OPWP will be there with info on our big black birds 🦅, creepy crawlies 🦎🦗🐜, spiders 🕷, bats 🦇 and witches 🧙♀️ knickers!
OPWP will be there with info on our big black birds 🦅, creepy crawlies 🦎🦗🐜, spiders 🕷, bats 🦇 and witches 🧙♀️ knickers!
The Wildflower Bank outside the school is well due for a full cut according to our Orchard Park Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, Orchard Park Wildlife Project is working with Orchard Park Community Council to try to ensure cutting times are optimal for maintaining maximum plant diversity, which of course improves invertebrate diversity, and then in turn in this location in Orchard Park mammal and bird diversity. This is a very valuable habitat with 97% of the UK’s ancient flower meadows having been destroyed since the 1930s.
Prior to cutting, I wanted to grab a few photos of a few flowers and seed heads. If you take a moment to look, they’re beautiful, colourful, intricate, and fascinating structures. In a very small patch there’s a lot of diversity to be seen over there. Go and have a look 🙂
Plants and Animals of the Wildflower Bank this page has information and photos of everything we’ve identified over there so far.
And PLEASE DON’T USE OUR WILDFLOWER BANK AS A RUBBISH DUMP AND DOG TOILET! Let’s work together to make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife 🙂
Today, Chris Packham launched The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife. This blog post is sourced entirely from the manifesto which makes a series of recommendations to the fields of Education; Wildlife and Animal Welfare; Wildlife Crime, Law, and Protection; Farming; UK Statutory Conservation Agencies; and Rewildling. It also makes recommendations, on amongst many other things: trees, hedgerows and verges, and urban spaces.
Urban space for wildlife is the domain of Orchard Park Wildlife Project. And urban spaces CAN be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country.
Access to nature is a human need – central to the quality of our most fundamental physiological requirements (water, air, food), as well as our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
The manifesto states that:
“Urban areas can be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country. Gardens and parks – comprising lawn, shrubs and flowering plants – provide food and shelter for a huge array of wildlife. And yet these spaces are disappearing from our towns and cities.
In a report published in 2016, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said the percentage of front gardens lost to paving, concrete or gravel had risen to 24%, from just 8% in 20051 . The results, based on a poll of 1,492 people, suggested that more than 4.5 million of Great Britain’s front gardens were entirely paved, while 7.2 million were mostly paved. Another report, published by London Wildlife Trust in 2011, compared aerial surveys of London taken in 1998 and 2006. It found that domestic gardens (both front and back) made up nearly 24 per cent of the London’s total area, but that in those eight years nearly two thirds of its front gardens had been covered with hard surfaces, while the amount of green space in back gardens had shrunk, largely due to the popularity of garden offices2 . “An area of vegetated garden equivalent to 21 times the size of Hyde park was lost between 1998 and 2006,” said the author of the report, Chloë Smith. That’s an average of two Hyde Parks per year (and a further 14 Hyde Parks since 2011).”
It goes on to say “We need legislation to re-wild our urban spaces.”
We are lucky in Orchard Park that many of the recommendations in the manifesto are already realised:
many of our fences are hedgehog friendly, we have bird nesting boxes on some of our homes, municipal planting includes many native species, and we have open green spaces.
However, there are recommendations that show there is much more we can do:
The full, referenced, manifesto can be downloaded here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/A-Peoples-Manifesto-for-Wildlife-expanded.pdf
The illustrated manifesto can be downloaded here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Peoples-Manifesto-Download.pdf
Make a Seed Feeder
To promote reuse Orchard Park Wildlife Project will provide instructions on how to make seed feeders for the birds out of plastic bottles. So save a bottle from your litter pick, grab the instructions, and you’ll be able to take away a free bag of seeds to fill your feeder 🙂
Help to Clean our Wildlife Habitats
Although the Wildlife Area and Wildflower Bank are probably cleaner than they’ve been for a long time, we hope a few people will go to these areas during the litter pick. We especially need help in the Wildlife Area to remove the last of the polystyrene packing materials – the small stuff that often gets over looked. It sticks around in the environment for more than a million years, as polystyrene is not biodegradable. Though it is slow to break down chemically, it does fragment into small pieces, choking animals that ingest it, clogging their digestive systems.
Details from OPCC Facebook Page:
Orchard Park Community Clean up day at Unwin Square (in front of the One Stop).
♻️Community Litter Pick:
Equipment will be provided by South Cambs
Wear suitable clothing
Refreshments will be provided
Children under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult
♻️ Household Recycling:
On the day the skips and truck will collect:
🔌Electrical – to include small items such as lamps, hairdryers, Electric Toothbrushes, White Goods (including Fridges, Freezers Washing Machines etc) Basically anything with a plug on it.
🔩 Metal – bedsteads, bicycles , BBQs, shelving etc
🚪 Wood – shelving, furniture, doors etc
👚 Textiles – good items of clothing for the Take it or leave it
📚 Books – for the Take it or leave it
🙅DO NOT bring Black bin waste
🙅DO NOT bring Blue bin waste
🙅DO NOT bring Green bin waste
♻️ ‘Take it or Leave it’ Freecycling stall:
Miscellaneous items in good condition for the take it or leave it table including clothing games, books and household items.
In collaboration with South Cambs District Council, Combined Waste Service, Orchard Park Wildlife Project, and Orchard Park Community Council
OPWP is currently working with OPCC to finalise the sign which will show the Wildflower Bank and its wildlife. The sign was funded very generously by Education Services 2010. We hope it will be installed quite close to the school entrance so that during school pick up and drop offs, pupils, parents, and guardians will be able to discover more about the flowers and wildlife that they support. All of the drawings submitted during last term’s competition will feature on the sign. We’re designing a chart showing flower colour, flowering period, and flower shapes to help you do some of your own identifications.
I had a wander over to the end of the Wildflower Bank close to the Premier Inn yesterday to see what I could ID, and found there were lots of Small White butterflies (Pieris rapae) around. They’re out again in large numbers today, as their populations peak in late August and early September. Unlike the Large White, this one doesn’t cause such a problem for folks growing brassicas. The Small White is very widespread in the UK, reaching as far north as Scotland including the Orkney and Shetland Islands. They can even migrate here from continental Europe. It’s possible that some individuals can fly up to 100 miles in their lifetime, absolutely amazing considering their 38 – 57mm wingspan, however most will not exceed just a few miles of travel. If you see them flying around, you can tell which are females as they have two spots on their wings, whereas the males have just one. Their UK population is fairly stable, and they are not of conservation concern (source: adapted from UK Butterflies click link for more details).
The hairy ginger bumblebee in the other photograph is the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). This species is one of the earliest bumblebees to emerge in spring, and one of the latest fliers, so it’s one you’re likely to see if you venture over to the Wildflower Bank for a little survey of your own. Although this species is occurring less frequently, its range is expanding northwards, and like the Small White butterfly, it too can be found in the Orkneys. Carder Bees gather moss and dry grass to cover their nests, which are above ground in grasses, under hedges and similar, with each nest accommodating just 60-150 workers, quite small as nests go (source: adapted from Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Bees, Wasps, and Ants Recording Society click links for more details).
Join 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.
The small, weak, wobbling Hedgehog that Andrew Chan (OPCC) found at the Wildlife Area a few weeks ago, is doing reasonably well. Identified as No.7 by his carer Kathleen (she doesn’t want to get too attached by giving them names) she thinks he’s a male but he’s often rolled into a ball and reluctant to unroll so she’s not absolutely sure. After he’d been checked out by Village Vets in Milton, they took him to Cathlene for rehabilitation. Eating very well now and having a voracious appetite, No.7 needs to put on much more weight before he can be released back into the wild. Kathleen says he’s probably a juvenile born last autumn that didn’t manage to put on enough weight prior to hibernation. Unfortunately so far, he’s only gained 25g. He’s currently living in a hutch and will soon be treated for roundworm. In Kathleen’s very capable hands, given time, it’s most likely he will do well enough for release.
This is a very good time of the year to offer hedgehogs food as they come out of hibernation hungry: chicken cat or dog food is ideal, certainly not fish. Always offer fresh water too, but definitely no milk.
UPDATE 5 APRIL: Kathleen has let me know that he’s now doing much better and is weighing in at 500g
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
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
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.
At the penultimate summer event with the Youth Group, one of the raised beds was painted and potted up. We’re planning work with the 1st Cambridge Scout Group to ensure it’s maintenance. The addition of Ivy means that pollen and nectar will be available as late as possible into the season for honey bees and other pollinators. Thank you to the Youth Group, Orchard Park Community Council, and Education Services 2010 for making this project possible.
Orchard Park Wildlife Project will add some educational signs to the raised beds very soon.
For background information on this project, the importance of pollinators and more on how to help them see previous blog post: Sowing Seeds
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.
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