Making Recycled Bird Seed Feeders with the Youth Group

Last Thursday OPWP held an event with Young People’s Workers at the Orchard Community Centre for the local youth group to make seed feeders from bottles. Some of the bottles had been collected during the scout’s recent litter pick. We demonstrated how to make the feeders and repurpose the bottles and how to fill them with a mix of seeds and suet (it stays in a bit better if suet is heated and added to the seed mix – just make the opening a little larger than suggested in the instructions below). We also had some bird books on hand to show the types of birds the feeders are likely to attract locally.

Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to work with you, and we look forward to the events we’ve planned for the summer: making the bug hotel, and getting everything going with the raised beds 🙂

Click on the links below for information on making seed feeders:

RSPB Instructions for making seed feeders

And for the seedy suet mix see the Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Watch activity sheet:

seed suet mix

Collaborative Map of North Cambridge Installed at The Orchard Community Centre

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The map, which was created by artist in residence Isabella Martin as part of her You Are Here project, has been installed by Kettles Yard this afternoon at the Orchard Community Centre. Go along and have a look. See if you can see Orchard Park and how it has been represented by local people. The map is interesting, funny and informative. We’ve got plans for the wildlife tiles which were also created at our event with Kettles Yard artists at the Orchard as part of the project. Watch this space. Many thanks to all at Kettles Yard, we enjoyed working with you.

For more information on the project which culminated in the map, tiles and wider exhibition see: Lush, Art, Apples, Wildlife Maps, & Bats.

We’re planning our September/October Activities.

See Orchard Park’s Wildlife captured on your hand decorated tiles, in the follow up exhibition

Orchard Park’s Wildlife as part of “You Are Here” Exhibition

 

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.

All of the nest boxes were painted and we hope to see them around Orchard Park soon :)

 

All of the nest boxes are gone. Many thanks to the Community Council for funding them and to Scotsdales for providing free delivery. Do post pictures to show where your bird boxes have been placed around Orchard Park 🙂

For advice on where to put them click here

Many thanks for all the help setting up, running and taking the stall down too!

Meet the locals, give a bird family a home and contribute to conservation, whilst improving your own wellbeing

 

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Come along to Unwin Square, in front of the shops, on 1st April from 10.00-14.00. Orchard Park Community Council are organising an Easter Fun Day, click here for more information via the OPCC Facebook page. It’s a great chance to meet local folks, or to come along with your neighbours if you already know them.

Orchard Park Community Council have very kindly offered to cover the costs of some nest box kits (donations are welcome to help recoup some of their costs) which you can decorate and place in your garden, next to your window or balcony, to provide homes for our feathered friends. These boxes are most likely to attract birds from the Tit family (Paridae). They’re gorgeous and energetic little things, a joy to watch in the garden.

As mentioned previously, watching birds has been proven to improve our health and wellbeing. One study by the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and University of Queensland, involving hundreds of people, found benefits for mental health of being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighbourhoods.

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Blue tit, Orchard Park garden winter 2012

We can help you to find a suitable place to put your nest box up and let you know which birds you’re likely to see in your garden. Although many birds will have already started nesting, it’s not unusual for them to change nests for a second clutch, and if you’re not in time for them this year, there’s always next.

More information on nest boxes from the Gardenature website:

When is the latest time to put up a nest box in the season?

Garden birds generally start breeding around mid February, ideally you should have put a nest box in place by the end of Feb beginning of March. This said, we have known bird boxes to be put up in April that have had successful results.

When and how do I clean out the nest box ?

The nests of most birds harbour fleas and other parasites, these can remain to infest young birds that hatch the following year. We recommend that old nests be removed from August onwards or once you are certain the birds have stopped using the box.

Use boiling water to kill any remaining parasites, and let the box dry out thoroughly before replacing the front or top panels. Insecticides and flea powders must not be used.

How do I position my nest box ?

There are a number of guidelines you can follow to help maximise your chances of birds using a nest box.
It is highly recommended that you face the nest box between North and East. What is important is that you do not face the hole towards the prevailing wind as this will almost certainly mean that rain will get into the box in wet and windy weather. Try to avoid placing a nest box where there will be prolonged exposure to sunlight as overheating inside the box can sometimes result in heat stress to the chicks.
Placing a nest box in close proximity to a feeding device or feeding station may well put off birds from nesting in the box. Most nesting birds are highly territorial and do not like intruders on their territory. Either remove feeders just before and during the breeding season or place the nest box well away from the feeding station.
Make sure that the birds have a clear flight path to the nest box without any clutter directly in front of the entrance. Tilt the box forward slightly so that any driving rain will hit the roof and bounce clear.
To attract Blue Tits, Great Tits etc, ideally your nest box should be fixed two to five metres up a tree or wall to prevent predators such as cats reaching them.
Open-fronted boxes for robins and wrens need to be low down, below 2m, well hidden in vegetation. Those for spotted flycatchers need to be 2-4m high, sheltered by vegetation but with a clear outlook. Woodpecker boxes need to be 3-5m high on a tree trunk with a clear flight path and away from disturbance.
There are several methods for attaching your nest box to a tree. If using a nail try to make sure it is an aluminium one as this will cause the least damage to the tree and pose less of a hazard at a later date if the tree is cut down or trimmed using a chainsaw. Alternatively boxes can be attached with garden wire around the trunk or branch. Holes can be drilled on either side of the bird box roof to help do this. Use a piece of garden hose or similar around the wire to prevent damage to the tree.”
Also see the BTO Website.
Why do we need to provide birds with nest boxes?
From the BTO (see their website for additional information): “Natural nest sites for birds such as holes in trees or old buildings are disappearing fast as gardens are ‘tidied’ and old houses are repaired.”
Benefits of nest boxes 
Adapted from the BTO: “Whether you’re a family with space for a box in your garden, a teacher, a member of a local wildlife group, or you belong to a bird club and could organise a work party, providing a nest box gives you the chance to contribute to the conservation effort in the UK whilst giving you the pleasure of observing any breeding birds that you attract to your garden.”
If you’re really keen you can monitor the box and provide feedback to OPWP and the BTO: https://www.bto.org/about-birds/nnbw/monitor

Less litter at the Wildlife Area

Many thanks to Orchard Park Community Council for organising the litter pick today, and to everyone who came to help. It was surprisingly warm, and the sun came out soon after 10am. A few of us went back to the Orchard Community Centre for tea and biscuits afterwards.

Although there was a lot of litter when we arrived, it wasn’t as bad as it has been on other occasions. As usual cans, bottles, and crisp bags were the most numerous items. Particularly concerning are the small pieces of polystyrene packaging. They seem to have come from one large package – we’ve been picking these up for four years now, and yet a lot remain. Animals can eat the pieces causing clogging of the digestive tract and choking. We really need to make sure that no more pieces get into the Wildlife Area, and keep working away to remove these remaining hundreds or thousands of polystyrene bits.

For information on the dangers of litter to wildlife see previous posts:

Litter Pick at the Wildlife Area

The Wildlife Area is Clean 🙂

Yet again, disgusting levels of litter at the Wildlife Area and balancing pond

What is wrong with people?

Litter 😦

Successful litter pick

We hope to share our 2017 activity plan for the rest of the year very soon.

 

 

Birds on the Busway

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Waxwing feeding along the busway near the Science Park bus stop

On Thursday I heard that a museum (that’s their collective noun) of Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulous) had been seen on the busway near the Science Park busway stop. I woke early this morning and decided I’d go along to see if I could find them.

On the way in the cold and mist I saw around ten nests from last year in the hedge, robins, blackbirds, goldfinches, magpies, pied wagtails, blue tits, great tits, and squirrels.

Then as the Science Park busway stop came into view, I spotted a group of birds with crests on their heads, and thought that must be them. I stopped to  look more closely, and yes, there were about 15-20 feeding.

They’re not permanent residents here, but every three or four years when food is scarce in Scandinavia they arrive along the east coast from October to March moving inland in search of berries, particularly rowan and hawthorn. These birds, similar to Starlings in size, come in large numbers known as irruptions.

I was expecting them to be quite noisy, but I didn’t hear any sounds. The video by the RSPB  shows them feeding noisily.

Video of Waxwings from RSPB website

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.

Orchard Park’s Wildlife as part of “You Are Here” Exhibition

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The Collaborative Map of North Cambridge created at a range of workshops across the area

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It was a pleasure to see the depictions of Orchard Park’s wildlife on tiles, and all the other colourful exhibits, at the “You Are Here” exhibition by North Cambridge Artist in Residence Isabella Martin. Various artistic sessions in the North Cambridge area culminated in the Exhibition held on Friday and Saturday at the Church of the Good Shepherd off Arbury Road. For more details click: “You Are Here“. Last month Karen Thomas from Kettle’s Yard and artist Rosanna Martin came to oversee our artistic endeavours at our event in OP’s Orchard.

I attempted to photograph each and every wildlife tile shown at the exhibition – can you spot yours? They’re in the slideshow above, you can hit the ‘pause’ button when you get to your tile so you can take a longer look. We plan to ‘release the tiles into the wild’ – details will follow on the blog when we’ve finalised the plans, we’d like everyone to know where their tiles go.

I was particularly pleased to see Orchard Park on the Collaborative Map of North Cambridge (see the second photo above), created at the workshops across the area, represented entirely by wildlife we’ve found here. It’s such a positive way to portray our community. Up to 250 people attending the exhibition were able to print their own copy of the map. The map is informative, amusing, and pleasing to the eye, and I look forward to putting the 202nd print on my wall. You can click on the photo of the map to see it as a bigger image – of course, OP is top left.

Many thanks indeed to Isabella, Rosanna and Karen – we really enjoyed working with you, and we hope you enjoyed making your wildlife tiles.

 

Sparrowhawk in OP Garden

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Sparrowhawk with Collared Dove prey, Orchard Park garden

I heard a new noise on Saturday in my garden. I always look when I hear something I can’t recognise from its call. To my surprise when I opened the curtains I saw the yellow eyes of a small bird of prey staring at me from my little tree. At first the bird appeared to be trapped amongst its tight, twisted branches, flapping around and seemingly unable to free itself. I closed the curtains briefly to think about how best to release it and wondered if it was sick or injured. When I opened the curtains again I realised the bird was absolutely fine, it had moved out of the tree and was holding down a struggling Collared Dove which I hadn’t noticed previously, it had obviously taken it in, or near to, my garden where lots of them congregate to take the food I put out. I was able to have a proper look at the bird of prey by now, as it was focussed only on finishing off the Collared Dove and plucking its feathers, and was not at all bothered by me just a couple of feet away. It was a Sparrowhawk. Over the course of an hour or so, I watched it pluck the feathers, then the meat off its prey. Quite gruesome, but it was also fascinating to see this beautiful and efficient killer so close up, I felt quite privileged, as this was happening outside my window, in Orchard Park!

Sparrowhawks can be seen all over the UK throughout the year. As this one has a brown back, it’s likely to be a female. Their scientific, or Latin name is Accipiter nisus and they belong in the family Accipitridae with other hawks and eagles.

More info on Sparrowhawks from the RSPB website:

“Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey. They’re adapted for hunting birds in confined spaces like dense woodland, so gardens are ideal hunting grounds for them. Adult male sparrowhawks have bluish-grey back and wings and orangey-brown bars on their chest and belly. Females and young birds have brown back and wings, and brown bars underneath. Sparrowhawks have bright yellow or orangey eyes, long, yellow legs and long talons. Females are larger than males, as with most birds of prey.

Where to see them

Sparrowhawks breed in woodland but also visit gardens and more open country. They can be seen in towns and cities, as well as rural areas. Listen for the alarm calls of smaller birds as they spot a sparrowhawk and will alert other birds in the area to the danger. In the UK sparrowhawks are found everywhere, except for parts of the Scottish Highlands, the Western Isles and Shetland.

When to see them

At any time of year; you might see birds displaying to each other in early spring, when males perform a ‘rollercoaster’ flight, climbing up and diving back down again to impress females.

What they eat

Mainly small birds, but 120 different species have been recorded. Males can catch birds up to thrush size, but females, being bigger, can catch birds up to pigeon size. Some sparrowhawks catch bats.

Population

Europe UK breeding* UK wintering* UK passage*
35,000 pairs

* UK breeding is the number of pairs breeding annually. UK wintering is the number of individuals present from October to March. UK passage is the number of individuals passing through on migration in spring and/or autumn.”