Yesterday OPWP ran a session with the Beavers in and around the Community Centre. Many thanks to Holly of OPWP for organising all the resources and running the activities, and to the Beavers and leaders for the session.
Holly began the session by showing photos of a range of British wildlife, including quite a few animals that live in OP and asking for their identities. There were some easy ones, and a few more tricky ones. Then the group moved outside to play Wildlife Bingo, marking off animals as they found the photos Holly had hidden around the Community Centre grounds. Cameras were handed out and the Beavers set off to find and photograph lots of different nature related things, including something beautiful, and something smelly. Back inside we played the ‘Who Am I’ game, but instead of famous people, the Beavers had to guess which animal they were based on clues from the others.
We had fine weather for the session, and they all seemed to enjoy running around outdoors 😀
Thank you to the Beaver group – we look forward to our next session with you.
Get ready for the Big Garden Birdwatch 26-28 January
New year, new resolutions? Why not make 2019 the year you make an effort to connect with the nature on your doorstep?
A great way to begin is by taking an interest in our local birds. All of these species have been recorded in OP:
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Long Tailed Tit
The following tips on getting children into birdwatching have been sourced and adapted from an article by Paul Brook in January’s edition of Bird Watching magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @PaulBrook76
If you’re trying birding as a family, it’s important to make it fun. If you can give children something to do, then it’s more likely to be attractive to them. You can get children to help with feeding the birds (click here and scroll down to section 3 for feeding tips) or take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – more on that below.
Focussing on cool birds – such as the spectacular and exciting Sparrowhawk, or our plentiful variety of brightly coloured birds like Blue Tits and Goldfinches – helps provide visual appeal to children and adults alike.
By feeding birds in your garden, you can attract birds so you can look at them closely and without the need for binoculars and telescopes as children can find these difficult to use until they’re practiced.
Try to find the names of your bird visitors – this RSPB page helps you to identify the most common birds reported in the Birdwatch. So far we’ve recorded all of these in OP except the Coal Tit and House Sparrow.
Get children to help with making or installing a nest box for your garden.
Share your enthusiasm and excitement – if you’re knowledgeable about our birds, pass on your knowledge. Or, if you don’t know what a particular bird is, then find out as a family. They’re all quite fascinating if you take a little time to learn about them, even the little brown jobs like the Dunnock.
It’s time to get ready for Big Garden Birdwatch 2019!
Get ready for 26-28 January. You can Sign-up on the RSPB website to request a FREE postal pack, or take part online.
The RSPB developed this event in 1979 as a simple winter activity especially for their junior membership to get involved in – so perfect for the kids. They asked asked members to count the birds in their gardens, all at the same time, so they could work out what the UK’s top 10 most common garden birds are.
It’s a weekend activity that you can do in the garden, or even from the comfort of your home. If you don’t have a garden you could head off to Topper St play area to look for birds in the mature trees, or to the edge of the Wildlife Area near the sports ground.
With over half a million people now regularly taking part, coupled with almost 40 years worth of data, Big Garden Birdwatch allows the RSPB to monitor trends and helps them understand how birds are doing. Read more by clicking here.
Winter can be a very difficult time for wildlife, with plummeting temperatures and scarce food. Find out how you can help OP’s wildlife through this tough period1.
Some species, such as birds and squirrels, don’t hibernate, but struggle to stay alive – using up fat reserves just to stay warm. Other animals and insects hunker down in log and leaf piles, nestle into tree bark, or bury themselves in compost heaps or mud3.
By putting out additional food, gardeners can make a significant contribution to supporting wildlife over winter. It is also a great way to watch wildlife even in the smallest of gardens or balconies, often at very close quarters2.
It is surprisingly easy to do something to help garden wildlife in the lean and cold months of winter. Even if you carry out – or refrain from doing4– just a few of the following tasks, it can make a difference2.
I’m so happy to see this Robin (Erithacus rubecula) that had been suffering with mites (I sought a likely diagnosis and advice from the RSPB), has recovered due to regular feeding in my garden – proof that a little help works. The eye problem is still visible now, and the robin often scratches and shakes with itchiness, but the RSPB said it’s very likely the mites will die off completely in the cold, so that after moulting in Spring, the new feathers will be unaffected.
1. Let your garden go wild1,2
Leave undisturbed wild areas in your garden – piles of leaves or brushwood can make the perfect nest in which animals can hide, rest and hibernate.
By leaving the task of tidying your garden borders and shrubs until early spring, shelter can be provided for insects throughout winter.
Make an insect or bug hotel and put up in a sheltered position. Overwintering ladybirds and lacewings will find this useful.
Recreate the nooks and crannies insects hibernate in by tying up bamboo and sunflower stems, and leave them in a dry spot in the garden.
You can also provide late-flying insects with a source of food by soaking a clean sponge in a solution made from an equal mix of sugar and water.
In late winter, clean out bird boxes so they are ready for new nests in spring.
Leave healthy herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects.
If you have a compost heap, this will become a welcome habitat for toads, and even grass snakes and slow-worms.
2. Break the ice and provide water1,2
If your garden pond freezes over, ensure you make a hole in the ice. Toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond, which may kill any fish or frogs that are hibernating at the bottom.
When you make a hole in the ice, it is very important to do so by carefully placing a pan of hot water on the surface.
Never break the ice with force or tip boiling water onto the pond, as this can harm or even kill any fish that live in it.
Provide a shallow dish or container of water at ground level. This will benefit other garden wildlife that needs to drink, as well as birds.
3. Feed the birds1,2,3
Birds may find it difficult to find natural foods such as berries, insects, seeds, worms and fruit during this cold season. Therefore, any extra food you can put out will help.
Leave food out for birds regularly and every day when possible, and fill up longer lasting feeders if you’re away.
Place fat blocks in wire cages. Balls in plastic nets are not recommended as birds such as woodpeckers can get their tongues caught.
Create your own fat blocks by melting suet into moulds such as coconut shells or logs with holes drilled in.
Alternate different recipes to entice a range of birds; peanut cakes for starlings, insect cakes for tits and berry cakes for finches.
Put out finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese for small birds such as wrens.
Although fat is important, do also provide a grain mix or nuts to maintain a balanced diet.
Sparrows, and finches will enjoy prising the seeds out of sunflower heads.
No-mess mixes are more expensive but the inclusion of de-husked sunflower hearts means there is less waste. Inferior mixes are often padded out with lentils.
Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed. Specially designed feeders are needed for the tiny niger seed, loved by goldfinches.
Feed placed on a wire mesh held just off the ground will entice ground-feeding birds such as robins and dunnocks.
Thrushes and blackbirds favour fruit. Scatter over-ripe apples, raisins and song-bird mixes on the ground for them.
Nearly half of all hedgehogs die during their first winter. Many starve, while those born in late-summer are often too small to hibernate, and so are unable to survive the cold weather. In mild winters, hedgehogs are prone to waking up, having been tricked into believing it is spring. They waste valuable fat reserves looking for food.
Leave a dish of water and dog or cat food, sunflower seeds, and nutsto help boost their fat reserves, until it’s no longer taken (usually mid- to late-autumn when they enter hibernation). Do not give fish-based food, milk, or bread because they cause diarrhoea and dehydration.
Check bonfires before lighting them, preferably making it on the day you intend to light it.
If you find a baby hedgehog, keep it warm in a tall-sided box with hot water bottle on the bottom, covered with a thick towel. Feed with cat or dog food and water and visit britishhedgehogs.org.uk for advice.
The sign for the Wildflower Bank was installed this morning at 11.00. We’re delighted with how it looks. We hope children and guardians will enjoy it as they come and go from school, and Orchard Park Wildlife Project (OPWP) will use it for interactive sessions with the school and public sessions.
The NFC tag is now working so that you can go straight to our website showing comprehensive information on all of the plants and animals that live on the Wildflower Bank – some phones will just read the tag if you hold your phone directly over the tag, other phones require an app to read it. Alternatively there’s a QR code to scan with your camera/app, or you can type in the web address on the sign.
The sign shows the importance of the habitat and wildlife that lives there. We hope the bank will be managed optimally by OPCC – cutting at appropriate times and clearing cuttings to prevent nutrient build up – to ensure its diversity is maintained, or even increased in future years…..
Education Services 2010 for their generous funding of the sign, and Footprint Signs for bringing it in to our budget. The children of Orchard Park Community Primary School provided the drawings forming the border and the winning drawings from our summer competition are featured in the centre, the staff facilitated the drawing competition. Lush funded the pottles, pooters and other ecology equipment for the community bioblitz. Carol and Tim Inskipp of OPWP, and Louise Bacon of Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre identified the wildlife, Carol Inskipp took invertebrate photos, and Holly Freeman of OPWP and her sister Sophie Freeman drew the flowers for the Identification Chart. Andrew Chan (OPCC), Samantha Fox and Lewis Man did the design and layout.
As shown by this great aerial photo, we have green space around and within OP and you’ll be surprised to see what lives here – if you take a moment to look. This blog page explores some motivations for conserving our urban biodiversity and is based on scientific research. Perhaps you’ll see something that encourages you to take positive action if you haven’t been stirred to do so yet.
But what prevents you from taking positive action for our wildlife?
Is there something missing here that would motivate you to get involved? If so, please do get in touch and tell us, we’re open to new ideas and suggestions: email@example.com
The diagram above, and selected motivations for conserving urban biodiversity explored briefly below are taken from Dearborn & Kark (2010).
As surprising as it may seem to some, OP offers an important setting for conservation biology, as do most urban areas, though “people’s attitudes towards nature might influence whether they connect with it” (Dickinson & Hobbs 2017).
A lot needs to come together to be successful in conserving biodiversity in our Urban Green Space:
“…diverse stakeholders – including ecologists, managers, developers, students, and citizens – should be encouraged to join in collaborative networks to share data, engage in interdisciplinary research, and discuss urban biodiversity management, design, and planning.”
OPWP engages with these diverse stakeholders and to a greater or lesser extent in most activities mentioned in this quote. We welcome anyone with knowledge or skills to share and help, or anyone that would like to learn.
To preserve our local biodiversity
“Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria, 15% are threatened with extinction. This suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
Of the 218 countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked 189, a consequence of centuries of industrialisation, urbanisation and overexploitation of our natural resources.”
Given the depressing figures above, surely we should all do what we can to help? OP sits on a former green site and most wildlife habitat was destroyed for the development.
To create stepping stones to nonurban habitat
“Increasing the area of habitat patches and creating a network of corridors is the most important strategy to maintain high levels of urban biodiversity”
Ensuring OP’s habitats such as the Wildlife Area, Orchard, Wildflower Bank, and Living Roof on the Community Centre are properly managed is important, and we welcome volunteers to help with that. A few years ago we raised funds to have a Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Northamptonshire, and this plan guides our practical habitat management activities. We also encourage the Community Council to adopt its recommendations.Orchard Park Management Plan
As well as the habitats mentioned above that have been created with wildlife in mind, the total area of all of our small gardens added together – if each is made a bit more wildlife friendly – could play a role in increasing OP’s wildlife habitat, and in creating these stepping stones to our neighbouring green areas. As Aronson et al. (2017) note most people are unaware of how their decisions of what they do with their gardens affect biodiversity in their own and their neighbours’ gardens. OPWP works to improve this understanding and promote how suitably managed gardens can support wildlife, with the aim of enhancing biodiversity across OP.
To connect people to nature and conduct environmental education
“Studies support the idea that the experience of biodiversity, actual childhood interaction with variation and diversity with living and nonliving items from nature allows children important learning opportunities, inclusive of biodiversity understanding. The results support practical implications for sensory rich environmental education and underscores the practical importance of childhood access to nature”.
OPWP runs a range of free wildlife themed activities through the year that aim to be fun and informative for adults and children.
To provide ecosystem services
“Because ecosystem services are, by definition, for humans, it makes sense to ensure they are provided in areas where human population density is high. In an urban context, even small green spaces can provide high-impact ecosystem services, if they are well planned.”
Such ecosystem services include:
pollinating (Mendes et al. 2008)
improving some aspects of air quality in urban areas (Dearborn & Kark 2010)
sequestering substantial amounts of carbon through increased urban vegetation (Pickett et al. 2008)
To fulfill ethical responsibilities
“In many philosophical, religious, and secular traditions, there is a responsibility to be good stewards of the planet.”
“Biodiversity conservation in urban areas could facilitate the fulfillment of these moral obligations because opportunities for conservation are located in or near residential neighborhoods. This geographic proximity allows people to more easily experience the reinforcement of having lived by their ethical or religious mandates. For individuals without an existing sense of environmental responsibility, exposure to urban biodiversity (particularly via educational programs) may help instill a conservation ethic.”
By showing people that are not aware of what lives here that we’ve got hundreds of species on our doorstep, OPWP tries to instill a conservation ethic. People can’t care and take action for things they know little or nothing about.
Research has shown through our being in greener spaces and interacting with our urban nature that:
our mental health benefits (Clark et al. 2014)
we gain improved regulation of our immune systems by contact with microbiota (Rook 2013)
we have a space for contemplation and relaxation (Niemelä 1999)
stress and pain are reduced (Hansmann et al. 2007)
active habitat management can be effective for depression (Townsend 2006)
we report higher measures of subjective well-being (Carrus et al. 2015)
we gain a sense of discovery, and social connection (Dickinson & Hobbs 2017)
These are just a few of the documented benefits, there are a plethora of studies proving that helping to give nature a home can benefit you too.
Aronson, M.F. et al., 2017. Biodiversity in the city: key challenges for urban green space management. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 15(4), pp.189–196.
Beery, T. & Jørgensen, K.A., 2016. Children in nature: sensory engagement and the experience of biodiversity. Environmental Education Research, 24(1), pp.13–25.
Beninde, J., Veith, M. & Hochkirch, A., 2015. Biodiversity in cities needs space: a meta-analysis of factors determining intra-urban biodiversity variation N. Haddad, ed. Ecology Letters, 18(6), pp.581–592.
Berry, T., 2006. Evening thoughts: reflections on the Earth as a spiritual community. In San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, pp. 1–10.
Carrus, G. et al., 2015. Go greener, feel better? The positive effects of biodiversity on the well-being of individuals visiting urban and peri-urban green areas. Landscape and Urban Planning, 134, pp.221–228.
Clark, N.E. et al., 2014. Biodiversity, cultural pathways, and human health: a framework. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 29(4), pp.198–204.
Dickinson, D.C. & Hobbs, R.J., 2017. Cultural ecosystem services: Characteristics, challenges and lessons for urban green space research. Ecosystem Services, 25, pp.1–247. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2017.04.014.
Hansmann, R., Hug, S.-M. & Seeland, K., 2007. Restoration and stress relief through physical activities in forests and parks. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), pp.213–225.
Mendes, W. et al., 2008. Using Land Inventories to Plan for Urban Agriculture: Experiences From Portland and Vancouver. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(4), pp.435–449.
Niemelä, J., 1999. Ecology and urban planning. Biodiversity and Conservation, 8, pp.119–131.
Pickett, S.T.A. et al., 2008. Beyond Urban Legends: An Emerging Framework of Urban Ecology, as Illustrated by the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. BioScience, 58(2), pp.139–150.
Rook, G.A., 2013. Regulation of the immune system by biodiversity from the natural environment: An ecosystem service essential to health. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(46), pp.18360–18367.
On Friday evening Orchard Park Wildlife Project ran a session with the Beavers.
Everyone enjoyed the session, many thanks indeed to the Beavers and to Holly Freeman, of Orchard Park Wildlife Project for planning and organising all activities.
We began with creating Top Trumps cards for local wildlife, then a short presentation on the animal life that can be found in Orchard Park, followed with a local wildlife themed ‘is this true or false’ quiz that involved lots of running around, and some tips on how to help our wildlife. Then we moved on to the creative part of the session – lumps of moulding clay were handed out so everyone could make an animal, and plates were decorated and folded to make a suitable habitat for each animal. Photos of the freshly made animals and habitats are below. If you notice any wonderful wildlife creations are missing, do send a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to this blog post.
The clay air dries to a lighter colour and it should be set and solid by now, though the creations can be a little fragile. Sadly Holly’s fabulous ‘here’s one I made earlier’ frog lost its front leg 😦
Since the session some of you have been adding other animals to your habitats. It was lovely to receive these photos from Amit Kakkar showing a whole range of new creatures filling their little home.
We’ve got two more sessions planned for next year, these will be outside in the spring when the evenings are lighter. We look forward to them 🙂
‘Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria, 15% are threatened with extinction. This suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.
Of the 218 countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked 189, a consequence of centuries of industrialisation, urbanisation and overexploitation of our natural resources.’
– State of Nature Report, 2016
Our wildlife needs us – and it needs you more than ever.
It’s easy to imagine that ‘they’ will fix the environment. But ‘they’ won’t, whoever ‘they’ are. We need to do it – me and you. Together we are stronger. Together we can make a difference.
Today, Chris Packham launched The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife. This blog post is sourced entirely from the manifesto which makes a series of recommendations to the fields of Education; Wildlife and Animal Welfare; Wildlife Crime, Law, and Protection; Farming; UK Statutory Conservation Agencies; and Rewildling. It also makes recommendations, on amongst many other things: trees, hedgerows and verges, and urban spaces.
Urban space for wildlife is the domain of Orchard Park Wildlife Project. And urban spaces CAN be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country.
Access to nature is a human need – central to the quality of our most fundamental physiological requirements (water, air, food), as well as our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
The manifesto states that:
“Urban areas can be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country. Gardens and parks – comprising lawn, shrubs and flowering plants – provide food and shelter for a huge array of wildlife. And yet these spaces are disappearing from our towns and cities.
In a report published in 2016, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said the percentage of front gardens lost to paving, concrete or gravel had risen to 24%, from just 8% in 20051 . The results, based on a poll of 1,492 people, suggested that more than 4.5 million of Great Britain’s front gardens were entirely paved, while 7.2 million were mostly paved. Another report, published by London Wildlife Trust in 2011, compared aerial surveys of London taken in 1998 and 2006. It found that domestic gardens (both front and back) made up nearly 24 per cent of the London’s total area, but that in those eight years nearly two thirds of its front gardens had been covered with hard surfaces, while the amount of green space in back gardens had shrunk, largely due to the popularity of garden offices2 . “An area of vegetated garden equivalent to 21 times the size of Hyde park was lost between 1998 and 2006,” said the author of the report, Chloë Smith. That’s an average of two Hyde Parks per year (and a further 14 Hyde Parks since 2011).”
It goes on to say “We need legislation to re-wild our urban spaces.”
We are lucky in Orchard Park that many of the recommendations in the manifesto are already realised:
many of our fences are hedgehog friendly, we have bird nesting boxes on some of our homes, municipal planting includes many native species, and we have open green spaces.
However, there are recommendations that show there is much more we can do:
We can ensure that no more than 10% of our gardens are turned over to paving, decking and fake-turfing
We can make gardens more hedgehog friendly
We can add more nest boxes in addition to those already built into our homes – if you live in a house or flat, install swift or bat boxes by the eaves.
Where space permits, plant a small tree or shrub in your garden
Do home composting
We need to ensure our small pockets of green for the community are maintained in as a wildlife friendly a way as possible, and look after our trees
If we can find a suitable location, create a communal wildlife pond
Create ‘pop up habitats’ in the few as yet undeveloped plots – sprinkle pesticide free wildflower seeds
Keep cats in at night – this can reduce overall predation by up to 50%, and fit them will a collar and bell – this can also reduce bird predation by 50%
If you have a garden, stop using pesticides – weedkillers, ant sprays, slug pellets.
Liberate your lawn, let some grass grow long, leave piles of sticks in corners for invertebrates, sow native wild flowers for pollinators, feed garden birds, erect bee and bird boxes
Dig a pond – even a washing-up bowl-sized pond will boost biodiversity
Connect with nature through what you eat. Grow some food – rocket and tomatoes in window boxes; cucumbers, runner beans, raspberries, blackberries. Home-grown tastes amazing
Volunteer with OPWP to look after and enhance what we have, lets make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife
Join OPWP on it’s surveys, and safaris, you’ll be surprised to see what lives here if you look
OPWP is currently working with OPCC to finalise the sign which will show the Wildflower Bank and its wildlife. The sign was funded very generously by Education Services 2010. We hope it will be installed quite close to the school entrance so that during school pick up and drop offs, pupils, parents, and guardians will be able to discover more about the flowers and wildlife that they support. All of the drawings submitted during last term’s competition will feature on the sign. We’re designing a chart showing flower colour, flowering period, and flower shapes to help you do some of your own identifications.
I had a wander over to the end of the Wildflower Bank close to the Premier Inn yesterday to see what I could ID, and found there were lots of Small White butterflies (Pieris rapae) around. They’re out again in large numbers today, as their populations peak in late August and early September. Unlike the Large White, this one doesn’t cause such a problem for folks growing brassicas. The Small White is very widespread in the UK, reaching as far north as Scotland including the Orkney and Shetland Islands. They can even migrate here from continental Europe. It’s possible that some individuals can fly up to 100 miles in their lifetime, absolutely amazing considering their 38 – 57mm wingspan, however most will not exceed just a few miles of travel. If you see them flying around, you can tell which are females as they have two spots on their wings, whereas the males have just one. Their UK population is fairly stable, and they are not of conservation concern (source: adapted from UK Butterflies click link for more details).
The hairy ginger bumblebee in the other photograph is the Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum). This species is one of the earliest bumblebees to emerge in spring, and one of the latest fliers, so it’s one you’re likely to see if you venture over to the Wildflower Bank for a little survey of your own. Although this species is occurring less frequently, its range is expanding northwards, and like the Small White butterfly, it too can be found in the Orkneys. Carder Bees gather moss and dry grass to cover their nests, which are above ground in grasses, under hedges and similar, with each nest accommodating just 60-150 workers, quite small as nests go (source: adapted from Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Bees, Wasps, and Ants Recording Society click links for more details).
Many thanks indeed to the school children for submitting some amazing wildlife drawings. Wildlife expert and OPWP Committee member Carol Inskipp has chosen the following drawings (one from each year) as the winners, as these represent the wildlife of the Wildflower Bank most accurately. I dropped off a wildlife themed prize for each winning drawing at the school on Monday. We will put the winning drawings on the sign at the Wildflower Bank, and add as many of the other drawings as possible.
THE WINNERS – Congratulations 🙂
Reception Dandelion Christopher
Year 1 Common Blue Butterfly Adrian
Year 2 White tailed Bumblebee Srithanvi
Year 3 Grasshopper Maximo
Year 4 – no drawings submitted for consideration
Year 5 Harlequin Ladybird, Shepherds Purse, Crested Dogs Tail, Cowslip, Lisa