Ring Fort Road Wildflower Bank in Macro

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Bristly Oxtongue Helminthotheca echioides

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Wild Carrot Daucus carota seed head

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Dandelion Taraxacum officinale seed head

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Ribwort Plantain Plantago lanceolata

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Yarrow Achillea millefolium

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Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense seed head

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Tufted Vetch Vicia cracca

Field Scabious Knautia arvensis

Field Scabious Knautia arvensis seed head

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Knapweed Centaurea sp.

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Knapweed Centaurea sp. seed head

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Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum

The Wildflower Bank outside the school is well due for a full cut according to our Orchard Park Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, Orchard Park Wildlife Project is working with Orchard Park Community Council to try to ensure cutting times are optimal for maintaining maximum plant diversity, which of course improves invertebrate diversity, and then in turn in this location in Orchard Park mammal and bird diversity. This is a very valuable habitat with 97% of the UK’s ancient flower meadows having been destroyed since the 1930s.

Prior to cutting, I wanted to grab a few photos of a few flowers and seed heads. If you take a moment to look, they’re beautiful, colourful, intricate, and fascinating structures. In a very small patch there’s a lot of diversity to be seen over there. Go and have a look 🙂

Plants and Animals of the Wildflower Bank this page has information and photos of everything we’ve identified over there so far.

And PLEASE DON’T USE OUR WILDFLOWER BANK AS A RUBBISH DUMP AND DOG TOILET! Let’s work together to make Orchard Park better for people and wildlife 🙂

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Wild Carrot Daucus carota flowers and seed heads

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

Informal Mini Bioblitz at the Wildflower Bank

Bioblitz poster ver 2Join us at 3.20pm on 18 June at the beginning of National Insect Week for an informal mini Bioblitz of the Wildflower Bank, Ring Fort Rd, CB4 2GR. The event will run for two hours and you’re welcome to join us for as little or long as you like. All equipment will be provided. Sadly, many people don’t realise what a precious resource the Wildflower Bank is – the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since WWII and that’s having a negative impact on the insects that rely on it, and in turn the birds and bats that feed on them.

It’s an opportunity to get involved in Citizen Science (see video below), learn about the importance of our local plants and invertebrates, and support Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign. It’ll be an accessible, free, fun, informative, and family friendly activity – easy to join as you collect children from school.

The Wildflower Bank will be brimming with plants and buzzing with insects later in June, and this Citizen Science event is being run as a bioblitz – where experts and members of the public will try to identify as many of these species as we can in this particular area and in the set time. Members of the public are encouraged to come along to learn, and Cambridge based naturalists are very welcome to come along and share their expertise. All plant and invertebrate records from the bioblitz will be provided to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre.

Information from the bioblitz will also feed into a sign being installed at the Wildflower Bank near to the school showing pictures of the different types of flowers found there, and the insects and wildlife each type of flower supports. We’re planning a competition with the school for the children to create some content for the sign, and this will be launched at an insect and wildflower themed assembly.

We’re working with Orchard Park Community Council, and Histon and Impington Sustainability Group to have our roadside verges managed for wildlife as per Plantlife’s Road Verge Campaign and in Orchard Park also per our Habitats Management Plan written for us by the Wildlife Trust BCN. We plan to undertake any necessary remedial practical management on the Wildflower Bank, to ensure it remains rich in species diversity. Grasses are beginning to encroach in some areas, and they might need to be removed, and the soil prepared for reseeding with pesticide free wildflower seeds.

We will run the management as community events, perhaps as part of an Orchard Park family fun environment day.

Thanks to Tim and Carol Inskipp of OPWP for their expertise with identifying all creatures great and small, Holly Freeman of OPWP for all planning and liaison with the school, Louise Bacon of CPERC for expertise in identifying invertebrates, Lush for the Charity Pot Party to advertise and fundraise for equipment for these activities, Education Services 2010 for their funding of the sign and tools, Orchard Park Community Council for altering the mowing schedule and collaboration with the sign, and last but not least Orchard Park Community Primary School for working with us on these and other projects.

 

 

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.

State of Nature 2016

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Goldfinch Orchard Park garden. Thankfully a bird with an increasing population according to BTO reports.

The report and findings

The first State of Nature report released in 2013 revealed the severe loss of nature that has occurred in the UK since the 1960s. Last week, the 2016 follow on report was released (see: State of Nature 2016 full report pdf).

Amongst other headlines, this one stood out as a point that is perhaps surprising to some – often declines in wildlife are thought of as happening overseas, not on our doorstep:

A new measure that assesses how intact a country’s biodiversity is, suggests that the UK has lost significantly more nature over the long term than the global average. The index suggests that we are among the most nature-depleted countries in the world.” (State of Nature 2016 p.6).

7% of urban species are threatened with extinction from Great Britain.” (State of Nature 2016 p.40).

The causes for such decline include policy-driven agricultural change as by far the most significant driver, and climate change as one of the greatest long-term threats to nature globally. Other factors driving decline such as loss of green space including parks, allotments and gardens, and loss of habitats such as wildlife rich brownfield sites to development, are things that we can witness right here in Orchard Park. Many gardens here are paved over with little to help wildlife, we have no allotments, the sports field seems sterile, the Wildlife Area seems tiny, whilst the remaining established, large grassland site which is rich in invertebrates, birds, and lizards, is due for commercial development.

Why is this important?

We have a moral obligation to save nature and this is a view shared by the millions of supporters of conservation organisations across the UK. Not only that, we must save nature for our own sake, as it provides us with essential and irreplaceable benefits that support our welfare and livelihoods.” (State of Nature 2016 p.6).

Two recent research projects have now built on … methodology to understand children’s connection to nature in more detail…children who are more connected to nature rate their health and well-being as significantly higher.” (State of Nature 2016 p.67).

What can we do?

 Whilst as individuals and families we might feel powerless to do anything about, for example, farming practices, we can be effective at a local level.

…organisations, businesses, communities and individuals have worked together to bring nature back…We are fortunate that the UK has thousands of dedicated and expert volunteers recording wildlife. It is largely thanks to their efforts, and the role of the organisations supporting them, that we are able to chart how our nature is faring.” (State of Nature 2016 p.6).

Taken collectively, there is increasing evidence that citizen science is playing a central role in recruiting and training the next generation of nature enthusiasts; communicating the beauty and relevance of the UK’s wildlife to wide sectors of UK society; and catalysing positive attitudes and behaviours towards nature. In the face of growing concerns about a decline in taxonomic expertise and a disconnect from nature amongst the UK’s population, this involvement in citizen science gives real cause for optimism.” (State of Nature 2016 p.69).

Orchard Park Wildlife Project sends its species records to Cambridge and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre to add to their regional assessments of our wildlife. You can help by joining in our Summer Safaris and being a Citizen Scientist – reporting bee, butterfly and bird sightings using links to campaigns promoted via the Orchard Park Wildlife Project blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed and letting us know about anything unusual that you see.

You can do your bit in your garden/balcony/window box by creating a pond, feeding the birds, building a log pile and adding wildlife friendly plants.

You can help keep the Wildlife Area tidy, manage our Wildflower Bank, help at the Orchard, or keep basking sites clear for reptiles at the Balancing Pond.

Every little helps. See: Wildlife Trust page for more ideas.

We hope some of our upcoming activities will tempt you to come along and inspire you to do your bit for your nature if we’ve not managed to reach you already. We’re working on an approach to an event for information at the Orchard with local resident artists, which we hope will attract new people – more about that soon. I’m attending a Network for Nature event on Saturday, it’s at the David Attenborough Building in Downing St which houses Cambridge Conservation Initiative (focussing on international conservation) and Cambridge Conservation Forum (focussing on local conservation, Orchard Park Wildlife Project is a member). The closing speech is scheduled to be given by the building’s namesake himself, and I hope and expect that he will be very inspiring indeed.

Orchard Park Summer Safari Sunday 17 July 7.30pm

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Free, fun, helpful, healthy, accessible and informative – we hope you’ll join us for our Orchard Park Summer Safari in the evening of Sunday 17 July. Meet outside the Travelodge Hotel, Chieftain Way (click for map), at 7.30pm. You’re welcome to join us for as long or little as you like.

It’s an opportunity to have a closer look at the wildlife on your doorstep, learn about it, and what you can do to help. You’ll be surprised to see what lives here when you look… especially when guided by very knowledgeable naturalists – we are grateful to Tim and Carol Inskipp who will be providing their expertise again to help us identify the animals and plants we come across. We’ll have a look around the perimeter of where the lizards currently live in Orchard Park, this area is rich in invertebrates – which the lizards eat. We hope someone from Cambridge and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group will join us. The area also has mature trees nearby, the only ones within Orchard Park, and they’re a microhabitat in themselves. We’ll see where the wildlife takes us before looking at the wildflower area on Ring Fort Road, the orchard and meadow, and then at dusk we’ll head over to Wildlife Area to have a look for bats with our detector (we thank #lushcambridge @lushcambridge for their Charity Pot event providing funds for our detector).

Orchard Park Wildlife Project will send any new wildlife records to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre, the Summer Safari is like a micro sized and laid back bioblitz, where we find and identify as many plants and animals as we can, but stopping to look and explore as we find wildlife to look at.

As well as being good for wildlife, activities such as the Summer Safari are proven to be good for you too:  “..a body of restorative literature focuses on the potential benefits to emotional recovery from stress offered by green space and ‘soft fascination'” according to Aspinall et al 2015. For more information from the scientific paper click the lead author’s name link above. If you’d like to see more in a popular science format, then have a look at this article: Science proves what we all know: Nature is Good for your Health!

This is a free and accessible event suitable for all ages and abilities.

To see a blog post about what we found to look at during our Summer Safari last year click: Summer Safari Summary

Wild South Cambs – Young Photographer of the Year at Parklife, Milton Country Park

Orchard Park Wildlife Project has been asked to take part in this year’s Wild South Cambs Zone (the first ever) at Parklife, Milton Country Park on Sunday 17th July 10.00am-6.00pm. Visitors can get hands on, with nest box and bug house building, pond dipping and den building amongst other wildlife activities.

As part of this: don’t miss your chance to be named Wild South Cambs – Young Photographer of the Year. You could take photos of Orchard Park’s gorgeous little lizards, colourful goldfinches, invertebrates, or the wild flower bank when it’s in full bloom.

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Full details from the organiser’s website:

There’s a fantastic prize of a £200 voucher, kindly donated by Milton Tesco, (which could be spent on photographic equipment), for our winners village college.

We are looking for high quality digital images of the beautiful countryside to be found in South Cambridgeshire. Your image could capture animal or plant life, in close up or in landscape and can be orientated in landscape or portrait.

The competition is open to young people aged 11-18. You can send your images (up to three per entrant, each not less than 1MG in size) to the following mailbox, partnerships@scambs.gov.uk, putting Photographic Competition into the subject line.

Please include the following details: Your name, age, contact details and the date and location the photo was taken, plus the name of your school or college (including staff member contact details).

Selected images will be displayed on our website/Facebook and may be reproduced in district council publications. In entering your images you are agreeing to their reproduction by South Cambridgeshire District Council. The shortlisted images may also be displayed in store at Milton Tesco.

We are fortunate to have contributor to the Guardian’s Country Diary column, Derek Niemann, and experienced photographer Sarah Niemann as our competition judges.

The competition will close on Friday 15 July and the winner will be announced at Parklife, our free family fun day to be held at Milton Country Park on Sunday 17 July.

Parklife offers the chance to try a host of outdoor activities, from paddle boaring, canoeing and fishing, to cycling, climbing and cricket, with many more besides.

This year Parklife features a new, Wild South Cambs Zone, showcasing the conservation work underway across the district and featuring crafts using natural materials, pond dipping and tracts of wildflower meadows. Sponsored by Domino, the Wild South Cambs zone will help families get closer to nature.

More details can be found about the event on our Parklife 2016 pages.

For some tips on wildlife photography from the Guardian, click here, or contact Orchard Park Wildlife Project to help you locate our local wildlife.

Activities for International Insect Week

 

Wild flowers, a great way to attract insects to your garden

Wild flowers, a great way to attract insects to your garden

Activities for International Insect Week Click the link for info from the RHS on attracting wildlife to your garden.

This week is National Insect Week. From the RHS: Over the past 50 years declines have been noted in many groups of British insects, including those that visit flowers. These include some common butterflies, moths, hoverflies and bees.

Gardens are very important for insects. If a few of us in OP can make our gardens more friendly for insects, together, their contribution can be significant. We’ll be promoting more wildlife gardening ideas with help from the Wildlife Trust soon.

 

Good news, and bad….

Seedlings sprouting

Seedlings sprouting

The seeds planted on 12th April have been watered by the April showers, and are now growing into seedlings. The cover looks pretty good, so there should be a great and colourful display soon. They’ll be attractive to us, and to bees and other insects too. I look forward to seeing them in bloom.

However, sadly, yet again there is a litter problem in the area. The bin was almost empty this morning so that is not an excuse for leaving litter strewn around. Click on the play button on the video below to see what some of the planted area and the area behind the seedlings looks like.

Pictures from event on 12th April

Thanks so much to everyone who came along on the 12th. The weather stayed fine. The seeds and plants were all planted. The seeds have been watered and are germinating. I’ll post more pictures as they grow 🙂 The litter pick made a huge difference, but sadly rubbish remains a problem at the Wildlife Area and adjacent facilities. We hope to see more of you at upcoming events.

With litter pickers and tools at the start of the event

With litter pickers and tools at the start of the event

Preparing ground for wildflower seeds

Preparing ground for wildflower seeds

Seeds "Nature's Haven"

Seeds “Nature’s Haven”

Seed mix

Seed mix

measuring out the seeds to ensure they were sown at the correct density

measuring out the seeds to ensure they were sown at the correct density

sowing the seeds

sowing the seeds

planting and tidy up in the Wildlife Area

planting and tidy up in the Wildlife Area