Last Friday evening 1st Cambridge Scout Group did litter picking at the Wildlife Area, Balancing Pond, and grassy areas adjacent to the skate park. Several bin bags of litter were collected. We saved some bottles to repurpose into seed feeders for birds.
Many thanks for helping the people and wildlife of Orchard Park 🙂
Would you be interested in having your garden surveyed? Cambridge Natural History Society are looking for people who’d be happy to have a survey team identify the animals and plants living there. By taking part you’d be contributing to a Cambridge wide project mapping our local fauna and flora.
From the Cambridge Natural History Society website:
“Urban domestic gardens occupy a substantial proportion of the area of British towns – about 20-25% according to a study in Sheffield. They are a notable resource for wildlife and full of interesting plants. In summer 2016 we developed a protocol for recording species in gardens and tried it out in four. We are looking for gardens in as many Cambridge monads (1-km squares) as possible. We are trying to spread the gardens out so that we have only one in each monad.
In each garden we note the plant species, and ask the owner to tell us of the vertebrates that they have seen in the past two years. We also record what we find when we go there. We ask the owner for information about management, in particular pest control and wildlife management. Then we go and make records of (1) Vascular plants (summer), (2) Small mammals (autumn) and (3) Bryophytes (winter). As part of the plant recording we take soil samples and note the weeds in two squares of size 1 m² placed in flower beds.”
They’re also interested to see what we’ve found at the Wildlife Area, so we’ll provide our records.
Please let us know if you’d like to take part if you’re in Orchard Park by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org we’ll pass your details on to Cambridge Natural History Society and we can provide some assistance to identify what’s living on your doorstep 🙂 If you’re outside Orchard Park and/or you have ID skills and are willing to help with surveys, please contact NatHistCam@gmail.com
Many thanks to Orchard Park Community Council for organising the litter pick today, and to everyone who came to help. It was surprisingly warm, and the sun came out soon after 10am. A few of us went back to the Orchard Community Centre for tea and biscuits afterwards.
Although there was a lot of litter when we arrived, it wasn’t as bad as it has been on other occasions. As usual cans, bottles, and crisp bags were the most numerous items. Particularly concerning are the small pieces of polystyrene packaging. They seem to have come from one large package – we’ve been picking these up for four years now, and yet a lot remain. Animals can eat the pieces causing clogging of the digestive tract and choking. We really need to make sure that no more pieces get into the Wildlife Area, and keep working away to remove these remaining hundreds or thousands of polystyrene bits.
For information on the dangers of litter to wildlife see previous posts:
We hope to share our 2017 activity plan for the rest of the year very soon.
Join us on 17 February at 10:00–14:00 to tidy up the Wildlife Area, Ring Fort Road, near the sports ground. As OPWP has informed on many occasions (see links below), litter is very dangerous to our wildlife. Please come along, even if you can spare just ten minutes, every single can/bag/bottle that is removed is helpful to our local wildlife. Being in the Wildlife Area, volunteering, and gentle exercise is good for you too 🙂 We hope to see you there.
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.
Free, fun, helpful, healthy, accessible and informative – we hope you’ll join us for our Orchard Park Summer Safari in the evening of Sunday 17 July. Meet outside the Travelodge Hotel, Chieftain Way (click for map), at 7.30pm. You’re welcome to join us for as long or little as you like.
It’s an opportunity to have a closer look at the wildlife on your doorstep, learn about it, and what you can do to help. You’ll be surprised to see what lives here when you look… especially when guided by very knowledgeable naturalists – we are grateful to Tim and Carol Inskipp who will be providing their expertise again to help us identify the animals and plants we come across. We’ll have a look around the perimeter of where the lizards currently live in Orchard Park, this area is rich in invertebrates – which the lizards eat. We hope someone from Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group will join us. The area also has mature trees nearby, the only ones within Orchard Park, and they’re a microhabitat in themselves. We’ll see where the wildlife takes us before looking at the wildflower area on Ring Fort Road, the orchard and meadow, and then at dusk we’ll head over to Wildlife Area to have a look for bats with our detector (we thank #lushcambridge @lushcambridge for their Charity Pot event providing funds for our detector).
Orchard Park Wildlife Project will send any new wildlife records to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre, the Summer Safari is like a micro sized and laid back bioblitz, where we find and identify as many plants and animals as we can, but stopping to look and explore as we find wildlife to look at.
As well as being good for wildlife, activities such as the Summer Safari are proven to be good for you too: “..a body of restorative literature focuses on the potential benefits to emotional recovery from stress offered by green space and ‘soft fascination'” according to Aspinall et al 2015. For more information from the scientific paper click the lead author’s name link above. If you’d like to see more in a popular science format, then have a look at this article: Science proves what we all know: Nature is Good for your Health!
This is a free and accessible event suitable for all ages and abilities.
To see a blog post about what we found to look at during our Summer Safari last year click: Summer Safari Summary
Common Pipistrelle Photo by: Mnolf Location: Kauns, Tirol, Austria Date: 10.06.2005. Creative Commons.
Last year, we confirmed presence of Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) foraging at Orchard Park. We suspect we might have Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) foraging here too, as other bats were seen but not heard using the detector set to the frequency for Common Pipistrelle.
We detect bats using detectors which lower their high frequency calls inaudible to human ears – the frequency is dependent on the species of bat – to a lower frequency which we can hear.
Many thanks to #LushCambridge for their Charity Pot events which funded our bat detector.
The south edge of the long thin strip of Wildlife Area which runs parallel to the A14 embankment, and is to the north of the sports field, is ideal for insects around dusk, and so the bats go there to feed.
For a video about bats from the British Mammal Society, click here (this is a link to their videos on Facebook).
Due to poor weather on the 24th, this event has now been rescheduled for Friday 1st July – meet at the Wildlife Area, end of Ring Fort Road, CB4 (opposite Premier Inn) at 8.30pm with a blanket and some warm clothes, so you’re prepared to wait. Maybe a flask of tea if it’s a bit chilly. The bats come out at different times depending on the light and temperature.
We’ll show you how the detector works, have some recordings of UK bat species to play, show some pictures of UK species, and provide information on how you can help bats. If we’ve seen evidence of bats using the bat boxes in the week or so leading up to the event, we will try to film them. Please note: although the image shows a bat being handled, we won’t be handling them as a special licence is required, and it would be against the law.
This is a free, accessible event, for all ages and abilities.
Following on from the litter pick last weekend, we would like to spend a bit more time there to finish the tidying job we started. I’ve asked if SCDC can deliver some bags for recycling and litter picker sticks.
We’ll also be focussing on removing some tree guards around OP from trees and hedges. This activity is recommended in the OP Habitats Management Plan “When planted, tree guards were put around many of the trees. These guards are now redundant as the trees are more resilient against rabbit or deer browsing, and should therefore be removed. Likewise the wooden supports around the trees can be removed”.
Orchard Park offers a range of habitats for wildlife, we have grassland, hedges, trees, scrub etc. Where hedges are established they offer great habitat for a range of wildlife including the Dunnock, a bird in decline in the UK which is subject to a Biodiversity Action Plan. As mentioned previously, the little brown bird around OP which most people think is is sparrow, is probably a Dunnock. In the winter, hedges provide berries for birds, and in the summer, they provide food for invertebrates. They also provide ‘corridors’ to allow animals such as the Hedgehog to move around. It is important our hedgerows are managed as well as possible for wildlife. Our activities on 21st will help with this.
We were hoping to be able to do some pruning of the apple trees in the Orchard on 21st February, but this will now be done in March when experts are available.
Please join us on 21st February for as little or long as you can – we’ll meet at the Wildlife Area at 10:00 and depending on how many people there are, all move on, or have a group move around OP working on the hedges. Please phone 07902 454367 to find us.
A little later than planned, here is the Draft Activity Plan for Orchard Park Wildlife Project for 2016. We have set dates and some times for activities coming up in the next few months. All activities are based on the recommendations in the Orchard Park Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. There is scope to add or change activities, and we hope to build on the helpful collaborations leading to enjoyable events this last year or two. All activities are subject to appropriate approval and sourcing appropriate expertise and equipment. Times and dates may be subject to change, so, please keep an eye on the Orchard Park Wildlife and other Facebook groups, as well as here on the blog and Twitter where final details will be confirmed closer to the date.
We hope there is something for everyone. You’re always welcome to join us for a little or long as you are able whilst we try to help the wildlife on our doorstep from the bees, butterflies and moths, to the hedgehogs, herps and bats.
There are also many national wildlife campaigns taking place again this year:
to name but a few…. We’ll let you know as new dates are released so that you have the information you need to contribute to local and national wildlife conservation efforts through citizen science.
If there is an activity that you’d like to do but don’t see, then please get in touch, we’d like to hear from you.
Looking forward to doing our bit again for the wildlife of Orchard Park 🙂