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.

Native Bluebells planted, thanks to On the Verge and OPCC – please tread carefully

On Saturday, thanks to On the Verge Cambridge and Orchard Park Community Council, native bluebells were planted in the Wildlife Area. On the Verge, who kindly provided the plants free of charge, is a voluntary group set up to promote wildflowers and pollinating plants around Cambridge. They aim to “provide an abundance of food sources for pollinating insects which are in catastrophic decline. By providing joined-up corridors of food for pollinators we can help them feed without having to fly long distances. We can make the city of Cambridge welcoming to pollinators through simply planting what they need. Increasing plant biodiversity in our city can have a positive impact on the insect population immediately.” (Source: On The Verge Website).

Thanks very much to Andrew Chan, Chair of OPCC for planting them, obviously we were unable to do this as a group activity in the current circumstances.

“File:Common Bluebell – Hyacinthoides non-scripta (28120065988).jpg” by Björn S… is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Woodland Trust say “enchanting and iconic, bluebells are a favourite with the fairies and a sure sign spring is in full swing.

Value to wildlife

Many insects reap the benefits of bluebells which flower earlier than many other plants. Woodland butterflies, bees and hoverflies all feed on their nectar. Bees can ‘steal’ the nectar from bluebells by biting a hole in the bottom of the flower, reaching the nectar without the need to pollinate the flower.

Planting in the Wildlife Area

Bluebells are unmistakable bell-shaped perennial herbs. They actually spend the majority of their time underground as bulbs, emerging, often in droves, to flower from April onwards.

Leaves: are narrow, around 7mm to 25mm wide and 45cm in length. They are strap-shaped, smooth and hairless, with a pointed tip.

Flowers: usually deep violet-blue in colour, bluebells are bell-shaped with six petals and up-turned tips. These sweet-smelling flowers nod or droop to one side of the flowering stem (known as an inflorescence) and have creamy white-coloured pollen inside. Some bluebell flowers can be white or pink. Up to 20 flowers can grow on one inflorescence.

Patch of planted bluebells, PLEASE TREAD CAREFULLY – they should spread via seed, and by vegetative propagation

Not to be confused with: Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica), which is very similar in appearance to the British bluebell. However, Spanish bluebells grow upright, with the flowers all around the stem, not drooping to one side like the British bluebell. Hybrid bluebell (Hyacinthoides x massartiana) is a mix of the British and Spanish bluebell. It is often very similar in appearance to our native bluebell, but might threaten its existence by out-competing it and diluting the gene pool.” (source information above was taken directly from the Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) page at The Woodland Trust).

Cowslips on the bank opposite the Premier Inn

The Cowslips are coming out too, they’re quite prolific on the bank closest the Premier Inn. They’ll be out on the Wildflower Bank outside the school soon, along with the rest of the flowers. For more information on Cowslips click here.

It’s a difficult time for all at the moment, but if there’s any consolation it’s that we’re going into it in spring. I hope people will use it as an opportunity to watch wildlife – it’s good distraction, proven to be good for your wellbeing and could create a greater sense of nature connectedness, which in turn might increase actions people take to help wildlife.

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.

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.)

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.

Communities Communicate – Stop the Chop

Nicole Barton, Histon and Impington Sustainability Group, Andrew Chan, Chair Orchard Park Community Council, and Pippa Heyling, South Cambridgeshire District Council at the A14 bridge at J32 with our communities’ collective artwork communicating our dismay at Highways England removing more trees during bird’s nesting season

It’s bird nesting season and for the second consecutive year this is happening in Histon and Impington, and this year also in Orchard Park ….. Highways England is clearing trees and shrubs.

Left a section of the A14 embankment in Orchard Park last year – this shows typical vegetation all along the embankment as it was last year. Today well over a 100 metres of the embankment looks like the photo on the right, and more trees and shrubs may be cleared yet.

All birds are protected from having their nests destroyed or removed during nesting season by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Birds included in Schedule I of the Act are also protected from disturbance at nesting time. A license is needed to destroy or remove nests during nesting time.

We’re waiting for the ecological reports from Highways England whose representative yesterday claimed no trees were being removed from Orchard Park when clearly many already had been. It’s hard to believe not a single nest had been built in any of the vegetation that has been cleared.

Below are photos of artwork created by Histon and Impington residents to communicate dismay at Highways England’s tree and vegetation clearance, and the importance of trees for wildlife and clean air. The art, including lots created by children, was attached to the A14 Junction 32 bridge last night around 6pm, by 6am this morning, all had been removed. We’ve been silenced.

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.