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

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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.

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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.

#DoSomethingGreat with ideas from BBC’s Springwatch

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#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

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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 🙂

 

 

Happier Apple Trees and more basking sites at the Balancing Pond

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Orchard Bob explaining how and where to cut

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Dan from HICOP begins pruning

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

20 March 10-12.30 at the Balancing Pond and Orchard, Habitats Management

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The Orchard September 2015

On 20th March 10am-12.30pm  Orchard Park Wildlife Project are doing habitat management at two adjacent but different sites. Meet over at the Orchard Area (next to the sports ground at the end of Ring Fort Road) at 10.00am. See map Do come along for as long or as little as you can – but please note if you want to take part in Orchard activities, please be at the Orchard at 10.00am for tool use and health and safety training. This is a free, fun and informative event 🙂

Bob, an expert on Orchard Management, will show us how to manage our Orchard Area properly. Experienced volunteers from the Histon and Impington Community Orchard Project will also be coming to help practically, and to brush up on their skills. Bob will provide tools. We hope to gain enough skills so that we can ensure the trees are well managed in the long term. We’d love to be able to harvest the apples in a community event in the autumn. Sadly a lot of apples were picked by children then wasted last year.

From Community Orchards: How to Guide (Department for Communities and Local Government 2011)

“A variety of flora and fauna can be supported by this environment – insects, birds, bees, bats, foxes and small mammals as well as wild flowers…. Orchards can protect bumblebees simply by creating a habitat for them to exist. Both honey bees and bumblebees are beneficial in pollinating orchards.”

We will also be working at the Balancing Pond, adjacent to the Wildlife Area, which has been identified as good habitat for basking reptiles and invertebrates. Although this area is called a pond, it is a dry pond, designed for road run off from the A14. Whilst it would be great to have another healthy pond in Orchard Park (the school has a pond), the sensitivity of amphibians to pollutants in road run off means it can’t developed as a regular pond for frogs and such. Instead, it’s gentle slopes and bare ground should be maintained for basking. We will be removing tree seedlings to help keep the vegetation sparse in this area. We know we have a healthy population of Common Lizards elsewhere in Orchard Park, so we hope these activities will make the Balancing Pond more suitable for them and other wildlife. During the Wildlife Trust BCN’s survey of Orchard Park in preparation for writing the Habitats Management Plan, Essex Skipper, Comma, and Gatekeeper Butterflies, as well as Common Blue Damselflies were seen at the Balancing Pond. Wild Carrot, Hop Trefoil, Common Bird’s-Foot-Trefoil, Yellow Toadflax, Ribwort Plantain and Hoary Willowherb were also present, and these provide nectar, alongside the range of grass species which create a good structure for insects to exploit. Our activities aim to maintain this structure.

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Photo taken by Steven Allain (Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group) during our Herpetology activity alongside the A14 last year

We expect the activities to last two hours or so. We will have a small supply of tools for use at the Balancing Pond.

Children 12 and under must be accompanied and supervised by an adult. Some activities will be suitable for all ages and abilities. Due to the sloping nature of the Balancing Pond this area may not be suitable for some people unsteady on their feet, and that includes me!

 

 

The Wildlife Area is Clean :)

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This is why it’s important to keep it clean:

http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/645999/Keep-Britain-Tidy-auction-Chris-Packmans-nature-photos-ebay

Many thanks to those who helped today. As well as litter picking we also removed some of the tree guards that were no longer helpful.

Look out for details of our next activity on 20 March.

Draft Activity Plan for 2016

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A little later than planned, here is the Draft Activity Plan for Orchard Park Wildlife Project for 2016. We have set dates and some times for activities coming up in the next few months. All activities are based on the recommendations in the Orchard Park Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire. There is scope to add or change activities, and we hope to build on the helpful collaborations leading to enjoyable events this last year or two. All activities are subject to appropriate approval and sourcing appropriate expertise and equipment. Times and dates may be subject to change, so, please keep an eye on the Orchard Park Wildlife and other Facebook groups, as well as here on the blog and Twitter where final details will be confirmed closer to the date.

We hope there is something for everyone. You’re always welcome to join us for a little or long as you are able whilst we try to help the wildlife on our doorstep from the bees, butterflies and moths, to the hedgehogs, herps and bats.

There are also many national wildlife campaigns taking place again this year:

National campaigns

to name but a few…. We’ll let you know as new dates are released so that you have the information you need to contribute to local and national wildlife conservation efforts through citizen science.

If there is an activity that you’d like to do but don’t see, then please get in touch, we’d like to hear from you.

Looking forward to doing our bit again for the wildlife of Orchard Park 🙂