If you’re stuck at home, it could be an opportunity to reconnect with nature. You may still be able to access a garden if you are lucky. In the UK, over 85% have one. If you don’t have one, there is probably a nearby park.
Gardens and parks are great places to reflect and observe nature. Begin with birds. Around a sixth of bird species worldwide are found in urban environments and are the gateway to a fascinating world of natural history. Spend some time just watching and learning.
The UK spends around 250 million PS each year to feed birds. Not just blue tits or robins. We found in Reading that about 1/20 households had lured red kites to their gardens by offering meat. This brought a bird of predator that was almost extinct back into British life.
Are you going to see a garden in your area? A red kite is in full flight. Erni/Shutterstock
Why stop at that? Is often at the heart of research. Indoor bird watchers have revealed the inner lives of garden bird. There are many opportunities available for budding urban nature enthusiasts to do the same thing for butterflies, hedgehogs, or toads.
Check any ponds or wet patches for frogs. Paul Steven/Shutterstock
Spring into Nature
It is best to begin in the early spring. Chiffchaffs are among the earliest spring migrants in the UK. The peak bird migration season is just about to start. The first butterflies are emerging. At the same time, queen bumblebees are busy building nests, and the sulfur-yellow Brimstone patrols gardens. The dawn chorus has begun, and due to the sparse traffic, blackbird, great-tit, and robin songs can be heard. Wood pigeons, collared doves, and blue tits explore nest boxes and collect nesting materials.
Read more: Coronavirus: what the lockdown could mean for urban wildlife.
If you can get out, why not tend your garden so that it benefits wildlife? A report published in 2017 suggested that gardening helped reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Recent research indicated that for every £1 spent on promoting contact with nature for people suffering from mental health issues, there was a social return valued at almost £7. An interest in nature pays dividends.
Immersion in nature is beneficial for all ages. One 2002 study showed that children were able to identify more Pokemon local wildlife than they could. Children who have a stronger connection to nature are happier. Encourage children to learn about nature and encourage them to be interested in it.
It’s time to meet your garden guests. Nadya Eugene/Shutterstock
We can ask ourselves many questions to understand our relationship with the environment. Are our pets hunting or soaking up the sun? Why are there fewer house sparrows? How can we get them back? What is the impact of urban noise on bird songs?
Continue to watch garden birds. They can provide some great insights into animal behavior. David Lack’s seminal studies of Robins in the 1940s showed that a golf-ball-sized clump of red material can trigger territorial aggression. Nick Davies’s research on dunnocks, a garden bird that is often overlooked, in the Botanic Gardens of Cambridge University revealed their fluid relationship, with anything going, from monogamy to polyandry and polygyny. There is a lot to be learned from species that we often overlook.
We are increasingly experiencing the natural world in a darkened glass. Study upon study demonstrates the benefits to the body and mind of being in touch with nature. You should at least look out the window. Take the time to enjoy a slower pace of life. Breathe. You are prescribed daily doses of Garden Nature during this lockdown.
Read more: Make your garden frog-friendly – amphibians are in decline thanks to dry ponds.
You can use guides to help you identify the species of birds that visit your feeders. Track when and how long they feed. Create a nature journal that you can share online. You can also watch the birds flying over your garden if you don’t own bird feeders. I saw 100 pink-footed gooses in my garden.
Try night-watching to find hedgehogs. Also, look for foxes. Cat or dog food can be used to lure the first three down a garden path. The daytime grey squirrels are not natives, but they’re still entertaining.
You can also bring nature inside if you own remote cameras. You can still watch wildlife live from the comfort of your home, even if you do not have a local park or garden. Try The Wildlife Trusts or The RSPB. Install a nest cam to see small birds such as bluetits.
Grab some flower seeds that are easy to grow. These seeds allow children to experience spring nature up close. You can also transplant the soil from your garden into a flowerpot if you don’t have seeds. If you keep a few handfuls in a pot or even a jam jar with water, they will produce seeds, fungi, and mini-beasts.