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.

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Fledglings, Flowers, Insects and Formulating Plans

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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.

From The Mammal Society

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From The Mammal Society: The once familiar hedgehog has declined dramatically over the past few decades.  Surprisingly, for such a well-loved creature, very little is known about why the hedgehog is in crisis.  This makes it difficult to target conservation efforts to where they will be most effective.  It is presumed that road accidents, and the loss of suitable, well-connected habitat might be important.  Yet in some areas the hedgehog still seems to be thriving.  It is not known whether this is because they are being given supplementary food in people’s gardens.

We are therefore appealing for you to help with our Big Hedgehog Watch Project.  We want to know how long it is since you last saw a hedgehog; whether any were spotted in your garden or neighbourhood last year; and whether you feed your prickly visitors.  Last year, almost 4,000 people responded in just 4 weeks and the survey revealed that:

  • 87% of people that reported sightings saw them in their garden;
  • Almost 70% of the people that saw hedgehogs in their gardens fed them
  • Almost 70% of the people that fed them saw the hedgehogs more than five times
Fiona Mathews, Chair of the Mammal Society says “Hedgehogs sadly, are experiencing an unprecedented decline throughout the UK and we are still not sure of the cause. We are therefore appealing for people to fill in this survey and let us know of their last hedgehog sighting, dead or alive.  Even if it more than a year since you saw one, please tell us because it helps us to identify where hedgehogs are disappearing”.

The online survey is available on the Mammal Society website and takes just a few minutes to complete. All completed surveys will go towards the conservation of one of our most loved species. You can also help hedgehogs by contributing to the Mammal Society’s hedgehog appeal. To donate or to fill in the survey, visit www.mammal.org.uk/science-research/surveys

The survey will be open until 1st December 2017.

Cambridge seems to be a good place for hedgehogs, let’s keep feeding them to ensure we help to maintain our local population. For more ideas on what you can do to help see: https://hedgehoggardens.wordpress.com

 

Seeking funding to investigate the presence of the amphibian chytrid fungus in a non-native species

Swabbing midwife toad. Photo by Steven Allen

Swabbing midwife toad. Photo by Steven Allen

By Steven J R Allain and Mark James Goodman, text taken directly from experiment.com

Backed by Brian Colin Eversham, Talita Bateman, Lindsay Stronge, and Clare Worden

About the project 

Click here for comprehensive information and how to fund from experiment.com

We’re currently studying a population of the common midwife toad (Alytes obstetricans) in Cambridge, England. The species is non-native and our current goal is to screen the population for the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), which has been implemented in amphibian population declines worldwide. As an introduced species, the disease is one of the biggest threats to our native herpetofauna.
What is the context of this research?

This project has been ongoing for the past couple of years. In 2015, the first midwife toads were confirmed. Since then, we have continued to swab toads for the fungus, although only a small number of samples have been analysed. Currently we are working on producing a manuscript to be published in a peer-reviewed journal with our initial results. We hope to raise the funds to pay for the analysis of the swabs currently in cold storage and also allow us to continue the project into the next year or two.

What is the significance of this project?

The chytrid fungus has already caused the extinction of 200 amphibian species and threatens hundreds more around the globe. One of the main introduction routes for the disease is through the introduction of non-native species. The disease affects different species and populations differently and so infected animals may not show clinical signs of infection. This means that screening them by swabbing for the disease is the only way we’ll know whether or not they are infected.

What are the goals of the project?

We aim to establish whether or not, as a non-native species, the midwife toads we are studying are acting as a vector of the chytrid fungus. Through analysis we also wish to determine how prevalent the disease is, if it is present, and how we can mitigate the spread to local amphibians. We’ve been taking morphometric data of all of the toads we swab (including tadpoles) so that we can build a better idea of the population structure too. This, twinned with the results from the swabs, will allow us to see which individuals were infected, the location they were found and their age-class. Using this information we should be able to track transmission pathways (if the disease is present).

Budget

Chytrid Swab Analysis$1,500
The only real cost we have is the analysis of our samples which cost ~$30 per sample. This analysis is a qPCR test which tests the samples for chytrid fungus DNA, which will be carried out at the Institute of Zoology, London Zoo. We estimate the population to be between 50 and 100 individuals, we’d like to sample at least half of these if possible. The budget will allow us to pay for the analysis of approximately 50 samples and will only be used on analysis.

 

 

Summer Safari 2017

Many thanks indeed again to Peter Pilbeam, Pat and Alan of Cambridgeshire Mammal Group for setting the traps around Orchard Park, and to Tim and Carol Inskipp for identifying everything we came across.

Many thanks too to everyone who came along. We hope you enjoyed it.

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Some of the people at the Summer Safari as we explored the edge of the grassland

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Traps set and ready to distribute

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Cambridgeshire Mammal Group members setting the traps

Bank Vole Myodes glareolus

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Birds:

Common Swift Apus apus

Feral Pigeon Columba livia

Magpie Pica pica

Starling Sturnus vulgaris

puffed up starling

Starling

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

good goldfinch

Goldfinch

Bumblebees:

Early Bumblebee Bombus pratorum

Common Carder Bee Bombus pascuorum

Red-tailed Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius

White/Buff-tailed Bumblebee (not possible to separate these species at this time of year, except for Queens)

Moths:

Garden Grass-veneer Chrysoteuchia culmella

Shaded Broad-bar Scotopteryx chenopodiata

Eggar sp. Lasiocampa sp.

Butterflies:

Small Skipper Thymelicus sylvestris

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus

Beetles:

Common Red Soldier Beetle Rhagonycha fulva

7-spot Ladybird Coccinella 7-punctata

Other insects:

Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus

Roesel’s bushcricket Metrioptera roeselii

Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus

Southern Hawker dragonfly Aeshna cyanea

Other invertebrates

Brown-lipped Snail Cepaea nemoralis

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Web Nursery Spider Pisauris mirabilis

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Black Ant sp.

Walnut Leaf Gall Aceria erinea

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Lime Nail Gall Eriophyes liliae

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Summer Safari 2017

SS17 poster

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

Earth Optimism: David Attenborough in his Building and Cambridge Wide Wildlife Groups

We had lots of visitors to the Cambridge Wild stall on Saturday with many interesting conversations concerning such matters as the best locations for bug hotels, how to grow your own tomatoes and where and how to volunteer for wildlife activities. Importantly, we asked people to make a pledge to help wildlife and the environment. We hope everyone got their pledge passports stamped and counted at reception in the David Attenborough Building, and look forward to hearing how many positive actions were promised. The slogan for the event was: BECOME INSPIRED, LEAVE EMPOWERED Please do as you pledged 🙂

Orchard Park Wildlife Project enjoyed being there as part of Cambridge Wild, along with Cambridge Natural History Society; many thanks to Rebecca Jones and Monica Frisch from the respective organisations for setting up a great stall and inviting us along.

Conservation Optimism Summit 20-22 April 2017, Cambridge Wild and OPWP at ‘Going Wild Solutions Fair’

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Adapted from the Cambridge Conservation Forum website: Conservation is too often seen as a crisis discipline, and one in which bad news dominates. Although we are facing huge challenges, there are many positive stories where conservation and other sectors have made a difference to people’s lives and to the status of wild nature.

A summit which will reframe the conservation movement by celebrating positive thinking in conservation, and putting forward a road map for change towards an optimistic and forward-thinking future begins today.

Lasting 3 days in all, with two days at Dulwich College in Oxford and then one day at ZSL London Zoo, a twin event is also taking place in Cambridge hosted by the Cambridge Conservation Initiative focussing on public outreach and citizen engagement. The summit is part of a global launch to further promote the #Earthoptimism network.

Organisers really want as many people to participate in this event as possible, from academics to students, people working in the arts, to people from the business and public policy sectors who want to promote all the great work that is being done to support nature.

Orchard Park Wildlife Project will be at the David Attenborough Building, Pembroke St, Cambridge, on Saturday from 11.00 as part of the Cambridge Wild network in the ‘Walk on the wild side – connecting people to nature’ part of Going Wild Solutions Fair.

The Fair is divided into four themes, each of which addresses an aspect of daily life. Within each theme visitors will be able to take part in activities relating to that theme, ask questions, and pledge to make positive changes in their lives.

There no advanced booking for the Solutions Fair: everyone is welcome, so please come along to immerse yourself in what promises to be an uplifting, inspirational and action-packed day.

Buying Smart: reuse, recycle and repair

In this zone visitors will be able to bring clothes to swap, take a fresh look at recycling, learn where their purchases come from, and what the real price of plastic is. This zone will also include a free repair café, so visitors are encouraged to bring their broken bits and pieces, giving these items a second chance and preventing them from ending up in landfill. Stallholders include Amey Cespa, M&S, Circular Cambridge, Pukka Herbs, TRAFFIC, John Lewis, FSC, RSPB, Fauna & Flora International, and Cambridge Repair Café.

Bright Ideas: lowering your carbon footprint

Here visitors will be able to learn how to tread lightly by lowering their carbon footprint through, for example, green energy and sustainable travel, as well as carbon offsetting. Stallholders include Cambridge Carbon Footprint, World Land Trust, Cool Earth, and Transition Cambridge.

Eating Well: learning about a sustainable diet 

This theme aims to dispel the myths around food and the environment, and gets to the nitty gritty of what a sustainable diet really is. Stallholders include Marine Conservation Society, WOUP, Cambridge Food Cycle, WRAP, Cambridge Sustainable Food, Hodmedods, and Hotel Chocolat.

In the Going Wild theme, visitors will see how easy it is to get into nature and what they can do to help wildlife, from hedgehogs to bees. Stallholders include National Trust, Natural England, The Wildlife Trusts, British Ecological Society, Cambridge Wild, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, University of Cambridge Botanic Garden, Roots & Shoots, and Brighton high school.

In addition to the four themes, the top floor of the David Attenborough Building will be given over to the environment and the arts, with poetry readings, writing workshops, bird therapy and more, providing the perfect space to come and relax during the #EarthOptimism Solutions Fair.

The Solutions Fair runs concurrently with the Stories of Hope programme in the Babbage Lecture Theatre on the same day.

Cambridge Wild

From the Cambridge Wild website:

CambridgeWild: www.cambridgewild.org.uk
We are also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/cambridgewild.

What is Cambridge Wild?

  • programme of wild places – and wildlife-related events in July in Cambridge. We especially like them to be free to access for all ages and abilities. We don’t currently have any funds to support these but can help promote them and, maybe, find extra volunteers (see below).
  • An informal network of people and groups interested in wild spaces, wildlife and how people interact with them – we are based in and around Cambridge and most of us are volunteers (see below).
  • portal to other resources (see below). Two-page summary list to print.

Programme of events in July 2017

We are still working on this but might have a bit of a ‘pollinator’ focus this year. In the meantime, this is what we have gathered:

  • Cambridge Botanic Garden are working on their summer events programme now
  • Cambridge Natural History Society – have a visit to Wandlebury on 5 July and a Field study at Coldham’s Common on 20 July (events page)
  • Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook will do one or more nature walk(s) along the brook (dates to be arranged)
  • Nightingale garden – we hope to do a bat walk and overnight moth trap  (probably Friday 7 and Saturday 8 July) and maybe some other mini-beast hunting, tree trail or pond-related activities. We might do something at Wulfstan Way shops too – depending on how the new raingardens are doing.
  • Orchard Park – will do a wildlife safari (8 July – activities page)
  • Wildlife Trust – Cambridge Local GroupEast Pit glow-worm survey – Weds 26 July from 10.15pm
  • Wildlife Trust around Cambridge are working on their June+ events programme at the moment
  • Wildlife Trust and ScudamoresBat punt safaris – Friday evenings from May to September (really good!). There is a charge for this but it benefits the Trust.

Getting Your Garden Surveyed

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Would you be interested in having your garden surveyed? Cambridge Natural History Society are looking for people who’d be happy to have a survey team identify the animals and plants living there. By taking part you’d be contributing to a Cambridge wide project mapping our local fauna and flora.

From the Cambridge Natural History Society website:

“Urban domestic gardens occupy a substantial proportion of the area of British towns – about 20-25% according to a study in Sheffield. They are a notable resource for wildlife and full of interesting plants. In summer 2016 we developed a protocol for recording species in gardens and tried it out in four. We are looking for gardens in as many Cambridge monads (1-km squares) as possible. We are trying to spread the gardens out so that we have only one in each monad.

In each garden we note the plant species, and ask the owner to tell us of the vertebrates that they have seen in the past two years. We also record what we find when we go there. We ask the owner for information about management, in particular pest control and wildlife management. Then we go and make records of (1) Vascular plants (summer), (2) Small mammals (autumn) and (3) Bryophytes (winter). As part of the plant recording we take soil samples and note the weeds in two squares of size 1 m² placed in flower beds.”

 

They’re also interested to see what we’ve found at the Wildlife Area, so we’ll provide our records.

Please let us know if you’d like to take part if you’re in Orchard Park by sending an email to opwildlife@gmail.com we’ll pass your details on to Cambridge Natural History Society and we can provide some assistance to identify what’s living on your doorstep 🙂 If you’re outside Orchard Park and/or you have ID skills and are willing to help with surveys, please contact NatHistCam@gmail.com

2017 and RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

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Image credit: RSPB

OPWP is working with the OP Community Council and others to create our activity plan for 2017. We will announce the activities soon.

In the meantime, to get going with wild fun this year, why not take part in the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, it’s the world’s largest wildlife survey and happening on 28-30 January.

Click here to request a free pack from the RSPB to get you started.

Click here to download a free pack.

The packs offer food ideas, activities, bird identification guides and a calendar showing all types of wildlife, not just birds, that you’re likely to see each month from January until December.

It would be great to hear what you see around Orchard Park during the birdwatch – use the form below to let us know.

During this cold and wet weather, I’ve had more Blackbirds than usual in my garden. Although I see Pied Wagtails regularly around Orchard Park, they’re not normally visitors to my garden, but I’ve seen a couple hopping around this last week. I’ve put some extra food out, hopefully something suitable for most visitors, and I need to make sure I’ve replenished my stock of food for Robins in time for the Birdwatch. The wider the variety of food you offer, the wider variety of birds you’ll attract.