Wildlife Lockdown List Take Two
Updated: Mar 6, 2021
Let me take this opportunity to introduce us, I am Thomas and this is my dad Jerry. As a family we have always had a keen interest in wildlife and looking after God's creation. Our faith in Gods love sustains us & gives us hope now and always. Never has it been more important than now to look after the environment. Especially through this difficult time of a global pandemic I have come to realise just how important spending time in the natural world is. We all have experienced many difficulties and due to my disability, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, I'm vulnerable and so have had to shield. I've not left the house for a year apart from briefly in August and recently receiving the first dose of vaccine. Our garden has been my solace and special space. Throughout the lockdowns & shielding over this last year it has been our love for wildlife & Gods creation & his sustaining love for us that has kept us all going.
My birding buddy!
Last year my dad and I set ourselves a challenge to see just how many different species we could see during the lockdown in the garden. It was like doing our own Springwatch! As I have already mentioned I'm passionate about watching wildlife and it's been a great way to still enjoy wildlife without being able to get out of the house. We finished 2020 on an amazing 384 species and our aim this year is to get to the 400. We really wanted it to count for something this time round so we decided to raise some money for a conservation charity called A Rocha (https://www.arocha.org/en). A Rocha are an international Christian charity that focus on wildlife conservation & sharing God's hope. They support many projects, so we have decided to split any money we raise between two special garden themed projects. Here's a summary of the two projects:
Tortoise Kitchen Gardens.
South Africa is home to 14 terrestrial tortoise species, the highest diversity of any country in the world. However, a substantial number are held illegally and without the correct permits. So in October 2020, A Rocha South Africa and FreeMe KZN entered into a partnership to re-wild captive held tortoises with the goal of releasing them into protected areas. The new tortoise rehabilitation centre run by A Rocha South Africa, who are creating kitchen gardens to research the kind of plants that would be favourable to the tortoises. They are creating a plant nursery to propagate them and use them for landscaping the enclosures to provide a range of supplementary food plants for the tortoises. It would cost about £450 to set up the tortoise garden, then there would be monthly running costs of about £125 once the garden is fully developed.
Sack Gardening Uganda.
Sack gardens offer families a way to grow their own vegetables where space is limited or where flooding is frequent. Gardening not only provides a healthier diet, but also brings people closer to nature. £15 will provide one day of training, allowing 10 people to learn how to make and care for their sack gardens.
I hope you can join us this year as we strive to reach our target in our garden & reach £1000 to support these special projects. You could give a donation or sponsor us per species we see. We will keep the Blumire Wildlife Diaries website updated through the year with our tally & any interesting videos, photographs & a regular blog. The current tally for 2021 is 73 species overall, which I think is pretty impressive in two months! We've seen 44 birds, 5 bees, wasps and ants, 5 moths, 5 other insects, 3 arachnids, 10 other invertebrates and 1 mammal i.e. fox. If you would like to see the full list head to the Species Tally page. It will be interesting to see how many we get this time! Having the time to observe all the small and subtle changes as the weeks and months go by will be fascinating and I have found it very reassuring that nature was and is business as usual.
This is where Dad and I like to sit when we are birdwatching.
Amongst the birds we saw last year were some special highlights, including Raven, Red Kite (which are pretty scarce round here still, but are becoming more regular), Peregrine Falcon and Stock Dove, (which is a pretty common bird but very much sticks to woodlands so we don't see them very often). We even had one day when we saw all four on the same day which was probably one of the best birding days we've ever had at home! Just being here more often has really allowed us to see so much more than we would normally. We saw both Red Kites and Ravens on quite a regular basis to the point where we thought both might have a nested relatively near by. We've also suspected that Peregrines might have nested in Redhill in recent years, but I've never managed to spot any proof unfortunately. Talking of Peregrines the one we saw gave us quite a dramatic display as it was actually attacking an adult Herring Gull which is a fair bit bigger. It was probably trying to get some food it had or even trying to see it away from it's nest. It's unlikely it was trying to catch the gull itself but it's possible as they are certainly capable. We've had a few wildlife dramas including a Carrion Crow catching a frog from our pond and fly off with the legs sticking out it's mouth! There's also been quite a feud going on between the Magpies and the Carrion Crows that yet again seem to have nested right next to each other. Bird highlights so far for 2021 have been Blackcap, Fieldfare and Lapwing, and we look forward to more wildlife dramas unfolding!
It's not just about the birds though, as I said before we have also been seeing lots of other creatures too. Amongst my favourites last year were the Chocolate Mining Bees which I had never heard of before. Apparently it's really quite common particularly in the south, but has been seen as far north as Scotland. Overall we saw 21 species of bees, wasps and ants (which are all the same family) by the end of 2020. I have only got into bees quite recently and although they can be quite tricky to identify I'm learning so much. I think learning about bees is especially important now as they are in decline. With my dad's moth-trapping, which does no harm to the moths, we saw an amazing 209 species by the end of the year. My personal favourite was the Hummingbird Hawkmoth, which really does look like a hummingbird. Amazingly they migrate across the channel! We also had lots of tadpoles in the pond and they were great fun to watch. We did some pond dipping and managed to find a leech of some kind and a Water Hog Louse which is an aquatic relative of the Woodlouse, we even found some flatworms. The resident foxes as ever are pretty easy to spot and don't seem at all afraid of people. They are still very much wild creatures though and should be treated with respect.
As another way of seeing what creatures visit the garden we put out a trail camera and I'm really pleased with the footage they can capture. I will put a couple of the best videos at the end for you to see, and add more during the year as we get them, keep an eye on the videos. The camera is pretty simple to set up and has infrared for shooting at night too. There are a lot of different models out there which are generally pretty reasonably priced. Mine allows you to either shoot stills, videos or both that gives you a lot of versatility. Personally I prefer to use just the video mode because it gives least chance of missing any action. After we set up the camera setting we leave it to do it's thing. I hope you enjoy the clips and this encourages you to see what is in your area! Do let me know if you see anything interesting I would love to know!
I hope you're keeping well at this challenging time! I've had my vaccine stage one and I'm just waiting until I can receive jab number two. I'm sure like me you can't wait for this all to end! Spring is round the corner though and seeing the first flowers has certainly lifted my spirits. For those of you finding this time difficult here's a verse that I turn to a lot when things are tough! "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29: 11 reminds us that God is with us and loves us unconditionally. Even though we can't understand what's going on God does and he is fully in control even when it doesn't feel like it. He is working everything out for our good in a bad situation.