Category Archives: NatHistCam news

Project Update

The NatHistCam project is now reaching completion. Conceived in autumn 2014, work started in earnest at the beginning of 2016 and a team of volunteers began gathering data on the flora and fauna of the city. Over four years they collected data on the existence and distribution of plants and animals in the city, carrying out surveys of gardens, collating records from existing databases of plants and birds, and using their expertise to build up information on the great diversity of flora and fauna found in the 64 square kilometres of the NatHistCam study area.

Since the end of 2019 they have been collating this data, writing up accounts of the different species, preparing diagrams and maps, and taking many photos. Now in mid-2021 work is nearing completion. The information – over 125,000 words – is being structured as follows:

  • Introduction to the project; geology and climate; and the development of the city.
  • Flora As well as an overview of significant aspects of the flora, there are accounts of studies of plant distribution, domestic gardens, urban and suburban roadsides and walls.
  • Bryophytes, lichens and fungi The characteristics of the bryophyte flora of Cambridge are analysed and described. Separate sections provide an overview of macro fungi, rusts, smuts and mildews, while there is a detailed report of the lichens found in the area.
  • Invertebrates found in the area: detailed accounts of butterflies and moths, damselflies and dragonflies, as well as ants, bees and wasps, beetles, bugs, caddis flies, chafers, sawflies, molluscs and spiders.
  • Vertebrates: Accounts of fish, amphibians and reptiles; birds with a comprehensive species list; and mammals, large and small.
  • Interesting sites includes a report of the study of college gardens and sections on Cambridge University Botanic Garden, cemeteries and churchyards and Hobson’s Brook
  • A chapter on nature conservation contains brief accounts of wildlife sites and nature reserves in the city, the role of conser-vation volunteers; and pieces about the challenges of floating pennywort and mink.
  • The final chapter puts the NatHistCam project into a national context, describing some of the work that has been done on urban natural history. It reflects on the complexity of habitats in cities, the dynamics of urban expansion and species change and pulls together some thoughts on wildlife in urban areas and how it is changing in response to alien species, climate change and development.

As well as working on the content, contact has been made with a publisher who has agreed to publish the book. They are Pisces Publications, who also published Mark Hill and Chris Preston’s book Cambridgeshire’s Mosses & Liverworts: a dynamic flora in 2019, as well as Shotover: The Life of an Oxfordshire Hill and various other titles on the flora and fauna of different parts of the British Isles. They say our book will be published at the end of this year: 2021.

The Flora of Cambridgeshire – Alan Leslie

Alan has written, probably, the best county flora yet that is intensely detailed with observations, meticulous records and is beautifully illustrated. The latest edition of British Wildlife magazine includes a “flyer” promoting Alan’s book: “This beautifully produced book is a model for what a modern county Flora should be”. It’s is an outstanding achievement from one of the Country’s most dedicated naturalists.

It is an ideal complement to our study looking at the natural history of Cambridge City.

Bob Jarman 24th May 2020

Cambridgeshire’s Mosses and Liverworts

Cambridgeshire’s Mosses and Liverworts: a dynamic flora

Christopher D. Preston and Mark O. Hill

NatureBureau 2019

326pp colour illustrated

ISBN 9781874357896 £25 (paperback)

This new flora by two of our friends and colleagues has attracted an excellent review in British Wildlife, August 2019: “….is beautifully written and nicely illustrated. ……. Chris Preston and Mark Hill are both highly respected bryologists with a deep knowledge of Cambridgeshire, its habitats and its species. Their enthusiasm shines through in this flora which deserves a place on the bookshelf of any serious student of mosses and liverworts, whether they live in Cambridgeshire or not.”

Bob Jarman 25th August 2019

Mistletoe Survey – Radio interview

Today I did an interview with David Webster of BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about the Mistletoe survey. We are hoping to get lots of records of Mistletoe growing wild in the city and by publicising it on radio, we will hopefully encourage people to report their sightings. It will be broadcast tomorrow (22/12/2016) at just after 7am


The Mistletoe hotspot seems to be at the junction of Madingley Road and Queens Road.  There are quite a few good bunches  mostly growing in lime trees.  As you go up Madingley road there are some trees that are heavily covered and must be suffering from the burden.


This one is a Hawthorn tree outside Churchill College which has a huge Mistletoe growing in the centre of the main branches. This is obviously a female Mistletoe, as the male doesnt have berries.


Here is a rather more diminutive male plant, showing the haustorium, where the stem of the Mistletoe fuses with the branch of the tree and the modified roots penetrate the host tissue to obtain water and minerals.

We would like to collect any sightings of Mistletoe so please use the  sightings link on this webpage to let us know where the Mistletoe plants are growing. if you prefer to use email, then send your messages to . please include exactly where the plant is growing, which host tree species is involved and roughtly how big is the Mistletoe. if you can give us a 6 figure grid reference or a post code that will be very helpful.

Please let us know where you see Mistletoe growing in Cambridge. See our Mistletoe survey for more information.

Duncan Mackay


NatHistCam filmed by Cambridge TV

NatHistCam was lucky enough to feature on Cambridge TV recently, with a focus on the Garden Survey. Rosie Earwaker tells us how the filming went…

Wednesday 19th October came, and I was a mixture of both excitement and nerves with the prospect of being filmed. Paul Rule had kindly offered his garden, which had plenty of interesting features to talk about. The first thing to do when I arrived was to check what had been attracted into the moth trap, which I had set up the previous evening. It’s always exciting turning over the egg boxes at the bottom of the trap to see what creatures might be lurking, but it was very anti-climactic with just two moths showing up! That was moths off the cards then.

In the meantime, Mark Hill and Monica Frisch had started compiling a plant list for the garden. Mark was focussing on mosses, which varied from flicking bits off the roof with a long pole to getting low to the ground with hand lens to the eye (in typical botanist style). The film crew arrived after the plants had been thoroughly inspected and we launched straight into the plan for the day.

Monica was first up, with a closer look at the variety of plants in the lawn. We were a bit early for the Bee Orchid rosettes, but there were plenty of other species to talk about. Paul followed with a bit about his garden and how he encourages wildlife (deliberately or not!). Then Roger Featherstone arrived and the filming focussed on the snuffling contents of the small mammal traps, which had caught a number of lively beasts. The sun had even appeared at this point, which provided some welcome warmth on quite a chilly day.

While some of us refuelled inside for a bit, Mark was interviewed by Adam Canning about the Project and wildlife recording in the area. Last up, it was my turn to talk to Jamie Wyver about the importance of ivy as a food resource for pollinators and about bees and wasps. I found it difficult at times not to look into the camera, which was pretty close to us, and just focus on having a chat with Jamie!

The day went really well and we’re pleased to share the final piece. Thanks to all those who were involved!


Intro to the project by Olwen Williams

Cambridge City Natural History


The city of Cambridge includes grand buildings, new and old houses, streams, lakes, cemeteries, water meadows, gardens and recreation areas. The river Cam runs through the centre, forming a focal point for residents and visitors alike.  It is a small city, roughly eight kilometres square, densely populated but full of green spaces. Nowhere are you far from the countryside and even within the city, wildlife abounds.


This project, planned to last for 3-4 years, aims to increase public awareness of the diversity of plants, animals and fungi within the city and to involve everyone in documenting Cambridge’s natural history heritage. As part of the programme, a garden will be chosen in each square kilometre across the city and surveyed intensively.  Initial studies show that as many as 70 native plants may be present in an average garden and moth trapping in north Cambridge turned up a beautiful privet hawkmoth.


Just now, the season is turning from summer to autumn.  Tawny owls – two males and a female – were calling last night from the tall trees.  Other birds are quiet, in autumn eclipse.  There is no longer the noisy racket from the heronry by the river, suggesting that this year’s young have at last fledged.  The horse chestnut trees, whose leaves are attacked by the larvae of a moth, have turned brown and prematurely shrivelled. Although this moth only arrived in the UK in 2002, it has spread rapidly northwards.  Spiders abound – the webs of the garden spider lace the bushes. Butterflies, bumble bees and dragonflies persist, but in smaller numbers than before. A mating pair of Willow Emerald Damselflies were seen in the Botanic Garden on Sept 4th. This species was first recorded breeding in the UK in 2007 and seems to be expanding its range