Despite it all, you have been keeping us all in high spirits with your fantastic village wildlife pictures this month on our Facebook. Our village is really thriving this spring, and as we can only spend a limited time outside, it's wonderful to see through little snippets on the internet. We always love to see what you discover on your daily exercise, so feel free to share! Here are a few of our favourites.
What's Wild Last Month
As previously mentioned, last month cuckoos were migrating from Africa to England, an incredibly impressive journey that they do every year. The British Trust for Ornithology have a tracking project, where they tag and share updates from a select number of cuckoos that are taking this journey. During last month (24 Apr) one cuckoo named Carlton II became very local! He was traced to be enjoying the empty parks and golf clubs of Berkshire, and quickly moving north east towards Slough. The next updates show him briefly visiting Stoke Park Golf Club near Farnham Royal before moving on to Burnham Beeches Golf Club in Burnham. (25 Apr) Carlton II didn't stay long at the Burnham Beeches Golf Club, by 3pm on the 24th he was passing Bungay in Suffolk and by 5.30pm he was close to Great Yarmouth. The last updates received early morning on the 25th show him just a few miles north-west of his breeding and tagging site at Suffolk Wildlife Trust's Carlton Marshes nature reserve. This completes Carlton II's intense migration which covered a distance of approximately 16,700 km (10,377 miles) from Suffolk to Gabon and back again. Take a look for yourself here.
Last months newsletter featured images taken from a robin's nest box in my garden. However, two weeks from those egg photos, they have already fledged the nest! So, what's gone on behind the scenes? For robins, egg incubation is by the female alone for 13 days. Once the chicks have hatched they are totally dependent on both of their parents for food and warmth. Then, feather growth will become evident with the appearance of quills at three days of age. By five days the eyes start to open and then completely open by eight days. By this time, rows of feathers will start to appear on backs and flanks. The body is mostly feathered by 10 days. Flight feathers are the last to grow, and as the chicks fledge at 14 days, they will not be able to fly for another couple of days. So currently, after fledging, the young are tended by their parents for up to three weeks. Frequently, the care is left to the male, while the female prepares herself for the next nesting effort. Robins have two broods a year. Three successful broods a year is not uncommon, and in a good year even four are known. So, fingers crossed, we may have some more eggs this year! Remember, even after birds leave the nest, do not attempt to clean or move it, if you want more birds to stay there. The birds will redecorate and renovate to their leisure, it's time to sit back until September!
During this time, another nest box has been occupied! During early April, a female blue tit will build her nest alone. If you have a dog that sheds a lot, it's useful to leave this outside during this time, as blue tits will use this as building material for her nest. As she does this, her mate follows her around to make sure that her head is not turned by other males. Despite this, it is estimated that over 40% of blue tit nests contain at least one chick that is reared by a male that is not its genetic parent! Once finished, she will lay one egg per day, each at around 6am, until her clutch is complete. At the end of April, we currently have a clutch of nine eggs. Incubation will last around 13-15 days. We're excited to see the hatched chicks soon!
You have also been getting involved and sharing your nest box pictures! Jonathan Dalton posted these images on our Facebook, of his nest box at home, that is being occupied by great tits. If you have some nest box pictures, from inside or outside, feel free to share - we'd love to see!
A few of our top wild sightings for April include:
What's Wild This Month
We have had some unusually warm weather over last month, and you may have noticed many more insects emerging and swarming around our blossoming plants. As the weather will inevitably change, it would be really useful for a range of creatures to have a place to go. So, if you're looking for a lock down activity you can do at home, this is a really beneficial one. Solitary bees aren’t like honeybees that live in hives. As their name suggests, they make their nests on their own and lay their eggs in tunnels, such as in dead wood or hard soil. A bee B&B mimics these conditions, and you can find all the information you need to build one here. The RSPB website also has a shop where you can buy ready-made bee and bug biomes, if woodwork isn't your thing. Even easier, a log pile, that is left alone, in your garden is a fantastic site for all types of insects, bugs and even hedgehogs. Good luck!
Hedgehog Awareness Week is occurring this month from the 3rd to the 9th of May. Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and takes place every year. It aims to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them. For example, the BHPS selected a list of things you can do:
We also recommend keeping a hole in your fence for hedgehogs to pass through, when they're going from garden to garden. Access is critical for hedgehogs as on average, hedgehogs can roam 2km on a single night. Male hedgehogs in the breeding season can cover up to 3km in one night in their search of females!
May is one of the busiest months for the vegetable and flower grower. But as we're spending more time on our own patches, even the non-gardeners among us can be spurred into action by a spell of sunny weather. Now is a good time to prepare beds for planting by digging them over, weeding and adding compost. Depending on what you want to attract to your garden - like moths, birds or a range of creatures, there will be something to sow. If you don't have a garden, introducing plants into your workspace can be really beneficial. A 2010 study by the new University of Technology, Sydney, found significant reductions in stress among workers when plants were introduced to their workspace. Results included a 37% fall in reported tension and anxiety; a 58% drop in depression; a 44% decrease in anger and hostility; and a 38% reduction in fatigue. It's just as important to look after yourself in this trying time, too.
A few of our top wild sightings for May include:
As many of you will be looking for things to do, in this new found free time, here are a selection of our April favourites.
The British Garden: Life and Death on Your Lawn
You may have seen a Wild About Datchet Facebook post about this, as it’s definitely one of my favourites from this month. As it took a year to make, it's incredibly informative and insightful, in regards to what's going on in our gardens, all through the seasons. It has sections on all types of British flora and fauna, and includes activities suitable for all ages and abilities. It's full of expert advice and really worth the watch. You can watch it here.
Countryfile - Matt’s Home Patch - Episode 17
Countryfile is usually full of really interesting agricultural information, with segments from all over the UK. If you haven’t already, I would recommend having a watch, there’s loads to catch up on! However, they’re surprisingly still carrying on the series and taking all precautions. This episode I found particularly interesting, as it focuses on Matt Baker’s lock down activities where he creates a wildlife pond for his garden. It also features wildlife film-maker Jack Perks, who reveals the world beneath the surface of his already thriving garden pond. This family activity is a fantastic use of time during lock down, and is really beneficial for your garden’s biodiversity. You can watch it here.
Something in a Cardboard Box: Tales from the Wildlife Hospital - Les Stocker
One of our nearby wildlife hospitals is St.Tiggywinkles in Aylesbury. Akin to Mrs.Tiggywinkles, the famous Beatrix Potter character, this hospital is an absolute saviour if you find a hedgehog needing emergency care. It was started 40 years ago by the Stocker family in their back garden, and they have treated over 300,000 patients of all different types. This book details exactly how this happened and the origins of the hospital! It’s a heartwarming read and full of wonderful pictures, it’s a fantastic purchase for any animal lover. You can purchase it here for £3.99 - from an eco-friendly company saving books from landfill.
Wildlife Wednesday: How to identify birds from their songs!
Another video mentioned on our Facebook, is a YouTube video from The Wildlife Trust, helping you identify bird calls. It’s a really useful free tool that you can listen to on your daily walk or in the garden. As mentioned last month, the dawn chorus is happening, so it’s the perfect time to learn and exercise your knowledge. You can watch here.
World Wild News
COVID-19 and Wildlife
Undoubtedly, animals have played a huge part in the pandemic but it feels as though we have never felt more disconnected from them. Conservation experts say the coronavirus pandemic, which may have originated at a market selling wild animals in China, is a turning point for curbing the global wildlife trade. So how has this pinnacle statement magnified to the public what effect we have on the planet?
In a vast amount of countries, buying and consuming exotic game is a sign of status and wealth. The desire for wildlife as food or medicine drives a multi-million dollar trade in wild animals, some gained illegally, creating a breeding ground for disease and the chance for viruses to leap to humans. This is due to wild mammals carrying diseases that can cross the species barrier.
However, many of us have been on the side of banning wildlife trade and poaching, for decades. As in 2011, we saw the Western Black Rhinoceros driven into extinction and in the next decade, we could see the elephant and the Sumatran tiger follow suit. I’m sure most of you could agree the difficulty in seeing a change in government when it comes to wildlife and conservation.
Although now, real changes could be made. Recently, in the wake of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China introduced a ban on all farming and consumption of live wildlife, which is expected to become law later this year. Thousands of wildlife farms raising animals such as porcupines, civets and turtles have been shut down. This news is positive, but the spotlight cannot be just on China, as we often forget this is a global issue. In the UK, for example, some trade in elephant ivory is still legal.
Nevertheless, there is still a silver lining through all of this. Recently, we have seen wildlife being wild again; a really fascinating and heartwarming result.
Even though most animals enjoy the freedom, we mustn't forget that a large number of creatures do rely on humans to survive. When you’re on your daily walk, if you’re able feed the ducks/swans safely, please do. Similarly, your garden can be a hot spot for birds, hedgehogs, foxes and badgers, who will all be needing food due to less waste being left on the streets from food chains. So if you’re able, feeding wildlife can be really useful during this time.
It has also been proven that we can make the changes towards a better future. According to The Climate Group, working from home has the potential to reduce over 300 million tonnes of carbon emissions per year. Similarly, it has been reported that air quality has improved immensely in both Italy and China since residents have been staying home. According to China's Ministry of Ecology and Environment, "the average number of "good quality air days" increased by 21.5% in February, compared to the same period last year." As China is the largest polluter in the world, this is good news, as it could potentially measure to an estimated 200 million tonnes.
But banning the wildlife trade is something we can all agree on, the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, states that "Not only will this help prevent the spread of disease, it will address one of the major drivers of species extinction," something we must push before it’s too late.