Animal Assistance in the Autumn

Photo Credit: Anna Roebuck (Environmental and Recycling Artist) Paul Wyer from the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire with hedgehog sculpture that now resides in Marmalade Lane

The autumn garden can, with planning, provide a larder of berries, fruit and insects that form the natural diet of our local wildlife. However, as many of our gardens are small, and without varied plants, structure, and wild areas, we need to give the wildlife a helping hand as food begins to dwindle after the summer plenty. Have a look at our blog post from last autumn for tips: tinyurl.com/opwpautumn

As hedgehogs became a such feature at each of the summer events: there’s a hedgehog character in our play Saving the World, Starting at Your Doorstep, Horace/Prickles/Spike the sculpture is now living happily at Marmalade Lane, and a hedgehog is at the centre of the artwork created for the skate park by Kadero – we’ll start with tips on how we can help them – they’re now a symbolic reminder in Orchard Park to look after our wildlife. They’re good in this reminder role because their prickles can tend to get them in pickles, particularly where litter is concerned. When hungry they’ll get into any cans, packets, and bags lying around as they look for scraps of food – and due to their backwards facing spikes, they’ll often get stuck. Because they’ve been declining rapidly in the UK since the 1950s, they’re also a species of conservation concern. They really do need a helping hand in urban areas where thankfully they seem to be doing a little bit better.

Hedgehogs

One of the main things you can do to help is to make sure your garden has access for hedgehogs. Many of our front gardens have hedgehog friendly fencing, but what about your back garden if you’re lucky enough to have one? If you’ve got fence panels all the way around sealing your garden off consider cutting a CD sized hole in one of the panels, and ideally in a panel that connects to your neighbour’s garden. If everyone did this, it would create a hedgehog highway allowing access to a significant total area for hedgehogs. They need to be able to roam to find food and a mate – males can cover about three kilometres in a single night. 

Plant some shrubs or a hedge, as they prefer to move around under cover. 

A compost heap or log pile will give them a safe and cosy spot to spend the winter.

Provide some supplementary food – chicken cat biscuits are a favourite and they need help at this time of the year to put enough weight on to ensure they can survive their winter sleep. 

Please don’t use slug pellets, weed killers, and other poisons in your garden. We had reports of two or three dead hedgehogs on the school field a couple of years ago, it’s thought they died because of slug pellet use – hedgehogs eat the poisoned slugs which in turn of course poison the hedgehogs. 

Spiders

Both species photographed in Orchard Park home

Autumn is the time when you’re likely to see a large, brown, hairy spider scuttle across the carpet or find one in your bath or sink. Some information suggests they’ve just moved in temporarily to find shelter from harsh conditions outside, whilst other reports say they’re inside our homes all year round, but we only notice them in autumn when they come out of their hidey holes looking for a mate. For the arachnophobes, see if you can learn to live with them for the natural pest control service they offer, left alone they’ll rid your home of aphids, flies, and ants. You could even try giving them a name and watch them as though they’re a pet. 

The Zebra Jumping Spider shown above in real life is only about half a centimetre and actually quite cute if you take a proper look at it. You can see four of its four pairs of eyes. The two eyes at the front can move but the eyes at the side are fixed, and as a result of their eight eyes, they have excellent vision.  

The Large House Spider on the other hand has a body length of 10-16cm. The one in the photo was about ten centimetres including its legs. 

Birds

Robin singing

If you’ve not fed the birds before now, try offering some mixed seeds as they’re versatile and will attract a variety of species. Fat balls and fat cakes are particularly good as we go into the colder weather to give energy to our feathered friends. You can make your own seed feeder using a plastic bottle or fill a half coconut shell with fat.

Remember to keep your bird feeders as clean as possible – this is very important for the health of our visiting feathered friends!

Make a small pond to offer a bathing and drinking space for birds. Even a washing up bowl will help. 

Aquatic wildlife

Habitats can be made next to ponds to offer vital spaces for hibernating species like the Common Toad. Twigs, log piles, flowerpots and leaves can usually do the trick in providing a suitable home. 

Autumn is a good time to remove any dead leaves from your pond to reduce the possibility of poisonous gases that could affect any underwater creatures should the pond freeze over during winter. Native oxygenating plants such as Water crowfoot can help your pond provide oxygen to any aquatic wildlife.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Toad

Preparing your garden for Winter

Although it can be tempting to give your garden a bit of a spruce in Autumn by removing all the decaying plants, our wildlife really loves these as places to hide and shelter from the cold. Herbaceous plants and hollow stemmed plants are great little living spaces for overwintering insects. Even seedheads can make excellent habitat for insects as well as a great source of food for visiting birds and other wildlife.

Any fallen leaves that you may clear from paths can be used as mulch on flowerbeds – perfect for foragers such as blackbirds. 

Photo credit: Emma Kajiyama, OPWP volunteer

Try to avoid pruning hedges as they are havens for wildlife over winter, providing food, shelter and protection. Adding different species to your hedge will attract a wider variety of wildlife. For example, ivy can be a great source of food for insects, including late-flying bees such as the Carder bee, whilst berry-producing plants can help entice many birds to your garden.

If you don’t have a garden, you can still put up a nest box to provide shelter from the harsher weather. Nest boxes can be vital for the survival rate of certain bird species such as the Wren and members of the Tit family, increasing the possibility for more breeding birds once spring arrives.

Check out opwildlife.wordpress.com for more tips specific to the wildlife that lives on your doorstep

All photos OPWP unless otherwise credited

Thank you to new volunteer Emma Kajiyama for providing the text and photos for sections on preparing for winter, and aquatic animals and other info for this blog post 🙏

Communities Communicate – Stop the Chop

Nicole Barton, Histon and Impington Sustainability Group, Andrew Chan, Chair Orchard Park Community Council, and Pippa Heyling, South Cambridgeshire District Council at the A14 bridge at J32 with our communities’ collective artwork communicating our dismay at Highways England removing more trees during bird’s nesting season

It’s bird nesting season and for the second consecutive year this is happening in Histon and Impington, and this year also in Orchard Park ….. Highways England is clearing trees and shrubs.

Left a section of the A14 embankment in Orchard Park last year – this shows typical vegetation all along the embankment as it was last year. Today well over a 100 metres of the embankment looks like the photo on the right, and more trees and shrubs may be cleared yet.

All birds are protected from having their nests destroyed or removed during nesting season by the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Birds included in Schedule I of the Act are also protected from disturbance at nesting time. A license is needed to destroy or remove nests during nesting time.

We’re waiting for the ecological reports from Highways England whose representative yesterday claimed no trees were being removed from Orchard Park when clearly many already had been. It’s hard to believe not a single nest had been built in any of the vegetation that has been cleared.

Below are photos of artwork created by Histon and Impington residents to communicate dismay at Highways England’s tree and vegetation clearance, and the importance of trees for wildlife and clean air. The art, including lots created by children, was attached to the A14 Junction 32 bridge last night around 6pm, by 6am this morning, all had been removed. We’ve been silenced.

UK Wildlife Session with the Beavers

Running around in last night’s sunshine to look for hidden wildlife photos
Photo credit: Kathryn Pennell

All photos credit: Kathryn Pennell

Yesterday OPWP ran a session with the Beavers in and around the Community Centre. Many thanks to Holly of OPWP for organising all the resources and running the activities, and to the Beavers and leaders for the session.

Holly began the session by showing photos of a range of British wildlife, including quite a few animals that live in OP and asking for their identities. There were some easy ones, and a few more tricky ones. Then the group moved outside to play Wildlife Bingo, marking off animals as they found the photos Holly had hidden around the Community Centre grounds. Cameras were handed out and the Beavers set off to find and photograph lots of different nature related things, including something beautiful, and something smelly. Back inside we played the ‘Who Am I’ game, but instead of famous people, the Beavers had to guess which animal they were based on clues from the others.

We had fine weather for the session, and they all seemed to enjoy running around outdoors 😀

Thank you to the Beaver group – we look forward to our next session with you.

Next event at the Orchard – Saturday 29 October 2016 1-4pm

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next event will be in the Orchard, behind the sports ground on Ring Fort Rd (see map) on Saturday 29th October 2016 1-4pm. We’ll be working with artists from Kettle’s Yard to explore our place and wildlife.

Create your own ceramic signs which celebrate the amazing variety of apples growing Orchard Park.  The signs and labels will be left in the Orchard area permanently to help visitor identify the apples growing and find out about them. They will also form part of You Are Here, a new map of North Cambridge being created by Open House artist in residence, Isabella Martin.

We’ll have an apple press on loan from Histon and Impington Community Orchard Project and Inder’s Kitchen will be there making apple chutney.

More details will follow soon.

State of Nature 2016

goldfinch-bamboo

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.

#DoSomethingGreat with ideas from BBC’s Springwatch

rubbish

#DoSomethingGreat Bags of litter, bicycle tires, and ironing board after our Wildlife Area tidy last year. Just one of the great things you can do to help wildlife.

Alongside the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Day Wild initiative, BBC’s Springwatch has their own #DoSomethingGreat campaign. Why not have a look at some of their activities, many of which are free and can be done with stuff you’ll have around the home. There are lots of great ideas to keep the kids occupied in the upcoming summer holiday season.

Orchard Park Wildlife Project has bat detecting coming up on Friday 24th June, (due to poor weather on the 24th, this has now been rescheduled for Friday 1st July – meet at the Wildlife Area, end of Ring Fort Road, CB4 (opposite Premier Inn) at 8.30pm) and our Summer Safari on Sunday 17th July (more about this soon) – you can learn how to #DoSomethingGreat for our local wildlife if you come along to these events 🙂

From the Springwatch website:

This spring the BBC wants volunteers to join its Do Something Great campaign. Here at Springwatch, we want YOU to go out there and help nature and our wonderful wildlife! From litter picking and beach cleans to planting trees and restoring reed beds, there’s something for everyone. Take a look at the events listed below to find one near you, and tell us all about it! Use #Springwatch and #DoSomethingGreat on Facebook and Twitter. And we want to see your volunteering photos and videos, we’ll be sharing ours! It’s never been easer to get out there and Do Something Great!

 

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

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 🙂

 

 

Happier Apple Trees and more basking sites at the Balancing Pond

IMG_3515

Orchard Bob explaining how and where to cut

IMG_3518

Dan from HICOP begins pruning

IMG_3517

Dan from HICOP removes crossing branches, Kate pruning adjacent to path

Yesterday we had our session learning from the very knowledgeable and helpful Orchard Bob. We were shown how to prune and care for our apple trees and we now feel we know enough to take on their management confidently in future.

Bob provided a report with recommendations for the future, so we have a clear plan to work to.

Dan from Histon and Impington Community Orchard Project (HICOP) joined us to brush up on his skills, and we hope to collaborate with HICOP for future events.

IMG_3514

A clean small cut beyond the growth rings should help the tree to heal after pruning

IMG_3516

This is what a well pruned tree looks like

As well as pruning the trees so that they grow into the right shape, we also removed rubber straps which were no longer needed and in some cases were causing problems for the trees.

IMG_3523

Canker (a fungal infection) starting where the rubber strap had damaged the tree. It should heal now the strap has been removed

We were able to do a bit of tree guard recycling to add guards to the apple trees to further protect them from strimmer damage, when the wildflowers and grass around them are cut.

IMG_3522

Recycled guard to protect against strimmer damage

It was great to look back at the Orchard and see the trees looking like they were being well cared for. Lichens have already colonised the trees, and hopefully the area will be really good for wildlife in a few years time.

All cuttings were put in piles in the Wildlife Area to provide habitat for invertebrates.

We also removed seedlings from the Balancing Pond area to reduce scrub vegetation there, opening up basking sites for reptiles and invertebrates.

With many thanks to Bob and Dan, we enjoyed working with you 🙂