Coping With Lockdown I: Recording Wildlife in the Garden
There was the most amazing site last night - a crescent moon in conjunction with Venus. It was so wildly exotic the night sky looked like it was from a scifi movie - was I on Tatooine?
It was crystal clear too - no atmospheric or light pollution, I guess. Though reports of dolphins in Venice are seemingly balloney, pollution levels (and carbon emissions, of course) have collapsed. It abhors a vacuum; larger mammals - in some countries wolves and boar - stroll down empty high streets. Councils have stopped grass cutting, and there are seas of daisies appearing.
And we are appreciating nature more too. I mentioned the conjunction on social media and - slightly to my surprise - it seems like lot of folk were watching it too. Without traffic noise people are noticing birdsong. Without work they are seeing bee flies for the first time, or different sorts of wild violet. As our worlds have got smaller and more precious with lockdown, so we have become sensitised to them.
If you're lucky enough to have a garden - even a small garden - there's a lot you can do to foster that connection yourself (and for the kids), and keep busy too.
What about recording the wildlife there? You would be surprised how important this might be. "Wildlife of a Garden" is a record written by Jennifer Owen of the animals in her suburban garden over 30 years. It became an important reference work (admittedly perhaps not that important as I see it is now out of print. On the other hand I could sell my copy for over £90 on Ebay!).
There are always loads of citizen surveys going on you can join. How about the FIT Count, for example? It's a significant project, and you could make a real difference by taking part.
If you don't fancy anything that structured, you can always let iRecord know what you have seen. Or wait until there's a survey that happens over a weekend, like The Big Butterfly Count. This kind of recording is really invaluable to the scientific community too.
Add Moths to your recording too. There's a flourishing community of amateur mothers out there, and they do outstanding work reporting on the health of our moth populations. There are all kinds of traps you can make or buy, and if you're keen - of course - there's another survey you can take part in.
The other piece of kit I'd recommend is a Bat Detector. They're not super cheap, but I've had great fun with mine over the years. When we moved into our house here there wasn't a bat to be heard, but now it's pretty rackety! We've actioned many of the ideas recommended by the Bat Conservation Trust.
And that's another point to recording. By understanding which animals are outside the back door we can improve habitats to encourage them and other species too. You can easily add to your species lists by making a pond or a wildflower meadow. More jobs for another day of lockdown.