Q: Why do owls never go courting in the rain?

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A: Because it’s too wet to woo!

Wet wildlife jokes aside, it’s been a difficult time for wildlife this year, what with the extended icy cold spell at the beginning of the year, soon to be followed by the recent searing heat and droughts.

Thankfully the wildlife and their habitats in Orchard Park are getting a thorough watering today.

If it does turn hot and dry for another extended spell, please do consider putting bowls of fresh water (definitely NOT milk) and some food: cat or dog food, chicken ideally (definitely NOT fish) out each night for hedgehogs. They’re suffering particularly badly according to local sources: Shepreth Hedgehog Hospital and Kingfisher Wildlife Sanctuary in Great Abingdon are both calling for equipment and donations because of the increased numbers of seriously dehydrated hedgehogs being taken to them for attention. It’s a similar story all over the UK as Fay Vass from the British Hedgehog Preservation Society said in a recent article in the Independent “Food is scarce as well because their food is worms, slugs and beetles and they are all hiding away well below the surface… so they are coming into the centres very skinny, very hungry and desperately needing water.”

 

Birds and other wildlife will also appreciate any food you can provide. Water should be plentiful for a few days if the rain continues like this – and it will according to forecasts.

An OP resident that has been feeding and providing water for hedgehogs regularly has been rewarded for their efforts recently – they captured the video and photos of this healthy looking hedgehog included this blog post 😍. Thank you for sharing 😀 and most importantly, thank you for helping our local wildlife.

 

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OP Community Primary School Wildlife of the Wildflower Bank Drawing Competition – Winners Announced

Many thanks indeed to the school children for submitting some amazing wildlife drawings. Wildlife expert and OPWP Committee member Carol Inskipp has chosen the following drawings (one from each year) as the winners, as these represent the wildlife of the Wildflower Bank most accurately. I dropped off a wildlife themed prize for each winning drawing at the school on Monday. We will put the winning drawings on the sign at the Wildflower Bank, and add as many of the other drawings as possible.

THE WINNERS – Congratulations 🙂

Reception Dandelion Christopher

Dandelion Christopher Rec
Year 1 Common Blue Butterfly Adrian
Common Blue Butterfly Adrian Y1
Year 2 White tailed Bumblebee Srithanvi
White tailed bumblebee Srithanvi Y2
Year 3 Grasshopper Maximo
Grasshopper Maximo Y3
Year 4 – no drawings submitted for consideration
Year 5 Harlequin Ladybird, Shepherds Purse, Crested Dogs Tail, Cowslip, Lisa
Harlequin ladybird shepherds purse crested dogs tail cowslip Lisa Y5
Year 6 Daisy Niko
Daisy Niko Y6

Other Drawings by Year

Reception

 

Year 1

 

Year 2

 

Year 3

Year 4 – no drawings submitted for consideration

Year 5

 

Year 6

 

Others, no year given

 

The Art of Wildlife

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Whilst looking for a UK wildlife themed birthday gift, I came across Alison Fennell’s art. I loved the depictions of native birds from the small – this beautifully bright blue tit, to the larger – a barn owl, with puffins, magpiesravens and other birds available in between. There are gorgeous prints of native mammals such as foxes and stags, as well African animals – giraffes, elephants to name a few. With a choice of over 160 different prints comprising frogs, seahorses, chickens, swans, rats and wrens, there’s likely to be something for most wildlife lovers.

I bought a barn owl print as the gift for a strigiformophile (I just made that word up). A very good choice as the response was “I love it”.

Originally, I’d needed the gift in a hurry and Alison sent it by special post to arrive very quickly. It was carefully packaged and neatly wrapped in pretty paper. You couldn’t ask for better customer service.

So if you’re looking for a wildlife themed gift, why not have a look at Alison’s wildlife themed prints – they offer a great way to encourage connection with wildlife. My blue tit makes me smile each time I look at it – thank you Alison.

For Alison’s shop see –  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/AlisonFennellArt

Look what we found at the Wildflower Bank……

Cinnabar Moth_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae

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Bioblitz info, ID resources, and ideas on pots for pollinators Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

me and kid holding net pot

Look what I’ve found Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

 

The weather on Monday was fantastic for the informal mini BioBlitz at the Wildflower Bank, we couldn’t have hoped for it to be better. Thank you so much to Lush for the Charity Pot Party which raised money to buy materials and equipment necessary to run the event. Expertise from OPWP regulars Carol Inskipp, Tim Inskipp, and Louise Bacon from Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC) made the event possible and we’re very grateful, it wouldn’t have happened without your ID skills. We appreciate that the school gave us the opportunity to introduce the event in assembly last Friday, thanks to Holly Freeman of OPWP for organising that.

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Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

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Wildflower Bank with many daisies Photo credit: Pippa Heylings

Thanks to all that came along, we hope you enjoyed it. The event started off slowly, then got very busy, very quickly, with a an estimated thirty children, and their parent(s) joining us for a short time, or a long time. Some children were very keen and asked for help to identify a number of different creatures, others were happy when they’d caught a single insect, and some focussed on finding as many of a particular type of insect as possible. It was great to see Miss Williamson with a group of children in an after school session. The Royal Entomological Society’s National Insect Week resources were key for the children to each have their own mini ID guides to use as they set off with their pots, pottles, and pooters to locate insects, and for the pens, pencils and note pads to record what they’d found. The Royal Entomological Society’s yellow National Insect Week t-shirt was a big hit with Pollen Beetles, I was covered in them! They’re only a few mm long.

District Councillor for Histon and Impington, Pippa Heylings, who is organising sub groups of the Histon and Impington Sustainability Groups to undertake green space surveys, and manage our Wildflower Verges better for wildlife, came along, and took several of the photos included here. Most appreciated as I didn’t have a minute to take any.

Pollen beetle

All of the following invertebrates were found and identified during the event. The photos below, and the Cinnabar moth above, were all taken by Carol Inskipp and shown to the children during the event so they could view the creatures they’d found in close up. Thanks so much for these. Click on the common names to see more information about each.

Meadow Plant Bug Leptopterna dolabrata_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Photo credit: Carol Inskipp. Meadow Plant Bug Leptoterna dolabrata

Harlequin Ladybird larva2_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Harlequin Ladybird larva 1 Harmonia axyridis

Harlequin Ladybird larva_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Harlequin Ladybird larva 2 Harmonia axyridis

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Garden Spider Araneus diadematus

Garden Grass Veneer_Chrysotechia culmella_Orchard Park+18 June 18

Garden Grass Veneer Chrysotechia culmella

Cinnabar Moth_Orchard Park_18 June 18

Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae

a Flower Beetle Oedenera lurida _Orchard Park_18 June 18

Flower Beetle 2 Oedenera lurida

Tim is working on the plant list, and there’ll be a separate blog post on the flora at the Wildflower Bank, and its management soon.

All records, once finalised, will be sent to CPERC.

Our survey on 18th June can serve as a baseline, so we can see if the biodiversity of the Wildflower Bank improves over time with management changes.

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.

Hedgehog Update

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Hedgehog found near the Wildlife Area. Photo Credit (from video): Andrew Chan

The small, weak, wobbling Hedgehog that Andrew Chan (OPCC) found at the Wildlife Area a few weeks ago, is doing reasonably well. Identified as No.7 by his carer Kathleen (she doesn’t want to get too attached by giving them names) she thinks he’s a male but he’s often rolled into a ball and reluctant to unroll so she’s not absolutely sure. After he’d been checked out by Village Vets in Milton, they took him to Cathlene for rehabilitation. Eating very well now and having a voracious appetite, No.7 needs to put on much more weight before he can be released back into the wild. Kathleen says he’s probably a juvenile born last autumn that didn’t manage to put on enough weight prior to hibernation. Unfortunately so far, he’s only gained 25g. He’s currently living in a hutch and will soon be treated for roundworm. In Kathleen’s very capable hands, given time, it’s most likely he will do well enough for release.

This is a very good time of the year to offer hedgehogs food as they come out of hibernation hungry: chicken cat or dog food is ideal, certainly not fish. Always offer fresh water too, but definitely no milk.

UPDATE 5 APRIL: Kathleen has let me know that he’s now doing much better and is weighing in at 500g

Hopes for 2018

 

We normally try to end the year on a positive note. However this time, I’m posting on the state of the Wildlife Area again. Whilst improved efforts by the OP Community Council and OP Wildlife Project (OPWP) to keep the area clean have made a positive difference overall these last few years, it’s still very disheartening to see littering and vandalism continuing to be major problems. These photos were taken on the 9th November when Andrew from the Community Council and I had a look around.

OPWP has given talks to OP School children and OP Scout Group about dangers of litter to wildlife (Litter at the Wildlife Area) and both have helped enormously with litter picks. We’d like to thank them for their efforts. It’s a shame to see them go to waste though when the area returns back to this state after a matter of weeks.

OPWP will be arranging more litter picks for next year and we’d be grateful to anyone that can get involved. Most folks that join in find litter picks strangely addictive and children generally really enjoy them.

The purpose of OPWP is simple: WE AIM TO MAKE ORCHARD PARK BETTER FOR PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE THROUGH COMMUNITY ACTION. There are benefits for volunteers too, and although this post is from someone based in the USA, the points raised are valid here in OP too: Benefits of volunteering Being in contact with nature has also been proven as beneficial to our health: Nature benefits. Free, fun and good for you, what’s not to like? Do join us.

After a series of successful collaborations with OP School in 2017, we will be running more sessions there again in 2018. We’ll be planning our events for the community soon too, and will post details here and on Facebook. Sadly last year turn outs to some community events were much lower than in previous years and our community planting for food and pots for pollinators projects had a slower start than we’d hoped (Raised bed at the Community Centre). The bug hotel was also destroyed Bug Hotel Destroyed.

We hope 2018 will be better in terms of community involvement but we really need your help to realise that.

We’d like to thank everyone that helped out last year either by collaborating, giving time, expertise, or financial support to the project.

Anyone that has something positive to bring in 2018 is very welcome to join us.

 

Helping Wildlife in Autumn, Leave the Leaves :)

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autumn-leaves

Below is a compilation of information about how to help our local wildlife in Autumn.

From Gardeners’ World Website:

Leaves

Remove leaves from paths or lawns but transfer them to a corner or beneath a hedge, where hedgehogs and other animals can crawl for shelter.

Ponds

Male frogs often spend winter in the muddy depths of ponds, breathing through their skin. But if the pond freezes over, gases caused by decaying plant material can get trapped and poison them. Remove debris from ponds now, and float a tennis or golf ball on the surface to prevent ice from sealing it.

Twigs

Put bundles of twigs at the back of borders, or in a plant pot on its side, where invertebrates and small mammals can shelter.

Borders

Leave herbaceous borders intact in winter so decaying plants can act as a ‘winter duvet’ for small mammals and insects. Clumps of ornamental grasses may offer the perfect hibernaculum for a hedgehog, while hollow plant stems and seedheads provide nooks and crannies for invertebrates. Seedheads are also a source of oil-rich food for birds which may visit to feed.

Plant pots

Leave stacks of plant pots in a sheltered spot to offer shelter for bees and other insects needing a cool, dry place.

Compost heaps

A variety of species, including hedgehogs and queen bumblebees, find compost heaps the perfect place to hibernate. if your heap is in a plastic bin with a lid, this will keep it dry, but be sure to provide access for hibernators at the base by standing the bin on bricks. If you have an open bin, cover it with a thick piece of old carpet to keep it dry and insulated. Avoid disturbing the bin between autumn and April, when all species will have finished their long snooze.

From House Beautiful Website:

Ivy

One of the best plants for your garden wildlife is ivy, especially in autumn and winter. Many flowering plants will start to die during the colder season, whereas ivy flowers are only starting to flourish. These prove to be an important source of food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators when other nectar-bearing plants are dying off.The evergreen nature of ivy is perfect for sheltering birds and insects while other trees lose all their leaves. If that wasn’t enough, ivy also produces winter berries that are a wonderful food source for birds, who use their energy to control their own body temperature.

Nurturing garden ivy is probably the most important piece of advice for helping nature survive this autumn and winter.

Bird Food

It’s important to keep their food and water sources topped up in your garden. As soon as the temperatures drop and the natural berries disappear, birds will appreciate your offering – they rely on high-energy, high-fat winter food to fuel them through the colder months.

 

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.