School’s out for Summer (well almost)

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Orchard Park Community Primary School Children, Beetles Class, half way through the litter pick after the Wildflower Bank heading towards the Wildlife Area

Yesterday we ran the last of the sessions on local wildlife for Miss Williamson’s Year 4 Beetles class – around 30 pupils approximately 9 years old. We’ve had a great time exploring Orchard Park’s wildlife and finding out how we can help. Orchard Park Wildlife Project planned and delivered three sessions.

The first, focussed on the variety of Habitats around Orchard Park (wildflowers, scrub in the Wildlife Area, grassland, ponds, hedges, mature trees etc.) and the wildlife that lives in each. We had an interactive presentation followed by an exploration of habitats in the school grounds, and an activity to create habitat and wildlife diagrams.

Session two looked at Threats to Wildlife in the UK using local examples where possible. OPWP explained threatened species and population declines, and looked at some of the main threats – habitat loss and degradation, overharvesting/fishing, invasive species, climate change, and disease. As habitat loss is the reason most species are threatened, we played a game similar to musical chairs – the children enjoyed flapping around as bats to the Batman theme tune – to show the effects of habitat loss to local bats is much more detrimental than they might first imagine. As their habitat becomes fragmented, the bats can’t travel between fragments, and the fragments are soon unable to sustain any bats. We followed this by making 3D models of a range of habitats and animals that would be found in them.

Orchard Park has litter problem and the Wildlife Project came into being initially to address the terrible and dangerous litter levels in the Wildlife Area – a densely vegetated area set aside for wildlife, and intended to be undisturbed to provide a safe area for birds to nest etc. Through many litter picks, and work with the Orchard Park Community Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council, it’s getting better, but the litter remains – although right now, thankfully, at a lesser level.  Yesterday’s session focussed on Dangers of Litter to Wildlife and how it is dangerous in both the short and long term, and in particular to some of our local favourites: Hedgehogs, Lizards and birds. We explored ideas to help, donned high vis jackets, grabbed equipment, and a did a litter pick along the Wildflower Bank seeded with wildflowers to support insects, and up to the Wildlife Area. It was a lovely sunny day and the children got a lot of bags of little things. We stressed the importance of picking up the small pieces of plastic and cigarette butts, as they can release poisons and pollutants into the ground as they break down over many many years. The Ring Fort Bank wrapping around the school and approach to the Wildlife Area are all looking much better.

Thank you Beetles 🙂

We also thank Miss Williamson for inviting us into her class. We enjoyed all the sessions, and I know she’d like us to go back next year – this would be our third consecutive year running similar sessions.

School isn’t completely out for summer though, as we’re also planning an assembly on Wildflowers and an after school Wildflower and Insect Bioblitz, both feeding into the sign for the Wildflower Bank Habitat, and perhaps a Welly Walk with some preschool children to spot different birds and trees that live here…..All before they break for the long summer holidays.

Finally, many thanks indeed to Holly Freeman of OPWP for arranging the sessions with the school and organising activities.

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Hedgehog Update

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Hedgehog found near the Wildlife Area. Photo Credit (from video): Andrew Chan

The small, weak, wobbling Hedgehog that Andrew Chan (OPCC) found at the Wildlife Area a few weeks ago, is doing reasonably well. Identified as No.7 by his carer Kathleen (she doesn’t want to get too attached by giving them names) she thinks he’s a male but he’s often rolled into a ball and reluctant to unroll so she’s not absolutely sure. After he’d been checked out by Village Vets in Milton, they took him to Cathlene for rehabilitation. Eating very well now and having a voracious appetite, No.7 needs to put on much more weight before he can be released back into the wild. Kathleen says he’s probably a juvenile born last autumn that didn’t manage to put on enough weight prior to hibernation. Unfortunately so far, he’s only gained 25g. He’s currently living in a hutch and will soon be treated for roundworm. In Kathleen’s very capable hands, given time, it’s most likely he will do well enough for release.

This is a very good time of the year to offer hedgehogs food as they come out of hibernation hungry: chicken cat or dog food is ideal, certainly not fish. Always offer fresh water too, but definitely no milk.

UPDATE 5 APRIL: Kathleen has let me know that he’s now doing much better and is weighing in at 500g

Local Land Plastic, Please Help

 

 

All photos kindly provided by: Andrew Chan

Since David Attenborough’s recent Blue Planet II, we all know that plastic littering the oceans is a big problem. However, we have a massive litter and plastic problem so local, it’s practically (and in many cases around Orchard Park quite literally) on our doorsteps. The Wildlife Area is in a terrible state and sadly even after five years of concerted efforts to clean it up – by Orchard Park Community Council, and volunteers from Orchard Park Wildlife Project, the local Scouts, and Orchard Park Community Primary School to name a few – the litter issue is as bad as ever see: Opwildlife litter.

Andrew Chan (OPCC) flew a drone over the Wildlife Area last week and recorded the flyover. The resulting photos and footage show the wide range and great level of the litter problem and it’s sickening. Literally.

Plastic is composed of toxic compounds which can cause harm to wildlife for many years by polluting land and water. Animals can get stuck in larger pieces of plastic (and cans), or they can ingest both large and micro pieces of plastic, resulting in suffocation and poisoning respectively. We found plastic bags containing dog poo hanging in the trees, obviously this is a human health hazard.

Andrew has made a great video highlighting the litter problem. To view video click here: Highlighting the litter problem at the Wildlife Area

 

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OPWP has used all the footage filmed by the drone to highlight some of the features installed for wildlife at the area, and it also shows just how wide ranging the litter problem is. To view video click here: Longer flyover showing features of the Wildlife Area, and the range and extent of the severe litter problem there

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A study by the University of California and Santa Barbara in the US found that “We are increasingly smothering ecosystems in plastic”. The lead researcher stated they are “very worried that there may be all kinds of unintended, adverse consequences that we will only find out about once it is too late” and “there is much more attention paid to how plastics are interacting with marine organisms but there is much, much less known about how plastics interact with terrestrial organisms – I would suspect there is something equivalent going on and it might actually be worse.” (source The Guardian: Taylor 2017).

Other research by Keep Britain Tidy has shown that the presence of litter simply encourages more litter to be tossed aside: if we can keep the Wildlife Area cleaner, it might deter additive littering.

We’re having a litter pick at the Wildlife Area, Ring Fort Rd, CB4 2GR, on Saturday 14 April from 10:00-14:00. Please come along and join us, it’s obvious the wildlife needs your help. Meet at the sports centre, join us for as little or long as you can. Refreshments provided. We look forward to seeing you. Thank you.

 

 

 

From The Mammal Society

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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

 

Summer Safari 2017

SS17 poster

For more information see: Orchard Park’s Third Summer Safari Sunday 9 July 5.30-7.30pm

Orchard Park’s Third Summer Safari Sunday 9 July 5.30-7.30pm

All of these amazing animals (and a pretty poppy) have been seen around Orchard Park, and all but the bat and moth photographs were taken here. If you spend a moment stopping and looking, you’ll be surprised at what you see. Join us late afternoon/early evening on Sunday 9 July to search for our local wildlife in our annual urban Summer Safari. Tim and Carol Inskipp will be there again kindly sharing their wealth of wildlife knowledge and Cambridge Mammal Group will show us any mammals they might find earlier in the day. Orchard Park Wildlife Project will provide wildlife guide books and ID sheets, but if you have a bird book and binoculars feel free to bring them along. The event will be free, fun and informative, as well as accessible and suitable for all ages and abilities (children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult). As well as meeting the local wildlife it will give you an opportunity to meet new folks from your neighbourhood. Meet at 5.30pm outside the Travelodge Hotel. Join us for as long or as little as you like.

The Summer Safari will be part of Cambridge Wild’s month of activities.  All new wildlife records will be shared with Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC).

Hedgehog Gardens: Histon, Impington and Orchard Park launched on Saturday

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The new local initiative to help hedgehogs was launched at the Histon and Impington Community Orchard Project event on Saturday. The main aim is to encourage people to open their gardens, and encourage their neighbours to do the same, so that gardens are accessible to hedgehogs. Hedgehogs need to move around quite large areas to feed, find mates and shelter. We want you to create hedgehog highways to provide what they need. See the website for details of what you can do to help: hedgehoggardens.wordpress.com. If we don’t work together hedgehogs could be extinct in the UK in a few decades.

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We met Paul from the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire and their hedgehog mascot @harryhedgehog7 we hope we can collaborate to enhance all of our efforts.

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.

 

 

 

Photographs from the Summer Safari

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Essex Skipper. Photo credit: Carol Inskipp

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White-tailed/Buff-tailed Bumblebee (only the queens can be ID’d to species). Photo credit: Carol Inskipp

 

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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 🙂

Poplar Hawk-moth Laothoe populi

Rosis, Hérault, FRANCE By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE (Poplar Hawk-moth (Laothoe populi)) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Convolvulus Hawk-moth. Photo credit: Tony Morris. Image unchanged and used under Creative Commons Licensing

 

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Shaded Broad-bar (Scotopteryx chenopodiata) near Hamburg, Germany. Date 17 July 2009
Author: Quartl. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license.

 

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External link

Swallow-tailed Moth. One of our more attractive moths Ourapterix sambucaria feeds at Buddleias, Umbellifers, Rosebay willowherb flowers on warm July nights LinkExternal linkCreative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved] © Copyright Stan Campbell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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

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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.