Animal Assistance in the Autumn

Photo Credit: Anna Roebuck (Environmental and Recycling Artist) Paul Wyer from the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire with hedgehog sculpture that now resides in Marmalade Lane

The autumn garden can, with planning, provide a larder of berries, fruit and insects that form the natural diet of our local wildlife. However, as many of our gardens are small, and without varied plants, structure, and wild areas, we need to give the wildlife a helping hand as food begins to dwindle after the summer plenty. Have a look at our blog post from last autumn for tips: tinyurl.com/opwpautumn

As hedgehogs became a such feature at each of the summer events: there’s a hedgehog character in our play Saving the World, Starting at Your Doorstep, Horace/Prickles/Spike the sculpture is now living happily at Marmalade Lane, and a hedgehog is at the centre of the artwork created for the skate park by Kadero – we’ll start with tips on how we can help them – they’re now a symbolic reminder in Orchard Park to look after our wildlife. They’re good in this reminder role because their prickles can tend to get them in pickles, particularly where litter is concerned. When hungry they’ll get into any cans, packets, and bags lying around as they look for scraps of food – and due to their backwards facing spikes, they’ll often get stuck. Because they’ve been declining rapidly in the UK since the 1950s, they’re also a species of conservation concern. They really do need a helping hand in urban areas where thankfully they seem to be doing a little bit better.

Hedgehogs

One of the main things you can do to help is to make sure your garden has access for hedgehogs. Many of our front gardens have hedgehog friendly fencing, but what about your back garden if you’re lucky enough to have one? If you’ve got fence panels all the way around sealing your garden off consider cutting a CD sized hole in one of the panels, and ideally in a panel that connects to your neighbour’s garden. If everyone did this, it would create a hedgehog highway allowing access to a significant total area for hedgehogs. They need to be able to roam to find food and a mate – males can cover about three kilometres in a single night. 

Plant some shrubs or a hedge, as they prefer to move around under cover. 

A compost heap or log pile will give them a safe and cosy spot to spend the winter.

Provide some supplementary food – chicken cat biscuits are a favourite and they need help at this time of the year to put enough weight on to ensure they can survive their winter sleep. 

Please don’t use slug pellets, weed killers, and other poisons in your garden. We had reports of two or three dead hedgehogs on the school field a couple of years ago, it’s thought they died because of slug pellet use – hedgehogs eat the poisoned slugs which in turn of course poison the hedgehogs. 

Spiders

Both species photographed in Orchard Park home

Autumn is the time when you’re likely to see a large, brown, hairy spider scuttle across the carpet or find one in your bath or sink. Some information suggests they’ve just moved in temporarily to find shelter from harsh conditions outside, whilst other reports say they’re inside our homes all year round, but we only notice them in autumn when they come out of their hidey holes looking for a mate. For the arachnophobes, see if you can learn to live with them for the natural pest control service they offer, left alone they’ll rid your home of aphids, flies, and ants. You could even try giving them a name and watch them as though they’re a pet. 

The Zebra Jumping Spider shown above in real life is only about half a centimetre and actually quite cute if you take a proper look at it. You can see four of its four pairs of eyes. The two eyes at the front can move but the eyes at the side are fixed, and as a result of their eight eyes, they have excellent vision.  

The Large House Spider on the other hand has a body length of 10-16cm. The one in the photo was about ten centimetres including its legs. 

Birds

Robin singing

If you’ve not fed the birds before now, try offering some mixed seeds as they’re versatile and will attract a variety of species. Fat balls and fat cakes are particularly good as we go into the colder weather to give energy to our feathered friends. You can make your own seed feeder using a plastic bottle or fill a half coconut shell with fat.

Remember to keep your bird feeders as clean as possible – this is very important for the health of our visiting feathered friends!

Make a small pond to offer a bathing and drinking space for birds. Even a washing up bowl will help. 

Aquatic wildlife

Habitats can be made next to ponds to offer vital spaces for hibernating species like the Common Toad. Twigs, log piles, flowerpots and leaves can usually do the trick in providing a suitable home. 

Autumn is a good time to remove any dead leaves from your pond to reduce the possibility of poisonous gases that could affect any underwater creatures should the pond freeze over during winter. Native oxygenating plants such as Water crowfoot can help your pond provide oxygen to any aquatic wildlife.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Toad

Preparing your garden for Winter

Although it can be tempting to give your garden a bit of a spruce in Autumn by removing all the decaying plants, our wildlife really loves these as places to hide and shelter from the cold. Herbaceous plants and hollow stemmed plants are great little living spaces for overwintering insects. Even seedheads can make excellent habitat for insects as well as a great source of food for visiting birds and other wildlife.

Any fallen leaves that you may clear from paths can be used as mulch on flowerbeds – perfect for foragers such as blackbirds. 

Photo credit: Emma Kajiyama, OPWP volunteer

Try to avoid pruning hedges as they are havens for wildlife over winter, providing food, shelter and protection. Adding different species to your hedge will attract a wider variety of wildlife. For example, ivy can be a great source of food for insects, including late-flying bees such as the Carder bee, whilst berry-producing plants can help entice many birds to your garden.

If you don’t have a garden, you can still put up a nest box to provide shelter from the harsher weather. Nest boxes can be vital for the survival rate of certain bird species such as the Wren and members of the Tit family, increasing the possibility for more breeding birds once spring arrives.

Check out opwildlife.wordpress.com for more tips specific to the wildlife that lives on your doorstep

All photos OPWP unless otherwise credited

Thank you to new volunteer Emma Kajiyama for providing the text and photos for sections on preparing for winter, and aquatic animals and other info for this blog post 🙏

Skate and Create – our wildlife needs you! 30 August 10am – 4pm

Collect a bag of litter from the Wildlife Area and surrounds to get a free skate lesson with Shredder. Make art with Kadero for a banner showing the dangers of litter to our wildlife. There’ll also be a BBQ 🍔

👟 Suitable for all ages and abilities.

🛹 Max from Shredder Skate School will have some skateboards, helmets, and pads for elbows etc. to borrow, but if you do have your own equipment please do bring that.

🖌 Art materials will be provided.

📆 Limited drop in sessions will be available on the day.

How to find us

The art session will be run in the multi function room opposite the skate park. There are free car parking spaces available. Orchard Park is currently being served by A and D Busway services (not the usual B) and stops are opposite to usual, so southbound services pass through the northern stop, and northbound services pass through the southern stop closest to Kings Hedges Rd. The Citi 1 bus also stops nearby on the corner of Mere Way and Arbury Rd, and the Citi 8 stops on the corner of Blackhall Rd and Histon Rd just before the Kings Hedges Rd junction.

Family friendly. Free. 🛹👟

Contact Max to book your session at: shredderskateschool@gmail.com

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

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