Informal Mini Bioblitz at the Wildflower Bank

Bioblitz poster ver 2Join 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.

 

 

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Local Land Plastic, Please Help

 

 

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

 

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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

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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.

 

 

 

Orchard Park’s Third Summer Safari Sunday 9 July 5.30-7.30pm

All of these amazing animals (and a pretty poppy) have been seen around Orchard Park, and all but the bat and moth photographs were taken here. If you spend a moment stopping and looking, you’ll be surprised at what you see. Join us late afternoon/early evening on Sunday 9 July to search for our local wildlife in our annual urban Summer Safari. Tim and Carol Inskipp will be there again kindly sharing their wealth of wildlife knowledge and Cambridge Mammal Group will show us any mammals they might find earlier in the day. Orchard Park Wildlife Project will provide wildlife guide books and ID sheets, but if you have a bird book and binoculars feel free to bring them along. The event will be free, fun and informative, as well as accessible and suitable for all ages and abilities (children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult). As well as meeting the local wildlife it will give you an opportunity to meet new folks from your neighbourhood. Meet at 5.30pm outside the Travelodge Hotel. Join us for as long or as little as you like.

The Summer Safari will be part of Cambridge Wild’s month of activities.  All new wildlife records will be shared with Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC).

Orchard Park’s Wildlife as part of “You Are Here” Exhibition

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The Collaborative Map of North Cambridge created at a range of workshops across the area

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It was a pleasure to see the depictions of Orchard Park’s wildlife on tiles, and all the other colourful exhibits, at the “You Are Here” exhibition by North Cambridge Artist in Residence Isabella Martin. Various artistic sessions in the North Cambridge area culminated in the Exhibition held on Friday and Saturday at the Church of the Good Shepherd off Arbury Road. For more details click: “You Are Here“. Last month Karen Thomas from Kettle’s Yard and artist Rosanna Martin came to oversee our artistic endeavours at our event in OP’s Orchard.

I attempted to photograph each and every wildlife tile shown at the exhibition – can you spot yours? They’re in the slideshow above, you can hit the ‘pause’ button when you get to your tile so you can take a longer look. We plan to ‘release the tiles into the wild’ – details will follow on the blog when we’ve finalised the plans, we’d like everyone to know where their tiles go.

I was particularly pleased to see Orchard Park on the Collaborative Map of North Cambridge (see the second photo above), created at the workshops across the area, represented entirely by wildlife we’ve found here. It’s such a positive way to portray our community. Up to 250 people attending the exhibition were able to print their own copy of the map. The map is informative, amusing, and pleasing to the eye, and I look forward to putting the 202nd print on my wall. You can click on the photo of the map to see it as a bigger image – of course, OP is top left.

Many thanks indeed to Isabella, Rosanna and Karen – we really enjoyed working with you, and we hope you enjoyed making your wildlife tiles.

 

Thanks again to Lush for a fun and batty time at the Charity Pot Party

Thanks again to @LushCambridge for a fun and batty time yesterday. We’re always so grateful for the support we get from Lush, we bought our bat detector with money raised by one of their Charity Pot Party fundraisers. This time we were promoting #WildAboutGardens week and encouraging folks to take a simple step to help bats. Lots of people agreed to do something this week – just look at the bat above covered in symbols each of which represents a pledge: to add a water feature, keep cats in at dusk, reduce lighting, go organic, make a bat home, provide a bug hotel, or add insect friendly plants.

For more info on how you can help bats see: Wild About Gardens Week Resources

 

@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 🙂

Lush, Art, Apples, Wildlife Maps, & Bats. We’re planning our September/October Activities.

OP and map of areas for July activity

Sadly due to the imminent development of the site where the lizards are, we are unable to continue monitoring them as planned for August. We hope to be able to resume monitoring next year over at the balancing pond where at least part of the population are likely to be translocated to…

For September/October activities we are excited to be collaborating with North Cambridge resident artist Isabella Martin. We thank Karen Thomas of Kettle’s Yard for putting us in touch. We are planning to run an event over at the Orchard when the apples ripen where we’ll explore the Orchard habitat and creatively contribute to signage for the area. We hope to collaborate further to map Orchard Park’s habitats and species in an interactive and novel way – more info to come 🙂

From the Kettle’s Yard website:

YOU ARE HERE – Isabella Martin Artist in Residence 2016

Open House Artist-in-Residence, Isabella Martin, is working with local residents to explore the area and create a new map together in a project called You Are Here. Isabella will work with local groups to share stories and knowledge and develop creative skills to turn these stories into artworks. The artworks will be part of the alternative neighbourhood map. The map will show and celebrate what is unique about North Cambridge. You will find Isabella and her team of artists out and about, running art activities and collecting stories and thoughts about the neighbourhood. You Are Here has been inspired by Kettle’s Yard, celebrating all the individual and unique things which make a place special.

Isabella Martin is an artist who works with different materials to make work that interacts with specifc places and the stories they tell. Using drawing, performance, writing and sculpture, Isabella creates inventive, playful, outdoor artworks in collaboration with people to explore our relationship to the landscape in which we live.”

Lush Cambridge are also very kindly holding another Charity Pot Party fundraising event for us in late October. We’re very grateful to Lush for their ongoing support. We’ll be encouraging people to take part in this year’s Wild About Gardens Week – this year it focusses on bats. Apt, as a Lush Charity Pot Party funded our bat detector which we’ve used over at the Wildlife Area and around Orchard Park ^v^

Dates for events are being confirmed and will be announced soon.

Orchard Park Summer Safari Sunday 17 July 7.30pm

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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

Summer Safari Summary

We had a great turnout for the Orchard Park Summer Safari. Thanks to all who came along. Special thanks to Tim and Carol Inskipp for sharing their vast wildlife knowledge and identification skills, and to Agnes Toth from Sustrans who helped enormously with the organisation of this event and took the photos included in this post. Click on the photo above to see the photo album.

People who came along had a range of ages and interests, children seemed particularly enthralled by the little things especially ants.

The wildlife show wasn’t bad either. We’ll be adding the new species we saw to existing lists for Orchard Park and sending them to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC) who collate, manage and store data that describes biodiversity in the local area.

Given the current concern about bees in decline, it’s good to report we found six species of bee here: White tailed Bumblebee, Red tailed Bumblebee, Carder Bee, Buff tailed Bumblebee, Early Bumblebee and Garden Bumblebee. A range of birds including Rooks and Jackdaws from the Corvidae family, and back to the small things, Magpie Moths (album cover photo above), White Lipped Snails and Brown Lipped Snails, Cinnabar caterpillars, and Earwigs.

On the mammal front we weren’t disappointed – as well as seeing the large Hedgehog at the very end of the safari, we also saw bats at the far western side of the Wildlife Area again. We had the detector set to pick up Common Pipistrelles, however we all saw a bat which the detector didn’t pick up, indicating it might be another species, perhaps a Soprano Pipistrelle.

We’ll add a note on new plant records for Orchard Park shortly.

Our next event will be looking for lizards on 15th August – more on that in a moment.

Common pipistrelle confirmed in Orchard Park :)

imageDelighted to have seen close up, and heard via a bat detector, three common pipistrelles together over at the far side of the Wildlife Area with Tim and Carol Inskipp this evening. Should be good at our event on Tuesday evening 21st July. We look forward to seeing you there.

For more info see: Bat Conservation Trust and Pipistrelle fact sheet