State of Nature 2016

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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.

Every little helps. See: Wildlife Trust page for more ideas.

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.

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Help for Hot Birds and Other Wildlife

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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.

 

 

 

Lush, Art, Apples, Wildlife Maps, & Bats. We’re planning our September/October Activities.

OP and map of areas for July activity

Sadly due to the imminent development of the site where the lizards are, we are unable to continue monitoring them as planned for August. We hope to be able to resume monitoring next year over at the balancing pond where at least part of the population are likely to be translocated to…

For September/October activities we are excited to be collaborating with North Cambridge resident artist Isabella Martin. We thank Karen Thomas of Kettle’s Yard for putting us in touch. We are planning to run an event over at the Orchard when the apples ripen where we’ll explore the Orchard habitat and creatively contribute to signage for the area. We hope to collaborate further to map Orchard Park’s habitats and species in an interactive and novel way – more info to come 🙂

From the Kettle’s Yard website:

YOU ARE HERE – Isabella Martin Artist in Residence 2016

Open House Artist-in-Residence, Isabella Martin, is working with local residents to explore the area and create a new map together in a project called You Are Here. Isabella will work with local groups to share stories and knowledge and develop creative skills to turn these stories into artworks. The artworks will be part of the alternative neighbourhood map. The map will show and celebrate what is unique about North Cambridge. You will find Isabella and her team of artists out and about, running art activities and collecting stories and thoughts about the neighbourhood. You Are Here has been inspired by Kettle’s Yard, celebrating all the individual and unique things which make a place special.

Isabella Martin is an artist who works with different materials to make work that interacts with specifc places and the stories they tell. Using drawing, performance, writing and sculpture, Isabella creates inventive, playful, outdoor artworks in collaboration with people to explore our relationship to the landscape in which we live.”

Lush Cambridge are also very kindly holding another Charity Pot Party fundraising event for us in late October. We’re very grateful to Lush for their ongoing support. We’ll be encouraging people to take part in this year’s Wild About Gardens Week – this year it focusses on bats. Apt, as a Lush Charity Pot Party funded our bat detector which we’ve used over at the Wildlife Area and around Orchard Park ^v^

Dates for events are being confirmed and will be announced soon.

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….

Everyone is Going Loopy for Lizards

imageAs as well as coverage in Cambridge News, herpetologists Steven Allain and Mark Goodman of Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group have been interviewed for Cambridge TV and BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Drive time

Hoping for sun and lots of lizards tomorrow 🙂

Looking for Lizards, Part 2. Calling Existing and Budding Biologists

sas-lizard

We’re currently planning a training session to show people how to take part in some real citizen science, monitoring our Common Lizards – click the links and watch the video for a description of citizen science and to see more information on Common Lizards by Wild About Gardens. We’re excited about our upcoming activities to help these gorgeous little creatures, and we hope you will be too. The training will be on Saturday 16th April 1pm at the Orchard Community Centre, Central Avenue, Cambridge, CB4 2EZ, followed by a short session in lizard habitat nearby. Monitoring will take place in April, May and July to September and we welcome regular help with the monitoring.

Thanks to Steven Allain and Mark Goodman of Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) we found out last year we have a healthy breeding population of Common Lizards in Orchard Park (see Post by Steven Allain on Orchard Park’s Lizards and Common Lizards confirmed at Orchard Park).

Steven and Mark have written an Orchard Park Report describing last year’s activities, and they’ve outlined how to go about monitoring this year, to find out how widespread the lizards are here.

Common Lizards are undergoing dramatic declines in the UK due to habitat destruction, degradation and fragmentation – in other words, they have fewer and fewer places to live, some of their homes are of poor quality, and some are too far apart.

It’s important to find out where the lizards are, and how many there are, so that we can maintain their habitat here in Orchard Park for the future. We did some work in the Balancing Pond last Sunday to keep the ground bare there for lizards to bask.

We’re holding the training session in April so that people can learn all about the lizards, how to identify their habitat, and gain science skills to take part in the ongoing monitoring in April and May, then again from July to September.

As the monitoring will involve approaching the animals, and getting close to them, unfortunately the training and monitoring will not be suitable for children under 8 years old. Also please note the lizard habitat has uneven ground, though there is a section with a path worn into the grass.

If you’re feeling particularly keen, you can find some background information on training by the National Amphibian and Reptile Recording Scheme here.

If you have binoculars and a camera, it would be good if you can bring them to the workshop.

Happy Holidays everyone 🙂

 

 

20 March 10-12.30 at the Balancing Pond and Orchard, Habitats Management

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The Orchard September 2015

On 20th March 10am-12.30pm  Orchard Park Wildlife Project are doing habitat management at two adjacent but different sites. Meet over at the Orchard Area (next to the sports ground at the end of Ring Fort Road) at 10.00am. See map Do come along for as long or as little as you can – but please note if you want to take part in Orchard activities, please be at the Orchard at 10.00am for tool use and health and safety training. This is a free, fun and informative event 🙂

Bob, an expert on Orchard Management, will show us how to manage our Orchard Area properly. Experienced volunteers from the Histon and Impington Community Orchard Project will also be coming to help practically, and to brush up on their skills. Bob will provide tools. We hope to gain enough skills so that we can ensure the trees are well managed in the long term. We’d love to be able to harvest the apples in a community event in the autumn. Sadly a lot of apples were picked by children then wasted last year.

From Community Orchards: How to Guide (Department for Communities and Local Government 2011)

“A variety of flora and fauna can be supported by this environment – insects, birds, bees, bats, foxes and small mammals as well as wild flowers…. Orchards can protect bumblebees simply by creating a habitat for them to exist. Both honey bees and bumblebees are beneficial in pollinating orchards.”

We will also be working at the Balancing Pond, adjacent to the Wildlife Area, which has been identified as good habitat for basking reptiles and invertebrates. Although this area is called a pond, it is a dry pond, designed for road run off from the A14. Whilst it would be great to have another healthy pond in Orchard Park (the school has a pond), the sensitivity of amphibians to pollutants in road run off means it can’t developed as a regular pond for frogs and such. Instead, it’s gentle slopes and bare ground should be maintained for basking. We will be removing tree seedlings to help keep the vegetation sparse in this area. We know we have a healthy population of Common Lizards elsewhere in Orchard Park, so we hope these activities will make the Balancing Pond more suitable for them and other wildlife. During the Wildlife Trust BCN’s survey of Orchard Park in preparation for writing the Habitats Management Plan, Essex Skipper, Comma, and Gatekeeper Butterflies, as well as Common Blue Damselflies were seen at the Balancing Pond. Wild Carrot, Hop Trefoil, Common Bird’s-Foot-Trefoil, Yellow Toadflax, Ribwort Plantain and Hoary Willowherb were also present, and these provide nectar, alongside the range of grass species which create a good structure for insects to exploit. Our activities aim to maintain this structure.

SAs lizard

Photo taken by Steven Allain (Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group) during our Herpetology activity alongside the A14 last year

We expect the activities to last two hours or so. We will have a small supply of tools for use at the Balancing Pond.

Children 12 and under must be accompanied and supervised by an adult. Some activities will be suitable for all ages and abilities. Due to the sloping nature of the Balancing Pond this area may not be suitable for some people unsteady on their feet, and that includes me!

 

 

Next Activity 21 February 2016 – Wildlife Area Tidy and Hedge Management

poster 21 feb hedge wildlife area

Autumn berries at wildlife area

Berries at the Wildlife Area

Following on from the litter pick last weekend, we would like to spend a bit more time there to finish the tidying job we started. I’ve asked if SCDC can deliver some bags for recycling and litter picker sticks.

We’ll also be focussing on removing some tree guards around OP from trees and hedges. This activity is recommended in the OP Habitats Management Plan “When planted, tree guards were put around many of the trees. These guards are now redundant as the trees are more resilient against rabbit or deer browsing, and should therefore be removed. Likewise the wooden supports around the trees can be removed”.

Orchard Park offers a range of habitats for wildlife, we have grassland, hedges, trees, scrub etc. Where hedges are established they offer great habitat for a range of wildlife including the Dunnock, a bird in decline in the UK which is subject to a Biodiversity Action Plan. As mentioned previously, the little brown bird around OP which most people think is is sparrow, is probably a Dunnock. In the winter, hedges provide berries for birds, and in the summer, they provide food for invertebrates. They also provide ‘corridors’ to allow animals such as the Hedgehog to move around. It is important our hedgerows are managed as well as possible for wildlife. Our activities on 21st will help with this.

We were hoping to be able to do some pruning of the apple trees in the Orchard on 21st February, but this will now be done in March when experts are available.

Please join us on 21st February for as little or long as you can – we’ll meet at the Wildlife Area at 10:00 and depending on how many people there are, all move on, or have a group move around OP working on the hedges. Please phone 07902 454367 to find us.

Draft Activity Plan for 2016

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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:

National campaigns

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 🙂

 

Wild About Gardens Week – focussing on Hedgehogs

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Gardening for wildlife!

This year’s Wild About Gardens week will run from 26 October – 1 November 2015 and will focus on gardening for hedgehogs. These amazing little creatures could be extinct in the UK if we don’t help – there are thought to be fewer than 1 million hedgehogs in the UK today, and they’ve declined by 30% in just ten years. Our gardens in Orchard Park are great for hedgehogs as many don’t have solid garden fences which block their access – instead our connected gardens can form ‘hedgehog highways’. We can feed hedgehogs, provide a home, and reduce potential dangers to them. If we work together as a community, we can help hedgehogs, and other wildlife in our neighbourhood.

For detailed guidance and fun activities see: Hedgehog Booklet and Wild About Gardens

Lush are very kindly holding another Charity Pot Party fundraiser for Orchard Park Wildlife Project – we will be in the Cambridge store on Saturday 31st October between 12-4pm – we’ll be sharing Wild About Gardens Week’s wildlife advice and asking people to pledge to do something wild in their garden. Come and say hello to us and the lovely folks at Lush 🙂