Watch out for wildlife
People feeling isolated, trapped in their homes by the Coronavirus, can join a community which will benefit wildlife now and for future generations.
The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is suggesting people use self-isolation as an opportunity to record some of the wildlife in their garden and surrounding area.
With spring just around the corner, wildlife will be abundant on feeders and bird tables and flowering plants will be abuzz with all kinds of insects.
Campaigns Officer Alan Wright said: “It is a dreadful thought that many, normally active people are going to feel trapped in their homes. But getting out into the garden can be an uplifting and exciting experience, especially if you make new discoveries.
“Waking every morning you will be greeted by loud and joyous bird song, which will lift your spirits. Your bird table will be busy as birds feed themselves ready for the nesting season and will continue to use this supply of food when their young start to appear.
“Spring is great, especially when the swallows, house martins and sand martins return – we already have the latter at our Brockholes nature reserve in Lancashire. If you sit in the back garden at dusk and see insects flying around, that means bats will soon appear, doing amazing aerial displays … on your doorstep.
“Huge queen bumblebees will be around on flowers and plant before they head off to the hive for the rest of summer. See if you can spot some of the 25 species of UK bumblebee or 250 species of bee that will be around in the warmer temperatures.”
Frogs and toads will be more visible and spawn in your pond will mean you will have a lot of garden guests later in spring.
And this information can be used to help conservationists, with any record of wildlife, both rare and common, adding to picture of the North West’s wildlife – helping them assess the health of the population of plants and creatures.
Alan said: “While it is important that we get records of red squirrels and hedgehogs if you spot them in your garden, even more common species like the grey squirrel, pipistrelle and starling are vital to understand how these creatures are doing – lots of them are declining in wilder places.
“For instance, hedgehog numbers have decreased dramatically over the past few decades, yet in the last two or three years we have been hearing more and more reports of hedgehogs in gardens in Lancashire. There certainly have been a lot of sightings around Accrington and Oswaldtwistle recently.
“Some people will be venturing into parks and woodland, often to take their dogs for a walk, and this should generally be good for your health and well-being, but it’s a good excuse to look out for nature and some of wonderful woodland plants, like the carpets of bluebells which will soon appear.”
The Wildlife Trust are happy to accept lists of species you have seen so we can pass them onto the local record centres in Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside. Or just tell us about your sightings on Twitter mentioning @lancswildlife.
There are apps like iNaturalist and iRecord, the former will help you identify the species you are seeing and introduce you to a knowledgeable recording community online.
Alan said: “Records should give the species, location, time and date, and, if you are more confident, the sex and age.
“But we want people to ask us what they are looking at too. If you can get a good picture our experts should be able to identify the plant or creature. If they can’t it will be pretty rare!!”
The Wildlife Trust has 30,000 members in the North West who are passionate about nature, more than 150 dedicated officers and 4,000 volunteers working tirelessly to provide habitats that are perfect for native wildlife.
Alan added: “It goes without saying that we need more members but we love to hear from people who are getting into wildlife for the first time, or who are more experienced in recording and photographing species.”
To learn more about the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside and to become a member or volunteer check out the website at www.lancswt.org.uk.