Springwatch Gardenwatch – Their biggest citizen science project yet…

Photo credit: BBC Two Website

The following information is taken directly from the BBC Two Springwatch Gardenwatch website….. our gardens are tiny in Orchard Park, but if we all did something to help wildlife – even those with a balcony can help – then the total wildlife friendly area would be significant.

As our towns and cities sprawl out into the countryside, our gardens are becoming more and more vital as wildlife reserves of the future. We want to map the resources available for wildlife in gardens up and down the country, and find out which wild visitors they attract.

We also want to find out what our gardens are lacking and how we can improve them for nature. And this is where you at home play the most important role…

This year we’re teaming up with the British Trust for Ornithology and the Open University for our biggest citizen science project ever – Gardenwatch!

Follow the links below to complete each of our four missions and help to build a better future for the UK’s wildlife!

The Gardenwatch Missions

We need your help to map the resources available to wildlife in gardens and other outdoor spaces up and down the country. Take part to help us discover the collective importance of garden habitats for the animals that live alongside us.

Earthworms and other ground-dwelling invertebrates are an essential part of the diet of many birds and mammals. We need your help to count soil invertebrates, so we can work out how abundant this vital food source is in different garden habitats.

Gardens are vital for birds in spring because they provide the resources they need to breed (including food, shelter, water and nesting sites). We need your help to record what birds are doing, so we can find out how they benefit from garden habitats at this critical time of year.

Mammals are often elusive night-time visitors to our gardens. We need your help to find out how much these often under-recorded animals use gardens and to understand which resources are most important for their survival.

Our Gardenwatch Partner Organisations

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is a UK charity that focuses on understanding birds and, in particular, how and why bird populations are changing. Find out more about their brilliant work here.

The Open University, celebrating its 50th birthday throughout 2019, is the leading the way in flexible, innovative teaching and world-leading research. Find our more here.

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OP Dawn Chorus birds ID’d and Wing Fluttering Fledgelings

Robin singing Orchard Park

Instead of the 5 minutes as instructed by Cambridge Natural History Society’s citizen science instructions, I’d set my recorder to go for an hour…. Bob Jarman of CNHS was willing to listen to identify the birds he heard, and patiently listened through the hour long recording twice. I found it very relaxing listening to the birds add to the song in the early hours. A shame about the rain, and racing cars, and road noise. After about 15 minutes many more birds join in. You could just be surprised though, you might get an hour of calm if you listen, as Bob did, twice.

Click here for the recording

Thank you very much indeed Bob for identifying them for us. These are the birds he heard:

Robin: 2

Blackbird: 2

Dunnock: 1 briefly towards end

Song Thrush: 1 briefly and distant towards end. 

In last 10+ minutes a knocking I couldn’t identify – could be bird tapping on feeder but don’t think it’s vocal. 

It’s Fledgeling Time Again

Starling adult feeding young

So far I’ve seen young Blue Tits, Great Tits, and Starlings coming to feed.

See these blog posts for more information on their wing fluttering behaviour, what to do if you’ve seen a fledgling you’re concerned about, and what to feed them. Don’t forget to break peanuts up to make them smaller and suitable for young birds before you put them out.

Juvenile Goldfinches

Fledgelings

Natural History Society Cambridge – do some Citizen Science from your bed this week!

Robin Orchard Park Garden

An opportunity to do some Citizen Science from your bed. Be quick though, you need to do your recordings this week…..Click the link above to out about Citizen Science.

Adapted from Nat Hist Cam Project Facebook Post 4 May at 19:11

A message from #NatHistCam‘s Duncan Mackay:

It was dawn chorus day on Sunday morning… here is how you can almost effortlessly contribute data to NatHistCam and enjoy the dawn chorus in your garden as well.

I have been experimenting with using a mobile phone to record the dawn chorus. This is recording the dawn chorus out of your bedroom window, so it involves no early morning expeditions into the wilds of Cambridge, merely placing a smart phone on an empty mug on your bedroom window sill and opening the window to let the wonderful sounds of the dawn chorus into your bedroom. Matched with your post code this will provide lots of bird data which will add to our knowledge of the song birds of the city.

This is the method I have tried and it seems to work very well.

1) If you haven’t got a sound/voice recorder on your phone download one from the ap store. There are lots of good free ones and they seem to work quite well. The one i have been using is voice recorder by quality aps. It gets a score of 4.8* on the google app store….so it’s pretty good. I am sure something similar is available for apple)

2) I set the app to record in mp3 in the settings (which is more compressed than most other formats and works very well)

3) I then place the phone on a mug (just something handy to raise it up a little) by an open window.

4) At between 4am and 5am (set your alarm) You start it recording and record typically 5 mins of the bird song. The phone should automatically adjust the recording volume to capture the relatively quiet sounds.

5) Email me the recording for analysis to a special email address for this frostedorange53@aol.com (A special email for this project…frosted orange is a rather gorgeous moth and has no other significance) please add to your email: your name and email address and post code of where recorded and the date and time of the recording

6) I will then put the mp3 you send me into audacity (which is a really good sound editing program) and adjust the volume of the recording

7) We (Me and I hope Bob Jarman will help) will listen to the recordings to identify the singing birds and work out what birds are singing where in Cambridge

8) You can do more than one recording as the species singing can change during the dawn chorus

9) If you cant do it on Sunday then any day the following week will do but please say which day you recorded it on.

I hope you will enjoy this easy way to enjoy the dawn chorus. You can go back to bed once its done!

Winterwatch, Signs of Spring, and Citizen Science

Did anyone see this year’s Winterwatch? A great series, this year the team were based in Scotland, but each programme features a lot on our urban wildlife. It’s available for another twenty or so days, so have a look while you have a chance. Episode 1 of the most recent series can be found by clicking here.

The team highlighted the importance of Citizen Science projects and encouraged us to take part. For an explanation of on Citizen Science click here and take a look at the video, you’ll also see information about a few of the Citizen Science activities we’ve run in OP previously.

We’re planning our community activities for 2019 for you to take part in, but in the meantime, there’s plenty you can do to help OP’s wildlife.


“The only way we can really help our British wildlife, is if we have as much information as we can about it’s needs, it’s current status and it’s environment. To achieve that we need as many people as possible to take action. Citizen science is a powerful tool and getting involved makes you feel empowered.” 

Watches presenter, Michaela Strachan

“Get outdoors and get involved. Take your partner out, take your nan out, take your kids out and above all else, have FUN! (Psst! You’ll also be making a REAL difference for wildlife, one data point at a time…).”

Watches presenter, Gillian Burke

The BBC team say “No matter where you live, there are plenty of projects to get involved with this winter. What’s more, getting out and about in nature has far-reaching benefits on our mental wellbeing and physical health”.

All BBC information above was sourced from: BBC Winterwatch 2019 website

Projects for February 2019

Mammal Mapper – The Mammal Society

Surveying the UK’s mammal populations

The following information has been adapted from the Mammal Mapper page on The Mammal Society’s website

Iconic species like hedgehogs are very poorly monitored. This makes it difficult to know which regions or habitats are most important, or to detect changes in their population sizes. The Mammal Mapper is designed to record information on the location and number of animals spotted on walks or bicycle rides.

Users of the Mammal Mapper can record sightings of any mammal, including field signs such as burrows and mole-hills as well as live animals. The app includes detailed guides to help identify animals by their appearance and is very easy to use.

Mammal Mapper is free to download and available on android and iOS in app stores now. Simply click here to download for iOS, and here for Android.

Mammals recorded in OP

Common Pipistrelle (also
Soprano Pipistrelle?)
Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Common ShrewSorex araneus
FoxVulpes vulpes
HedgehogErinaceus europaeus
Grey SquirrelSciurus carolinensis
RabbitOryctolagus cuniculus 
Wood mouseApodemus sylvaticus
Bank voleMyodes glareolus

First butterfly sightings 2019 – Butterfly Conservation

The following information has been taken directly from Butterfly Conservation‘s website.

To count as first sightings, butterflies must be seen outside and be active (i.e. not in hibernation). If you are confident that you’ve seen a butterfly species in the UK this year that has not yet been reported below, please contact info@butterfly-conservation.org. You can follow all the latest sightings, as they happen, on Twitter @RichardFoxBC or on Butterfly Conservation’s Facebook page.

If you would like to get involved with butterfly recording, not just for first sightings, but to contribute to our assessments of UK trends and to underpin conservation, you can download our free recording app or find out how to take part.

Butterflies recorded in OP (up to 2018, this list does not include any species recorded in 2019)

Essex SkipperThymelicus lineola
Large SkipperOchlodes sylvanus
Small SkipperThymelicus sylvestris
Large WhitePieris brassicae
Small TortoiseshellAglais urticae
CommaPolygonia c-album
GatekeeperPyronia tithonus
Small WhitePieris rapae
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
RingletAphantopus hyperantus
Common BluePolyommatus icarus

Natures Calendar – The Woodland Trust

The following information is sourced directly from the Woodland Trust website.

Record the signs of the changing seasons near you. From leaf buds bursting to birds arriving and blackberries ripening. Following the link above to their website you’ll find information on:

How to record: a quick guide

How to record in three simple steps and quick tips on choosing your species and locations.

Species they record

Find out which trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses, fungi, insects, birds and amphibians you can record.

Why they record certain species

You can only record events that occur in certain species. Find out why these species were selected for Nature’s Calendar.

Why we record

In the last few decades there has been a trend towards increasing temperatures. Nature’s Calendar records help us predict some of the ways wildlife will be affected by this.

Ending the War on Wildlife. A People’s Manifesto For Wildlife, Draft One, Chris Packham et al.

Let’s end the war on wildlife.

‘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

 

The full, referenced, manifesto can be downloaded here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/A-Peoples-Manifesto-for-Wildlife-expanded.pdf

The illustrated manifesto can be downloaded here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Peoples-Manifesto-Download.pdf

 

 

 

Look what we found at the Wildflower Bank……

Cinnabar Moth_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae

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Bioblitz info, ID resources, and ideas on pots for pollinators Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

me and kid holding net pot

Look what I’ve found Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

 

The weather on Monday was fantastic for the informal mini BioBlitz at the Wildflower Bank, we couldn’t have hoped for it to be better. Thank you so much to Lush for the Charity Pot Party which raised money to buy materials and equipment necessary to run the event. Expertise from OPWP regulars Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp, and Louise Bacon from Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC) made the event possible and we’re very grateful, it wouldn’t have happened without your ID skills. We appreciate that the school gave us the opportunity to introduce the event in assembly last Friday, thanks to Holly Freeman of OPWP for organising that.

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Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

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Wildflower Bank with many daisies Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

Thanks to all that came along, we hope you enjoyed it. The event started off slowly, then got very busy, very quickly, with a an estimated thirty children, and their parent(s) joining us for a short time, or a long time. Some children were very keen and asked for help to identify a number of different creatures, others were happy when they’d caught a single insect, and some focussed on finding as many of a particular type of insect as possible. It was great to see Miss Williamson with a group of children in an after school session. The Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week resources were key for the children to each have their own mini ID guides to use as they set off with their pots, pottles, and pooters to locate insects, and for the pens, pencils and note pads to record what they’d found. The Royal Entomological Society’s yellow National Insect Week t-shirt was a big hit with Pollen Beetles, I was covered in them! They’re only a few mm long.

District Councillor for Histon and Impington, Pippa Heylings, who is organising sub groups of the Histon and Impington Sustainability Groups to undertake green space surveys, and manage our Wildflower Verges better for wildlife, came along, and took several of the photos included here. Most appreciated as I didn’t have a minute to take any.

Pollen beetle

All of the following invertebrates were found and identified during the event. The photos below, and the Cinnabar moth above, were all taken by Carol Inskipp and shown to the children during the event so they could view the creatures they’d found in close up. Thanks so much for these. Click on the common names to see more information about each.

Meadow Plant Bug Leptopterna dolabrata_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Photo credit: Carol Inskipp. Meadow Plant Bug Leptoterna dolabrata

Harlequin Ladybird larva2_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Harlequin Ladybird larva 1 Harmonia axyridis

Harlequin Ladybird larva_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Harlequin Ladybird larva 2 Harmonia axyridis

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus

Garden Grass Veneer_Chrysotechia culmella_Orchard Park+18 June 18

Garden Grass Veneer Chrysotechia culmella

Cinnabar Moth_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae

a Flower Beetle Oedenera lurida _Orchard Park_18 June 18

Flower Beetle 2 Oedenera lurida

Tim is working on the plant list, and there’ll be a separate blog post on the flora at the Wildflower Bank, and its management soon.

All records, once finalised, will be sent to CPERC.

Our survey on 18th June can serve as a baseline, so we can see if the biodiversity of the Wildflower Bank improves over time with management changes.

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.

 

 

Fledglings, Flowers, Insects and Formulating Plans

Turdus_merula_-British_Wildlife_Centre,_Newchapel_Surrey,_England_-juvenile-8

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.

Baby_bird_infographic500

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.

From The Mammal Society

HH MS

From The Mammal Society: The once familiar hedgehog has declined dramatically over the past few decades.  Surprisingly, for such a well-loved creature, very little is known about why the hedgehog is in crisis.  This makes it difficult to target conservation efforts to where they will be most effective.  It is presumed that road accidents, and the loss of suitable, well-connected habitat might be important.  Yet in some areas the hedgehog still seems to be thriving.  It is not known whether this is because they are being given supplementary food in people’s gardens.

We are therefore appealing for you to help with our Big Hedgehog Watch Project.  We want to know how long it is since you last saw a hedgehog; whether any were spotted in your garden or neighbourhood last year; and whether you feed your prickly visitors.  Last year, almost 4,000 people responded in just 4 weeks and the survey revealed that:

  • 87% of people that reported sightings saw them in their garden;
  • Almost 70% of the people that saw hedgehogs in their gardens fed them
  • Almost 70% of the people that fed them saw the hedgehogs more than five times
Fiona Mathews, Chair of the Mammal Society says “Hedgehogs sadly, are experiencing an unprecedented decline throughout the UK and we are still not sure of the cause. We are therefore appealing for people to fill in this survey and let us know of their last hedgehog sighting, dead or alive.  Even if it more than a year since you saw one, please tell us because it helps us to identify where hedgehogs are disappearing”.

The online survey is available on the Mammal Society website and takes just a few minutes to complete. All completed surveys will go towards the conservation of one of our most loved species. You can also help hedgehogs by contributing to the Mammal Society’s hedgehog appeal. To donate or to fill in the survey, visit www.mammal.org.uk/science-research/surveys

The survey will be open until 1st December 2017.

Cambridge seems to be a good place for hedgehogs, let’s keep feeding them to ensure we help to maintain our local population. For more ideas on what you can do to help see: https://hedgehoggardens.wordpress.com

 

From the BTO: Garden BirdWatch preliminary results, and attracting birds in Autumn

The following are taken directly from the email newsletter from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), written by Claire Boothby, Garden BirdWatch Development Officer. They feature information on the Goldfinch, a bird commonly seen in Orchard Park, Waxwings seen in large numbers early this year in the nearby Science Park, and how to attract birds to your garden.

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Source: BTO

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Source: BTO