World Curlew Day : 21st April

April 21, 2020




Today is World Curlew Day, a celebration of the curlews, a group of nine shorebird species in the genus Numenius which are widely distributed around the world. It is also a day to raise awareness of their plight, as most of these species are in trouble. One of them - the Eskimo curlew, is probably extinct and another - the Slender-billed curlew, critically endangered with the last confirmed sighting in 2004. Two species breed in the UK, the Eurasian whimbrel and the Eurasian curlew, and both are red listed in this country as having the highest conservation priority. This post is primarily about the Eurasian curlew, which has suffered alarming declines across the country in recent years, especially in Ireland, Wales and the south of England. With the UK hosting around a quarter of the world's breeding population it is especially urgent that curlews receive the protection they need to survive. As a bird which I have only become familiar with in the past year or so, it is heartbreaking to think that it could eventually disappear from this country if current trends are not reversed. Read on to find out more about the curlew's plight and what you can do to help!


Take Part in Citizen Science Projects During Isolation

April 13, 2020


COVID19 lockdown means a lot of us have extra time at home, and many of us are missing exploring the great outdoors and engaging with nature. Citizen science is a fun and easy way to get our wildlife fix, whilst contributing to research all over the world. It can be done from home, and most projects don't require experience or qualifications, just an enthusiasm for nature.

Here are a few options which you can take part in from your home or garden:


Zooniverse 

Zooniverse is a platform designed to enable volunteers to assist professional researchers. Research made possible from the platform has resulted in new discoveries, valuable datasets, and publications. There are lots of projects to choose from (see here) but here are a few that caught my eye:

Penguin Watch 
Very few of us will be lucky enough to observe penguins in their natural habitat, but this may be the next best thing! By looking at photos and counting penguins, you can help the University of Oxford to understand why penguin populations in some regions are in decline, and learn more about population changes and changes in survival rates and timing of breeding. 

Seabirdwatch 
Seabirds are thriving in some areas, and declining in others. It's tricky to study seabird colonies so there has historically been insufficient data to effect change. Counting seabirds and identifying different species can enable researchers to demonstrate which threats are important and encourage policy makers to act.

Project Plumage 
If you're more interested in an evolution project, this one is for you! Help the Natural History Museum to measure the dazzling array of plumage colouration in birds to gain a better understanding of how and why spectacular animal colouration evolves.

Wildwatch Burrowing Owl
Another counting project! But this time focusing on burrowing owls. As well as counts, researchers need you to identify behaviours, and any visitors and predators to their burrows. The information gathered will help land managers balance development and wildlife conservation.



Biological Recording

Biological recording allows you to explore and identify wildlife, and submit your findings into databases which can be used for conservation research around the world. It is possible to take part without leaving your garden, making it a great option for the current corona virus isolation period. You can submit anything you find to iRecord, or take part in these projects: 

Butterfly Conservation are encouraging the public to submit recordings of moths and butterflies spotted in gardens. Engaging with nature is good for our mental health (particularly important during the current pandemic), and will also ensure databases are up to date which is vital for conservation. Find out more about the projects here

Join the British Trust for Ornithology for their Garden BirdWatch! The project has been running since 1995, and data helps scientists to investigate changes in garden bird populations. Keep a list of what species you spot in your garden and submit them to the database. The project is usually run as a membership for £17 a year, including a book and quarterly magazine, but is currently free for a year during lockdown.

The People's Trust for Endangered Species want you to help them understand what mammals are living on our doorsteps. Take part in their Living with Mammals survey by submitting any mammal sightings that you see, or even any footprints or droppings. The data collected by volunteers really is invaluable - it previously led to the discovery that hedgehog numbers had fallen by a third in urban areas in less than 20 years! 

The Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar aims to track the effects of weather and climate change on wildlife. Record your sightings and observations, and make sure to find out how often you need to do a follow up, as it varies between species. 

They might not get the same level of love as our charismatic mammals and birds, but slugs are just as important! Since the Green Cellar Slug was spotted in the UK and Ireland, records of the Yellow Slug have declined dramatically. The Royal Horticultural Society needs lots of help to find out if the Green Cellar Slug has taken over, and whether we may witness the extinction of a slug in Britain. Find out more here, and don't worry - they are not considered pests to plants!

The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland would like you to submit what wildflowers you can spot in your garden, on your balcony, or even a single planter by your front door. This will provide a picture of which wildflowers are growing in gardens across Britain and Ireland, and a better understanding of their distribution and ecology. Learn more about the Garden Wildflower Hunt here.

I hope these gave some interesting ideas to get stuck into! There are more than enough projects to keep us busy, and it's more important than ever to make sure database's stay up to date so that conservation work can continue to make a difference. Wanting to read more about citizen science? Check out our other posts here!

Nature Webcams to Help With Self Isolation

April 05, 2020


In times of crisis, the natural world is a source of both joy and solace. The natural world produces the comfort that can come from nothing else.
David Attenborough 

As the reality of the COVID-19 lockdown sinks in and we settle down into self-isolation, the importance of the natural world in keeping our spirits up is apparent. One form of exercise a day is currently permitted, which includes walking, and whilst some are lucky enough to live near places where nature can easily be found close to home, others may not have this luxury. Some have taken to finding wildlife in their gardens and birdwatching from their windows, but another way of getting a nature fix in this difficult time is to tune in to the endless array of live webcams online. This post features a selection that I have been enjoying recently and I hope you will too!

Nature's Good News