Friday, 9 September 2016

When the Outside Gets Inside

Many of us who live in Orton live in houses that weren't here 20, 40 or 60 years ago.

I live in Orton Northgate, which is Orton's newest estate. So new, in fact, that it's still not finished and has yet to be adopted by Peterborough City Council.

Orton Northgate sits on what used to be Peterborough Showground land. Construction on the estate began over a decade ago. I remember it well, as I worked for RNIB in Orton Southgate at the time. I can literally look out of my window today and say 'I remember when this was all fields!'. (And GoogleMaps thinks it's still a field!).

Googlemaps shows Orton Northgate as a field
Google thinks I live in a field!

A few years ago, I lived on the Sugar Way estate in Woodston. Again, I was in a house that was less than ten years old, on a new housing estate that was still under construction, on land that was previously home to sugar beat and wildlife.

When these estates were planned, the developers and the council had to adhere to guidelines regarding how the building of the housing schemes would affect the area's natural biodiversity. In other words, you don't just build over natural habitats that are rich in wildlife. Great care must taken to ensure that the wide diversity of creatures that also call Peterborough their home can continue to thrive. This is a complicated business, far more complex than most of us realise (See Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Biodiversity Partnership).

Even after all the work is done and the houses have been standing for a number of years you come to realise that some of the local wildlife 'didn't get the memo' and haven't properly moved out. I wonder how many Orton residents have found that their house is home to more species than just the human, feline and canine (and in some cases avian, rodent, reptile and arachnid!).

I've been unwittingly entertaining a number of very special guests this summer, and I'd like you to meet them.

  Common Frog

1. Common Frog 

I was watching the TV one evening in June, when I noticed movement in the empty dog basket on the other side of the room. My immediate thought was 'uh-oh, mice'. Perhaps one of the cats had brought a live mouse into the house and put it into the dog's basket 'as a gift'. But when I looked closer I was relieved (and very surprised) to discover that this was not a mouse, but a huge adult frog.

Although he was found in the dog's basket, I don't believe any of my resident pets brought him in. It seems more likely that he hopped in from the garden via the kitchen door when I wasn't looking.

What a beauty! I have always loved frogs so I was very pleased to meet this one. I took him outside and released him in some long grass in the garden.

Oak Bush-cricket

2. Oak Bush-cricket

I've never seen one of these before.

I spotted him on a bedroom wall. At first glance I assumed he was a grasshopper (it's green, it hops). However, he's not a grasshopper at all. He's a type of cricket.

This is an oak bush-cricket. According to Wildlife Trusts, they can usually be found in the canopy of mature trees and feed on small insects, so this one must have take a wrong turn to end up in a house. I took this picture and then released him outside.

Ichneumon Wasp

3.  Ichneumon Wasp

Have you ever seen anything like this?!

Even her shadow is awesome!

If you're not keen on creepy crawlies you may wish to click away now!

The ichneumon wasp is one of the family of 'parasitic' wasps. This means she lays her eggs inside other living insects. So if you ever see an ichneumon wasp perched on top of another insect you now know what she's doing there! When the eggs hatch they eat the host alive - gross. But don't hate the ichneumon wasp too much - they play an important role in removing pests from our environment.

There are 2,500 different species of ichneumon wasps -  but I'm pretty sure this is the first one I've ever seen. Amazing.

Who Visits You?

These are just three of the unexpected visitors that have been found in my house in the past few months. Have you been visited by any of these interesting insects or amphibians lately, or anything completely different?

For more information on how to identify small creatures and what to do if you find anything like these in your home, visit Wildlife Trusts, BugLife and FrogLife.

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