Discover a world of wildlife in your garden

Wasp
At this time of year, our gardens and ponds are full of life such as wasps and tadpoles.

Natural Resource Wales is calling on people of all ages across Wales to step outside to explore the abundance of natural life to be found in their gardens as the world joins together to mark International Day for Biological Diversity (Friday, May 22).

As part of the annual celebrations, the United Nations has called on the global community to reinvigorate its relationship with nature and the many environmental benefits it delivers, including clean air and water, sustainable food supplies, and recovery and resilience to natural disasters.

The natural world is under threat here in Wales and NRW has a key role in tackling this emergency by protecting species and habitats and the sustainable management of our natural resources.

Graham Rutt, Ecological Data Specialist for NRW, explained:

“The UN International Day for Biological Diversity celebrates the wonderful diversity of nature and wildlife around our planet.

“The impact of Coronavirus has seen far more people inspired to explore nature in their communities and gardens getting to know the rich diversity of animals, insects and plants which share our homes.

“You don’t have to live in the countryside to enjoy nature – it’s all around you, even if you live in a town or city. Any green space will be home to a surprising number of species and you’ll be amazed at what you can find within walking distance of your home.”

So, what can you expect to find in your garden?

  • One of the traditional signs of spring is a garden full of butterflies. In the last few weeks, several different species of butterflies laid their eggs and their caterpillars will soon be emerging.
  • The first froglets are emerging in garden ponds in warmer areas and heading for abundant vegetation and long grass to hide in.
  • The first  damsel and dragonflies can be seen as the Spring progresses
  • Wildflowers are blooming in overlooked corners of our gardens creating unexpected colour and habitat for a variety of insects.
  • Bees are vital to healthy ecosystems through their role as pollinators and the first bumblebees can be seen busily gathering nectar and pollen

Tristan Hatton-Ellis is a habitats and species specialist advisor for NRW. He said:

“Lockdown is a difficult time for many of us, but it also provides an opportunity to notice some of the small things in life.

“In your garden, or when you are taking a walk, take a closer look at the animals and plants around you and appreciate their beauty, or their weirdness – the tiny dramas unfolding around us every day.

“Unfortunately, many amazing and beautiful species just like these are at serious risk of extinction.

“Nature and green spaces are really important for our well-being, and they are also home for so much wildlife. So if you feel inspired and want to give nature a hand, there are some great online wildlife gardening resources, such as at Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, the Freshwater Habitats Trust, the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts Wales.”

Dare to be wild! New review says get long-lasting feel-good factor from 30 Days Wild

Sky 179 (c) Matthew Roberts _
Sky © Matthew Roberts

The Wildlife Trusts and University of Derby evaluate the benefits of daily nature contact with 1,000 people over five years

The feel-good factor from simple daily contact with nature can last for months, once initiated, according to a new review from The Wildlife Trusts. The review is based on surveys completed by people taking part in 30 Days Wild – the UK’s biggest nature challenge which is run by The Wildlife Trusts and inspires daily acts of nature engagement every day during June.

Building on three peer-reviewed papers, the University of Derby has evaluated survey responses from more than 1,000 people over five years and discovered the enduring effects on wellbeing from participation in 30 Days Wild – the positive effects are still felt two months after the challenge is over.

30 Days Wild participants are provided with ideas, wallcharts and activity sheets that give everyone easy ways of enjoying nature whatever their location. These ‘random acts of wildness’ range from walking barefoot on grass, to sitting beneath a tree or watching birds on a feeder.

Key findings:

30 Days Wild – a five-year review is a summary of 1,105 people’s responses. The results show that taking part in 30 Days Wild not only significantly increases people’s wellbeing and heightened sense of nature – but that these positive increases are sustained beyond the life of the challenge – for a minimum of two months after it is over. The people who benefit most are those who have a relatively weak connection with nature at the start.

  • 30 Days Wild resulted in very significant increases in nature connectedness for those who began with a weak connection to nature – their nature connectedness rose by 56%
  • 30 Days Wild boosted the health of participants by an average of 30%
  • 30 Days Wild made people, particularly those who started with a relatively weak connection to nature, significantly happier
  • 30 Days Wild inspired significant increases in pro-nature behaviour

Other important findings include:

  • People were asked to rate their health, nature connectedness, happiness and pro-nature behaviour before beginning the challenge, again at the beginning of July when the challenge had finished, and then for a third time in September, two months after the challenge had finished. All positive increases were maintained both immediately after the challenge and also two months later.
  • Overall, those participants with the lowest connection to nature before doing the 30 Days Wild challenge gained the greatest benefits by taking part in the challenge.

Professor Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness at the University of Derby, says:

“This five-year evaluation of 30 Days Wild has produced remarkable results – it shows the positive power of simple engagement with nature. We were thrilled to see that the significant increases in people’s health and happiness were still felt even two months after the 30 Days Wild challenge was over.

“The Wildlife Trusts have shown the importance of doing simple things to enjoy everyday nature and that it can bring considerable benefits. What really stood out was how the people who didn’t feel a connection with nature at the outset were the ones who benefitted most from taking part in 30 Days Wild.”

Over a million people have taken part in 30 Days Wild during the last five years. Last year, 2019, was the most successful so far, attracting 400,000 participants. This June, The Wildlife Trusts believe the challenge will prove more popular than ever as the UK battles with social restrictions and people are looking for ways to keep spirits up and entertain young families. Whilst time spent outside may be limited, daily nature activities – even at home – can open a door to a world of sensory delights, from listening to birdsong or growing a pot of wildflowers on a windowsill.

People of all ages can sign-up and download fun ideas, wallcharts, activity sheets and inspiration for going wild in nature during June.  This year the campaign is 100% digital and everyone can download materials for FREE.

Dom Higgins, head of health and education at The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“Every June, The Wildlife Trusts get very excited to see people becoming closer to nature in their daily lives. With 30 Days Wild there’s so much fun, enchantment and inspiration to be had. Connecting with nature every day, in an easy way, is a must have for our own wellbeing. That’s why The Wildlife Trusts are campaigning for better, wilder places near to where we all live and work so that everyone, everywhere, can enjoy nature on the doorstep.

“Dare to be wild this June! We want to encourage people who are least likely to spend time in nature in their daily lives to take part in the 30 Days Wild challenge and give it a go – those people who do not feel much of a connection to nature – because we know that they’re the ones who will benefit most from doing it.

“Our lives have been changed by coronavirus and this is giving people a reason to reflect on our relationship with nature, the way we live our lives and how we spend our free time.  Precious moments outside on a daily walk help us to relax and feel happier. Even watching wildlife from a window, or on a webcam, connects us to that sense of being a part of nature, not apart from it.”

30 Days Wild has attracted well-known supporters: TV presenters Ellie Harrison, Monty Don and Dr Amir Khan, The Vamps’ James McVey, fitness blogger Zanna van Dijk, and Birdgirl – Mya-Rose Craig, have lent their support to The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild challenge.

The 2020 challenge has brand new downloads to enjoy, including:

  • Wildlife gardening tips from Monty Don
  • Beginner’s guide to wildlife photography from award-winning George Stoyle
  • Wild fitness ideas from Zanna Van Dijk

Our Big Wild Weekend events will focus on nature at home – on Saturday 20th June everyone’s invited to camp in their back garden or create a wild and beautiful nature den indoors!

30 Days Wild – a five-year review can be downloaded here.

Sign-up, download the inspiration and get ready to share your daily #30DaysWild now! www.wildlifetrusts.org/30DaysWild

Beavers Build Back Better – but their future is not secure

Devon Wildlife Trust Beaver female with kits (C) Michael Symes
Devon Wildlife Trust Beaver female with kits © Michael Symes

The Wildlife Trusts have pioneered the reintroduction of beavers to Britain ever since Kent Wildlife Trust released these industrious creatures into a fenced area of fenland in 2001. Then followed the Scottish Beaver Trial, which saw the first ever reintroduction of a native extinct mammal to the British Isles since they were hunted to extinction over 400 years ago. Later, in 2015, the River Otter Beaver Trial, based in East Devon and led by Devon Wildlife Trust, enabled beavers to roam wild again in England.

Beavers are back, but their future is not secure.  The Wildlife Trusts are calling for a Beaver Strategy for England which would provide a roadmap for a future where:

  • There are more beavers in many more catchments
  • Beaver populations are healthy and thriving
  • Management frameworks are agreed which provide support for farmers, landowners and river users
  • Beaver impacts and their population health are scientifically monitored

The Wildlife Trusts and our partners believe that beavers should be an integral part of a green recovery. The impressive and ever-growing body of independent scientific evidence reveals the vast array of benefits that beavers can bring to society by working with nature. These include:

  • Improved water quality: Beaver dams slow and filter water, causing sediment and nutrients to be deposited in ponds. This improves the quality of water flowing from sites where beavers are present.
  • Land holds more water: The dams, ponds and channels created by beavers increase capacity of land to store water and produce a more consistent outflow below their dams. This can result in less water being released during heavy rainfall (reducing flooding downstream) and more water availability during times of drought.
  • Carbon is captured: Beaver wetlands capture carbon, locked up in dams, and boggy vegetation and wet woodlands which are restored.
  • More wildlife: Beavers create diverse wetland habitats that can provide a home for a wide range of wildlife, especially aquatic invertebrates which act as a food source for other species.
  • People engaged with wildlife: People are fascinated by beavers. The presence of beavers in an area provides an opportunity for people to engage with wildlife, as well as creating a market for nature tourism.

Beavers create thriving ecosystems helping us to put nature firmly back on the road to recovery.  And they do all this for free.

By working alongside farmers, landowners, river users and local communities we have learnt that management is essential if we are to maximise the benefits that beavers provide.  We now have a range of carefully honed techniques which can help us do this, which help avoid or minimise any localised negative impacts which might occur. We have gained widespread support for our recommended approaches in Scotland and Devon.

We are also calling on government to provide farmers and landowners with financial support to make space for water and beavers on their land. This will reward those who give up some of their land to benefit communities downstream, which will benefit from lower flood or drought risk and higher water quality.

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“Beavers are proving just what a valuable force they can be in helping to solve the nature and climate crises. Their extraordinary ability to naturalise landscapes, improving them for other wildlife, enhancing water quality and controlling water flow makes them a vital component of a modern approach to land management.  People love beavers and their presence has really boosted tourism in the places where they’ve been reintroduced.

“Now it is time to look forward and set out an ambitious vision for the return of these animals.  But this must be done properly and thoughtfully, with the right support systems in place.   That’s why it is so important that the government publishes its beaver strategy soon.”

Harry Barton, CEO of Devon Wildlife Trust, says:

“This is an incredibly exciting time for re-establishing beavers and bringing them back where they belong.  The work we’ve done on the river Otter over the past five years, with a team of international experts led by the University of Exeter, shows just how many benefits these fascinating animals can bring, and how we can manage any problems that might arise.   It’s now time to seize the moment and take this exciting work forward so that beavers can deliver their many benefits on a larger scale.  We look forward to a swift and positive response from the government.”

Professor Richard Brazier, University of Exeter, chair of the Science and Evidence Forum that published the River Otter Beaver Trial Report, says:

“Our detailed research programmes have concluded that the positive impacts of beavers outweighed the negatives. A summary of the quantifiable cost and benefits of beaver reintroduction in the River Otter in Devon demonstrates that the ecosystem services and social benefits accrued are greater than the financial costs incurred.”

The Wildlife Trusts are gathering public support for an England beaver strategy – play your part here: wtru.st/act-for-beavers

MPs must seize huge opportunity for green recovery this week

The Wildlife Trusts quite understandably want the UK government to put nature at the forefront of The Agriculture Bill. But with minds focused on Covid-19 and Brexit, you have to wonder if the will is there, in parliament, to seize this opportunity.

Wetland area on the edge of a field of sheep with hills in the background.
© Phil Pickin

The Agriculture Bill returns to parliament on Wednesday 13th May – this will be the last opportunity for MPs to amend the bill, which could kick-start a green recovery by enabling nature to be restored after decades of loss, before it passes to the House of Lords.

The Bill will become the first piece of legislation to be voted on by the House of Commons’ new virtual voting procedures – an apt piece of legislation since lockdown conditions have triggered a surge of interest in people seeking solace in nature.

A large part of our nature is dependent on the way that we manage the 70% of land which is farmed. We live in one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and The Wildlife Trusts believe that the focus of the Agriculture Bill must be to reward farmers for public goods – in other words, to switch from the old system of paying farmers for owning land to a reformed system of paying them for their role in fighting the climate and nature crises and delivering benefits to society for which the market cannot pay.

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts says:

“We know that coronavirus has made people value nature more than ever; polls also suggest people have been worried about access to food. You can’t have food security without nature being in good shape – you can’t grow food without pollinators or healthy soils. It’s vital that we recognise the important role farmers could play in nature and our climate’s recovery – this Bill could mark a watershed, a shift towards a green renaissance which would be good for the economy too. MPs must not be swayed by the ‘return to business as usual’ lobby.

“We shouldn’t be using taxpayers’ money to subsidise what the market can pay for, and we certainly shouldn’t be using it to subsidise farming practices that damage the environment.  We should only be using taxpayers money to reward farmers for creating public goods such as restoring hedgerows and wildflower meadows, for creating wetlands that filter agri-chemicals and protect rivers and our drinking water from pollution, and for protecting soils so they can capture carbon, sustain future harvests and not be washed into rivers.”

The Wildlife Trusts are part of Greener UK – a coalition of 13 major green charities – that are calling for the Agriculture Bill to:

• Ensure that farmers in the UK are not undercut by imported food produced to lower standards

• Require a long-term funding framework to be set at a scale required to help tackle the climate and environment emergency

• Ensure a suitable regulatory baseline of environmental standards is in place as we leave the EU

92% of the public want farming to focus on tackling the climate and nature crises [1]. Research shows that £3billion minimum is need for nature-friendly farming [2]. The UK currently spends around £3.2 billion a year on both farm income support and environmental payments under the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). A report published by the National Trust, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts last autumn provided justification for re-investing the current annual UK CAP budget to help farmers and land managers to restore nature and tackle climate change on their land.

Protecting and restoring nature is more essential than ever

Skomer Puffin Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales (c) Mike Alexander
Skomer Puffin Wildlife Trust of South & West Wales © Mike Alexander

The Wildlife Trusts – a movement of 46 charities across the UK – are, like others, dealing with unprecedented challenges caused by coronavirus. Restoring nature in the UK – one of the most nature depleted countries in the world – has become harder than ever during the pandemic. At the same time, people are seeking solace in nature to relieve the hardships caused by the lockdown.

Many Trust staff are furloughed and those that remain in post have found valuable time is being lost to a proliferation of illegal activities such as shooting wildlife and fly-tipping. Meanwhile, vital conservation work has had to be put on hold – leading to an explosion of invasive non-native species, deterioration of rare wildflower meadows, stalled wildlife reintroductions and potential loss of species such as dormice from some areas.

Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“People are discovering that they want and need to connect to nature more than ever – they’re finding solace at their local nature reserve, using our inspiration to help wildlife in their gardens and balconies and educating their children about the natural world. Huge numbers of people are enjoying our webcams showing springtime nature, barn owl chicks hatching and puffins emerging from burrows. But it is local nature – in walking distance or short bike ride from home – which is particularly important for peoples’ mental and physical health at this time.

That’s why it’s The Wildlife Trusts, who care for 2,300 reserves – most of them close to where people live – that are at the sharp end of trying deliver this public service. But these are desperate times for our movement as income from visitor centres and fundraisers has crashed yet the demands of caring for thousands of nature reserves are higher than ever. We’re also heartbroken that so much valuable work restoring large areas of land has been put on hold and some species will lose out as monitoring and reintroduction programmes stall.

With the Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Bills all now delayed, we have profound concerns about whether these critical pieces of legislation will become law – and enforcement bodies will be in place – before the Brexit transition period comes to end on December 31st.  The challenges faced by the natural environment have never been greater and we need both government and public support.”

Current issues that Wildlife Trusts are struggling to deal with include:

  • Management of rare and historic wildflower meadows – non-maintenance leads to deterioration and this will take time to repair
  • Absence of species protection, species monitoring and special wildlife surveys
  • Delay in legislation across governments – in England, for example, to the Environment, Agriculture and Fisheries Bills
  • Lack of habitat restoration so nature recovery stalls
  • Badger vaccination has stopped
  • Land advisory work stopped
  • No site visits to check planning applications – leading to a possible swathe of knock-on effects once lockdown is lifted
  • No beach cleans will lead to pollution problems particularly for marine mammals
  • Gaps in marine data collection
  • Necessary cancellation of all public events and education and community sessions, preventing outreach into vulnerable communities and risk of an ever-increasing disconnect between young people and the natural world
  • Flytipping, vandalism and theft on nature reserves
  • Illegal shooting of rare birds
  • Lack of management of invasive non-native species will now require a big effort once social distancing rules are relaxed

Craig Bennett explains:

“The work of The Wildlife Trusts is critical. We live in one of the most nature depleted countries in the world at a time when there’s a big public conversation about the importance of nature – and access to it – in our everyday lives. It feeds our souls and nourishes us in good times and in bad. Caring for nature benefits us all in many ways.

“The Wildlife Trusts can be a vital part of our nation’s recovery from the current health crisis. Nature brings health benefits and offers solutions to the other great emergency facing humanity – climate change – so it must be protected and allowed to recover. I’d urge people to support their local Wildlife Trust wherever they are in the UK.”

Over 60% of the population live within a 3 mile walk of a Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

For inspiration, nature ideas during lockdown and wildlife webcams (these have had a 22-fold increase in views on this time last year) scroll here www.wildlifetrusts.org/looking-after-yourself-and-nature.  Please see editor’s notes for examples of how The Wildlife Trusts’ work is being affected by coronavirus.

Tune in to wildlife during tough times

© Ben Hall - 2020VISION (6)
© Ben Hall – 2020VISION 

The Wildlife Trusts have created wonderful online nature activities to encourage everyone to tune in to wildlife at home this spring – and to help people find solace in nature during tough times.

Spot bees, butterflies, bats and birds during your permitted local walk, keep children entertained with nature-themed crafts, or tune in to look at fabulous wildlife footage and photos! There’s also plenty of practical outdoor advice to inspire us to do more for wildlife in gardens, balconies or window boxes.

Tune in at www.wildlifetrusts.org/looking-after-yourself-and-nature. The Wildlife Trusts are also launching a weekly wildlife programme on YouTube this week for kids and parents. A new video will be uploaded to Wildlife Watch UK every Wednesday at 10am. The channel will feature wildlife experts, home-school help and seasonal species to spot at wtru.st/Wildlife-Watch-YouTube. Future videos will include:

  • How to build a pond
  • Be a garden scientist  – exploring your garden wildlife
  • How to identify insects in your garden
  • How to make a bug hotel
  • What is marine pollution?
  • Why birds sing and how to recognise their songs.

Wildlife Trusts across the UK are providing new ways of helping us feel more connected to the wider world and each other, via their online and social channels.  Wildlife experts who are usually leading school visits, events or talking to visitors on reserves have had to down tools and work from home – and so they can now be found online leading wildlife-spotting tours through their gardens, blogging about the life cycle of oil beetles or sharing heart-warming sounds of a dawn chorus on a sunny April morning. For example:

  • Follow over 20 webcams from nests and locations around the UK and watch puffins in Alderney, peregrines in Nottingham, bats in Essex and ospreys on their nests www.wildlifetrusts.org/webcams.
  • Join Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trusts mini-beast expert Ben Keywood talk about frogspawn and springtime insects from his own garden. Help the Wildlife Trust record sightings of wildlife and follow their advice for helping in your garden.
  • Daily wildlife diaries from Sussex Wildlife Trusts Michael Blencowe who talks about the wildlife in his gorgeous garden.
  • Worcestershire Wildlife Trust is advising people about feeding birds, watching wildlife in the garden and learning how to identify it.
  • Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust is producing a series of videos called Bringing Nature to You. Join education officer Susan Symmonds and hear about the life cycle of an oil beetle.
  • Go to Surrey Wildlife Trust’s website where you’ll find spotter sheets and activities to help identify local wildlife.
  • Sign up for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s Wild at Home ideas for regular activities and inspiration to help people stay connected with wildlife.
  • Keep an eye out for #EverydayWildlife across social media, an outlet to share local wildlife, big, small, grand or often overlooked.
  • Get guidance on how to create a butterfly haven in our Wild About Gardens campaign with the RHS, by downloading a handy booklet full of inspiration.

Leanne Manchester, wildlife gardener and digital communications manager at The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“More people than ever are tuning into our wildlife webcams – more than double the figure for this time last year – and we’re seeing people have a lot of fun wildlife-watching in their gardens. Spring has arrived in splendid colour and sound, and over the past few days, hundreds of people have told us that they’ve spotted their first butterflies. These are joyful moments that people hold dear at this difficult time.

“Everyone can share and follow on social media using #EverydayWildlife – swapping such experiences can be a lovely way of keeping in touch. Do keep an eye on our channels in the coming weeks – we’ve got lots of lovely ideas and activities to help you stay connected to nature and still feel the health benefits of being outside in your garden or neighbourhood.”

Michael Blencowe, learning and engagement officer at Sussex Wildlife Trust says:

“Despite being confined to our homes and neighbourhoods, we can still enjoy wildlife’s busy activity around us and be part of a huge online community sharing local wildlife stories. Butterflies and bumblebees are all emerging from hibernation, the blossom is bursting into life and the birds are singing beautifully every morning. It’s all helping to lift our spirits and improve our mental wellbeing. It proves that the role wildlife plays in our lives has become more important than ever.”

In total there are 24 webcams offered by Wildlife Trusts across the UK that are online, or will come online soon. 19 webcams are online right now and five cams will come online later in spring, depending on when the species they watch arrive!

The Government’s guidance on access to green spaces here.