Spooktacular Batty, Creepy Crawly Disco

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OPWP will be there with info on our big black birds 🦅, creepy crawlies 🦎🦗🐜, spiders 🕷, bats 🦇 and witches 🧙‍♀️ knickers!

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What OP’s Cat Owners Can do to Help our Wildlife

Cats and bats credit Amazon dot com

Credit: Amazon.com

Taken directly from page 118 of The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife by Chris Packham et al. concerning cats and wildlife:

“According to research our cats kill 55 million songbirds every year in the UK and predate a total of 220 million other animals, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects.Given the great pressures this wildlife is under elsewhere these losses are almost certainly now significant.

It’s not the cat’s fault! And there are easy steps to take to reduce this toll.

We must ask cat owners to take responsibility, and here’s how…

  • Keep cats in at night – this can reduce overall predation by up to 50%. Unless you plan to breed your pets, have them neutered.
  • Ideally all free-roaming cats should be fitted with a collar and bell. This can reduce bird predation by 50%.2,3 That’s 27 million more birds in our gardens every year.”

Orchard Park Wildlife Project has recorded 27 species of birds in OP, and we also have Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara). Any of these could be negatively affected by cats.

When studying in NZ ten years ago, and co producing a blog on the wildlife of Dunedin’s Town Belt, Jill and I met with Yolanda Van Heezik, author of one of papers cited above, several times. Jill wrote a couple of blog posts about Yolanda’s research on the cat predation in NZ: More from “Project C.A.T.” (C.A.T. stands for Cats Around Town) and Where does Fluffy go? but the findings are just as relevant here.

Cats and Bats

As well as many birds, and lizards, we also have Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) bats, and quite possibly Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), foraging in Orchard Park. Cats are one of the most common causes of bat casualties.

From the Bat Conservation Trust

“Bats do have other natural predators (such as birds of prey) but cats, particularly, will learn the location of the bat roost and catch bats as they emerge.

If a bat has been caught by a cat it will almost certainly be injured.  Even if you cannot see any obvious injuries there is a great risk of internal infection from the cat’s saliva.

Any bats caught by cats will need the experienced help of a bat carer.

Please follow this link for instructions on how to contain the bat and call the
Bat Helpline 0345 1300 228.

By following a few simple steps responsible cat owners can stop bats being harmed:

  • Bring your cat indoors half an hour before sunset and keep it in all night when bats are most active (April –October).
  • If you cannot keep your cat in all night, bring it in half an hour before sunset and keep it in for an hour after sunset.
  • It is very important to keep cats indoors at night from mid-June until the end of August because bats will be looking after their babies.”

Detailed information can be found by clicking here: Cats_and_Bats.

References:

  1. Woods, M., McDonald, R.A., Harris, S. (2003). Predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus) in Great Britain. Mamm. Rev. 33: 174–188.
  2. Gordon, J., Matthaei, C., Van Heezik, Y. (2010). Belled collars reduce catch of domestic cats in New Zealand by half. Wildl. Res. 37: 372–378.
  3. Ruxton, G.D., Thomas, S., Wright, J.W. (2006). Bells reduce predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus). J. Zool. 256: 81-83

 

 

 

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.

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

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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.

Orchard Park Summer Safari Sunday 17 July 7.30pm

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Free, fun, helpful, healthy, accessible and informative – we hope you’ll join us for our Orchard Park Summer Safari in the evening of Sunday 17 July. Meet outside the Travelodge Hotel, Chieftain Way (click for map), at 7.30pm. You’re welcome to join us for as long or little as you like.

It’s an opportunity to have a closer look at the wildlife on your doorstep, learn about it, and what you can do to help. You’ll be surprised to see what lives here when you look… especially when guided by very knowledgeable naturalists – we are grateful to Tim and Carol Inskipp who will be providing their expertise again to help us identify the animals and plants we come across. We’ll have a look around the perimeter of where the lizards currently live in Orchard Park, this area is rich in invertebrates – which the lizards eat. We hope someone from Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group will join us. The area also has mature trees nearby, the only ones within Orchard Park, and they’re a microhabitat in themselves. We’ll see where the wildlife takes us before looking at the wildflower area on Ring Fort Road, the orchard and meadow, and then at dusk we’ll head over to Wildlife Area to have a look for bats with our detector (we thank #lushcambridge @lushcambridge for their Charity Pot event providing funds for our detector).

Orchard Park Wildlife Project will send any new wildlife records to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre, the Summer Safari is like a micro sized and laid back bioblitz, where we find and identify as many plants and animals as we can, but stopping to look and explore as we find wildlife to look at.

As well as being good for wildlife, activities such as the Summer Safari are proven to be good for you too:  “..a body of restorative literature focuses on the potential benefits to emotional recovery from stress offered by green space and ‘soft fascination'” according to Aspinall et al 2015. For more information from the scientific paper click the lead author’s name link above. If you’d like to see more in a popular science format, then have a look at this article: Science proves what we all know: Nature is Good for your Health!

This is a free and accessible event suitable for all ages and abilities.

To see a blog post about what we found to look at during our Summer Safari last year click: Summer Safari Summary

Photos from Lizard Monitoring Workshop

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Lizard found yesterday. A shame its eye isn’t visible, but patterning and body shape are clearly shown. The line on the back isn’t broken, and the body is quite wide, so probably an adult female

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Laying the felt refugia for monitoring

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Training session

Thanks to everyone who came to the training workshop yesterday. I’ve sent an email to everyone outlining monitoring plans. Looking forward to successful monitoring of what might be Cambridge’s largest lizard population.

For all resources about the monitoring go to Lizard Monitoring

Presentation by Steven Allain and Mark Goodman. How to monitor and identify Common Lizards

Click here to see the presentation from Saturday’s Lizard Monitoring Workshop

The presentation is in video format so you can watch and pause at your own pace.

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

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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 🙂