School’s out for Summer (well almost)

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Orchard Park Community Primary School Children, Beetles Class, half way through the litter pick after the Wildflower Bank heading towards the Wildlife Area

Yesterday we ran the last of the sessions on local wildlife for Miss Williamson’s Year 4 Beetles class – around 30 pupils approximately 9 years old. We’ve had a great time exploring Orchard Park’s wildlife and finding out how we can help. Orchard Park Wildlife Project planned and delivered three sessions.

The first, focussed on the variety of Habitats around Orchard Park (wildflowers, scrub in the Wildlife Area, grassland, ponds, hedges, mature trees etc.) and the wildlife that lives in each. We had an interactive presentation followed by an exploration of habitats in the school grounds, and an activity to create habitat and wildlife diagrams.

Session two looked at Threats to Wildlife in the UK using local examples where possible. OPWP explained threatened species and population declines, and looked at some of the main threats – habitat loss and degradation, overharvesting/fishing, invasive species, climate change, and disease. As habitat loss is the reason most species are threatened, we played a game similar to musical chairs – the children enjoyed flapping around as bats to the Batman theme tune – to show the effects of habitat loss to local bats is much more detrimental than they might first imagine. As their habitat becomes fragmented, the bats can’t travel between fragments, and the fragments are soon unable to sustain any bats. We followed this by making 3D models of a range of habitats and animals that would be found in them.

Orchard Park has litter problem and the Wildlife Project came into being initially to address the terrible and dangerous litter levels in the Wildlife Area – a densely vegetated area set aside for wildlife, and intended to be undisturbed to provide a safe area for birds to nest etc. Through many litter picks, and work with the Orchard Park Community Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, it’s getting better, but the litter remains – although right now, thankfully, at a lesser level.  Yesterday’s session focussed on Dangers of Litter to Wildlife and how it is dangerous in both the short and long term, and in particular to some of our local favourites: Hedgehogs, Lizards and birds. We explored ideas to help, donned high vis jackets, grabbed equipment, and a did a litter pick along the Wildflower Bank seeded with wildflowers to support insects, and up to the Wildlife Area. It was a lovely sunny day and the children got a lot of bags of little things. We stressed the importance of picking up the small pieces of plastic and cigarette butts, as they can release poisons and pollutants into the ground as they break down over many many years. The Ring Fort Bank wrapping around the school and approach to the Wildlife Area are all looking much better.

Thank you Beetles 🙂

We also thank Miss Williamson for inviting us into her class. We enjoyed all the sessions, and I know she’d like us to go back next year – this would be our third consecutive year running similar sessions.

School isn’t completely out for summer though, as we’re also planning an assembly on Wildflowers and an after school Wildflower and Insect Bioblitz, both feeding into the sign for the Wildflower Bank Habitat, and perhaps a Welly Walk with some preschool children to spot different birds and trees that live here…..All before they break for the long summer holidays.

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Fledglings, Flowers, Insects and Formulating Plans

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Photo credit: Peter Trimming. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I was lucky to see a juvenile blackbird in the garden this morning. I stepped away to get my camera but sadly it moved away before I could get a photo, so I’ve used this great picture by Peter Trimming.

It’s the time of year when we’ll be starting to see fledglings around. So far I’ve seen just a single blue tit fledgling, calling continuously and flapping it’s wings rapidly to attract the attention of its parent to beg for food. If you find a baby bird and you’re concerned about it, check the RSPB info below , and see their website for advice on what to do.

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Feeding birds is to be encouraged all year round, but at this time of the year it will help them feed their young too. See the RSPCA’s Guide to Feeding Birds for more information.

It’s also the time of year when we’re starting to get more flowers too. The Wildflower Bank on Ring Fort Rd has had Cowslips this year so far, but we’ll have to wait a little while before it’s in all it’s flowery glory.

Education Services 2010 have kindly provided funding, and some structural materials were donated generously by Kettles Yard, to make a sign for the Wildflower Bank showing its variety of flowers, and the invertebrates that each type of flower supports. Orchard Park Primary School children will be helping to create content for the sign.

We’re also looking into the feasibility of running a mini bioblitz, an activity when naturalists and members of the public work together to find as many species as possible within a set location and time, at the Wildflower Bank during National Insect Week 18-24 June. National Insect Week’s video shows why insects are so important.

Hopes for 2018

 

We normally try to end the year on a positive note. However this time, I’m posting on the state of the Wildlife Area again. Whilst improved efforts by the OP Community Council and OP Wildlife Project (OPWP) to keep the area clean have made a positive difference overall these last few years, it’s still very disheartening to see littering and vandalism continuing to be major problems. These photos were taken on the 9th November when Andrew from the Community Council and I had a look around.

OPWP has given talks to OP School children and OP Scout Group about dangers of litter to wildlife (Litter at the Wildlife Area) and both have helped enormously with litter picks. We’d like to thank them for their efforts. It’s a shame to see them go to waste though when the area returns back to this state after a matter of weeks.

OPWP will be arranging more litter picks for next year and we’d be grateful to anyone that can get involved. Most folks that join in find litter picks strangely addictive and children generally really enjoy them.

The purpose of OPWP is simple: WE AIM TO MAKE ORCHARD PARK BETTER FOR PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE THROUGH COMMUNITY ACTION. There are benefits for volunteers too, and although this post is from someone based in the USA, the points raised are valid here in OP too: Benefits of volunteering Being in contact with nature has also been proven as beneficial to our health: Nature benefits. Free, fun and good for you, what’s not to like? Do join us.

After a series of successful collaborations with OP School in 2017, we will be running more sessions there again in 2018. We’ll be planning our events for the community soon too, and will post details here and on Facebook. Sadly last year turn outs to some community events were much lower than in previous years and our community planting for food and pots for pollinators projects had a slower start than we’d hoped (Raised bed at the Community Centre). The bug hotel was also destroyed Bug Hotel Destroyed.

We hope 2018 will be better in terms of community involvement but we really need your help to realise that.

We’d like to thank everyone that helped out last year either by collaborating, giving time, expertise, or financial support to the project.

Anyone that has something positive to bring in 2018 is very welcome to join us.

 

Helping Wildlife in Autumn, Leave the Leaves :)

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autumn-leaves

Below is a compilation of information about how to help our local wildlife in Autumn.

From Gardeners’ World Website:

Leaves

Remove leaves from paths or lawns but transfer them to a corner or beneath a hedge, where hedgehogs and other animals can crawl for shelter.

Ponds

Male frogs often spend winter in the muddy depths of ponds, breathing through their skin. But if the pond freezes over, gases caused by decaying plant material can get trapped and poison them. Remove debris from ponds now, and float a tennis or golf ball on the surface to prevent ice from sealing it.

Twigs

Put bundles of twigs at the back of borders, or in a plant pot on its side, where invertebrates and small mammals can shelter.

Borders

Leave herbaceous borders intact in winter so decaying plants can act as a ‘winter duvet’ for small mammals and insects. Clumps of ornamental grasses may offer the perfect hibernaculum for a hedgehog, while hollow plant stems and seedheads provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates. Seedheads are also a source of oil-rich food for birds which may visit to feed.

Plant pots

Leave stacks of plant pots in a sheltered spot to offer shelter for bees and other insects needing a cool, dry place.

Compost heaps

A variety of species, including hedgehogs and queen bumblebees, find compost heaps the perfect place to hibernate. if your heap is in a plastic bin with a lid, this will keep it dry, but be sure to provide access for hibernators at the base by standing the bin on bricks. If you have an open bin, cover it with a thick piece of old carpet to keep it dry and insulated. Avoid disturbing the bin between autumn and April, when all species will have finished their long snooze.

From House Beautiful Website:

Ivy

One of the best plants for your garden wildlife is ivy, especially in autumn and winter. Many flowering plants will start to die during the colder season, whereas ivy flowers are only starting to flourish. These prove to be an important source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators when other nectar-bearing plants are dying off.The evergreen nature of ivy is perfect for sheltering birds and insects while other trees lose all their leaves. If that wasn’t enough, ivy also produces winter berries that are a wonderful food source for birds, who use their energy to control their own body temperature.

Nurturing garden ivy is probably the most important piece of advice for helping nature survive this autumn and winter.

Bird Food

It’s important to keep their food and water sources topped up in your garden. As soon as the temperatures drop and the natural berries disappear, birds will appreciate your offering – they rely on high-energy, high-fat winter food to fuel them through the colder months.

 

Summer Safari 2017

Many thanks indeed again to Peter Pilbeam, Pat and Alan of Cambridgeshire Mammal Group for setting the traps around Orchard Park, and to Tim and Carol Inskipp for identifying everything we came across.

Many thanks too to everyone who came along. We hope you enjoyed it.

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Some of the people at the Summer Safari as we explored the edge of the grassland

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Traps set and ready to distribute

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Cambridgeshire Mammal Group members setting the traps

Bank Vole Myodes glareolus

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Birds:

Common Swift Apus apus

Feral Pigeon Columba livia

Magpie Pica pica

Starling Sturnus vulgaris

puffed up starling

Starling

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

good goldfinch

Goldfinch

Bumblebees:

Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum

Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum

Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius

White/Buff-tailed Bumblebee (not possible to separate these species at this time of year, except for Queens)

Moths:

Garden Grass-veneer Chrysoteuchia culmella

Shaded Broad-bar Scotopteryx chenopodiata

Eggar sp. Lasiocampa sp.

Butterflies:

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus

Beetles:

Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha fulva

7-spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata

Other insects:

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Roesel’s bushcricket Metrioptera roeselii

Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus

Southern Hawker dragonfly Aeshna cyanea

Other invertebrates

Brown-lipped Snail Cepaea nemoralis

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Web Nursery Spider Pisauris mirabilis

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Black Ant sp.

Walnut Leaf Gall Aceria erinea

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Lime Nail Gall Eriophyes liliae

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Summer Safari 2017

SS17 poster

For more information see: Orchard Park’s Third Summer Safari Sunday 9 July 5.30-7.30pm

Sowing Seeds

 

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Photo credit: Andrew Chan. Seeds sown at the Youth Group event

Last Thursday Andrew Chan from Orchard Park Community Council showed members of the Youth Group how to set up self watering pots to sow seeds. Sunflowers, and wildflowers for pollinators were planted, along with cucumber and sweetcorn for people.

Once the seeds are sprouting, they’ll be moved to the new raised beds which will be installed at the Orchard Community Centre soon. We hope lots of locals will get involved with tending the beds which will grow flowers and food plants. We’ve had funding kindly donated for the beds by the Orchard Park Community Council, tools we need to look after them by Education Services 2010 and Young People’s Workers from the Council are leading the activities.

Over the summer we will be doing a series of sessions to create a home for pollinators, and to make and plant the raised beds. We’d really like you to join us if you’re aged between 10 and 17 years old at the following sessions at the Orchard Community Centre:

Monday 31st July from 2pm to 4pm – Making a Bug Hotel

Thursday 17th August from 3.30pm to 5pm – creating and painting the beds

Thursday 24th August from 3.30pm to 5pm – creating and planting the beds

In the meantime for folks of any age, do get in touch if you’d like to help, learn, or have gardening knowledge to share 🙂

Bees and butterflies are declining due to habitat loss amongst other reasons, so it is important to do whatever we can to help. Click the link below to see a video on pollinators by Butterfly Conservation Plant Pots for Pollinators Video from Butterfly Conservation.

Screen grab pot for pollinators BC

Screen grab, Butterfly Conservation Website, Plant a Pot for Pollinators video.

Using things like yoghurt pots is great way to repurpose, and these self watering planters provide everything the seeds need to get going. Coir dehydrated compost disks were rehydrated, a wick made from kitchen cloth was threaded through the holes in the small plant pot, and a few centimetres of water put in the bottom of the yoghurt pot – the kitchen cloth pulls the water into the pot to water the seedling. Coir dehydrated compost is an environmentally friendly choice because it is peat free (see why go peat free) for more info on coir see: Eden Communities Gardening

self watering seed starter

Adapted from modsprout.com

 

 

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).

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

1st Cambridge Scout Group

IMG_0701Last 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 🙂