Wednesday 1 April 2020

Lockdown wildlife listing

A blogpost on getting to know the wildlife in your garden, out on your doorstep or around the neighbourhood, through the incentive of wildlife recording / listing.

We all keep hearing about how we need to 'connect more with nature'. Its a bit of a vague term isnt it? My interpretation of that is to observe wildlife, perhaps draw it, photograph or even paint it. Then there's another, slightly more primal approach.... chase it down!

My front garden (2.5m x 1.5m)

There are good reasons for identifying and listing wildlife; keeping records builds a picture of what is happening to wildlife populations in the countryside (and our gardens, and urban environments). Also putting a name to something, or 'labelling' it, opens up of world of curiosity around that organism, invariably leading to further questions; what does it do, what does it need, how many different types are there (which you can easily find answers to these days in books and online). Suddenly you are now marvelling at nature on a new, intricate level.

So what things do you need to become a wildlife lister?

Not a lot really. I would say your main kit is a pen, paper and maybe some kind of a container or jar. Ok you might not have a butterfly net handy, but you could make do with that old pond net shoved in the back of the shed. You can involve the whole family, sending your minions (children or other-halfs) out to hunt things down for you and pot them up.

Starting off easy with a Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum)

Or use the stealth approach and take pics on your phone. The person with the best handwriting (not me) can then write everything down, or you can keep your list on handy apps like iNaturalist or iRecord.

Don't try to catch birds obviously - just make a note of them

White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) on Hyacinth

The iNaturalist app is good for beginners as it helps match your photo to a species...

Then the record is added to the list on your phone...

However you don't need a photo for everything; just the species name, date and location are the essential details for a wildlife record

Ok but what if you don't have a garden? Well you can perhaps start a list for your local park, or even an individual tree or shrub can be a draw for all sorts of wildlife. I heard a talk by wildlife photographer Jeremy Early about the multitude of insects he was recording around an old laurel hedge, which he had considered getting rid of (he since changed his mind). It seems while the sun is on it, its waxy leaves make perfect basking pads for flying insects...

My next door neighbour's laurel bush

Here's a few of the things I've recorded on next door's laurel over the past two days...

Basking hoverfly

Turned out to be the Tapered Dronefly (Eristalis pertinax)

I think this little lady is Gwynne's mining bee Andrena bicolor (carrying pollen on her back legs means its a she)

Looking at the underside of the leaves... hidden away was this tiny Noble False Widow (Steatoda nobilis), one of our most common garden spiders in Brighton

Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis) male netted from the laurel

A tiny bee on Dandelion, I think this one is the Yellow-legged Mining Bee Andrena flavipes

Mum and Dad's fridge list which I had started just before lockdown... Have you been updating this guys?

Here are a few online resources to help you have a go at identifying things:

Or if you get really stuck you can email me with your pics, as I seem to have a bit more time on my hands! 

Its not just about listing wildlife though, we should also endeavour to help it where we can.
You can thank your local wildlife (and encourage them more into your garden) through these handy tips by the Wildlife Trust
Also see what's happening in Michael from the Sussex Wildlife Trust's garden via the Corona Wildlife Diary 

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