#GreatBigWalk Walker’s reception at Nightingale Park last night

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Wildlife Pond at Nightingale Garden

Wildlife Pond at Nightingale Garden Photo credit: http://www.nightingalegarden.org.uk

Last night around 30 people, mainly from Nightingale Volunteer Gardeners, assembled to meet and greet the team doing the Eden Project’s #GreatBigWalk. The walkers are winding their way through the UK heading home and working up an appetite in time for the #GreatBigLunch. Eden Communities aims to “connect people and communities, encouraging everyday people to make positive change where they live.” There certainly was a lot of good community spirit, as well as delicious home made food, in the amazing garden, not far from Addenbrookes @CB1 8SQ, last night. I’m sure Orchard Park Wildlife Project ‘up north’ can learn a thing or two about as we embark with our Community Council on our raised beds and community gardening journey. Nightingale Garden has a wildlife pond, lots of lovely wildflowers as well as food plants.

Nightingale Volunteer Gardeners are a “community gardening group for RHS-affiliated Queen Edith’s in Bloom”. Anyone ‘down south’ wishing to join them, or willing to travel down south, they meet Sunday and Monday afternoons 2-4, with ‘Gardeners tea at 3’, you can go along for however long you like. For information see: www.nightingalegarden.org.uk or contact Rebecca (volunteer) 07792 531 400.

 

 

@LushCambridge Charity Pot Party 22/10/16 Going Batty for #WildAboutGardensWeek

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This year’s Wild About Gardens Week is 24-30 October 2016. It’s focussing on simple steps we can take to support bats and other wildlife. There are lots of things you can do right now to support wildlife in your garden or community green space. Come along to @LushCambridge on Saturday 22nd October to find out how you can help our local bats.

The lovely folks @LushCambridge are very generously holding another Charity Pot Party for Orchard Park Wildlife Project – so please consider buying a pot of the gorgeous smelling lotion that makes your skin silky smooth (like a bat’s wing?!?!). The proceeds will allow Orchard Park Wildlife Project to purchase the tools and equipment we need to run our free community events that aim to make Orchard Park better for wildlife and people.

We’ll have plenty of ideas so you can prepare for Wild About Gardens Week and find out about how you can help our local bats, and we’d like you to pledge to do something to help them during Wild About Gardens Week. There’ll be fun bat masks and bat puppets which you can decorate and in plenty of time for Halloween. We’ll show you how a bat detector works (Orchard Park Wildlife Project bought our detector with funds kindly raised by a Lush Charity Pot Party) and you can listen to bat calls. Lush staff will be looking a bit batty too!

From the Wild About Gardens Week Website:

“Wild About Gardens Week 2016 is a joint initiative by the RHS, The Wildlife Trusts and Bat Conservation Trust to encourage people to support wildlife in their gardens, with a focus on our UK bats. This is more important than ever. In 2013, wildlife researchers found that 60 percent of UK animal and plant species have declined in the past 50 years. Among the variety of reasons for this is loss of habitat.

Many of our common garden species – bats, hedgehogs, house sparrows, and common frogs, for example – are becoming much less common. There are an estimated 15 million gardens in the UK. Together they cover a greater area than all the National nature reserves! By making our own gardens and local green spaces more wildlife-friendly, we can help support a wide range of species.”

For information on threats to bats in the UK see the Bat Conservation Trust page: why bats are declining.

We hope to see you there – do come along and say hello 🙂

State of Nature 2016

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Goldfinch Orchard Park garden. Thankfully a bird with an increasing population according to BTO reports.

The report and findings

The first State of Nature report released in 2013 revealed the severe loss of nature that has occurred in the UK since the 1960s. Last week, the 2016 follow on report was released (see: State of Nature 2016 full report pdf).

Amongst other headlines, this one stood out as a point that is perhaps surprising to some – often declines in wildlife are thought of as happening overseas, not on our doorstep:

A new measure that assesses how intact a country’s biodiversity is, suggests that the UK has lost significantly more nature over the long term than the global average. The index suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.” (State of Nature 2016 p.6).

7% of urban species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain.” (State of Nature 2016 p.40).

The causes for such decline include policy-driven agricultural change as by far the most significant driver, and climate change as one of the greatest long-term threats to nature globally. Other factors driving decline such as loss of green space including parks, allotments and gardens, and loss of habitats such as wildlife rich brownfield sites to development, are things that we can witness right here in Orchard Park. Many gardens here are paved over with little to help wildlife, we have no allotments, the sports field seems sterile, the Wildlife Area seems tiny, whilst the remaining established, large grassland site which is rich in invertebrates, birds, and lizards, is due for commercial development.

Why is this important?

We have a moral obligation to save nature and this is a view shared by the millions of supporters of conservation organisations across the UK. Not only that, we must save nature for our own sake, as it provides us with essential and irreplaceable benefits that support our welfare and livelihoods.” (State of Nature 2016 p.6).

Two recent research projects have now built on … methodology to understand children’s connection to nature in more detail…children who are more connected to nature rate their health and well-being as significantly higher.” (State of Nature 2016 p.67).

What can we do?

 Whilst as individuals and families we might feel powerless to do anything about, for example, farming practices, we can be effective at a local level.

…organisations, businesses, communities and individuals have worked together to bring nature back…We are fortunate that the UK has thousands of dedicated and expert volunteers recording wildlife. It is largely thanks to their efforts, and the role of the organisations supporting them, that we are able to chart how our nature is faring.” (State of Nature 2016 p.6).

Taken collectively, there is increasing evidence that citizen science is playing a central role in recruiting and training the next generation of nature enthusiasts; communicating the beauty and relevance of the UK’s wildlife to wide sectors of UK society; and catalysing positive attitudes and behaviours towards nature. In the face of growing concerns about a decline in taxonomic expertise and a disconnect from nature amongst the UK’s population, this involvement in citizen science gives real cause for optimism.” (State of Nature 2016 p.69).

Orchard Park Wildlife Project sends its species records to Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre to add to their regional assessments of our wildlife. You can help by joining in our Summer Safaris and being a Citizen Scientist – reporting bee, butterfly and bird sightings using links to campaigns promoted via the Orchard Park Wildlife Project blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed and letting us know about anything unusual that you see.

You can do your bit in your garden/balcony/window box by creating a pond, feeding the birds, building a log pile and adding wildlife friendly plants.

You can help keep the Wildlife Area tidy, manage our Wildflower Bank, help at the Orchard, or keep basking sites clear for reptiles at the Balancing Pond.

Every little helps. See: Wildlife Trust page for more ideas.

We hope some of our upcoming activities will tempt you to come along and inspire you to do your bit for your nature if we’ve not managed to reach you already. We’re working on an approach to an event for information at the Orchard with local resident artists, which we hope will attract new people – more about that soon. I’m attending a Network for Nature event on Saturday, it’s at the David Attenborough Building in Downing St which houses Cambridge Conservation Initiative (focussing on international conservation) and Cambridge Conservation Forum (focussing on local conservation, Orchard Park Wildlife Project is a member). The closing speech is scheduled to be given by the building’s namesake himself, and I hope and expect that he will be very inspiring indeed.

To bat or not to bat, that’s been the question…

Broken bat box at the wildlife area

Broken bat box at the wildlife area

Last week Chris Vine from the Cambridge Bat Group came to Orchard Park to check if there were any bats, or signs of bats, in the boxes located along the back of the Wildlife Area. After checking boxes on the first 6 poles, sadly no signs of bats were recorded. Boxes on three poles to the far west side of the Wildlife Area, which were inaccessible due to vegetation, remain unchecked.

Clearly this pole has suffered damage so no bats would live there – two boxes are missing and the remaining one is damaged. We should be looking after our bat boxes as bats are a natural pest control and desirable species to have around. To encourage bats we can help by planting a Bat-Friendly Garden – from the Bat Conservation Trust website:

Brown long-eared bat in a hole (Hugh Clark)All our UK bats eat insects – a single bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night, so they need plenty of them! You can make your garden bat-friendly by doing things like:

  • Planting night-scented flowers, which attract insects
  • Creating a pond
  • Putting up a bat box for bats to roost in
  • Letting your garden go a bit wild – neatly pruned gardens aren’t as good for insects
  • Making sure you don’t use any chemicals or pesticides on your garden
  • Ask an adult to help you find out more about how to garden for bats – they can visit our ‘Encouraging Bats’ page for more information

Orchard Park Wildlife Project was planning an evening event for 29th June to have a talk on bats, and to do some monitoring of the boxes by filming them at dusk, as Pipistrelle bats – the most likely species to be there – are so small they can go in and out of the box without us seeing them. They are however detectable when watching a slowed down film.

Instead of a whole evening of batty things, we’ve decided to combine a bat event with moths and a mini bioblitz on 21st July. We can identify and examine some daytime species, then move onto night time critters including looking for bats with a more sophisticated detector than the one borrowed so far.

I remain hopeful that there are bats around Orchard Park as I’ve had a couple of independent reports, and Chris from the Cambridge Bat Group thought the Orchard Park Wildlife Area bat boxes are very likely to be in use at some point in time, so it is well worth monitoring them.

I will go over to the Wildlife Area at dusk (9pm) on 29th June with the borrowed detector and my camera for half an hour or so to check for any activity in the unchecked boxes – it won’t be a full on batty event, but if anyone would like to join me they’d be welcome.

The Importance of your Gardens as Nature Reserves

Take a look at this 6 minute video by Chris Packham. See what a difference we could make in Orchard Park.

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Click the link below for the video:

http://bbc.in/1E4YYGM

Big Garden Birdwatch 25-26 January 2014

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is coming up on 25-26 January 2014

I took part last year. All it needs is for you to watch the birds in your garden or local green space for one hour during the Birdwatch weekend. See the link below to register and for more details. The RSPB have created apps to make counting birds (and any other animals you see) easy.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/?gclid=CKHz8NfS-LsCFZLKtAodyxMANw

The Pond and Raised bed

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The pond bought for me as a birthday present and made from reclaimed materials was installed about 8 months ago by Cambridge Wood Works http://www.cambridgewoodworks.org.uk/ It has been allowed to fill with rain water as tap water contains something called chloromine, it is used to disinfect water, and may well be toxic to amphibians. Now that there is a reasonable amount of water in it, friends have kindly installed oxygenating plants. I’ve put a frog ladder on the outside and need to install features so that if I am lucky enough to get amphibians, they’ll be able to get out of the water if they can’t use plants to do so. I’ve planted around the base of the pond in the hope that as the plants establish, the liner will become less visible. The raised bed has been stripped of plants for the winter, but I’m looking forward to planting it up again in the spring. It’s a good sense of achievement to be able to make a meal from ingredients I’ve grown organically.

From the RSPB: Just one in five UK children ‘connected to nature’, groundbreaking study finds

http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/355439-just-one-in-five-UK-children-connected-to-nature-groundbreaking-study-finds?utm_medium=website&utm_source=facebook&utm_content=connection&utm_campaign=pr

A three-year research project, undertaken by the RSPB, found that only 21 per cent of children in the UK have a level of connection to nature that can be considered ‘realistic and achievable’ for all children. The report’s findings will be released at an event at the Houses of Parliament tonight [16 October]. Click on the link above for more information.

Neighbourhood nature

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/nature-environment/natural-history/neighbourhood-nature/content-section-0

A great, free course from the Open University to help people brush up on skills and knowledge. As an Open Uni student, I’d definitely recommend their course.

I’ve had magpies, pigeons, collared doves, and great tits feeding in the garden today. I’ve also been delighted to have visits from goldfinches over the last few weeks.

As well as the insect home made at the event at the Community Centre in April, for our pollinators, I’ve just been given a bee home by a couple of good friends. I need to do some reading to determine the best place to locate it. I’ll take a snap and post it over the weekend.

The pond liner is now in place, but I’m reluctant to fill it with tap water. It’s forecast for rain over the weekend, so we’ll see how far it gets filled then….