Wildlife in Lockdown

It’s been a strange time these last few months. The media suggests many more people have been taking an interest in their local wildlife given the extra time spent at home. I sincerely hope this interest is maintained and translates into action to help our wildlife and habitats.

There’s been a bit of action in a small OP garden, centred around a little bowl of water. I called the video ‘Just Add Water’ to show what can be attracted with very little effort – it shows how important such a seemingly simple action can be to our local wildlife.

The Wildflower Bank was looking very colourful a couple of weeks ago too. If you haven’t had a look at the bank yet, maybe stop and take in the variety of plants there and the invertebrates it attracts. Don’t forget to check the sign near the school entrance to help you with plant ID and some of the invertebrates we’ve recorded there.

Here’s a video showing the length of the bank. A few flowering plants have been labelled. Stop the video when you see the label to see if you can ID the plants mentioned.

Remembering Summer as we approach a new decade, and help for Hedgehogs in Marmalade Lane

Photo Credit: Carol Inskipp Sphaerophoria scripta Long Hover Fly

Thanks so very much indeed to everyone that made our 2019 events possible, in terms of providing funding, sharing knowledge and expertise, lending a helping hand at our activities, or coming along to learn and take part.

We hope to see some regulars and meet some new people at our 2020 events.

Looking back to much warmer times, here are the photos from the mini Bioblitz at the Wildflower Bank held on 5 July this year. Most of the species are things we’ve seen there before, but there are one or two new invertebrates too.

Many thanks to Carol Inskipp of OPWP for all of the following photos and species identification, and Tim Inskipp for ID expertise.

The community at Marmalade Lane have taken in several underweight Hedgehogs to look after over winter. They wouldn’t have survived their winter sleep being as lightweight as they were.

Marmalade Lane is appealing for paper, even leftover Christmas present wrapping paper will help for the Hedgehog’s bedding. They are low on newspaper to line their ‘runs’. On top of the newspaper they have torn up newspaper strips. Please leave any newspaper, or wrapping paper outside the Common house, Number 9 Marmalade Lane. They are open to visitors from Orchard Park, if you would like to visit the hedgehogs over the holidays send a message to Frances Wright via Facebook Messenger and the Inside Orchard Park Facebook Group.

Here they are a day or two after they’d been taken in, I hear they’re doing much better and looking a lot healthier now. They should be good to go out back into the wilds of Orchard Park when the weather has warmed and they’re up to a safe weight next year.

Happy New Year to you all 🥳🥳🥳

🐸🦇🐝🐛🦋🐌🐞🐜🦗🕷🦎🐾🐁🐿🦔🐀🌳🌱🌿☘️🍂🍁🐚🌼🌻



Animal Assistance in the Autumn

Photo Credit: Anna Roebuck (Environmental and Recycling Artist) Paul Wyer from the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire with hedgehog sculpture that now resides in Marmalade Lane

The autumn garden can, with planning, provide a larder of berries, fruit and insects that form the natural diet of our local wildlife. However, as many of our gardens are small, and without varied plants, structure, and wild areas, we need to give the wildlife a helping hand as food begins to dwindle after the summer plenty. Have a look at our blog post from last autumn for tips: tinyurl.com/opwpautumn

As hedgehogs became a such feature at each of the summer events: there’s a hedgehog character in our play Saving the World, Starting at Your Doorstep, Horace/Prickles/Spike the sculpture is now living happily at Marmalade Lane, and a hedgehog is at the centre of the artwork created for the skate park by Kadero – we’ll start with tips on how we can help them – they’re now a symbolic reminder in Orchard Park to look after our wildlife. They’re good in this reminder role because their prickles can tend to get them in pickles, particularly where litter is concerned. When hungry they’ll get into any cans, packets, and bags lying around as they look for scraps of food – and due to their backwards facing spikes, they’ll often get stuck. Because they’ve been declining rapidly in the UK since the 1950s, they’re also a species of conservation concern. They really do need a helping hand in urban areas where thankfully they seem to be doing a little bit better.

Hedgehogs

One of the main things you can do to help is to make sure your garden has access for hedgehogs. Many of our front gardens have hedgehog friendly fencing, but what about your back garden if you’re lucky enough to have one? If you’ve got fence panels all the way around sealing your garden off consider cutting a CD sized hole in one of the panels, and ideally in a panel that connects to your neighbour’s garden. If everyone did this, it would create a hedgehog highway allowing access to a significant total area for hedgehogs. They need to be able to roam to find food and a mate – males can cover about three kilometres in a single night. 

Plant some shrubs or a hedge, as they prefer to move around under cover. 

A compost heap or log pile will give them a safe and cosy spot to spend the winter.

Provide some supplementary food – chicken cat biscuits are a favourite and they need help at this time of the year to put enough weight on to ensure they can survive their winter sleep. 

Please don’t use slug pellets, weed killers, and other poisons in your garden. We had reports of two or three dead hedgehogs on the school field a couple of years ago, it’s thought they died because of slug pellet use – hedgehogs eat the poisoned slugs which in turn of course poison the hedgehogs. 

Spiders

Both species photographed in Orchard Park home

Autumn is the time when you’re likely to see a large, brown, hairy spider scuttle across the carpet or find one in your bath or sink. Some information suggests they’ve just moved in temporarily to find shelter from harsh conditions outside, whilst other reports say they’re inside our homes all year round, but we only notice them in autumn when they come out of their hidey holes looking for a mate. For the arachnophobes, see if you can learn to live with them for the natural pest control service they offer, left alone they’ll rid your home of aphids, flies, and ants. You could even try giving them a name and watch them as though they’re a pet. 

The Zebra Jumping Spider shown above in real life is only about half a centimetre and actually quite cute if you take a proper look at it. You can see four of its four pairs of eyes. The two eyes at the front can move but the eyes at the side are fixed, and as a result of their eight eyes, they have excellent vision.  

The Large House Spider on the other hand has a body length of 10-16cm. The one in the photo was about ten centimetres including its legs. 

Birds

Robin singing

If you’ve not fed the birds before now, try offering some mixed seeds as they’re versatile and will attract a variety of species. Fat balls and fat cakes are particularly good as we go into the colder weather to give energy to our feathered friends. You can make your own seed feeder using a plastic bottle or fill a half coconut shell with fat.

Remember to keep your bird feeders as clean as possible – this is very important for the health of our visiting feathered friends!

Make a small pond to offer a bathing and drinking space for birds. Even a washing up bowl will help. 

Aquatic wildlife

Habitats can be made next to ponds to offer vital spaces for hibernating species like the Common Toad. Twigs, log piles, flowerpots and leaves can usually do the trick in providing a suitable home. 

Autumn is a good time to remove any dead leaves from your pond to reduce the possibility of poisonous gases that could affect any underwater creatures should the pond freeze over during winter. Native oxygenating plants such as Water crowfoot can help your pond provide oxygen to any aquatic wildlife.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Toad

Preparing your garden for Winter

Although it can be tempting to give your garden a bit of a spruce in Autumn by removing all the decaying plants, our wildlife really loves these as places to hide and shelter from the cold. Herbaceous plants and hollow stemmed plants are great little living spaces for overwintering insects. Even seedheads can make excellent habitat for insects as well as a great source of food for visiting birds and other wildlife.

Any fallen leaves that you may clear from paths can be used as mulch on flowerbeds – perfect for foragers such as blackbirds. 

Photo credit: Emma Kajiyama, OPWP volunteer

Try to avoid pruning hedges as they are havens for wildlife over winter, providing food, shelter and protection. Adding different species to your hedge will attract a wider variety of wildlife. For example, ivy can be a great source of food for insects, including late-flying bees such as the Carder bee, whilst berry-producing plants can help entice many birds to your garden.

If you don’t have a garden, you can still put up a nest box to provide shelter from the harsher weather. Nest boxes can be vital for the survival rate of certain bird species such as the Wren and members of the Tit family, increasing the possibility for more breeding birds once spring arrives.

Check out opwildlife.wordpress.com for more tips specific to the wildlife that lives on your doorstep

All photos OPWP unless otherwise credited

Thank you to new volunteer Emma Kajiyama for providing the text and photos for sections on preparing for winter, and aquatic animals and other info for this blog post 🙏

Environment Fun Day 23 August OP Community Centre and Marmalade Lane – FREE

What’s where….

The Large Hall of the Orchard Park Community Centre, is at Central Avenue, CB4 2EZ. There are parking bays at the Community Centre, or otherwise in residential streets nearby. The Guided Busway stop at Orchard Park West is just a couple of minutes walk away, currently the A and D services are running through Orchard Park (not the usual B due to A14 road works). Marmalade Lane is just a couple of minutes walk away, or can be reached via Orchard Park East busway stop.

We’ll be making the large hedgehog sculpture and most stalls and the picnic will be at The Orchard Community Centre, whilst other activities will be kindly hosted by Marmalade Lane, providing an opportunity for you to see the RIBA East 2019 award winning co-housing development at K1.

1.  THE ORCHARD COMMUNITY CENTRE:

  • Underwater themed BOUNCY CASTLE
  • Making HEDGEHOG SCULPTURE
  • RIVERFORD Organic Farmers
  • LUSH stall and litter pick
  • A TOYS LIFE AND BEYOND toy repair and swap
  • CAMBRIDGE FULL CIRCLE stall
  • WILDLIFE TRUST with Harry Hedgehog
  • Hedgehog Gardens Histon Impington and Orchard Park
  • EDEN PROJECT BIG LUNCH Community Picnic
  • GAMES And PRIZES

2.  MARMALADE LANE:

  • FILMS AND DISPLAYS, Saving The World – Starting At Your Doorstep, The Majestic Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary, and info on litter and litter picks….Plus A14 Action Group

More about what’s on….

Come and have a bounce around on the Underwater themed Bouncy Castle. We’ll be turning it into an artistic statement too, if you’d like to be in the photos 🐠🐟🐬🐳🐋


Join in and help to make a fantastic art piece with, by, and for our community with Environmental and Recycling Artist Anna Roebuck – we’re currently planning a hedgehog sculpture to show the dangers of litter to wildlife….we hope Harry Hedgehog will approve! It’ll have a hedgehog home in it’s base. Please save CLEANED, BROWN, and WHITE plastic to bring along on the day – it will be incorporated into the sculpture. Bottle tops can be brought along separately too for Anna’s other artworks.

Eden Project Communities Big Lunch We’ll be having a picnic outside the Community Centre in the spirit of Eden Project Communities Big Lunch (they don’t just have to be held in July) so bring your lunch and/or something to share with your neighbours 🍕🥗 and of course, if you bring anything in brown or white plastic, please wash it and add it to our hedgehog sculpture 🦔🌎

🍞🥗🧁OPWP and OPCC will be providing some homemade (plastic packaging free) bread, sandwich fillings, cakes, soda and freshly made popcorn for the picnic…. 🍞🥗🧁so we don’t make too much, or too little, if you haven’t let us know you’ll be coming via facebook, please can you indicate in the comments below if you’re planning to join us, thank you 🙏

🍞🥗🧁

A Toys Life and Beyond toy repair and toy swap – if you have a broken toy that you love which requires some TLC, to book your repair please email: atoyslifeandbeyond@gmail.com

detailing:

  • what the toy is
  • what the problem is
  • mention that it’s for the Orchard Park Environment Day 23 August

A Toys Life and Beyond will also be able to take a few drop ins on the day, but please book in advance to avoid disappointment. There’ll be someone from A Toys Life and Beyond there all day, and they’ll actively be doing their repair cafe between 11am-2pm.

Don’t forget to bring along toys in good condition and/or in working order to swap.

We’re also looking for a suitable space that might be able to host a Toy Library if community members would use this? Get in touch if you’re interested or have location ideas.

🧸🚂

Litter Picking with Lush as part of their national clean up campaign, and a pop up Lush shop with their Naked packaging free products. The Orchard Community Centre will smell wonderful 😀

Riverford Organic Farmers will be there – they use minimal packaging and when it is used, the majority is recycled and recyclable. Their fruit and veg is delivered weekly in a reusable box that they collect empty and replace with one full of your goodies. They’ll have some samples and a selection of tasters. Find out more at their stand.

Cambridge Full Circle will have a pop up stall with their ethical and environmentally friendly products with minimal or no packaging.

Harry Hedgehog from the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire will be there with lots of local wildlife information – come along and say hello 🦔

Information/stands from:

Hedgehog Gardens Histon Impington and Orchard Park work to make gardens accessible to hedgehogs

A14 Action Group A group set up in the wake of phase 5 of the A14 upgrade project to bring people together and look at constructive ways to achieve the best possible outcomes across the villages of Histon and Impington (includes Orchard Park). Ask to join the Facebook Group.

This event has been made possible through generous funds provided by Lush, The Community Reach Fund, TK Maxx Team at Neighbourly, and BPHA. We are also grateful to the Orchard Community Centre and residents of Marmalade Lane for hosting the event.

Help for Hedgehogs coming out of Hibernation

Hedgehog OP Wildlife Area, waking up last year, low weight.
Photo Credit: Andrew Chan
Photo credit: Andrew Chan
Rehabilitated Hedgehog sleeping during soft release into OP Wildlife Area

“Hedgehogs are in serious decline in the UK but putting further obstacles in their way when they wake from the dangers of hibernation is easily avoided with a little knowledge and caring. Please take the time to make your garden more hedgehog and wildlife friendly there is lots of info from  organisations on the internet or check out Pledges for Hedgies page” (source: Willows Hedgehog Rescue).

Late March and April is when Hedgehogs begin to wake from their winter hibernation. The Hedgehog Street website describes hibernation as follows “during hibernation hedgehogs are not really asleep, instead they drop their body temperature to match their surroundings and enter a state of torpor. This allows them to save a lot of energy but slows down all other bodily functions making normal activity impossible.” Further “While in hibernation the hedgehog’s fuel supply comes from the fat stores it has built up over the summer. Eating enough before hibernation is vital and this is when supplementary feeding can prove important to hedgehogs.”

When the hedgehog wakes, it can have used up one third of its body weight – appearing weak, wobbly, and disorientated as a result. It’s vital that hedgehogs can access freshwater as a priority as they wake. Next they need food (see: waking hedgehogs Willows Hedgehog Rescue)

Also in March and April, Hedgehogs are at great risk in the garden, when according to Willows Rescue Centre in Bromsgrove “Hedgehogs are admitted to rescue centres with soft tissue injuries from strimmers and garden forks, factured bones from spades and forks. The injuries are often horrific with operations needed and long periods of rehabilitation. A number of the admissions will be put to sleep straight away due to the extent of the injuries. Sad, when you think that the animal has managed to survive the rigours of winter lowering its metabolism to near death in order to survive only to be seriously injured by human activity.

It is easy to avoid most of these situations.

  • Check before you clear, cut back or carry out work on any shrubs or bushes.
  • Check first before putting a spade or fork into the compost heap.
  • Check under sheds or any structures in the garden before removing them if you are replacing them- hedgehogs like to nest in that gap under garden sheds and patio decking.
  • Check before you mow or strim the grass.

Check with a torch, a gloved hand, your boot or gently with a stick. Gently poking and tapping a hedgehog may slightly annoy it but it will mean that you don’t injure or possibly kill it.”

To make a feeding Station

A feeding station will help stop cats or foxes stealing the Hedgehog’s food the instructions that follow were taken directly from The Hedgehog.

Build  or buy a small feeding station or house to put the food into that will only allow hedgehogs to get in.

This will also help keep the food, especially biscuits dry in the rain and prevents it freezing in the winter.

Put the water OUTSIDE the feeding station. ( In freezing weather put water inside the feeding station)

The quick, cheap and easy way:

  • Get a plastic storage box about 12″ wide by 18″ long (or bigger)
  • Either use it with the lid on, or turn the box upside down. Cut a 4″ to 5″ hole ( about a large fist size) in one of the short ends.
  • Tape around the cut-out hole
  • Hedgehogs can be messy eaters, so put plenty of newspaper on the floor of the box
  • Put the food at the opposite end so a fox or cat cannot put their long arm in and pull out the food
  • Put a brick or heavy weight on top of the box, to stop it being knocked over or the lid pulled off.
  • If cats or foxes still try to get in, then place the box about 6″ away from a wall as shown in the last 3 pictures (with the entrance facing towards the wall)

You should end up with something that looks like this:

Photo credit: The Hedgehog

Spring 2019

Spring 2019 arrived in November 2018 

The Woodland Trust

From The Woodland Trust website: “The Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project has received over 64 records of early spring activity that started in November 2018 – including insects that have been spotted active up to 5 months earlier than normal.

Mild weather seems to have temporarily disturbed insects from hibernation. A small tortoiseshell butterfly appeared flying outdoors on Christmas Day in Merthyr Tydfil, and a red tailed bumblebee on Boxing Day in Somerset. The average date for small tortoiseshells is 14 April, and bumblebees 26 March – making both over three months early.…. a red admiral was seen on 17 December in Cambridgeshire; the average emergence date is 7 May, making it nearly five months ahead of schedule”

I saw a butterfly from the bus last week when travelling down Histon Rd but it was too distant to attempt identification.

To see how to get involved in the Woodland Trust’s Citizen Science project as a Nature’s Calendar recordersee our previous blog post – insert url, visit naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk. Or, to watch time lapse footage of trees throughout the seasons visit their YouTube channel.

So what can we do to help our local wildlife now spring seems to have sprung?

These ideas are from the Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Newsletter…      

  • Provide some early nectar for the insects:if you have a raised bed, larger style planter, a window box, or hanging basket, you could add snowdrops, crocuses, or winter aconites
  • To help hedgehogs and insects, and frogs and toads if you’re lucky enough to have them in your OP garden: don’t tidy up just yet! These creatures might be hibernating in dried up plant stems, under wood piles or broken plant pots, and some would like to remain undisturbed for a little longer
  • Get ahead for summer insects: and make your garden more colourful. Plant annuals such as Calendula and Nasturtiums, they’re bright and pretty and provide nectar.

Upcoming OPWP activities

Lush are very kindly holding a Charity Pot Party for us on 23 March – do come and say hello – we’ll be planting seeds and letting people know about the importance of choosing British native plants grown from pesticide free seeds to help bees and other insects. Research is showing seeds marketed as good for pollinators might be harming the very creatures you’re trying to help if the seeds you plant have been pre treated with pesticides. It’s best to buy organic seed from specialist suppliers such as: https://beehappyplants.co.uk

We’re organising a Spring Cleaning session in and around the Wildlife Area with OPCC – this will be during the last weekend of March on 30/31 TBC

We’ve got a session with the Beaver group on 5 April, this will be outdoors so we’ve waited for the clocks to go forwards.

We’ll be nest box painting at the end of the school Easter Holidays – check here and on Facebook for dates 27/28 April TBC.

We’re hoping to begin lizard monitoring again for the population off Neal Drive very soon with Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group. It’s very likely the lizard’s home will be built on soon, so we’re planning to work with the developer’s ecologists to see how many lizards there are, and to trap and move them to a new site that will be good for them in the longer term. There are a few details to sort out, and we’ve suggested Sunday 7 April TBC for a training day, watch this space. See our 2019 Lizard Monitoring Page for more information.

We’re also planning a workshop with artist Anna Roebuck. She creates beautiful things from recycled materials for early summer – we’re actively fundraising for this. This event will also provide information on the dangers of litter to our local wildlife, and wildlife more widely, as well as ways to reduce your rubbish output, and on better recycling.

Photo credit: Anna Roebuck

Winterwatch, Signs of Spring, and Citizen Science

Did anyone see this year’s Winterwatch? A great series, this year the team were based in Scotland, but each programme features a lot on our urban wildlife. It’s available for another twenty or so days, so have a look while you have a chance. Episode 1 of the most recent series can be found by clicking here.

The team highlighted the importance of Citizen Science projects and encouraged us to take part. For an explanation of on Citizen Science click here and take a look at the video, you’ll also see information about a few of the Citizen Science activities we’ve run in OP previously.

We’re planning our community activities for 2019 for you to take part in, but in the meantime, there’s plenty you can do to help OP’s wildlife.


“The only way we can really help our British wildlife, is if we have as much information as we can about it’s needs, it’s current status and it’s environment. To achieve that we need as many people as possible to take action. Citizen science is a powerful tool and getting involved makes you feel empowered.” 

Watches presenter, Michaela Strachan

“Get outdoors and get involved. Take your partner out, take your nan out, take your kids out and above all else, have FUN! (Psst! You’ll also be making a REAL difference for wildlife, one data point at a time…).”

Watches presenter, Gillian Burke

The BBC team say “No matter where you live, there are plenty of projects to get involved with this winter. What’s more, getting out and about in nature has far-reaching benefits on our mental wellbeing and physical health”.

All BBC information above was sourced from: BBC Winterwatch 2019 website

Projects for February 2019

Mammal Mapper – The Mammal Society

Surveying the UK’s mammal populations

The following information has been adapted from the Mammal Mapper page on The Mammal Society’s website

Iconic species like hedgehogs are very poorly monitored. This makes it difficult to know which regions or habitats are most important, or to detect changes in their population sizes. The Mammal Mapper is designed to record information on the location and number of animals spotted on walks or bicycle rides.

Users of the Mammal Mapper can record sightings of any mammal, including field signs such as burrows and mole-hills as well as live animals. The app includes detailed guides to help identify animals by their appearance and is very easy to use.

Mammal Mapper is free to download and available on android and iOS in app stores now. Simply click here to download for iOS, and here for Android.

Mammals recorded in OP

Common Pipistrelle (also
Soprano Pipistrelle?)
Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Common ShrewSorex araneus
FoxVulpes vulpes
HedgehogErinaceus europaeus
Grey SquirrelSciurus carolinensis
RabbitOryctolagus cuniculus 
Wood mouseApodemus sylvaticus
Bank voleMyodes glareolus

First butterfly sightings 2019 – Butterfly Conservation

The following information has been taken directly from Butterfly Conservation‘s website.

To count as first sightings, butterflies must be seen outside and be active (i.e. not in hibernation). If you are confident that you’ve seen a butterfly species in the UK this year that has not yet been reported below, please contact info@butterfly-conservation.org. You can follow all the latest sightings, as they happen, on Twitter @RichardFoxBC or on Butterfly Conservation’s Facebook page.

If you would like to get involved with butterfly recording, not just for first sightings, but to contribute to our assessments of UK trends and to underpin conservation, you can download our free recording app or find out how to take part.

Butterflies recorded in OP (up to 2018, this list does not include any species recorded in 2019)

Essex SkipperThymelicus lineola
Large SkipperOchlodes sylvanus
Small SkipperThymelicus sylvestris
Large WhitePieris brassicae
Small TortoiseshellAglais urticae
CommaPolygonia c-album
GatekeeperPyronia tithonus
Small WhitePieris rapae
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
RingletAphantopus hyperantus
Common BluePolyommatus icarus

Natures Calendar – The Woodland Trust

The following information is sourced directly from the Woodland Trust website.

Record the signs of the changing seasons near you. From leaf buds bursting to birds arriving and blackberries ripening. Following the link above to their website you’ll find information on:

How to record: a quick guide

How to record in three simple steps and quick tips on choosing your species and locations.

Species they record

Find out which trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, fungi, insects, birds and amphibians you can record.

Why they record certain species

You can only record events that occur in certain species. Find out why these species were selected for Nature’s Calendar.

Why we record

In the last few decades there has been a trend towards increasing temperatures. Nature’s Calendar records help us predict some of the ways wildlife will be affected by this.

Top tips on how to care for OP’s creatures that visit your garden during winter

Robin recovering after regular feeding

Winter can be a very difficult time for wildlife, with plummeting temperatures and scarce food. Find out how you can help OP’s wildlife through this tough period1.

Some species, such as birds and squirrels, don’t hibernate, but struggle to stay alive – using up fat reserves just to stay warm. Other animals and insects hunker down in log and leaf piles, nestle into tree bark, or bury themselves in compost heaps or mud3.

By putting out additional food, gardeners can make a significant contribution to supporting wildlife over winter. It is also a great way to watch wildlife even in the smallest of gardens or balconies, often at very close quarters2.

It is surprisingly easy to do something to help garden wildlife in the lean and cold months of winter. Even if you carry out – or refrain from doing4–  just a few of the following tasks, it can make a difference2.

I’m so happy to see this Robin (Erithacus rubecula) that had been suffering with mites (I sought a likely diagnosis and advice from the RSPB), has recovered due to regular feeding in my garden – proof that a little help works. The eye problem is still visible now, and the robin often scratches and shakes with itchiness, but the RSPB said it’s very likely the mites will die off completely in the cold, so that after moulting in Spring, the new feathers will be unaffected.

Robin with mites seven weeks ago
Robin on the way to recovery

1. Let your garden go wild1,2

  • Leave undisturbed wild areas in your garden – piles of leaves or brushwood can make the perfect nest in which animals can hide, rest and hibernate.
  • By leaving the task of tidying your garden borders and shrubs until early spring, shelter can be provided for insects throughout winter. 
  • Make an insect or bug hotel and put up in a sheltered position. Overwintering ladybirds and lacewings will find this useful. 
    • Recreate the nooks and crannies insects hibernate in by tying up bamboo and sunflower stems, and leave them in a dry spot in the garden. 
  • You can also provide late-flying insects with a source of food by soaking a clean sponge in a solution made from an equal mix of sugar and water.
  • In late winter, clean out bird boxes so they are ready for new nests in spring. 
  • Leave healthy herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects.
  • If you have a compost heap, this will become a welcome habitat for toads, and even grass snakes and slow-worms.

2. Break the ice and provide water1,2 

  • If your garden pond freezes over, ensure you make a hole in the ice. Toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond, which may kill any fish or frogs that are hibernating at the bottom.
  • When you make a hole in the ice, it is very important to do so by carefully placing a pan of hot water on the surface.
  • Never break the ice with force or tip boiling water onto the pond, as this can harm or even kill any fish that live in it.
  • 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. 

3. Feed the birds1,2,3

  • Birds may find it difficult to find natural foods such as berries, insects, seeds, worms and fruit during this cold season. Therefore, any extra food you can put out will help. 
  • Leave food out for birds regularly and every day when possible, and fill up longer lasting feeders if you’re away.
  • Place 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, and finches 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 MalusCotoneaster and Pyracantha to fill gaps.

4. Hedgehogs3,4

Nearly half of all hedgehogs die during their first winter. Many starve, while those born in late-summer are often too small to hibernate, and so are unable to survive the cold weather. In mild winters, hedgehogs are prone to waking up, having been tricked into believing it is spring. They waste valuable fat reserves looking for food.

  • Provide shelter bymaking a leaf pile or making a hedgehog house
  • If you don’t think your garden has the requisite hidey-holes, you’ll find custom-built hedgehog houses at arkwildlife.co.uk
  • Make a simple hedgehog home – download activity sheet from the Wildlife Trust
  • Leave a dish of water and dog or cat food, sunflower seeds, and nutsto help boost their fat reserves, until it’s no longer taken (usually mid- to late-autumn when they enter hibernation). Do not give fish-based food, milk, or bread because they cause diarrhoea and dehydration.
  • Check bonfires before lighting them, preferably making it on the day you intend to light it. 
  • If you find a baby hedgehog, keep it warm in a tall-sided box with hot water bottle on the bottom, covered with a thick towel. Feed with cat or dog food and water and visit britishhedgehogs.org.uk for advice. 
  • Discover 10 ways to help hedgehogs.

Sources– the above information was taken directly from:

1. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/how-to/wildlife-gardening/5-ways-you-can-help-wildlife-this-winter/

2. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=382

3. https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/help-wildlife-survive-winter/

4. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/28/how-to-help-garden-wildlife-survive-winter

Remember Remember the Hedgehogs on the 5th of November

Resite before you light BHPS

Photo Credit: British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Burned HH

Photo Credit: Keith Jones via British Hedgehog Preservation Society

Such a horrible photo to have to post, but please please please re-site your bonfire before you light it, to Hedgehogs piles of sticks and leaves provide a good place to shelter. Hedgehogs are struggling to survive in many parts of England as it is….. we have a decent population in Cambridge, lets do all we can to help them thrive. Click below to see information from the Wild About Gardens Week on Hedgehogs.

I’m off to offer some food for OP’s Hedgehogs now before it gets dark and I close the curtains.

wild about gardens help hedgehogs

Q: Why do owls never go courting in the rain?

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A: Because it’s too wet to woo!

Wet wildlife jokes aside, it’s been a difficult time for wildlife this year, what with the extended icy cold spell at the beginning of the year, soon to be followed by the recent searing heat and droughts.

Thankfully the wildlife and their habitats in Orchard Park are getting a thorough watering today.

If it does turn hot and dry for another extended spell, please do consider putting bowls of fresh water (definitely NOT milk) and some food: cat or dog food, chicken ideally (definitely NOT fish) out each night for hedgehogs. They’re suffering particularly badly according to local sources: Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital and Kingfisher Wildlife Sanctuary in Great Abingdon are both calling for equipment and donations because of the increased numbers of seriously dehydrated hedgehogs being taken to them for attention. It’s a similar story all over the UK as Fay Vass from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said in a recent article in the Independent “Food is scarce as well because their food is worms, slugs and beetles and they are all hiding away well below the surface… so they are coming into the centres very skinny, very hungry and desperately needing water.”

 

Birds and other wildlife will also appreciate any food you can provide. Water should be plentiful for a few days if the rain continues like this – and it will according to forecasts.

An OP resident that has been feeding and providing water for hedgehogs regularly has been rewarded for their efforts recently – they captured the video and photos of this healthy looking hedgehog included this blog post 😍. Thank you for sharing 😀 and most importantly, thank you for helping our local wildlife.