What OP’s Cat Owners Can do to Help our Wildlife

Cats and bats credit Amazon dot com

Credit: Amazon.com

Taken directly from page 118 of The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife by Chris Packham et al. concerning cats and wildlife:

“According to research our cats kill 55 million songbirds every year in the UK and predate a total of 220 million other animals, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects.Given the great pressures this wildlife is under elsewhere these losses are almost certainly now significant.

It’s not the cat’s fault! And there are easy steps to take to reduce this toll.

We must ask cat owners to take responsibility, and here’s how…

  • Keep cats in at night – this can reduce overall predation by up to 50%. Unless you plan to breed your pets, have them neutered.
  • Ideally all free-roaming cats should be fitted with a collar and bell. This can reduce bird predation by 50%.2,3 That’s 27 million more birds in our gardens every year.”

Orchard Park Wildlife Project has recorded 27 species of birds in OP, and we also have Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara). Any of these could be negatively affected by cats.

When studying in NZ ten years ago, and co producing a blog on the wildlife of Dunedin’s Town Belt, Jill and I met with Yolanda Van Heezik, author of one of papers cited above, several times. Jill wrote a couple of blog posts about Yolanda’s research on the cat predation in NZ: More from “Project C.A.T.” (C.A.T. stands for Cats Around Town) and Where does Fluffy go? but the findings are just as relevant here.

Cats and Bats

As well as many birds, and lizards, we also have Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) bats, and quite possibly Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), foraging in Orchard Park. Cats are one of the most common causes of bat casualties.

From the Bat Conservation Trust

“Bats do have other natural predators (such as birds of prey) but cats, particularly, will learn the location of the bat roost and catch bats as they emerge.

If a bat has been caught by a cat it will almost certainly be injured.  Even if you cannot see any obvious injuries there is a great risk of internal infection from the cat’s saliva.

Any bats caught by cats will need the experienced help of a bat carer.

Please follow this link for instructions on how to contain the bat and call the
Bat Helpline 0345 1300 228.

By following a few simple steps responsible cat owners can stop bats being harmed:

  • Bring your cat indoors half an hour before sunset and keep it in all night when bats are most active (April –October).
  • If you cannot keep your cat in all night, bring it in half an hour before sunset and keep it in for an hour after sunset.
  • It is very important to keep cats indoors at night from mid-June until the end of August because bats will be looking after their babies.”

Detailed information can be found by clicking here: Cats_and_Bats.

References:

  1. Woods, M., McDonald, R.A., Harris, S. (2003). Predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus) in Great Britain. Mamm. Rev. 33: 174–188.
  2. Gordon, J., Matthaei, C., Van Heezik, Y. (2010). Belled collars reduce catch of domestic cats in New Zealand by half. Wildl. Res. 37: 372–378.
  3. Ruxton, G.D., Thomas, S., Wright, J.W. (2006). Bells reduce predation of wildlife by domestic cats (Felis catus). J. Zool. 256: 81-83

 

 

 

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The Ten Thousand Strong Throng 22.09.18 #PeoplesWalkforWildlife

Ten Thousand People walking for wildlife down Whitehall

Photo credit: @LukeDrayPhoto/@WoodlandTrust

As Chris Packham worked with artists and designers to create the heart image above, he said he wanted it to be “filled with life and the message not a suggestion but a command. Because if we don’t LOVE LIFE. ALL LIFE then we are in big trouble.”

On Saturday 22 September 2018, 10,000 people took part in Chris Packham’s People’s Walk for Wildlife to show we love our wildlife.

You probably didn’t know anything about the march. The BBC, and ITV chose not to cover this important, all good news story. The Independent (click here for video footage), Sky News (click here), the Guardian (click here) and London Evening Standard (click here) did. There’s a lot of coverage on Twitter too #PeoplesWalkforWildlife

As we gathered, there were songs and talks – infotainment from prominent wildlife presenters. The ‘Ministers’ that wrote the Manifesto shared their expertise and passion, and young ambassadors for wildlife roused the crowd.

We set off from Reformers Tree in Hyde Park to Downing Street, to deliver the People’s Manifesto for Wildlife by Chris Packham et al. to Number 10. It rained most of the day, we were sodden and soggy, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. We marched or wheeled to the sound of birdsong playing from our phones. It was a fantastic, joyous, hopeful, and energising day. People do care. That’s important to hold onto, especially for when, as happens on some occasions in Orchard Park, our efforts feel a little bit futile.

OPWP will be taking the ideas from the Manifesto and promoting action in OP – for a summary of ideas you can do easily, see our blog post from last week: Ending the War on Wildlife. A People’s Manifesto For Wildlife, Draft One, Chris Packham et al.

  • Are there particular wildlife themed activities you’d like to see in Orchard Park?
  • Are their barriers to you getting involved?
  • What would encourage you to get involved in taking steps to help our lovely, local, diverse, urban wildlife?

Please do let us know 🙏

To download the full People’s Manifesto for Wildlife, click here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Peoples-Manifesto-Download.pdf

Let your Environment Minister know how important wildlife conservation is to you.  Download the Love Life Postcard , print it out and post it. It is pre-addressed to our Environment Minister and includes a message. Simply sign, add a stamp and post.

 

 

Ending the War on Wildlife. A People’s Manifesto For Wildlife, Draft One, Chris Packham et al.

Let’s end the war on wildlife.

‘Between 1970 and 2013, 56% of UK species declined. Of the nearly 8,000 species assessed using modern criteria, 15% are threatened with extinction. This suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.

Of the 218 countries assessed for ‘biodiversity intactness’, the UK is ranked 189, a consequence of centuries of industrialisation, urbanisation and overexploitation of our natural resources.’

– ​State of Nature Report, 2016

Our wildlife needs us – and it needs you more than ever. 

It’s easy to imagine that ‘they’ will fix the environment. But ‘they’ won’t, whoever ‘they’ are. ​We​ need to do it – ​me​ and ​you​. Together we are stronger. Together we can make a difference.

 

Today, Chris Packham launched The People’s Manifesto for Wildlife. This blog post is sourced entirely from the manifesto which makes a series of recommendations to the fields of Education; Wildlife and Animal Welfare; Wildlife Crime, Law, and Protection; Farming; UK Statutory Conservation Agencies; and Rewildling. It also makes recommendations, on amongst many other things: trees, hedgerows and verges, and urban spaces.

Urban space for wildlife is the domain of Orchard Park Wildlife Project. And urban spaces CAN be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country.

Access to nature is a human need – central to the quality of our most fundamental physiological requirements (water, air, food), as well as our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

The manifesto states that:

“Urban areas can be some of the most biologically diverse habitats in the country. Gardens and parks – comprising lawn, shrubs and flowering plants – provide food and shelter for a huge array of wildlife. And yet these spaces are disappearing from our towns and cities.

In a report published in 2016, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) said the percentage of front gardens lost to paving, concrete or gravel had risen to 24%, from just 8% in 20051​ .​ The results, based on a poll of 1,492 people, suggested that more than 4.5 million of Great Britain’s front gardens were entirely paved, while 7.2 million were mostly paved. Another report, published by London Wildlife Trust in 2011, compared aerial surveys of London taken in 1998 and 2006. It found that domestic gardens (both front and back) made up nearly 24 per cent of the London’s total area, but that in those eight years nearly two thirds of its front gardens had been covered with hard surfaces, while the amount of green space in back gardens had shrunk, largely due to the popularity of garden offices2​ .​ “An area of vegetated garden equivalent to 21 times the size of Hyde park was lost between 1998 and 2006,” said the author of the report, Chloë Smith. That’s an average of two Hyde Parks per year (and a further 14 Hyde Parks since 2011).”

 

It goes on to say “We need legislation to re-wild our urban spaces.”

We are lucky in Orchard Park that many of the recommendations in the manifesto are already realised:

many of our fences are hedgehog friendly, we have bird nesting boxes on some of our homes, municipal planting includes many native species, and we have open green spaces.

However, there are recommendations that show there is much more we can do:

  • We can ensure that no more than 10% of our gardens are turned over to paving, decking and fake-turfing
  • We can make gardens more hedgehog friendly
  • We can add more nest boxes in addition to those already built into our homes – if you live in a house or flat, install swift or bat boxes by the eaves.
  • Where space permits, plant a small tree or shrub in your garden
  • Do home composting
  • We need to ensure our small pockets of green for the community are maintained in as a wildlife friendly a way as possible, and look after our trees
  • If we can find a suitable location, create a communal wildlife pond
  • Create ‘pop up habitats’ in the few as yet undeveloped plots – sprinkle pesticide free wildflower seeds
  • Keep cats in at night – this can reduce overall predation by up to 50%, and fit them will a collar and bell – this can also reduce bird predation by 50%
  • If you have a garden, stop using pesticides – weedkillers, ant sprays, slug pellets.
  • Liberate your lawn, let some grass grow long, leave piles of sticks in corners for invertebrates, sow native wild flowers for pollinators, feed garden birds, erect bee and bird boxes
  • Dig a pond – even a washing-up bowl-sized pond will boost biodiversity
  • Connect with nature through what you eat. Grow some food – rocket and tomatoes in window boxes; cucumbers, runner beans, raspberries, blackberries. Home-grown tastes amazing
  • Volunteer with OPWP to look after and enhance what we have, lets make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife
  • Join OPWP on it’s surveys, and safaris, you’ll be surprised to see what lives here if you look

 

The full, referenced, manifesto can be downloaded here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/A-Peoples-Manifesto-for-Wildlife-expanded.pdf

The illustrated manifesto can be downloaded here: http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Peoples-Manifesto-Download.pdf

 

 

 

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.

 

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

HH No7

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.