In yesterday's blog I referred to Bill Oddie's toast to the good side of human nature. I've been pondering the ways we can tap into our good side. Here's a suggestion.
While I was away, my colleague Richard Gregory blogged about the gap in our knowledge of how the UK's most vulnerable plans and animals were faring, and the concern that some of these priceless gems could slip away without us knowing. We are hoping to work with like-minded NGOs and governments across the UK to ensure better monitoring and reporting of these species. But this can't be done without people on the ground looking out for our special flora and fauna and contributing to the schemes monitoring their fortunes. The RSPB is fortunate that an army of dedicated amateur ornithologists (ably steered by the BTO) ensure that the UK's birds are possibly the best-monitored in the world, but the same is not true for some other branches of our natural history.
Fortunately recent years have seen an exciting explosion of new surveys intended to help keep a closer eye on the UK's wildlife. Some of these require expert knowledge. If you're the sort of person that can tell your spreading-leaved beardless-moss from your small four-tooth moss, then the you're probably already involved (or if not, you really should be).
But, if like most of us, you are not an hot-shot bryologist (moss expert!), but can recognise common and everyday wildlife, and would like the chance to know more, there's a range of ways you can contribute to monitoring while getting closer to wildlife and learning along the way.
There's a lot going for butterfly surveying, not least as it's best done on warm sunny days. If this sounds good to you, then click here to find out about the simple surveys that help Butterfly Conservation keep tracks on the UK's butterflies. Also for sun-lovers, the British Dragonfly Society is seeking records as they enter the final year of an ambitious new atlas for the UK's dragonflies - can you help? If you'd get a buzz from reporting bees, then the Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a number of surveys that you can help with. By submitting digital photos, you can contribute even if you're not sure which bee is which.
If you'd rather wait until the day's cooled down, you could consider helping the Bat Conservation Trust by surveying bats as they leave roost sites (or, if you're an early riser, as they return in the morning). Another beast that emerges in summer evenings is the remarkable stag beetle, and if you're lucky enough to encounter one why not head for the People's Trust for Endangered Species' Great Stag Hunt pages to report it. The PTES also run surveys of some of our most charismatic mammals, such as hedgehogs, dormice and otters - have a look.
If plants are your thing, then how about taking part in Plantlife's 'Wildflowers Count'? Even botanical novices can take part as guidance on flower identification is provided in the free survey pack. I like this one - particularly as I had a small part to play in its development more than a decade ago. Elsewhere online, you can find details on how to contribute to surveying reptiles and amphibians, a variety of the UK's fascinating insects, or the occupants of your garden pond.
If, while exploring the wildlife in your garden or further afield, you encounter something that baffles you, try to get a digital picture and post it online at iSpot. This innovative website brings together a community of experts willing to identify virtually anything that grows, swim, crawls, hops or flies, and there's bound to be someone online who'll be able to solve your puzzle.
Of course, you shouldn't forget the RSPB's own Make Your Nature Count survey, which runs from 2-10 June this year and will not only ask about the birds that fly to your garden, but the deer that bound, hedgehogs that snuffle and slow worms that slither their way in.
So go on, tap in to your good side and get stuck in to these wildlife surveys.
Martin, Can I congatulate you as a rainmaker; ever since your drought posts my allotment has been blessed with quite significant showers and the wonderful energy that is fresh rain (God and those nitrate ions in harmony) is re vitalising everything and like an African, surveying the sky, I feel I can plant. In the worrds of Conrad "the wind rules the aspect of the sky and the action of the sea and here in the narrow sea around these isles we are under the sway of the turbulent kingdom of the west wind"; something has shifted; the jet stream north for a while ? Let us hope it stays there for again in the words of Conrad " the East Wind has a remarkable stability, all over the world it is characterised by regularity and persistance and by the reason of his craftiness and cold duplicity, extremely difficult to dislodge............
It seems you were on Hay Bluff. Well as you looked north into Houseman's "blue/green hills" you will have cast your eye over the Begwns and Ireland Moor up to Aberedw and the Elenydd wilderness. These hills were once characterised by Curlew, Snipe and Lapwing both in the fields and on the open moor, on the tops Golden Plover, occasional Redshank, Ring Ousel and Red Grouse. These have in my lifetime all largely gone. Their calls no longer play in the spring winds and there dances do not colour the fields that are sometimes now knee high in luminous green silage.
This I say that I have for the last several years checked across Exmoor the Merlin has now all but gone from the South West; I hear that the story is the same in Wales; it is slipping away; tis delightful shimmer winged falcon is gone from its haunts there. Well all my life I have been contributing to surveys and have monitored the local extinctions of these species across swathes of upland. There is very little time left now, the Curlew lives for 15 years so any count of this species have a 15 year time distortion. These are all part of an international assemblage for which we have responsibilities under international law; these uplands are a sadder and barer place without them. Is a Court case now the best persuit at least to leave a mark of what has gone ?
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