A walk on the wild side: Why mindful walks don't have to be left in 2020
"I am really keen to reach out and show that we really do care about wildlife outside of the uniform. We're real people who enjoy the many ways that nature can benefit us all - we all need Vitamin N!"
A guest blog by Inspector Geoff Edmond, our passionate national wildlife coordinator.
In many ways, the pandemic has helped many of us to become more grateful for the simple pleasure of fresh air and time spent amongst the wildlife and out in nature. These little moments have given so many of us much-needed solace while the busier elements of life have been closed for much of the last year.
During this time, our birds, mammals, amphibians and insects continued life as normal, but have we been paying attention and do we really know what they are up to - even now as we're busy preparing to get back out to the wider world?
"Birds are already breeding, making courtship displays and nest building"
Spring is in fact a very busy time as many birds are already breeding, making courtship displays and nest building and some species have already laid eggs. Equally, it's an anticipating time as we await migrant birds returning to our country for the summer (early returning migrants such as the Chiffchaff and Sand Martin are back with us already).
Hopefully, we will shortly see the first swallows arriving - something we can all look forward to. It's now spring and we have the first fox cubs already born. Badgers have cubs in underground setts waiting until they're big enough to emerge above ground for the first time to be welcomed into the outside world.
While out taking my exercise recently I came across a mother badger (called a sow) moving two of her tiny cubs from one part of the sett to another - this was at 2 pm in the afternoon when badgers are normally considered to be nocturnal.
This made me question; what on earth was she doing? The answer is that we can all speculate but in reality, only mum knew. Maybe her young were wandering about too far and she decided to tell her children to stay at home (one was clearly not happy with this and chuntering which drew my attention to them!).
Frogs have been producing their spawn for some time now, I saw my first at the beginning of March but since then it has become more plentiful. In many pond and wetland areas, tadpoles will soon emerge. There are bees getting busy, butterflies are waking up and yesterday I saw my first small tortoiseshell and today my first brimstone of the year which is a beautiful lemon yellow butterfly, usually seen in early spring.
"Explore new spaces if you can - you never know who you might find"
So at the moment, wildlife has become really alive and a lot of this we can see from where we live, but do we look hard enough? For those of us at home taking our lunches at home or in the park, please take the opportunity to look a bit further and a bit harder. Explore new spaces if you can - you never know who you might find gliding across the sky, diving into a pond, or scrambling up a tree.
Only at home yesterday, high in the sky, I saw a kestrel hovering - looking beautiful against the lovely blue sky. A barn owl even flew across the field a few days ago and it was only 5.30 pm and still daylight. I also saw two roe deer out feeding at about 6.15 pm. All could have been easy to miss but I'm grateful to have caught a glimpse of them!
If we take the time to think, we can look a little further into understanding what we're seeing. Looking at the kestrel tells me that I must have small mammals, perhaps voles and shrews living in the field where it was hunting. But why was the barn owl out hunting early? Did it already have a partner who was incubating eggs and so food needed to be taken back to the nest site?
This also supported my kestrel theory that there must be a reasonable vole/shrew population opposite from my house. Would I have known that without seeing the kestrel and the barn owl? Probably not!
And well, the roe deer were beautiful, such nervous creatures but coming out at dusk as they are crepuscular. Still in their dark winter coat before they moult into the more rufous summer coat - they had ventured out feeling safe now that the field was quiet after we had all gone back home.
Play: Explore our interactive garden to find out what attracts wildlife and how to help them throughout the seasons.
"Once you look a bit longer, you can be really surprised"
Nature can teach us so much and now we can reflect upon what we can see from home and when we take our exercise. Once you look a bit longer, you can be really surprised. I live on the edge of a seaside town and see so much. I also have a wildlife camera in my garden which records any visitors whilst I am asleep.
I currently have foxes and a badger travelling through my garden in the early hours of the morning. Without the camera, I wouldn't know but it's very rewarding to know that my garden attracts surprise visitors. I wonder how far their homes are and how far they travel each evening looking for food...
So now, as the quiet time at home draws to an end and the world prepares to open up to us once again, please don't squander the last few moments of calm and quiet but take the time to look outside and think about what you see. Please let us know on social media what you find and do let me help if you have any questions about all things wildlife!
Find out about wildlife in your garden
We've got more advice on helping the wildlife around you, as well as a number of helpful fact sheets about different species that are common in England and Wales.