Escaping into nature through local green spaces (parks/gardens/the open sky from a window) is a great way to unwind during lockdown! Although in some areas people are being allowed outside more, in NI we’re still limited to just one walk a day outside, but our local exercise has helped us to focus on what elements of the natural world are available right on our doorstep.
Seals and heron in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland
I am often guilty of overlooking the everyday critters and spend lots of time day-dreaming of trips to explore more exotic locations… but not anymore! Since we’ve had to stay home, I’ve been trying to appreciate what we’ve got locally. At first this wasn’t too much... so we’ve spent some time looking for ways to encourage wildlife into our garden, using feeders, water bowls, bird boxes and homemade bee hotels to try and attract visitors! This seems to be paying off as slowly we are learning to recognise our new neighbours, what they like to eat, when they come down to bath in the water (or the dog bowl) and where they nest. In return the birds are now accepting us as part of the scene, whereas the sparrows used to be nervous and flighty, now they pop in and out of the nest box right in front of us. The robin follows us around the garden, in case we do any gardening that might unearth his favourite grubs. Connecting with our local wildlife is something we always meant to do, but never seemed to get time for. It’s something truly positive I will try to take forward even when travel restrictions are lifted.
Our attempt at making a Bee Hotel, sound on for full silliness!
I know we are really lucky to have a small garden, but even if you don’t have access to green space there are lots of opportunities for wildlife watching even in urban areas and city centres! Belfast is famous for watching mesmerising murmurations of starlings which roost under Albert Bridge, in Derry harbour dolphins and porpoises sometimes swim up into Lough Foyle and in London, those with eagle eyes can spot pairs of peregrine falcons nesting in the urban jungle.
Some of the regulars to our garden (L-R: blackbird, thrush & robin)
If you’d like to use your wildlife sightings (from the everyday to the unusual) to help with conservation science there are plenty of researchers who would love to hear to from you! Check out how to log your sightings with local groups online or maybe try downloading the iNaturalist app, to identify your finds and link your sightings with other people and scientists across the world. Also remember that the Wildlife Trusts are running their 30 days wild campaign again this June with lots of activities to join so if you want to do more with nature, check it out!
For butterfly conservation sightings: https://butterfly-conservation.org/how-you-can-help/fund-our-work/other-ways-to-help/send-us-your-butterfly-sightings