Welcome to my first blog post! I would love to tell you that I have planned the timing of this to coincide with World Environment Day but I really haven't. What's even more of a coincidence is that the theme fits very nicely with what I was going to write about anyway. The stars have aligned, Mother Nature has spoken, and so I shall write.
This year the theme for World Environment Day is biodiversity. A term that describes the incredible variety of life on Earth. All of this life is interconnected and when things are altered it changes the balance and has a knock on effect on many other things. Have a look on their website for more info about what World Environment Day is, a more detailed explanation of biodiversity and also why this theme has been chosen: https://www.worldenvironmentday.global/about/biodiversity
So in this first blog post, I want to celebrate my local biodiversity and I'll throw in a few ideas you could try at home to help support wildlife and perhaps increase biodiversity in your garden.
The lockdown situation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has brought many of us closer to nature. When everything else in our usual day to day life has been stopped, one thing that has reliably continued is nature and so it has been brought to the forefront of our attention. Daily walks and time in our gardens have shown us the seasonal changes that happen from early spring through to early summer - the emergence of different wildflowers, migrant birds returning, birds nesting and their fledglings appearing, trees coming into leaf, butterflies... so much that perhaps we might not normally appreciate as we rush around our usually busy lives.
I moved into my house back in December 2019. We endured the very wet and windy winter, enjoying the garden birds visiting the bird feeders and red squirrels becoming regular visitors to the two squirrel feeders we put up in the garden (I live on Anglesey in North Wales where we are very lucky to only have red squirrels on the island - our native squirrel species).
As signs of Spring began to appear, so did the pandemic and subsequent lockdown and as a result, I have spent the entirety of lockdown tuning into the biodiversity of my new local patch.
I definitely don't see myself as a wildlife expert. Every spring I have to re-learn things I have forgotten during the year. Birdsong, wildflowers, butterflies. I'm getting better with age and experience but I seem to rely on my ID guides and sending photos to friends who I know have far more knowledge than me. I am passionate about wildlife and conservation, but I am very much learning as I go. I can often be heard regurgitating recently learned facts about things to anyone who will listen in order to help reinforce the knowledge in my brain! Learning about nature is so accessible now. There are ID apps, websites, facebook groups that can help. I urge you to learn something new about your local wildlife!
Despite the obvious negative reason why I've had to spend all of Spring at home, I am very grateful to have spent this time getting to know the wildlife of my new area so intimately.
Here are some of my highlights:
Chiffchaff singing - they are one of the earliest birds to return to the UK in Spring and their song tells me that Winter is over and makes me happy.
Swallows returning - I was digging in my veg patch when the first one returned this year, my first Swallow at my new house. Their song fills me with nostalgia and happiness.
Cuckoo-flowers - our field has been full of them, I had no idea what they were so a new flower for me, and they are edible!
Red squirrel babies - yes, that's right. Our resident visitors have multiplied and become even cuter.
Blue tits nesting in a nest box - my other half made a nest box and put it up on the side of the wood store. To our delight, the blue tits moved in!
Gorseflowers - the rich yellow beautiful flowers that smell of coconut in the sunshine. Last year, me and some friends made gorseflower wine. Prickly to collect but it's made very nice (and boozy) wine, if a little headache inducing as we recently discovered when sampling the first bottle.
Tawny owls - they have nested in some trees on our neighbours land and are very noisy and active. I even saw one hunting in the day (poor blackbird fledgling!).
Wild garlic - 1 mile from my house, there was A LOT of it. So I foraged and made pesto and soup and added it to salads. Yum yum.
I could go on. I really could. The natural world is magical. It makes me feel better physically and mentally. Spending time outdoors and just taking in the nature is invaluable to us.
AND if we enjoy nature, we begin to appreciate it. If we appreciate it, then we are more likely to take positive action to look after it.
How can we help biodiversity locally? Here are a few ideas that me and my other half are doing in our garden. They are easy, cheap and all very beneficial for wildlife.
Bird feeders - there isn't as much natural food for birds as there should be due to habitat loss (e.g. fewer hedgerows), so we can help by providing them with food.
Wildlife pond - a source of water for animals to drink when it is very hot and there are no puddles. Also, a wildlife pond provides a new habitat which may attract new types of wildlife to your garden. I'm in the middle of making one at the moment. There's loads of ideas and guides online, have a look.
Leave areas of your garden to grow wild! Manicured lawns are boring anyway, let some of the grass grow long. You could even sow some wildflower seeds - pollinators (e.g. bees) need flowers so planting pollinator-friendly flowers is a great idea. As well as leaving some large areas to grow wild here, we have (tried) to create a wildflower meadow area in our field. Alas, the local rabbits and our neighbours chickens (and now our new chickens) love scratching and digging in the area where we have lovingly sown a lot of seeds so we need to rethink our plan.
Don't cut down bushes during Spring and Summer - birds might be nesting. If you need to cut things back, save it for the Autumn and Winter.
Help hedgehogs! You could build a hedgehog house (like my other half did although there is plenty of natural hedgehog nesting areas here so it has remained empty). You could cut a hedgehog tunnel in your garden fence to allow them to enter and exit as they snuffle for food at night. Also, leave dishes of water out for them when it's hot.
Nest boxes - there can be a shortage of places for birds to nest in more urban areas so putting up a nest box in a suitable location is a good idea. Again, do a bit of research, you can make them cheaply, or buy ones ready made, and read up where a good place is to put them up.
I hope that nature has brought everyone some joy this Spring, even if you live in an urban area, there will be wildlife to watch and enjoy somewhere close by. I hope that you are sharing stories of your local wildlife encounters with friends and family to spread the enthusiasm and appreciation for nature. Also, I hope that your appreciation for nature stretches as far as taking positive action to help Earth's biodiversity.
If you've enjoyed this read, please share it with someone else to help encourage nature connection.
Thanks for reading,