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.
Thank you very much indeed Bob for identifying them for us. These are the birds he heard:
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
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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.
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.
Dunnock Orchard Park garden spreading its feathers and panting to cool down
Given that we’re supposed to be hitting the high twenties in Centigrade this week, and it felt particularly humid when I opened the doors and windows today, I thought I’d put a few tips on the blog about how to help birds and other wildlife during particularly warm spells.
I took this photo of a Dunnock through my window an hour or two ago. I saw Collared Doves on the fence adopting similar positions earlier this morning. They were spreading their feathers and panting.
Birds don’t have sweat glands like us, so they use other behavioural adaptations to keep cool such as (taken with thanks directly from the about birds website):
Panting: Just like dogs, wild birds will open their bills and pant to help dissipate heat on a hot day. As they get hotter, their panting may increase in speed or they may open their bills even further for greater cooling.
Activity Level: Birds will adapt their daily activities to suit the climate. On a very hot day or in warmer climates, birds are less active during the hottest hours and more active when the sun is lower and the air cooler.
Seeking Shade: More birds can be found in shady areas during the hottest times of the year, particularly near water sources and low to the ground. The more layers of branches and leaves above the ground, the more heat will be absorbed and the cooler the shade will be.
Soaring: Birds of prey often soar at higher altitudes on the hottest days. While this does not get them out of the sun, the air temperatures are much colder at great altitude, which keeps the bird cooler.
Bathing: Many backyard birds and songbird species will bathe in hot weather to cool their bodies with water. They may simple walk through the water or shake it over their bodies with head twists and wing flutters. Waterfowl will frequently dive beneath the surface to get thoroughly wet in the heat.
Spreading Feathers: When a cool breeze provides some relief from the heat, birds may puff out their feathers or flutter their wings to let the circulating air reach their hot skin. They may also hold their wings away from their bodies to lower their body temperature.
Less Solar Radiation: Birds with lighter colored plumage may turn their lightest parts toward the sun on a hot day so more heat is reflected away from their bodies.
Breeding Range: Many birds migrate with relation to their preferred climates, and when the weather is warming up they will seek cooler locations at northern latitudes. Similarly, birds in mountainous regions may head for higher, cooler altitudes, while birds in lowlands retreat into deeper shady, sheltered areas.
How to help
The main thing you can do is to provide a bird bath filled with clean, fresh water for birds to drink and bathe. A 4-5 cm basin is best to accommodate small bathing birds. On the hottest days like today, shallow water may evaporate quickly, so check your bath regularly to keep it filled. Clean fresh water will also help creatures like hedgehogs.
Adding some plants to provide shade in the garden can also help. Also by providing good food, you can minimise efforts required by birds to obtain their nutritional requirements thereby reducing activities and helping to keep them cooler.
On Sunday I spent an hour or two watching the to-ings and fro-ings of four Goldfinches, three juveniles, and their parent. It’s gratifying to see the adults that have fed in my garden bringing their offspring to feed. The juvenile fledglings still dependent on their parents pleaded urgently for food through wing-fluttering and loud begging notes. By this age they look as though they weigh as much as, or more than, their parent ( for more information see: Smith 1980 ). After being fed, one of the youngsters felt comfortable enough to sleep.
Goldfinches can be seen easily in Orchard Park, they move around in groups drawing attention to themselves through their liquid twittering call. Wild food includes teasels and thistles, but in the garden they’ll take Nyjer seed and Sunflower hearts, both requiring a specialist feeder. It’s worth it to put food out for them and to be patient, as you’ll be rewarded by seeing this highly coloured bird up close, and hearing their lovely twittering song.
White-tailed/Buff-tailed Bumblebee (only the queens can be ID’d to species). Photo credit: Carol Inskipp
Black Clock Beetle. Photo credit: Carol Inskipp
A few of the first photos from the Orchard Park Summer Safari, a few more may be on their way. We’ve updated the species list for Orchard Park, and as with the photos above, some of the species identifications need to be confirmed.
We had a lot of energetic youngsters along to the summer safari this time. We started off with a look at the lizard habitat and although we didn’t see lizards, there were some voles in the area. A variety of birds and butterflies were spotted, before heading to the Wildlife Area where a hedgehog was seen at the perimeter, along with Common Pipistrelle bats feeding. As Carol and Tim Inskipp were leaving we spotted a Swallow-tail Moth, and what was thought to be a Convolvulus Hawk-moth- a really large moth with a wing span of 80-120mm near to the Premier Inn. I received an update from Tim recently, and he now believes this large moth was a Poplar Hawkmoth. There was also an additional species spotted, a Shaded Broad-bar.
Many thanks to everyone who came along, and special thanks to Tim and Carol for making our second Summer Safari possible 🙂
A little later than planned, here is the Draft Activity Plan for Orchard Park Wildlife Project for 2016. We have set dates and some times for activities coming up in the next few months. All activities are based on the recommendations in the Orchard Park Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. There is scope to add or change activities, and we hope to build on the helpful collaborations leading to enjoyable events this last year or two. All activities are subject to appropriate approval and sourcing appropriate expertise and equipment. Times and dates may be subject to change, so, please keep an eye on the Orchard Park Wildlife and other Facebook groups, as well as here on the blog and Twitter where final details will be confirmed closer to the date.
We hope there is something for everyone. You’re always welcome to join us for a little or long as you are able whilst we try to help the wildlife on our doorstep from the bees, butterflies and moths, to the hedgehogs, herps and bats.
There are also many national wildlife campaigns taking place again this year:
to name but a few…. We’ll let you know as new dates are released so that you have the information you need to contribute to local and national wildlife conservation efforts through citizen science.
If there is an activity that you’d like to do but don’t see, then please get in touch, we’d like to hear from you.
Looking forward to doing our bit again for the wildlife of Orchard Park 🙂
From the RSPB’s website: “More than half a million people from across the UK are set to take part by counting the birds in their gardens over the weekend of 30-31 January, 2016. They’ll also make a record of the other wildlife they see throughout the year, providing a vital snapshot of UK nature. Request a FREE pack or simply register your details to save time on the weekend”.
This is a great activity to do with the family, and doesn’t cost a thing. As well as providing information local to your patch, it contributes to citizen science, creating larger data sets to look at big picture trends with birds nationwide.
I’ll be doing the birdwatch next Sunday, hopefully after watching Andy Murray in his fifth Australian Open final, it would be great to see him lift the winner’s trophy for the first time, rather than the runner up trophy – still a great achievement IMO.
Due to some sad unforeseen circumstances, we’ve been delayed in producing the OPWP 2016 draft activity plan. Plans will be based on the OP Habitat’s Management Plan. However, if you’re keen to do anything special with a wildlife theme this year, do get in touch and let us know. As always, the more the merrier.
Pied Wagtails were the first birds I saw in any number when I moved to Orchard Park, and the first to arrive in my garden.
The RSPB describe them as “A delightful small, long-tailed and rather sprightly black and white bird. When not standing and frantically wagging its tail up and down it can be seen dashing about over lawns or car parks in search of food. It frequently calls when in its undulating flight and often gathers at dusk to form large roosts in city centres.”
A fitting description. I passed one yesterday on the way to the busway, and it reminded me of the large roost I saw over on the grass at the entrance to the sports ground in 2012 when I moved here. They appeared for a few consecutive days, but I haven’t seen them roosting since then – they’re here all year round – does anyone else see the roosts?
They occur in a wide range of habitats. This time last year Pied Wagtails were the BTO bird of the month, they are declining in watery areas of their habitat – near canals and rivers. They feed on both ground and aerial invertebrates such as flies and caterpillars. In winter when these food sources are scarce they supplement their diet with seeds.
The next activity being organised with the Community Centre is an Orchard Park and Wildlife Area and surrounds litter pick Saturday, December 5th from 10 – 12:30. I’ll be at the entrance to the Wildlife Area at 10am to meet anyone who wants to help there. Please contact Lewis at the Community Centre for more details of the wider litter pick – the Community Centre are offering a light lunch for volunteers after the pick.
We’re now into day two of Wild About Gardens Week (26 October – 1 November) and what a soggy day it is. Still, it might encourage slugs, snails and worms out into our gardens for the hedgehogs, this year’s star of Wild About Gardens Week, so they can have a pre hibernation feast. To see how citizen science is informing us of hedgehog hibernation patterns see: hibernation report
Don’t forget to look in any bonfires you might be lighting for Halloween and Guy Fawkes night to check for wildlife. If you find an animal please make sure you move it a safe distance away.
Photo credit: British Hedgehog Society on Twitter
Small creatures like piles of wood and leaves for shelter, so why not help them in your garden by providing a pile just for them? Other things we can do as recommended in the Wild About Gardens Week Hedgehog Handbook include:
1. Create ‘hedgehog highways’ in your fences to connect your gardens.
2. Provide an escape route out of ponds – ‘hogs are great swimmers but they struggle to climb out.
3. Create a variety of habitats e.g. ponds, hedges, log piles and compost heaps to attract food for the hedgehog.
4. Build a hedgehog home – give them somewhere to hunker down for the winter.
5. Let your grass grow wild (or even a section of it) to encourage the hedgehog’s prey. Check carefully before mowing or strimming areas.
6. Create nesting opportunities – leave wild areas for ‘hogs to hibernate.
7. Set up a feeding station offering hedgehog food or meaty pet food and water.
8. Tidy up – litter harms wildlife, and hedgehogs can also become entangled in garden netting.
9. Keep domestic drains covered, hedgehogs can fall into them and get stuck.
10. Check bonfires before lighting; ideally rebuild them on the day it is to be lit.
11. Keep your gardens green – paving and decking over gardens reduces hedgehog habitat.
These activities are most beneficial if we work together as a community. For the full text of the Wild About Gardens Hedgehog Handbook go to: Hedgehog Handbook
Orchard Park Wildlife Project will be in Lush, Lion Yard on Saturday 31 October from 12-4pm to give wildlife gardening tips. Come along and make a pledge to help our local wildlife, there’ll be wildlife colouring for children, and find out how to enter a photo competition to win hedgehog prizes – Royal Horticultural Society Hedgehog Photo Comp. Lush are also very kindly fundraising again for Orchard Park Wildlife Project – if you buy their Charity Pot on Saturday, proceeds will go towards equipment for Orchard Park Wildlife Project’s activities. We are very grateful to Lush once again for their generosity.