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Eagle eyes: this buzzard was spotted by Ian above his house in Steeton during ‘lockdown’ birding

How to help us record wildlife from home

Tuesday 7 April, 2020, by Ian Court

The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed the world that we live in, with this and many other countries now under an unprecedented lockdown to help try and save lives. This has had huge impacts on us all and I’m sure many are still coming to terms with what is happening all around us.

For many, not being out in the countryside and looking at wildlife is something that we are all having to adjust to. But it is crucial that we all stay at home and adhere to the government guidelines.

As we’re not able to go on our favourite walk or visit a regular birdwatching ‘patch’, it’s a good time to take a closer look at the wildlife that can be seen in our gardens or from the living room window.

The YDNPA has been encouraging all birdwatchers to help us learn more about the distribution and status of bird species across the area by recording their bird sightings on the BirdTrack website, coordinated by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Now that we can no longer get out and about, why not join the growing number of birdwatchers keeping a ‘lockdown’ list of birds seen from their house?

Robin (Ian Court)

In order to try and get my daily birding ‘fix’ I started doing a BirdTrack list twice a day when we all started home working. At first it was difficult, pacing round our small garden where the viewing is relatively restricted, and staring across to the opposite side of the valley to the bits I can see between the trees.

This has, however, now become the ‘norm’ and I now look forward to my daily checks. If you try it you will be amazed at what you might see.

I hadn’t realised just how often buzzards pass over my ‘airspace’, just how many lesser black-backed gulls are flying through the valley, that by putting up my telescope in the front room I could see the mute swan swimming along the canal on the other side of the valley, or previously appreciated just what a spectacular sight and sound the 500 or so local jackdaws make when they circle round in a huge flock at dusk in a pre-roost gathering.

On the warmer days I keep a check on the dandelion flowers that I’ve let grow in the garden and have been pleased to see several small tortoiseshell butterflies and a peacock butterfly already this year. I’ve yet to see any of the bees that pass through the garden well enough to identify, and wasn’t quick enough to photograph the hoverfly that recently visited, but, hopefully, I will get chance to work out what they are before too long.

The therapeutic benefits of watching wildlife and getting some fresh air have been widely documented, and are probably more important to our well being now than at any other time.

At this time of year the YDNPA would normally be working with a number of different organisations to help survey and monitor a wide range of species in the National Park. With access very much restricted, why not take a look at some of the wildlife that can be seen from our homes and gardens and join in one of the many recording schemes that have been set up by a range of organisations.

There is more information on the easy to use BTO BirdTrack website, and, once registered, it will enable you to record your regular garden sightings. This information can then be added to the hundreds of thousands of other records gathered across the country to help build up a better picture of the distribution and migration patterns of birds right across the country.

There are a wide range of other surveys that you could contribute to such as the BTO Garden BirdWatch, where you keep a simple list that will help to determine which species visit each week and how gardens are used for feeding and shelter.

Or how about joining the RSPB’s Breakfast Birdwatch by sharing what you see from your own home on social media, and help to support and engage with other wildlife watchers?

Small tortoiseshell butterfly (Ian Court)

If you have ever had an interest in butterflies or have always wanted to know which species you have been seeing from your home then why not use the free Butterfly Conservation app. It will help you identify butterflies and input your records. These will go to the local Butterfly Conservation recorders and so will help provide important information on the distribution of butterflies in the area.

With such large parts of the countryside not being visited at this current time, participation in these surveys from your own home will help with mental well-being and play an important part in wildlife recording. Most importantly, these can all be carried out whilst still following the government guidelines during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Follow the YDNPA Wildlife Conservation Team on our new Twitter account @WildlifeDales, where we will be highlighting more surveys and other information about our local wildlife.

Picture of Ian Court

Ian Court

Ian is the Authority's Wildlife Conservation Officer

2 Replies to “How to help us record wildlife from home”

  1. Sue Rea says:

    Great idea.

  2. Karen Russell says:

    10th and 12th July between 9am and 10am pole cats swimming across the canal just between the lock gates and Nicholson bridge

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