Plant, Picnic, Pick, Skate and Create – a FREE fun event for all – now delayed until the Coronavirus is passed its peak….

We will reschedule once the Coronoavirus has passed its peak

What, well there’s all sorts, something for everyone, all ages and abilities welcome, the event will be held at an accessible ♿️ venue: 




😀 Meet your neighbours
🧁 Eat nice food
☕️ Have a cuppa
🛹 Skate lesson with Shredder – Contact Max to book your session at: shredderskateschool@gmail.com (help with the litter pick and/or tree planting to qualify for your free lesson)
🚯 Litter pick
🌲 Plant a tree
🎨 Create art about our Orchard 
🏍 Learn about Orchard Park’s Shared Electric Trike
🎥 Watch films about our local wildlife and how to help
🦔 Make a pledge to help our community and wildlife

When: Sunday 5 April 10-4

Cost: FREE £0.00

Where: Meet at Orchard Park Community Multi Function Room CB4 2GW, next to Orchard Park Skate Park and Wildlife Area – see map below

The day is being run in conjunction with Orchard Park Community Council, the National Lottery’s Community Fund as it celebrates its 25th year #CelebrateNationalLottery25, and is registered with Keep Britain Tidy as a Great British Spring Clean 2020 event #GBSpringClean. We’re grateful to The National Lottery #CelebrateNationalLottery25 and Orchard Park Community Council for providing funds to make this event happen.

We’ll provide some delicious cakes and refreshments, and you can bring extra food and drink to share. It’ll be a chance to meet and get to know your neighbours – an early Big Lunch – the official Eden Project Communities Big Lunch date is 6-7 June 2020 #THEBIGLUNCH

Help us cleanup Orchard Park, and plant a fruit tree or two in return for a free lesson with Max from Shredder Skate School, who strive to bring the joys of skateboarding and stunt scootering to anyone that wishes to start. Contact Max to book your
session at: shredderskateschool@gmail.com

Orchard Park’s Shared Electric Trike, funded by South Cambridgeshire’s District Council’s South Zero Carbon Communities Grant set up after declaring a Climate Emergency, will be used to move the collected litter and recycling around OP – and there’ll be a chance to learn more about the project and how you could use the trike.

We’ll be creating art to make a sign for the Orchard, showing the importance of orchards for wildlife “A variety of flora and fauna can be supported by this environment – insects, birds, bees, bats, foxes and small mammals as well as wild flowers…. Orchards can protect bumblebees simply by creating a habitat for them to exist. Both honey bees and bumblebees are beneficial in pollinating orchards.” 

🦠Coronoavirus – If you’re feeling unwell and experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus – a cough, a high temperature, shortness of breath – please do not attend the event, stay at home and seek medical advice by calling the 111 coronavirus service. Facilities for hand washing – the Government’s focus to control the disease – are available at the Multi Use Room. Look out for the latest NHS advice. Of course if the latest advice suggests public events should be cancelled, we’ll postpone our event and reschedule.

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 🙏

Nurturing Nature Connections

“Owing to the benefits to both human and nature’s well-being, and wide spread disconnection, a connection with nature is something many people and organisations are keen to increase. So there is a need to know how best to do this. ” Professor Miles Richardson on the Finding Nature website.

“There are many types of relationship with nature, both sustainable and not, and we’ve recently refreshed the guidance on the positive types of relationship identified in our pathways to nature connectedness research in a new postcard (PDF).” (ibid.)

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.

Photos from Eden Project Communities – Big Lunch Community Walk – OPWP Reception

All photos and videos in this post are credited to Eden Project Communities – many thanks to Diana Vogtel of Eden Project Communities for sending the photos and videos they took at the Eden Project Communities Big Lunch Community Walk reception at Orchard Park near to our Wildlife Area, Wildflower Bank, and Orchard.

Orchard Park Wildlife Project were very happy to receive the Big Lunch Community Walkers – they were carrying with them all the positive spirit of communities they’d visited on their way 😊 We chatted, had tea and cakes, and had a look around our wildlife habitats.

We’ve had, and continue to have, some difficult times in Orchard Park and we need all the community spirit we can foster – it was great to have the spotlight on us for something very positive. Thanks for visiting us Big Lunch Community Walkers 🙂

OPWP also thanks Orchard Park Community Council for providing the multi use room for the event, and OPCC Chair Andrew Chan for providing the most delicious cakes 😋 (check out his cake tips in the video below) and for joining the walkers as they visited other green projects in Cambridge. Finally, thanks to everyone from the OP community that came along too 🙂 it was great to meet some new people, and we hope to see you all again soon.

Andrew’s top cake tips
Leaving the multi use room for a look around the Orchard

Photos from Cambridge’s green projects visited by the Big Lunch Community Walk

Big Walk Reception

Thank you so much to Eden Project Communities walkers and the support team for coming to visit Orchard Park last week. We enjoyed showing you our wildlife habitats and what we do, and chatting with you and folks from our local community whilst tucking into tasty tea and cake. Cambridge put on great weather for you 🙂

We hope you enjoyed the whole walk and each had a well earned great day at your respective local #TheBigLunch 🙂

A great big thank you too to: Orchard Park Community Council for hosting the event, and to OPCC Chair, Andrew Chan, for providing the lovely cakes and accompanying the walkers through Cambridge and onto Empty Common Community Garden (near Cambridge University Botanic Gardens) and Margaret Wright Community Orchard (off Newmarket Road near Coldhams Common) for a tea party potlock, to the residents of Marmalade Lane who showed us real community spirit, and to Andy Pugh for helping with everything from start to finish.



OP Dawn Chorus birds ID’d and Wing Fluttering Fledgelings

Robin singing Orchard Park

Instead of the 5 minutes as instructed by Cambridge Natural History Society’s citizen science instructions, I’d set my recorder to go for an hour…. Bob Jarman of CNHS was willing to listen to identify the birds he heard, and patiently listened through the hour long recording twice. I found it very relaxing listening to the birds add to the song in the early hours. A shame about the rain, and racing cars, and road noise. After about 15 minutes many more birds join in. You could just be surprised though, you might get an hour of calm if you listen, as Bob did, twice.

Click here for the recording

Thank you very much indeed Bob for identifying them for us. These are the birds he heard:

Robin: 2

Blackbird: 2

Dunnock: 1 briefly towards end

Song Thrush: 1 briefly and distant towards end. 

In last 10+ minutes a knocking I couldn’t identify – could be bird tapping on feeder but don’t think it’s vocal. 

It’s Fledgeling Time Again

Starling adult feeding young

So far I’ve seen young Blue Tits, Great Tits, and Starlings coming to feed.

See these blog posts for more information on their wing fluttering behaviour, what to do if you’ve seen a fledgling you’re concerned about, and what to feed them. Don’t forget to break peanuts up to make them smaller and suitable for young birds before you put them out.

Juvenile Goldfinches

Fledgelings

OP Can we give a Great Big Welcome? The Great Big Walk 2019

Picture Credit: Eden Project Communities Website

The following information has been adapted from the Eden Project Communities Network website and the Eden Project Communities Blog.

Join The Big Lunch Community Walk 2019 in Cambridge! #TheBigLunch 

The Big Lunch community walk is just around the corner and the Eden Project Communities folks can’t wait to announce their amazing walkers this year.

From 17 May, four teams (one from each nation) will step out on four routes to shine a light on people who bring their communities closer together.  They’re walking up an appetite for The Big Lunch and inviting everyone to join in on the Big Lunch during the first weekend in June.  

Orchard Park Wildlife Project was very lucky to be able to go to an Eden Project Communities Camp a couple of years ago. We joined the folks from the 2017 Great Big Walk at the end of their day at in the south of Cambridge at Nightingale Gardens, and since then we’ve enjoyed and learned at a workshop at Birmingham Botanic Gardens, and during online workshops. Thank you so much Eden Project Communities for your support 😀🙏

Join in the Walk at Orchard Park

When: Thursday 30 May at 11.00am

Where: Multi Use Room at the Sports Ground on Ring Fort Road

The walkers will be reaching Cambridge on Thursday 30 May, and they’re going to visit Orchard Park at 11.00! Do join us. Orchard Park Wildlife Project and Orchard Park Community Council will welcome them at the Multi Use Room at the Sports Ground on Ring Fort Road and show them some of our wildlife habitats, and activities we’re doing to help make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife. We’ll provide drinks and Andrew Chan, Chair of Orchard Park Community Council will be making some of his delicious cakes.

They’re moving onto Empty Commons Community Garden (near Cambridge University Botanic Gardens) to be there for around 1pm and then walking from there to the Margaret Wright Community Orchard (off Newmarket Road near Coldhams Common) for a tea party potlock between 4-6pm. The idea is to connect our green projects and our communities, and people are welcomed and encouraged to join in on the walk through Cambridge. You can join us just at Orchard Park, walk throughout the day, or for a little of the day. It’s up to you how long you stay, but we hope you will join us.

Jo Brand, presiding over the opening ceremony for the walk last year, said “Last year there were so many negative things going on in the world, it was nice for three weeks to be able to shine a light on the incredibly determined walkers and the diverse communities all over the UK coming together to welcome them passing through. I urge anyone to consider stepping up for the challenge this year…if nothing else it’s the perfect excuse to eat cake all day as you potter along!”.

Over two weeks, the walkers will journey across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and will walk home just in time to bring out the chairs and hang the bunting for their own Big Lunch – that’s what they call dedication!

Every day on their travels, the walkers will be connecting people and communities across the UK and finding out how they are preparing for our biggest weekend of the year.  Their teams will be reaching out to people along the way, spreading the word about The Big Lunch and encouraging everyone to join in, share food and have fun where they live.

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