoting our Bioblitz event at the Wildflower Bank (being held on Monday 18th June from 3.20-5.20) and encouraging people to pledge to take action on one or more national campaigns…The UK has lost nearly all of its wildflower meadow habitat since the 1930s, this has a negative impact on the insects reliant on that habitat, and in turn the birds and bats that feed on the insects. These three national campaigns (amongst others) are working to improve the situation – we hope people will get involved locally and nationally. We’ve got some wildflower and insect themed activities for children, and a few goodies from the Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week campaign to share that will help you identify insects.

Encourages people to learn about insects and their importance

Encourages people to write to their council to manage wildflower road verges for wildlife

Encourages people to take action for bees

Thank you again Lush for the opportunities to raise these important issues, to promote our Bioblitz, and for the funds you raise. I know everyone at Lush will be working very hard to support us on Saturday.

Informal Mini Bioblitz at the Wildflower Bank

Bioblitz poster ver 2Join us at 3.20pm on 18 June at the beginning of National Insect Week for an informal mini Bioblitz of the Wildflower Bank, Ring Fort Rd, CB4 2GR. The event will run for two hours and you’re welcome to join us for as little or long as you like. All equipment will be provided. Sadly, many people don’t realise what a precious resource the Wildflower Bank is – the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since WWII and that’s having a negative impact on the insects that rely on it, and in turn the birds and bats that feed on them.

It’s an opportunity to get involved in Citizen Science (see video below), learn about the importance of our local plants and invertebrates, and support Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign. It’ll be an accessible, free, fun, informative, and family friendly activity – easy to join as you collect children from school.

The Wildflower Bank will be brimming with plants and buzzing with insects later in June, and this Citizen Science event is being run as a bioblitz – where experts and members of the public will try to identify as many of these species as we can in this particular area and in the set time. Members of the public are encouraged to come along to learn, and Cambridge based naturalists are very welcome to come along and share their expertise. All plant and invertebrate records from the bioblitz will be provided to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre.

Information from the bioblitz will also feed into a sign being installed at the Wildflower Bank near to the school showing pictures of the different types of flowers found there, and the insects and wildlife each type of flower supports. We’re planning a competition with the school for the children to create some content for the sign, and this will be launched at an insect and wildflower themed assembly.

We’re working with Orchard Park Community Council, and Histon and Impington Sustainability Group to have our roadside verges managed for wildlife as per Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign and in Orchard Park also per our Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust BCN. We plan to undertake any necessary remedial practical management on the Wildflower Bank, to ensure it remains rich in species diversity. Grasses are beginning to encroach in some areas, and they might need to be removed, and the soil prepared for reseeding with pesticide free wildflower seeds.

We will run the management as community events, perhaps as part of an Orchard Park family fun environment day.

Thanks to Tim and Carol Inskipp of OPWP for their expertise with identifying all creatures great and small, Holly Freeman of OPWP for all planning and liaison with the school, Louise Bacon of CPERC for expertise in identifying invertebrates, Lush for the Charity Pot Party to advertise and fundraise for equipment for these activities, Education Services 2010 for their funding of the sign and tools, Orchard Park Community Council for altering the mowing schedule and collaboration with the sign, and last but not least Orchard Park Community Primary School for working with us on these and other projects.

 

 

School’s out for Summer (well almost)

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Orchard Park Community Primary School Children, Beetles Class, half way through the litter pick after the Wildflower Bank heading towards the Wildlife Area

Yesterday we ran the last of the sessions on local wildlife for Miss Williamson’s Year 4 Beetles class – around 30 pupils approximately 9 years old. We’ve had a great time exploring Orchard Park’s wildlife and finding out how we can help. Orchard Park Wildlife Project planned and delivered three sessions.

The first, focussed on the variety of Habitats around Orchard Park (wildflowers, scrub in the Wildlife Area, grassland, ponds, hedges, mature trees etc.) and the wildlife that lives in each. We had an interactive presentation followed by an exploration of habitats in the school grounds, and an activity to create habitat and wildlife diagrams.

Session two looked at Threats to Wildlife in the UK using local examples where possible. OPWP explained threatened species and population declines, and looked at some of the main threats – habitat loss and degradation, overharvesting/fishing, invasive species, climate change, and disease. As habitat loss is the reason most species are threatened, we played a game similar to musical chairs – the children enjoyed flapping around as bats to the Batman theme tune – to show the effects of habitat loss to local bats is much more detrimental than they might first imagine. As their habitat becomes fragmented, the bats can’t travel between fragments, and the fragments are soon unable to sustain any bats. We followed this by making 3D models of a range of habitats and animals that would be found in them.

Orchard Park has litter problem and the Wildlife Project came into being initially to address the terrible and dangerous litter levels in the Wildlife Area – a densely vegetated area set aside for wildlife, and intended to be undisturbed to provide a safe area for birds to nest etc. Through many litter picks, and work with the Orchard Park Community Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, it’s getting better, but the litter remains – although right now, thankfully, at a lesser level.  Yesterday’s session focussed on Dangers of Litter to Wildlife and how it is dangerous in both the short and long term, and in particular to some of our local favourites: Hedgehogs, Lizards and birds. We explored ideas to help, donned high vis jackets, grabbed equipment, and a did a litter pick along the Wildflower Bank seeded with wildflowers to support insects, and up to the Wildlife Area. It was a lovely sunny day and the children got a lot of bags of little things. We stressed the importance of picking up the small pieces of plastic and cigarette butts, as they can release poisons and pollutants into the ground as they break down over many many years. The Ring Fort Bank wrapping around the school and approach to the Wildlife Area are all looking much better.

Thank you Beetles 🙂

We also thank Miss Williamson for inviting us into her class. We enjoyed all the sessions, and I know she’d like us to go back next year – this would be our third consecutive year running similar sessions.

School isn’t completely out for summer though, as we’re also planning an assembly on Wildflowers and an after school Wildflower and Insect Bioblitz, both feeding into the sign for the Wildflower Bank Habitat, and perhaps a Welly Walk with some preschool children to spot different birds and trees that live here…..All before they break for the long summer holidays.

Finally, many thanks indeed to Holly Freeman of OPWP for arranging the sessions with the school and organising activities.

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.

Litter at the Wildlife Area

I was angered to hear that litter is accumulating again at the Wildlife Area already, after our massive effort to clean it on Saturday.

The sick hedgehog found nearby will be released back there soon, now she’s a healthy weight, and the overnight temperature has reached the minimum required. We know there are several hedgehogs in the area, I’m wondering what else we can try now to try to keep them safe from the atrocious quantities of litter.

We’ve created some posters to place around the area and will put them up soon.

Meet the locals, give a bird family a home and contribute to conservation, whilst improving your own wellbeing. We’re nest box painting again 22 April 2018 13:00 at the Orchard Community Centre

We’re nest box painting again 22 April 2018 13:00 at the Orchard Community Centre as part of the April Fun Day 🙂

The blog post below provides details about why it’s helpful to put nest boxes up, which birds you’re likely to attract, and where to site them. Please ignore the information about the location of the event from last years post.

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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…

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Local Land Plastic, Please Help

 

 

All photos kindly provided by: Andrew Chan

Since David Attenborough’s recent Blue Planet II, we all know that plastic littering the oceans is a big problem. However, we have a massive litter and plastic problem so local, it’s practically (and in many cases around Orchard Park quite literally) on our doorsteps. The Wildlife Area is in a terrible state and sadly even after five years of concerted efforts to clean it up – by Orchard Park Community Council, and volunteers from Orchard Park Wildlife Project, the local Scouts, and Orchard Park Community Primary School to name a few – the litter issue is as bad as ever see: Opwildlife litter.

Andrew Chan (OPCC) flew a drone over the Wildlife Area last week and recorded the flyover. The resulting photos and footage show the wide range and great level of the litter problem and it’s sickening. Literally.

Plastic is composed of toxic compounds which can cause harm to wildlife for many years by polluting land and water. Animals can get stuck in larger pieces of plastic (and cans), or they can ingest both large and micro pieces of plastic, resulting in suffocation and poisoning respectively. We found plastic bags containing dog poo hanging in the trees, obviously this is a human health hazard.

Andrew has made a great video highlighting the litter problem. To view video click here: Highlighting the litter problem at the Wildlife Area

 

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OPWP has used all the footage filmed by the drone to highlight some of the features installed for wildlife at the area, and it also shows just how wide ranging the litter problem is. To view video click here: Longer flyover showing features of the Wildlife Area, and the range and extent of the severe litter problem there

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A study by the University of California and Santa Barbara in the US found that “We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic”. The lead researcher stated they are “very worried that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late” and “there is much more attention paid to how plastics are interacting with marine organisms but there is much, much less known about how plastics interact with terrestrial organisms – I would suspect there is something equivalent going on and it might actually be worse.” (source The Guardian: Taylor 2017).

Other research by Keep Britain Tidy has shown that the presence of litter simply encourages more litter to be tossed aside: if we can keep the Wildlife Area cleaner, it might deter additive littering.

We’re having a litter pick at the Wildlife Area, Ring Fort Rd, CB4 2GR, on Saturday 14 April from 10:00-14:00. Please come along and join us, it’s obvious the wildlife needs your help. Meet at the sports centre, join us for as little or long as you can. Refreshments provided. We look forward to seeing you. Thank you.

 

 

 

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.

It’s Big Garden Birdwatch time again….27 – 29 January 2018

 

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Robin with snow falling on its head, photo taken through the window, Orchard Park Garden

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Source: RSPB Website

Spend an hour looking at the birds in your garden, at the Wildlife Area, in the Orchard or in the older trees near the busway.

From the RSPB Website:

“Request a pack
To help you get ready for Big Garden Birdwatch, enter your contact details…. to request a FREE pack. Thanks for taking part!

Due to overwhelming response, we currently only have download packs available. They’re still crammed full of the same great information to help you make the most of your Birdwatch.”

Birds recorded in Orchard Park that you might see if you take part:

Blackbird
Blue Tit
Collared Dove
Chaffinch
Carrion Crow
Dunnock
European Jay
Goldfinch
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker
Great Tit
Hobby
House Sparrow
Jackdaw
Linnet
Long Tailed Tit
Magpie
Pied Wagtail
Robin
Rook
Starling
Sparrowhawk
Wood Pigeon
Wren

Use the RSPB’s identifier for any you’re not sure of: Bird Identifier

Read more and request a Big Garden Birdwatch pack at: RSPB BGB 2018

Do let us know if you find any new species 🙂