Photos from Eden Project Communities – Big Lunch Community Walk – OPWP Reception

All photos and videos in this post are credited to Eden Project Communities – many thanks to Diana Vogtel of Eden Project Communities for sending the photos and videos they took at the Eden Project Communities Big Lunch Community Walk reception at Orchard Park near to our Wildlife Area, Wildflower Bank, and Orchard.

Orchard Park Wildlife Project were very happy to receive the Big Lunch Community Walkers – they were carrying with them all the positive spirit of communities they’d visited on their way 😊 We chatted, had tea and cakes, and had a look around our wildlife habitats.

We’ve had, and continue to have, some difficult times in Orchard Park and we need all the community spirit we can foster – it was great to have the spotlight on us for something very positive. Thanks for visiting us Big Lunch Community Walkers 🙂

OPWP also thanks Orchard Park Community Council for providing the multi use room for the event, and OPCC Chair Andrew Chan for providing the most delicious cakes 😋 (check out his cake tips in the video below) and for joining the walkers as they visited other green projects in Cambridge. Finally, thanks to everyone from the OP community that came along too 🙂 it was great to meet some new people, and we hope to see you all again soon.

Andrew’s top cake tips
Leaving the multi use room for a look around the Orchard

Photos from Cambridge’s green projects visited by the Big Lunch Community Walk

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Springwatch Gardenwatch – Their biggest citizen science project yet…

Photo credit: BBC Two Website

The following information is taken directly from the BBC Two Springwatch Gardenwatch website….. our gardens are tiny in Orchard Park, but if we all did something to help wildlife – even those with a balcony can help – then the total wildlife friendly area would be significant.

As our towns and cities sprawl out into the countryside, our gardens are becoming more and more vital as wildlife reserves of the future. We want to map the resources available for wildlife in gardens up and down the country, and find out which wild visitors they attract.

We also want to find out what our gardens are lacking and how we can improve them for nature. And this is where you at home play the most important role…

This year we’re teaming up with the British Trust for Ornithology and the Open University for our biggest citizen science project ever – Gardenwatch!

Follow the links below to complete each of our four missions and help to build a better future for the UK’s wildlife!

The Gardenwatch Missions

We need your help to map the resources available to wildlife in gardens and other outdoor spaces up and down the country. Take part to help us discover the collective importance of garden habitats for the animals that live alongside us.

Earthworms and other ground-dwelling invertebrates are an essential part of the diet of many birds and mammals. We need your help to count soil invertebrates, so we can work out how abundant this vital food source is in different garden habitats.

Gardens are vital for birds in spring because they provide the resources they need to breed (including food, shelter, water and nesting sites). We need your help to record what birds are doing, so we can find out how they benefit from garden habitats at this critical time of year.

Mammals are often elusive night-time visitors to our gardens. We need your help to find out how much these often under-recorded animals use gardens and to understand which resources are most important for their survival.

Our Gardenwatch Partner Organisations

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is a UK charity that focuses on understanding birds and, in particular, how and why bird populations are changing. Find out more about their brilliant work here.

The Open University, celebrating its 50th birthday throughout 2019, is the leading the way in flexible, innovative teaching and world-leading research. Find our more here.

OP Dawn Chorus birds ID’d and Wing Fluttering Fledgelings

Robin singing Orchard Park

Instead of the 5 minutes as instructed by Cambridge Natural History Society’s citizen science instructions, I’d set my recorder to go for an hour…. Bob Jarman of CNHS was willing to listen to identify the birds he heard, and patiently listened through the hour long recording twice. I found it very relaxing listening to the birds add to the song in the early hours. A shame about the rain, and racing cars, and road noise. After about 15 minutes many more birds join in. You could just be surprised though, you might get an hour of calm if you listen, as Bob did, twice.

Click here for the recording

Thank you very much indeed Bob for identifying them for us. These are the birds he heard:

Robin: 2

Blackbird: 2

Dunnock: 1 briefly towards end

Song Thrush: 1 briefly and distant towards end. 

In last 10+ minutes a knocking I couldn’t identify – could be bird tapping on feeder but don’t think it’s vocal. 

It’s Fledgeling Time Again

Starling adult feeding young

So far I’ve seen young Blue Tits, Great Tits, and Starlings coming to feed.

See these blog posts for more information on their wing fluttering behaviour, what to do if you’ve seen a fledgling you’re concerned about, and what to feed them. Don’t forget to break peanuts up to make them smaller and suitable for young birds before you put them out.

Juvenile Goldfinches

Fledgelings

Natural History Society Cambridge – do some Citizen Science from your bed this week!

Robin Orchard Park Garden

An opportunity to do some Citizen Science from your bed. Be quick though, you need to do your recordings this week…..Click the link above to out about Citizen Science.

Adapted from Nat Hist Cam Project Facebook Post 4 May at 19:11

A message from #NatHistCam‘s Duncan Mackay:

It was dawn chorus day on Sunday morning… here is how you can almost effortlessly contribute data to NatHistCam and enjoy the dawn chorus in your garden as well.

I have been experimenting with using a mobile phone to record the dawn chorus. This is recording the dawn chorus out of your bedroom window, so it involves no early morning expeditions into the wilds of Cambridge, merely placing a smart phone on an empty mug on your bedroom window sill and opening the window to let the wonderful sounds of the dawn chorus into your bedroom. Matched with your post code this will provide lots of bird data which will add to our knowledge of the song birds of the city.

This is the method I have tried and it seems to work very well.

1) If you haven’t got a sound/voice recorder on your phone download one from the ap store. There are lots of good free ones and they seem to work quite well. The one i have been using is voice recorder by quality aps. It gets a score of 4.8* on the google app store….so it’s pretty good. I am sure something similar is available for apple)

2) I set the app to record in mp3 in the settings (which is more compressed than most other formats and works very well)

3) I then place the phone on a mug (just something handy to raise it up a little) by an open window.

4) At between 4am and 5am (set your alarm) You start it recording and record typically 5 mins of the bird song. The phone should automatically adjust the recording volume to capture the relatively quiet sounds.

5) Email me the recording for analysis to a special email address for this frostedorange53@aol.com (A special email for this project…frosted orange is a rather gorgeous moth and has no other significance) please add to your email: your name and email address and post code of where recorded and the date and time of the recording

6) I will then put the mp3 you send me into audacity (which is a really good sound editing program) and adjust the volume of the recording

7) We (Me and I hope Bob Jarman will help) will listen to the recordings to identify the singing birds and work out what birds are singing where in Cambridge

8) You can do more than one recording as the species singing can change during the dawn chorus

9) If you cant do it on Sunday then any day the following week will do but please say which day you recorded it on.

I hope you will enjoy this easy way to enjoy the dawn chorus. You can go back to bed once its done!

UN report says nature is in worst shape in human history

Trees and shrubs being removed in Orchard Park due to A14 road widening, April 2019

Taken directly from the Associated Press website: “Nature is in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, scientists said Monday in the United Nations’ first comprehensive report on biodiversity.

It’s all because of humans, but it’s not too late to fix the problem, the report said.

Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said. More than half a million species on land “have insufficient habitat for long-term survival” and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. The oceans are not any better off.

Conservation scientists from around the world convened in Paris to issue the report, which exceeded 1,000 pages. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports. The report’s summary was approved by representatives of all 109 nations.”

From the IPBES press release: “To increase the policy-relevance of the Report, the assessment’s authors have ranked, for the first time at this scale and based on a thorough analysis of the available evidence, the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far. These culprits are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.

Despite progress to conserve nature and implement policies, the Report also finds that global goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors.

OP Can we give a Great Big Welcome? The Great Big Walk 2019

Picture Credit: Eden Project Communities Website

The following information has been adapted from the Eden Project Communities Network website and the Eden Project Communities Blog.

Join The Big Lunch Community Walk 2019 in Cambridge! #TheBigLunch 

The Big Lunch community walk is just around the corner and the Eden Project Communities folks can’t wait to announce their amazing walkers this year.

From 17 May, four teams (one from each nation) will step out on four routes to shine a light on people who bring their communities closer together.  They’re walking up an appetite for The Big Lunch and inviting everyone to join in on the Big Lunch during the first weekend in June.  

Orchard Park Wildlife Project was very lucky to be able to go to an Eden Project Communities Camp a couple of years ago. We joined the folks from the 2017 Great Big Walk at the end of their day at in the south of Cambridge at Nightingale Gardens, and since then we’ve enjoyed and learned at a workshop at Birmingham Botanic Gardens, and during online workshops. Thank you so much Eden Project Communities for your support 😀🙏

Join in the Walk at Orchard Park

When: Thursday 30 May at 11.00am

Where: Multi Use Room at the Sports Ground on Ring Fort Road

The walkers will be reaching Cambridge on Thursday 30 May, and they’re going to visit Orchard Park at 11.00! Do join us. Orchard Park Wildlife Project and Orchard Park Community Council will welcome them at the Multi Use Room at the Sports Ground on Ring Fort Road and show them some of our wildlife habitats, and activities we’re doing to help make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife. We’ll provide drinks and Andrew Chan, Chair of Orchard Park Community Council will be making some of his delicious cakes.

They’re moving onto Empty Commons Community Garden (near Cambridge University Botanic Gardens) to be there for around 1pm and then walking from there to the Margaret Wright Community Orchard (off Newmarket Road near Coldhams Common) for a tea party potlock between 4-6pm. The idea is to connect our green projects and our communities, and people are welcomed and encouraged to join in on the walk through Cambridge. You can join us just at Orchard Park, walk throughout the day, or for a little of the day. It’s up to you how long you stay, but we hope you will join us.

Jo Brand, presiding over the opening ceremony for the walk last year, said “Last year there were so many negative things going on in the world, it was nice for three weeks to be able to shine a light on the incredibly determined walkers and the diverse communities all over the UK coming together to welcome them passing through. I urge anyone to consider stepping up for the challenge this year…if nothing else it’s the perfect excuse to eat cake all day as you potter along!”.

Over two weeks, the walkers will journey across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and will walk home just in time to bring out the chairs and hang the bunting for their own Big Lunch – that’s what they call dedication!

Every day on their travels, the walkers will be connecting people and communities across the UK and finding out how they are preparing for our biggest weekend of the year.  Their teams will be reaching out to people along the way, spreading the word about The Big Lunch and encouraging everyone to join in, share food and have fun where they live.

Saturday’s Litter Pick in and around the Wildlife Area, and OP

Many thanks indeed to the organisers and everyone that came along to help with the Spring Clean of the Wildlife Area, surrounding areas, and OP more widely on Saturday. Even though the weather wasn’t favourable 22 people came along to help. Some from nearby and some from afar. OP Community Council Chair Andrew Chan had registered the event with Niantic, the developers of Pokémon Go, and as a result we were very grateful that two people travelled all the way from London to catch Pokémon in Cambridge, as well as help with our litter pick! Niantic were running an Earth Day Clean Up in association with Playmob (see: http://niantic.playmob.com), after Earth Day on 22 April. Globally there were 14800 people taking part!

Credit: Pokémon Go Twitter Feed

Thanks also to Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service, a partnership between South Cambridgeshire District and Cambridge City Councils – they provided the pickers and equipment and collected the litter we’d piled up, and to Keep Britain Tidy who’d provided posters and recycled bags to collect litter in.

Andrew had made some delicious cup cakes to thank people for their efforts, and OP Community Council had organised the event and gave tea, biscuits, and chocolates to volunteers.

We estimated that around 100kg of litter was removed from in and around the Wildlife Area, and Orchard Park more widely. It’s a shame we have to do repeated litter picks, and obviously more needs to be done in Orchard Park to make sure the amount of litter is reduced in the first place.

On the whole though, everywhere is looking a bit better than this time last year, when we collected 60+ bin bags of litter.

It’s nice to see the Wildlife Area looking cleaner, though further effort is still needed to ensure the smaller plastic and packaging foam is removed before it’s broken down further or eaten by wildlife. There’s also a big problem with cigarette butts which must be eliminated “discarded cigarette butts may present health risks to human infants and animals because of indiscriminate eating behaviours. Nicotine found in cigarette butts may cause vomiting and neurological toxicity; leachates of cigarette butts…may cause exposure to additional toxic chemicals including heavy metals, ethyl phenol and pesticide residues” (Novotny et al 2011). If they’re not washed away in drains to pollute water, then they leak chemicals which poison the soil….

It was great to meet new people, and hear about how you’re helping our local wildlife at home. OPWP also provided information to volunteers about the dangers of litter to wildlife and our environment, and tips to help the wildlife on our doorstep and our local environment. We’ll be in touch with those of you that signed up for OP Wildlife Project emails when we’ve set a date for our next activity.

Thanks so much again all, on behalf of the wildlife of OP 🙂

Reference:

Novotny, T. E., Hardin, S. N., Hovda, L. R., Novotny, D. J., McLean, M. K. & Khan, S., 2011. Tobacco and cigarette butt consumption in humans and animals. Tob. Control. Vol. 20(1).

Session with the School on OP’s Wonderful Wildlife

All photos credit: R. Bridges, Orchard Park Community Primary School

We had a great session with the Butterflies class on 29th March. We began the session in the classroom exploring the different habitats around OP, and looking at our local wildlife that lives in them. This was followed by a game based on musical chairs to explain how habitat loss and fragmentation can affect bats, then ideas on how to help our local wildlife – easy steps everyone can take, but that make a positive difference.

One thing we can all do is to make sure we don’t leave litter lying around – it causes both immediate and long term dangers to our wildlife and the environment, so we were very pleased the children of the Butterflies class were able to do a litter pick along the Wildflower Bank, and land surrounding the Wildlife Area.


THANK YOU BUTTERFLIES 🦋 we enjoyed the session and hope you did too 😀

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve done anything to help our local wildlife since the session 😀 You can Tweet us @opwildlife

Spring 2019

Spring 2019 arrived in November 2018 

The Woodland Trust

From The Woodland Trust website: “The Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project has received over 64 records of early spring activity that started in November 2018 – including insects that have been spotted active up to 5 months earlier than normal.

Mild weather seems to have temporarily disturbed insects from hibernation. A small tortoiseshell butterfly appeared flying outdoors on Christmas Day in Merthyr Tydfil, and a red tailed bumblebee on Boxing Day in Somerset. The average date for small tortoiseshells is 14 April, and bumblebees 26 March – making both over three months early.…. a red admiral was seen on 17 December in Cambridgeshire; the average emergence date is 7 May, making it nearly five months ahead of schedule”

I saw a butterfly from the bus last week when travelling down Histon Rd but it was too distant to attempt identification.

To see how to get involved in the Woodland Trust’s Citizen Science project as a Nature’s Calendar recordersee our previous blog post – insert url, visit naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk. Or, to watch time lapse footage of trees throughout the seasons visit their YouTube channel.

So what can we do to help our local wildlife now spring seems to have sprung?

These ideas are from the Wildlife Trust Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Newsletter…      

  • Provide some early nectar for the insects:if you have a raised bed, larger style planter, a window box, or hanging basket, you could add snowdrops, crocuses, or winter aconites
  • To help hedgehogs and insects, and frogs and toads if you’re lucky enough to have them in your OP garden: don’t tidy up just yet! These creatures might be hibernating in dried up plant stems, under wood piles or broken plant pots, and some would like to remain undisturbed for a little longer
  • Get ahead for summer insects: and make your garden more colourful. Plant annuals such as Calendula and Nasturtiums, they’re bright and pretty and provide nectar.

Upcoming OPWP activities

Lush are very kindly holding a Charity Pot Party for us on 23 March – do come and say hello – we’ll be planting seeds and letting people know about the importance of choosing British native plants grown from pesticide free seeds to help bees and other insects. Research is showing seeds marketed as good for pollinators might be harming the very creatures you’re trying to help if the seeds you plant have been pre treated with pesticides. It’s best to buy organic seed from specialist suppliers such as: https://beehappyplants.co.uk

We’re organising a Spring Cleaning session in and around the Wildlife Area with OPCC – this will be during the last weekend of March on 30/31 TBC

We’ve got a session with the Beaver group on 5 April, this will be outdoors so we’ve waited for the clocks to go forwards.

We’ll be nest box painting at the end of the school Easter Holidays – check here and on Facebook for dates 27/28 April TBC.

We’re hoping to begin lizard monitoring again for the population off Neal Drive very soon with Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group. It’s very likely the lizard’s home will be built on soon, so we’re planning to work with the developer’s ecologists to see how many lizards there are, and to trap and move them to a new site that will be good for them in the longer term. There are a few details to sort out, and we’ve suggested Sunday 7 April TBC for a training day, watch this space. See our 2019 Lizard Monitoring Page for more information.

We’re also planning a workshop with artist Anna Roebuck. She creates beautiful things from recycled materials for early summer – we’re actively fundraising for this. This event will also provide information on the dangers of litter to our local wildlife, and wildlife more widely, as well as ways to reduce your rubbish output, and on better recycling.

Photo credit: Anna Roebuck

Top tips on how to care for OP’s creatures that visit your garden during winter

Robin recovering after regular feeding

Winter can be a very difficult time for wildlife, with plummeting temperatures and scarce food. Find out how you can help OP’s wildlife through this tough period1.

Some species, such as birds and squirrels, don’t hibernate, but struggle to stay alive – using up fat reserves just to stay warm. Other animals and insects hunker down in log and leaf piles, nestle into tree bark, or bury themselves in compost heaps or mud3.

By putting out additional food, gardeners can make a significant contribution to supporting wildlife over winter. It is also a great way to watch wildlife even in the smallest of gardens or balconies, often at very close quarters2.

It is surprisingly easy to do something to help garden wildlife in the lean and cold months of winter. Even if you carry out – or refrain from doing4–  just a few of the following tasks, it can make a difference2.

I’m so happy to see this Robin (Erithacus rubecula) that had been suffering with mites (I sought a likely diagnosis and advice from the RSPB), has recovered due to regular feeding in my garden – proof that a little help works. The eye problem is still visible now, and the robin often scratches and shakes with itchiness, but the RSPB said it’s very likely the mites will die off completely in the cold, so that after moulting in Spring, the new feathers will be unaffected.

Robin with mites seven weeks ago
Robin on the way to recovery

1. Let your garden go wild1,2

  • Leave undisturbed wild areas in your garden – piles of leaves or brushwood can make the perfect nest in which animals can hide, rest and hibernate.
  • By leaving the task of tidying your garden borders and shrubs until early spring, shelter can be provided for insects throughout winter. 
  • Make an insect or bug hotel and put up in a sheltered position. Overwintering ladybirds and lacewings will find this useful. 
    • Recreate the nooks and crannies insects hibernate in by tying up bamboo and sunflower stems, and leave them in a dry spot in the garden. 
  • You can also provide late-flying insects with a source of food by soaking a clean sponge in a solution made from an equal mix of sugar and water.
  • In late winter, clean out bird boxes so they are ready for new nests in spring. 
  • Leave healthy herbaceous and hollow-stemmed plants unpruned until early spring. These can provide homes for overwintering insects.
  • If you have a compost heap, this will become a welcome habitat for toads, and even grass snakes and slow-worms.

2. Break the ice and provide water1,2 

  • If your garden pond freezes over, ensure you make a hole in the ice. Toxic gases can build up in the water of a frozen pond, which may kill any fish or frogs that are hibernating at the bottom.
  • When you make a hole in the ice, it is very important to do so by carefully placing a pan of hot water on the surface.
  • Never break the ice with force or tip boiling water onto the pond, as this can harm or even kill any fish that live in it.
  • Provide a shallow dish or container of water at ground level. This will benefit other garden wildlife that needs to drink, as well as birds. 

3. Feed the birds1,2,3

  • Birds may find it difficult to find natural foods such as berries, insects, seeds, worms and fruit during this cold season. Therefore, any extra food you can put out will help. 
  • Leave food out for birds regularly and every day when possible, and fill up longer lasting feeders if you’re away.
  • Place fat blocks in wire cages. Balls in plastic nets are not recommended as birds such as woodpeckers can get their tongues caught. 
  • Create your own fat blocks by melting suet into moulds such as coconut shells or logs with holes drilled in. 
  • Alternate different recipes to entice a range of birds; peanut cakes for starlings, insect cakes for tits and berry cakes for finches. 
  • Put out finely chopped bacon rind and grated cheese for small birds such as wrens. 
  • Although fat is important, do also provide a grain mix or nuts to maintain a balanced diet. 
  • Sparrows, and finches will enjoy prising the seeds out of sunflower heads. 
  • No-mess mixes are more expensive but the inclusion of de-husked sunflower hearts means there is less waste. Inferior mixes are often padded out with lentils. 
  • Use wire mesh feeders for peanuts and seed feeders for other seed. Specially designed feeders are needed for the tiny niger seed, loved by goldfinches. 
  • Feed placed on a wire mesh held just off the ground will entice ground-feeding birds such as robins and dunnocks. 
  • Thrushes and blackbirds favour fruit. Scatter over-ripe apples, raisins and song-bird mixes on the ground for them. 
  • Consider planting berrying and fruiting trees and shrubs such as MalusCotoneaster and Pyracantha to fill gaps.

4. Hedgehogs3,4

Nearly half of all hedgehogs die during their first winter. Many starve, while those born in late-summer are often too small to hibernate, and so are unable to survive the cold weather. In mild winters, hedgehogs are prone to waking up, having been tricked into believing it is spring. They waste valuable fat reserves looking for food.

  • Provide shelter bymaking a leaf pile or making a hedgehog house
  • If you don’t think your garden has the requisite hidey-holes, you’ll find custom-built hedgehog houses at arkwildlife.co.uk
  • Make a simple hedgehog home – download activity sheet from the Wildlife Trust
  • Leave a dish of water and dog or cat food, sunflower seeds, and nutsto help boost their fat reserves, until it’s no longer taken (usually mid- to late-autumn when they enter hibernation). Do not give fish-based food, milk, or bread because they cause diarrhoea and dehydration.
  • Check bonfires before lighting them, preferably making it on the day you intend to light it. 
  • If you find a baby hedgehog, keep it warm in a tall-sided box with hot water bottle on the bottom, covered with a thick towel. Feed with cat or dog food and water and visit britishhedgehogs.org.uk for advice. 
  • Discover 10 ways to help hedgehogs.

Sources– the above information was taken directly from:

1. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/how-to/wildlife-gardening/5-ways-you-can-help-wildlife-this-winter/

2. https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=382

3. https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/help-wildlife-survive-winter/

4. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/28/how-to-help-garden-wildlife-survive-winter