Restrictions on many parts of daily life are continuing as we look to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is vital that we all stick to the government rules – but at one of the most interesting and uplifting times of the year for nature, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy wildlife, even at this challenging time.
Experiencing nature, whether from your window, balcony, garden, or as part of your essential exercise, can offer hope, enjoyment and a bit of much needed distraction.
The Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) helps local people to discover nature with volunteering projects, walks, events and habitat management initiatives. Although much of its work cannot continue as normal during the pandemic, there is still much to be done to help bring us closer to wildlife.
EWG founder Sean McCormack explains: “It is clinically proven that connecting with nature is good for mental health and wellbeing and now, more than ever, we need that connection. The group currently has more than 2,800 members and so many are contributing with sightings, photos and insight about our local wildlife.”
With many of EWG’s usual activities and endeavours off the table for now, Sean and colleagues have been looking at ways to help bring local wildlife to people and offer them that connection to nature, which remains so important.
Sean says: “People are also sending us their experiences of nature and you can get involved by becoming a member and visiting our facebook page. But for many people at this, or any time, getting about simply isn’t possible, so we are doing our best to be able to share our wildlife experiences online.
“We have already done a virtual dawn chorus, where as part of my daily exercise, I took an early morning walk in some local woodland and streamed the sounds back to facebook. It’s such a wonderful time of year for birdsong and hopefully we can do similar events in the future which could include a virtual bat-walk.”
Here are the EWG’s top tips for getting the most out of the wildlife on your doorstep:
- A balcony or windowsill means you do not need a garden to see nature close up – set up a bird feeder or plant box. Bees will be drawn to high pollinating plants and many birds are nesting now, meaning they will be needing as much food as possible
- If you do have a garden there are an array of ways to attract wildlife to your doorstep, from sowing wildflower seeds to building a compost heap. Find out full details via a recent EWG blog
- If you are able to exercise in a local green space in line with the rules then remember to #SeeTheSmallThings – EWG is encouraging local people to disconnect from technology for a short time and look in detail at the smaller things, from bugs and butterflies, to plants and flowers. It can be a wonderful way of being mindful and paying a bit of attention to our mental wellbeing
- Birdsong is all around us at the moment and it is easier than you think to learn the songs of different species – try learning what a blackbird, robin, wren, blue tit and great tit sounds like and you will find that you can recognise much of the local birdsong you encounter. The RSPB website has a fantastic index of birds and their songs and is a perfect place to start
- Observe and learn – next time you have the opportunity have a look around and think about what you see. There is so much wildlife to discover and it can be a joyful experience to learn and identify what you encounter. You could order an identification guide and once again, the RSPB website can help ID a bird you do not recognise.
Councillor Mik Sabiers, cabinet member for environment and highways said: “Experiencing nature is a richly rewarding experience and proven to help wellbeing. At this especially difficult time, everyone can feel the benefits if they look up, down and around for the wide range of wildlife we have right here in Ealing.
“It is absolutely vital that everyone continues to follow the rules on travelling and social distancing, but as the EWG has shown us, we can experience wildlife safely and virtually – and also literally from our doorsteps or windows. I thank the EWG for their ongoing work in our borough encourage everyone to get involved where they can.”
Photo of stag beetle by Sean McCormack.