Summer Safari 2017

SS17 poster

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

State of Nature 2016


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.

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….

‘Ere there be lots of (teeny weeny) Dragons: Zootoca vivipara

A good number of us went out today to look for lizards between 10.00 and midday. The weather was warmer than forecast, and we saw a total of 16 lizards comprising males, females, and sub adults basking on the fence. We’ll be heading over again next weekend, weather permitting, do join us if you can.


Close up, adult male


Female with previous year’s young


Adult male


Adult  female


Adult male


Young female re-growing tail


Adult female


Adult male

Short video

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 🙂

The Importance of Citizen Science to the birds and the bees and the herps and the hedgehogs….

good goldfinch

What is Citizen Science video – I first posted a link to this a couple of months ago when we announced our Orchard Park Citizen Science activities.

Reports released yesterday by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) highlight the importance of Citizen Science. Their website says “Through the efforts of volunteers participating in BTO surveys, the bird populations of the British Isles have been monitored more effectively and for longer than those of most other parts of the world. This has produced a uniquely rich and detailed body of scientific work. This will help us to understand the complex challenges facing wild birds at a time of great change in the environment.”

The reports provide information on the Annual Totals for the Nest Record Scheme, and Species Longevity Records for Britain and Ireland. The longevity records are based on information carried on rings placed on birds by volunteers, and reports of that information to the BTO by volunteers.

Checking the longevity records for some of the regular visitors to my garden:

I’ve started to see Robins return to the garden recently, did you know they could live this long? You might be surprised to see how long some of the small and colourful visitors can live. Of course these records show the oldest recorded individuals, but they give an indication that the birds, on average, might live longer than you might imagine.

Robin  Erithacus rubecula     8 years 4 months 30 days
Blue Tit  Cyanistes caeruleus     10 years 3 months 10 days
Great Tit  Parus major     13 years 11 months 5 days
Collared Dove  Streptopelia decaocto     16 years 10 months 17 days
Goldfinch  Carduelis carduelis     8 years 8 months 4 days
Dunnock  Prunella modularis     11 years 3 months 7 days

After confirmation that we have a good breeding population of Common Lizards in Orchard Park, we hope people will join us to help with a population estimates and longer term monitoring of these beautiful reptiles on our doorstep. Information we collect can be passed on to the relevant herpetological organisations for their use in wider monitoring schemes too..

We can also help by mapping hedgehogs: and counting bees and butterflies and…..there’s so much we can do to help.

Common Lizards confirmed at Orchard Park


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


Checking the wood previously placed to attract lizards


Is there a lizard under there?


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

herp poster

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.