Q: Why do owls never go courting in the rain?

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A: Because it’s too wet to woo!

Wet wildlife jokes aside, it’s been a difficult time for wildlife this year, what with the extended icy cold spell at the beginning of the year, soon to be followed by the recent searing heat and droughts.

Thankfully the wildlife and their habitats in Orchard Park are getting a thorough watering today.

If it does turn hot and dry for another extended spell, please do consider putting bowls of fresh water (definitely NOT milk) and some food: cat or dog food, chicken ideally (definitely NOT fish) out each night for hedgehogs. They’re suffering particularly badly according to local sources: Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital and Kingfisher Wildlife Sanctuary in Great Abingdon are both calling for equipment and donations because of the increased numbers of seriously dehydrated hedgehogs being taken to them for attention. It’s a similar story all over the UK as Fay Vass from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said in a recent article in the Independent “Food is scarce as well because their food is worms, slugs and beetles and they are all hiding away well below the surface… so they are coming into the centres very skinny, very hungry and desperately needing water.”

 

Birds and other wildlife will also appreciate any food you can provide. Water should be plentiful for a few days if the rain continues like this – and it will according to forecasts.

An OP resident that has been feeding and providing water for hedgehogs regularly has been rewarded for their efforts recently – they captured the video and photos of this healthy looking hedgehog included this blog post 😍. Thank you for sharing 😀 and most importantly, thank you for helping our local wildlife.

 

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OP Community Primary School Wildlife of the Wildflower Bank Drawing Competition – Winners Announced

Many thanks indeed to the school children for submitting some amazing wildlife drawings. Wildlife expert and OPWP Committee member Carol Inskipp has chosen the following drawings (one from each year) as the winners, as these represent the wildlife of the Wildflower Bank most accurately. I dropped off a wildlife themed prize for each winning drawing at the school on Monday. We will put the winning drawings on the sign at the Wildflower Bank, and add as many of the other drawings as possible.

THE WINNERS – Congratulations 🙂

Reception Dandelion Christopher

Dandelion Christopher Rec
Year 1 Common Blue Butterfly Adrian
Common Blue Butterfly Adrian Y1
Year 2 White tailed Bumblebee Srithanvi
White tailed bumblebee Srithanvi Y2
Year 3 Grasshopper Maximo
Grasshopper Maximo Y3
Year 4 – no drawings submitted for consideration
Year 5 Harlequin Ladybird, Shepherds Purse, Crested Dogs Tail, Cowslip, Lisa
Harlequin ladybird shepherds purse crested dogs tail cowslip Lisa Y5
Year 6 Daisy Niko
Daisy Niko Y6

Other Drawings by Year

Reception

 

Year 1

 

Year 2

 

Year 3

Year 4 – no drawings submitted for consideration

Year 5

 

Year 6

 

Others, no year given

 

Look what we found at the Wildflower Bank……

Cinnabar Moth_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae

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Bioblitz info, ID resources, and ideas on pots for pollinators Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

me and kid holding net pot

Look what I’ve found Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

 

The weather on Monday was fantastic for the informal mini BioBlitz at the Wildflower Bank, we couldn’t have hoped for it to be better. Thank you so much to Lush for the Charity Pot Party which raised money to buy materials and equipment necessary to run the event. Expertise from OPWP regulars Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp, and Louise Bacon from Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC) made the event possible and we’re very grateful, it wouldn’t have happened without your ID skills. We appreciate that the school gave us the opportunity to introduce the event in assembly last Friday, thanks to Holly Freeman of OPWP for organising that.

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Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

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Wildflower Bank with many daisies Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

Thanks to all that came along, we hope you enjoyed it. The event started off slowly, then got very busy, very quickly, with a an estimated thirty children, and their parent(s) joining us for a short time, or a long time. Some children were very keen and asked for help to identify a number of different creatures, others were happy when they’d caught a single insect, and some focussed on finding as many of a particular type of insect as possible. It was great to see Miss Williamson with a group of children in an after school session. The Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week resources were key for the children to each have their own mini ID guides to use as they set off with their pots, pottles, and pooters to locate insects, and for the pens, pencils and note pads to record what they’d found. The Royal Entomological Society’s yellow National Insect Week t-shirt was a big hit with Pollen Beetles, I was covered in them! They’re only a few mm long.

District Councillor for Histon and Impington, Pippa Heylings, who is organising sub groups of the Histon and Impington Sustainability Groups to undertake green space surveys, and manage our Wildflower Verges better for wildlife, came along, and took several of the photos included here. Most appreciated as I didn’t have a minute to take any.

Pollen beetle

All of the following invertebrates were found and identified during the event. The photos below, and the Cinnabar moth above, were all taken by Carol Inskipp and shown to the children during the event so they could view the creatures they’d found in close up. Thanks so much for these. Click on the common names to see more information about each.

Meadow Plant Bug Leptopterna dolabrata_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Photo credit: Carol Inskipp. Meadow Plant Bug Leptoterna dolabrata

Harlequin Ladybird larva2_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Harlequin Ladybird larva 1 Harmonia axyridis

Harlequin Ladybird larva_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Harlequin Ladybird larva 2 Harmonia axyridis

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus

Garden Grass Veneer_Chrysotechia culmella_Orchard Park+18 June 18

Garden Grass Veneer Chrysotechia culmella

Cinnabar Moth_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae

a Flower Beetle Oedenera lurida _Orchard Park_18 June 18

Flower Beetle 2 Oedenera lurida

Tim is working on the plant list, and there’ll be a separate blog post on the flora at the Wildflower Bank, and its management soon.

All records, once finalised, will be sent to CPERC.

Our survey on 18th June can serve as a baseline, so we can see if the biodiversity of the Wildflower Bank improves over time with management changes.

Lush Charity Pot Party

nat campaign logos

We thank Lush for their previous support to Orchard Park Wildlife Project. Their funding has allowed us to purchase our bat detector, and all sorts of other equipment and supplies we need to run our varied events, and manage OP’s various habitats.

They’re holding another Charity Pot Party for us in the Cambridge store in Lion Yard this weekend. OPWP will be there from around 10am-2pm on Saturday 16th June – do come and say hello.

We’ll be promoting our Bioblitz event at the Wildflower Bank (being held on Monday 18th June from 3.20-5.20) and encouraging people to pledge to take action on one or more national campaigns…The UK has lost nearly all of its wildflower meadow habitat since the 1930s, this has a negative impact on the insects reliant on that habitat, and in turn the birds and bats that feed on the insects. These three national campaigns (amongst others) are working to improve the situation – we hope people will get involved locally and nationally. We’ve got some wildflower and insect themed activities for children, and a few goodies from the Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week campaign to share that will help you identify insects.

Encourages people to learn about insects and their importance

Encourages people to write to their council to manage wildflower road verges for wildlife

Encourages people to take action for bees

Thank you again Lush for the opportunities to raise these important issues, to promote our Bioblitz, and for the funds you raise. I know everyone at Lush will be working very hard to support us on Saturday.

Informal Mini Bioblitz at the Wildflower Bank

Bioblitz poster ver 2Join us at 3.20pm on 18 June at the beginning of National Insect Week for an informal mini Bioblitz of the Wildflower Bank, Ring Fort Rd, CB4 2GR. The event will run for two hours and you’re welcome to join us for as little or long as you like. All equipment will be provided. Sadly, many people don’t realise what a precious resource the Wildflower Bank is – the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since WWII and that’s having a negative impact on the insects that rely on it, and in turn the birds and bats that feed on them.

It’s an opportunity to get involved in Citizen Science (see video below), learn about the importance of our local plants and invertebrates, and support Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign. It’ll be an accessible, free, fun, informative, and family friendly activity – easy to join as you collect children from school.

The Wildflower Bank will be brimming with plants and buzzing with insects later in June, and this Citizen Science event is being run as a bioblitz – where experts and members of the public will try to identify as many of these species as we can in this particular area and in the set time. Members of the public are encouraged to come along to learn, and Cambridge based naturalists are very welcome to come along and share their expertise. All plant and invertebrate records from the bioblitz will be provided to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre.

Information from the bioblitz will also feed into a sign being installed at the Wildflower Bank near to the school showing pictures of the different types of flowers found there, and the insects and wildlife each type of flower supports. We’re planning a competition with the school for the children to create some content for the sign, and this will be launched at an insect and wildflower themed assembly.

We’re working with Orchard Park Community Council, and Histon and Impington Sustainability Group to have our roadside verges managed for wildlife as per Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign and in Orchard Park also per our Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust BCN. We plan to undertake any necessary remedial practical management on the Wildflower Bank, to ensure it remains rich in species diversity. Grasses are beginning to encroach in some areas, and they might need to be removed, and the soil prepared for reseeding with pesticide free wildflower seeds.

We will run the management as community events, perhaps as part of an Orchard Park family fun environment day.

Thanks to Tim and Carol Inskipp of OPWP for their expertise with identifying all creatures great and small, Holly Freeman of OPWP for all planning and liaison with the school, Louise Bacon of CPERC for expertise in identifying invertebrates, Lush for the Charity Pot Party to advertise and fundraise for equipment for these activities, Education Services 2010 for their funding of the sign and tools, Orchard Park Community Council for altering the mowing schedule and collaboration with the sign, and last but not least Orchard Park Community Primary School for working with us on these and other projects.

 

 

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.

Fledglings, Flowers, Insects and Formulating Plans

Turdus_merula_-British_Wildlife_Centre,_Newchapel_Surrey,_England_-juvenile-8

Photo credit: Peter Trimming. Used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I was lucky to see a juvenile blackbird in the garden this morning. I stepped away to get my camera but sadly it moved away before I could get a photo, so I’ve used this great picture by Peter Trimming.

It’s the time of year when we’ll be starting to see fledglings around. So far I’ve seen just a single blue tit fledgling, calling continuously and flapping it’s wings rapidly to attract the attention of its parent to beg for food. If you find a baby bird and you’re concerned about it, check the RSPB info below , and see their website for advice on what to do.

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Feeding birds is to be encouraged all year round, but at this time of the year it will help them feed their young too. See the RSPCA’s Guide to Feeding Birds for more information.

It’s also the time of year when we’re starting to get more flowers too. The Wildflower Bank on Ring Fort Rd has had Cowslips this year so far, but we’ll have to wait a little while before it’s in all it’s flowery glory.

Education Services 2010 have kindly provided funding, and some structural materials were donated generously by Kettles Yard, to make a sign for the Wildflower Bank showing its variety of flowers, and the invertebrates that each type of flower supports. Orchard Park Primary School children will be helping to create content for the sign.

We’re also looking into the feasibility of running a mini bioblitz, an activity when naturalists and members of the public work together to find as many species as possible within a set location and time, at the Wildflower Bank during National Insect Week 18-24 June. National Insect Week’s video shows why insects are so important.

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.

 

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.

Raised bed at the Community Centre

At the penultimate summer event with the Youth Group, one of the raised beds was painted and potted up. We’re planning work with the 1st Cambridge Scout Group to ensure it’s maintenance. The addition of Ivy means that pollen and nectar will be available as late as possible into the season for honey bees and other pollinators. Thank you to the Youth Group, Orchard Park Community Council, and Education Services 2010 for making this project possible.

Orchard Park Wildlife Project will add some educational signs to the raised beds very soon.

For background information on this project, the importance of pollinators and more on how to help them see previous blog post: Sowing Seeds