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.

 

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Bug Hotel Destroyed

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Remnants of the Bug Hotel. Photo Credit: Andrew Chan OPCC

OPWP is sad to announce that the Bug Hotel, constructed near to the Orchard Community Centre was destroyed a couple of weeks ago. The Bug Hotel had been made in the summer with wood, sticks, pine cones and other things with nooks and crannies to provide a shelter for invertebrates. Even though the wood sections had been screwed together, someone, or several folks, decided to dismantle it. Very disappointing after the effort to build it.

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

 

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

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

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

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Blue tit, Orchard Park garden winter 2012

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

More information on nest boxes from the Gardenature website:

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

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

When and how do I clean out the nest box ?

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

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

How do I position my nest box ?

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

OPWP has ID’d OP’s Apples

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Photo credit: Kate Parsley

Many thanks to Kate from OPWP for going to Cambridge University Botanic Garden’s Apple Day today to identify the variety of apples in Orchard Park. We now know around OP we have the Ribston Pippin and the Spartan, both eating apples. We hope you’ll join us at our event on 29th October 1-4pm with Kettle’s Yard, and Inder’s Kitchen to celebrate our Orchard and its wildlife. Juicing, chutney making, and OP’s Orchard Wildlife, free, fun, informative and accessible. For details see: Next event at the Orchard – Saturday 29 October 2016 1-4pm

According to the Trees of Antiquity website:

Ribston Pippin originated in Yorkshire, England, around 1700 as a dessert apple, and was grown from three apple pips (seeds) sent from Normandy to Sir Henry Goodricke of Ribston Hall at Knaresborough, in Yorkshire, in 1709. Only one seed germinated and matured. The original tree was blown down in 1810, but was propped up and lived until 1928. This is a highly esteemed Victorian dessert apple. Ribston Pippin is also referred to as the Glory of York. Juicy, firm deep cream-colored flesh has an intense, rich, aromatic apple flavor, along with an intense sharpness. Skin striped red over greenish-yellow, with russet patches. Parent of the famous Cox’s Orange Pippin. Consider Grimes Golden, Liberty and/or White Pearmain for pollination. Triploid.”

The provenance of the Spartan is less well understood. The Garden Action website says:

“This variety was purpose bred in Canada for commercial use. Remarkably even though the apples were bred under controlled conditions, the parentage is not known. Originally the apple was thought to be cross between McIntosh and Newton. Now however, genetic testing has proved that Newton was not one of the parents. McIntosh, yes, Newton definitely not!….

The apple flesh is white and crispy with lots of juice if eaten straight off the tree.”

 

Snaps of Two of Twenty Lizards, Spotted in Just One Hour on Sunday :)

We had much better weather yesterday morning than forecast, the sun was shining, and the clouds were few. We spotted twenty lizards yesterday in around an hour surveying the fence, mostly adult males, and a few subadults.

I wonder how many there are out there….

How well do you know our spiny visitors?

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Photo credit: Wild About Gardens Week

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.

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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.

Common Lizards confirmed at Orchard Park

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On the edge of the site adjacent to the A14 in the morning sun

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Checking the wood previously placed to attract lizards

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Is there a lizard under there?

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Spot the lizard basking in the sun

Additional photos from Geoff Morely of Transition Cambridge

Thanks so much to Geoff Morley, Steven Allain, and Mark Goodman for setting up the Transition Cambridge Wildlife Wander with Orchard Park Wildlife Project. The Wildlife Trust BCN had identified the area behind Topper St play area as good habitat for reptiles when they surveyed for the Orchard Park Habitats Management Plan, and suggested we survey there in August. Saturday morning’s weather turned out to be perfect, a relief after the cold and rain, we had a good turn out and between us we spotted eight Common Lizard adults, several basking on the fence in the sun warming up prior to activity. They’re gorgeous close up – see Jo Sinclair’s photo above posted in Cambridge Nature Community. Two juveniles were also seen, great news as it indicates they’re breeding at the site. Now we know they’re there, we’ll look into carrying out population estimates and hopefully monitoring as community activities.

Looking for Lizards

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We have suitable habitat in Orchard Park for Common Lizards and amphibians. Join us at this event organised with Transition Cambridge Wildlife Wander group and students from Anglia Ruskin University to see what we might find. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.

Orchard Park Summer Safari 21st July @ 6.45pm

We’re very much looking forward to our Orchard Park wildlife wander, like a mini safari/bioblitz for suburban wildlife. It’s being organised in collaboration with Sustrans and Transition Cambridge – we thank them for their support.

We’ll stop to identify wildlife of interest on the way – Tim and Carol Inskipp have so much wildlife knowledge to share. Taking in a variety of habitats and moving from daylight to evening will increase the number of plants and animals we see. Bring binoculars and wildlife guides if you have them. We’ll record any new species we find and send them onto the Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Record Centre.21 july safari moth bat FINAL

We will depart from outside The Orchard Community Centre, Central Avenue, CB4 2EZ at 6.45pm heading over to the far east side of Orchard Park where there are older hedges and trees – we saw a bird bashing a snail against a stone last night to successfully access its supper….

Next we’ll head to the area behind the Topper St play park with more older trees and hedges, plus grassland where we caught lots of spiders last year. We found a collared doves nest last night with two adults in one of the older trees.

We’ll head back past the Orchard Community Centre – have a brief look at the living roof, then onto the Circle along a route with lots of lavender and flowers for bees, plus bark chippings for beetles and a variety of trees..

From there we’ll head to the wild flower bank at Ring Fort Road which should be growing well again by then to look for more invertebrates, and a quick look in the Wildlife Area.

We’ll then cross over to look at and identify pre caught moths. Many moths are just as beautiful as butterflies when looked at close up.

After the moths we’ll have a short talk about bats before using a detector to see if we can find them in Orchard Park. Sunset is 9.07pm so we’ll detect just before and after dusk before ending around 9.45pm.

The end time is approximate. If you’d like to join us for part of the evening, please call 07902 454367 to find us.

Autumn and all things hedgehog

Photo credit: Hedgehog Street

Photo credit: Hedgehog Street

Although I have not seen any hedgehogs in Orchard Park, I’ve heard a number of people have seen them around The Circle area. Autumn is an important time for them as they get ready to hibernate. Please remember to check for hedgehogs in bonfires before you light fires….

Click the link here for all things hedgehog: http://www.hedgehogstreet.org/pages/why-help-hedgehogs.html

Click the link here for an A to Z of helping hedgehogs in autumn prepared by Hedgehog Street: hedgehog_st_fact_sheet_final