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At home with nature

Tom Hunt, National Coordinator at ALERC urges us to use this uncertain time to recognise the little pieces of nature that were always around us: birdsong, stars and butterflies feeding on flowers. The year 2020 will be an anomaly for many reasons but let's make one of those more engagement with nature and far more UK garden records.

April 2020

If you’re like me, you’ll find that being around nature is a potent way to ease anxiety. Personally I think this comes from the fact that wild animals quite literally could not care less about our trials and tribulations, which in turn acts as a reminder that whatever happens in our own world, the sun will come up the next day and life on Earth will carry on making the best of things. I for one find this a great comfort. And the effect applies just as much to the perhaps more mundane nature around one’s home as it does to the stunning beauty that, unless you are very lucky, you usually have to get away to see. I am not saying that home-nature always provides the same thrill as say a boat trip to see whales and dolphins or even a riverside walk to witness the startling colours of a pair of kingfishers. But I am saying that experiencing the wildlife around the home, just going about its business, has the potential to relieve at least some of the stress of these strange times. To the tree bumblebee trapped inside but restored to health with sugar solution, or the house sparrows intent on nothing more than making more sparrows, it’s a case of “virus, what virus” and I find this very reassuring.

It is with this in mind that Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs) and national conservation organisations are encouraging people to enjoy their home-nature and record what they experience. For example, the LERCs in Wales have devised the #natureneighbours tag to engage people looking at wildlife at home to Tweet their finds. EcoRecord, the LERC for Birmingham and the Black Country, are using the online recording site iNaturalist to encourage people to record garden wildlife in a bid to see which of the five districts in the region can record the most. The British Trust for Ornithology are making membership of their Garden BirdWatch scheme free, which will enable people to access online resources for identifying and recording garden wildlife. Butterfly Conservation are encouraging people to undertake a number of activities in their gardens, such as recording butterflies and moths and sowing seeds for pollinator friendly flowers. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland has launched the Garden Wildflower Hunt. The list of schemes is growing and ALERC is compiling it on its website. Apart from giving us a an insight into the wildlife around people’s homes and engaging people with the nature on their doorstep, these schemes are also offering people the chance to be part of something together, so whilst they are physically apart, they are still part of a community.

So 2020 is going to be anomalous for a whole host of reasons, one of which is that there will be a greater volume of records of wildlife from UK gardens than previous years. But hopefully another is that many more people will be engaged with wildlife in their gardens. Having self-medicated with home-nature through this difficult period, more people than ever before will be appreciative of native wildlife and this has to be a good thing with the Environment Bill due to be put into action at some point in the not too distant future. No doubt the post-COVID UK will be a different place in many ways. Let’s hope a stronger connection to our own wildlife is one of them.

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The opinions expressed in this blog are the author's and not necessarily those of A Rocha UK or the wider Link membership.