Making Recycled Bird Seed Feeders with the Youth Group

Last Thursday OPWP held an event with Young People’s Workers at the Orchard Community Centre for the local youth group to make seed feeders from bottles. Some of the bottles had been collected during the scout’s recent litter pick. We demonstrated how to make the feeders and repurpose the bottles and how to fill them with a mix of seeds and suet (it stays in a bit better if suet is heated and added to the seed mix – just make the opening a little larger than suggested in the instructions below). We also had some bird books on hand to show the types of birds the feeders are likely to attract locally.

Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to work with you, and we look forward to the events we’ve planned for the summer: making the bug hotel, and getting everything going with the raised beds 🙂

Click on the links below for information on making seed feeders:

RSPB Instructions for making seed feeders

And for the seedy suet mix see the Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Watch activity sheet:

seed suet mix

All of the nest boxes were painted and we hope to see them around Orchard Park soon :)

 

All of the nest boxes are gone. Many thanks to the Community Council for funding them and to Scotsdales for providing free delivery. Do post pictures to show where your bird boxes have been placed around Orchard Park 🙂

For advice on where to put them click here

Many thanks for all the help setting up, running and taking the stall down too!

Planting for Improved Garden Security and Wildlife Benefit at Crime Prevention event tonight

 

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Op Hunter security event – Orchard Park

Wednesday 29 March 17:00 – 19:30 hrs

The Orchard Community Centre, Central Avenue, Orchard Park, Cambridge, CB4 2EZ

Cambridgeshire Constabulary are holding a crime prevention event at Orchard Park community centre to highlight security improvements that residents can make to protect their homes and reduce opportunist crime.

Officers and staff will be available to provide advice and information. A senior officer will be providing a crime prevention seminar at 6.30p.m.

There will also be security products available at a discounted rate, as well as information about property registration and coding.

Neighbourhood teams will be patrolling and visiting local streets, to increase security awareness.

Please come along to find out more (Source: https://southcambscops.org/2017/03/22/op-hunter-security-event-orchard-park/)


Orchard Park Wildlife Project will be there to advise on plants that can help with security at the same time as being beneficial to wildlife – idea by Kate Parsley.

Plants recommended for their defensive properties on the Crime Prevention Website that also benefit wildlife

 

Shrubs and small trees

Please note the top of the table is not showing all of the information. Scroll down to the link for a PDF complete version

Plant and defence grade (1st-3rd)1 Defensive Properties1 Flowers / berries Height1, type, and how to plant Wildlife benefits
Berberis sp.

 

Berberis thunbergii
(3 effective defense)

Berberis stenophylla
(2 very effective defense)

All Berberis are spiny and make excellent barrier hedges Deciduous varieties have good autumn colour, flowers April-May, has berries2 3m Best planted in a group with other shrubs. An evergreen, it prefers full sun and a moist soil, growing slowly2 Food and shelter

 

B. thunbergii can provide berries into autumn and winter2

Birds are attracted to the berries, whilst the thorns provide a barrier for safe nesting sites2

Japonica, Japanese Quince

Chaenomeles speciosa
(2 effective defense)

A thorn-bearing shrub with white flowers that is often wall trained Attractive red or orange spring flowers which are followed by sizeable yellow fruit3 2m A thorny, spreading shrub that can be allowed to do its own thing. Will tolerate some shade3 Food: flowers and berries3

 

Birds eat fruit and use dense branches as protection and nest sites.

Flowers attractive to bees and bumblebees3

Provides nectar and pollen for solitary bees4

Hawthorn

 

Crataegus monogyna

(1 extremely effective)

Crataegus prunifolia a compact variety

(1 extremely effective)

Ideal hedge barrier, thorny and dense White flowers in late spring followed by bright red berries5 7+m Tolerates a wide variety of conditions, including polluted and exposed sites5A Food and shelter5

Blackbird, Bluetits, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Crows, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Robin, Starlings, Waxwings etc feed on berries5

Black Veined White Butterfly caterpillar food plant. Flowers also visited by adult butterflies seeking nectar: Brimstone, Chinese Character, Grey Dagger, Lackey, Lappet, Lesser Yellow Underwing, Light Emerald, Mottled Beauty, Mottled Pug, Swallowtailed, Vapourer and Yellow-tail Moth food plant. Small Eggar Moth food plant when hedges left untrimmed in summer5

Host to innumerable insects5

Small mammals e.g. mice, bank voles and foxes take berries5

Common Holly

Ilex aquifolium

(2 very effective defense)

Ideal for barrier plantings Male and female flowers are on separate shrubs; for a female shrub to produce berries, it must be pollinated by a male growing nearby6 2m Grows in any soil and copes well with full sun or shade6 Food and shelter6

 

Bees and bumblebees collect its nectar and pollen.

Caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly eat buds and flowers.

Birds: Thrushes, Robins, Dunnocks, finches etc. use it for nesting as it provides excellent protection.

Blackbirds, thrushes etc. eat berries.

Hedgehogs, small mammals, toads and slow worms hibernate in deep leaf litter that builds up beneath it6

Oregon Grape

Mahonia aquifolium
(3 effective defense)

Mahonia media

(2 very effective defense)

Low growing shrub with spiny leaves Clusters of bright yellow flowers are produced in spring, followed by spherical, blue-black berries7 1.5m Vigorous, suckering shrub that can cope with most soils and thrive in shady spots where many other plants succumb7 Food7

 

Nectar and pollen may be taken by Blackcaps, Bluetits and House Sparrows. Berries eaten by Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes7

Excellent early-flowering nectar source for bees and bumblebees.

Bright-line Brown-eye, Cabbage and Peppered Moth caterpillar food plant7

New Zealand Holly

Olearia             macrodonta

(3 effective defense)

Shrub for exposed sites, with silver-toothed leaves Clusters of white, fragrant, daisy-like flowerheads8 1.5m Sun-loving plant which is hardy in warmer parts of the country. It tolerates wind, and do well in towns8 Food8

 

Flowers are attractive to bees and many species of fly8

Blackthorn, Sloe

Prunus spinosa

(1 extremely effective)

Excellent dense defensive shrub or small tree. Snowy white blossom appears in very early spring before the leaves and is followed in late autumn by the purplish-black fruits10 1.8m Very tough and tolerant of most soils and situations, including wet, exposed sites10 Food and Shelter9

Flowering, blackthorn provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees in spring. Its foliage is a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the Lackey, Magpie, Common Emerald, Small Eggar, Swallow-tailed and Yellow-tailed. Also used by Black and Brown Hairstreak butterflies.

Birds nest among the dense, thorny thickets, eat caterpillars and other insects from the leaves, and feast on the berries in autumn9

Roses
(2 very effective defense)Dog RoseRosa caninaField rose
Rosa arvensisIt is illegal to plant Rosa rugosa in the wild or allow it to ‘escape’!11
Dense and thorny vegetation Flowers 2-9m dependent on variety. Old-fashioned varieties are fragrant and disease-resistant11 Food and flowers11

Hybrid tea roses, are also useful addition11

 

Fruits popular with birds.

Wide range of insects attracted to the flowers including bees and butterflies11

Gorse

Ulex europaeus

(1 extremely effective)

Superb barrier shrub Small yellow flowers12 1.5m Grows well on poor dry soils1 Food and shelter12

Nest sites for birds, important for invertebrates12

Refuge for birds in harsh weather. In flower for long periods – an important nectar source in early spring and early winter, when little else is in flower12

Idea by Kate Parsley, Chair, OPWP

Please note some of the information at the top of the table is obscured due to the automatic layout of the webpage. To see a full PDF version of the table, click here: table summarised

Sources:

1 https://thecrimepreventionwebsite.com/garden-%20boundaries-fences-and-defensive-plants/618/defensive-%20plants-shrubs-and-trees-shrub-fences/

2 https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/b/berberis.aspx

3 http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/plants/shrub/chaenomeles-japonica.aspx

4 http://www.joyofplants.com/wildlife/picklist.phpname=meadow&pl=5&adv=1&ot=&r=0&g=0&p=4&o=926

5 http://www.wildaboutgardens.org.uk/plants/tree/crataegus-monogyna.aspx

5A https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/h/hawthorn.aspx

6 https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/h/holly.aspx

7 http://wildaboutgardens.org.uk/plants/shrub/mahonia-aquifolium.aspx

8 http://www.joyofplants.com/wildlife/picklist.php?name=common&pl=5&adv=1&ot=&r=0&g=0&p=4&o=984

9 https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/blackthorn/

10 http://www.britishhardwood.co.uk/prunus-spinosa-blackthorn/155/

11 https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/a-z-of-a-wildlife-garden/atoz/r/rose.aspx

12 https://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/advice/gorse/

Meet the locals, give a bird family a home and contribute to conservation, whilst improving your own wellbeing

 

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Come along to Unwin Square, in front of the shops, on 1st April from 10.00-14.00. Orchard Park Community Council are organising an Easter Fun Day, click here for more information via the OPCC Facebook page. It’s a great chance to meet local folks, or to come along with your neighbours if you already know them.

Orchard Park Community Council have very kindly offered to cover the costs of some nest box kits (donations are welcome to help recoup some of their costs) which you can decorate and place in your garden, next to your window or balcony, to provide homes for our feathered friends. These boxes are most likely to attract birds from the Tit family (Paridae). They’re gorgeous and energetic little things, a joy to watch in the garden.

As mentioned previously, watching birds has been proven to improve our health and wellbeing. One study by the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and University of Queensland, involving hundreds of people, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighbourhoods.

blue tit

Blue tit, Orchard Park garden winter 2012

We can help you to find a suitable place to put your nest box up and let you know which birds you’re likely to see in your garden. Although many birds will have already started nesting, it’s not unusual for them to change nests for a second clutch, and if you’re not in time for them this year, there’s always next.

More information on nest boxes from the Gardenature website:

When is the latest time to put up a nest box in the season?

Garden birds generally start breeding around mid February, ideally you should have put a nest box in place by the end of Feb beginning of March. This said, we have known bird boxes to be put up in April that have had successful results.

When and how do I clean out the nest box ?

The nests of most birds harbour fleas and other parasites, these can remain to infest young birds that hatch the following year. We recommend that old nests be removed from August onwards or once you are certain the birds have stopped using the box.

Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the front or top panels. Insecticides and flea powders must not be used.

How do I position my nest box ?

There are a number of guidelines you can follow to help maximise your chances of birds using a nest box.
It is highly recommended that you face the nest box between North and East. What is important is that you do not face the hole towards the prevailing wind as this will almost certainly mean that rain will get into the box in wet and windy weather. Try to avoid placing a nest box where there will be prolonged exposure to sunlight as overheating inside the box can sometimes result in heat stress to the chicks.
Placing a nest box in close proximity to a feeding device or feeding station may well put off birds from nesting in the box. Most nesting birds are highly territorial and do not like intruders on their territory. Either remove feeders just before and during the breeding season or place the nest box well away from the feeding station.
Make sure that the birds have a clear flight path to the nest box without any clutter directly in front of the entrance. Tilt the box forward slightly so that any driving rain will hit the roof and bounce clear.
To attract Blue Tits, Great Tits etc, ideally your nest box should be fixed two to five metres up a tree or wall to prevent predators such as cats reaching them.
Open-fronted boxes for robins and wrens need to be low down, below 2m, well hidden in vegetation. Those for spotted flycatchers need to be 2-4m high, sheltered by vegetation but with a clear outlook. Woodpecker boxes need to be 3-5m high on a tree trunk with a clear flight path and away from disturbance.
There are several methods for attaching your nest box to a tree. If using a nail try to make sure it is an aluminium one as this will cause the least damage to the tree and pose less of a hazard at a later date if the tree is cut down or trimmed using a chainsaw. Alternatively boxes can be attached with garden wire around the trunk or branch. Holes can be drilled on either side of the bird box roof to help do this. Use a piece of garden hose or similar around the wire to prevent damage to the tree.”
Also see the BTO Website.
Why do we need to provide birds with nest boxes?
From the BTO (see their website for additional information): “Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired.”
Benefits of nest boxes 
Adapted from the BTO: “Whether you’re a family with space for a box in your garden, a teacher, a member of a local wildlife group, or you belong to a bird club and could organise a work party, providing a nest box gives you the chance to contribute to the conservation effort in the UK whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your garden.”
If you’re really keen you can monitor the box and provide feedback to OPWP and the BTO: https://www.bto.org/about-birds/nnbw/monitor

Birds on the Busway

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Waxwing feeding along the busway near the Science Park bus stop

On Thursday I heard that a museum (that’s their collective noun) of Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulous) had been seen on the busway near the Science Park busway stop. I woke early this morning and decided I’d go along to see if I could find them.

On the way in the cold and mist I saw around ten nests from last year in the hedge, robins, blackbirds, goldfinches, magpies, pied wagtails, blue tits, great tits, and squirrels.

Then as the Science Park busway stop came into view, I spotted a group of birds with crests on their heads, and thought that must be them. I stopped to  look more closely, and yes, there were about 15-20 feeding.

They’re not permanent residents here, but every three or four years when food is scarce in Scandinavia they arrive along the east coast from October to March moving inland in search of berries, particularly rowan and hawthorn. These birds, similar to Starlings in size, come in large numbers known as irruptions.

I was expecting them to be quite noisy, but I didn’t hear any sounds. The video by the RSPB  shows them feeding noisily.

Video of Waxwings from RSPB website

2017 and RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

rsbp-bgb

Image credit: RSPB

OPWP is working with the OP Community Council and others to create our activity plan for 2017. We will announce the activities soon.

In the meantime, to get going with wild fun this year, why not take part in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, it’s the world’s largest wildlife survey and happening on 28-30 January.

Click here to request a free pack from the RSPB to get you started.

Click here to download a free pack.

The packs offer food ideas, activities, bird identification guides and a calendar showing all types of wildlife, not just birds, that you’re likely to see each month from January until December.

It would be great to hear what you see around Orchard Park during the birdwatch – use the form below to let us know.

During this cold and wet weather, I’ve had more Blackbirds than usual in my garden. Although I see Pied Wagtails regularly around Orchard Park, they’re not normally visitors to my garden, but I’ve seen a couple hopping around this last week. I’ve put some extra food out, hopefully something suitable for most visitors, and I need to make sure I’ve replenished my stock of food for Robins in time for the Birdwatch. The wider the variety of food you offer, the wider variety of birds you’ll attract.

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.

 

Sparrowhawk in OP Garden

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Sparrowhawk with Collared Dove prey, Orchard Park garden

I heard a new noise on Saturday in my garden. I always look when I hear something I can’t recognise from its call. To my surprise when I opened the curtains I saw the yellow eyes of a small bird of prey staring at me from my little tree. At first the bird appeared to be trapped amongst its tight, twisted branches, flapping around and seemingly unable to free itself. I closed the curtains briefly to think about how best to release it and wondered if it was sick or injured. When I opened the curtains again I realised the bird was absolutely fine, it had moved out of the tree and was holding down a struggling Collared Dove which I hadn’t noticed previously, it had obviously taken it in, or near to, my garden where lots of them congregate to take the food I put out. I was able to have a proper look at the bird of prey by now, as it was focussed only on finishing off the Collared Dove and plucking its feathers, and was not at all bothered by me just a couple of feet away. It was a Sparrowhawk. Over the course of an hour or so, I watched it pluck the feathers, then the meat off its prey. Quite gruesome, but it was also fascinating to see this beautiful and efficient killer so close up, I felt quite privileged, as this was happening outside my window, in Orchard Park!

Sparrowhawks can be seen all over the UK throughout the year. As this one has a brown back, it’s likely to be a female. Their scientific, or Latin name is Accipiter nisus and they belong in the family Accipitridae with other hawks and eagles.

More info on Sparrowhawks from the RSPB website:

“Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey. They’re adapted for hunting birds in confined spaces like dense woodland, so gardens are ideal hunting grounds for them. Adult male sparrowhawks have bluish-grey back and wings and orangey-brown bars on their chest and belly. Females and young birds have brown back and wings, and brown bars underneath. Sparrowhawks have bright yellow or orangey eyes, long, yellow legs and long talons. Females are larger than males, as with most birds of prey.

Where to see them

Sparrowhawks breed in woodland but also visit gardens and more open country. They can be seen in towns and cities, as well as rural areas. Listen for the alarm calls of smaller birds as they spot a sparrowhawk and will alert other birds in the area to the danger. In the UK sparrowhawks are found everywhere, except for parts of the Scottish Highlands, the Western Isles and Shetland.

When to see them

At any time of year; you might see birds displaying to each other in early spring, when males perform a ‘rollercoaster’ flight, climbing up and diving back down again to impress females.

What they eat

Mainly small birds, but 120 different species have been recorded. Males can catch birds up to thrush size, but females, being bigger, can catch birds up to pigeon size. Some sparrowhawks catch bats.

Population

Europe UK breeding* UK wintering* UK passage*
35,000 pairs

* UK breeding is the number of pairs breeding annually. UK wintering is the number of individuals present from October to March. UK passage is the number of individuals passing through on migration in spring and/or autumn.”

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.