Well I like many others have not seen anything like this before, and restricting your
movement is something we are certainly not used to, and we will all need to embrace this
until things settle down again, and some sort of normality returns – which it will. There is a
lot of guidance available on what to do to be safe, so this week I am going to look instead at how nature will cope during all this, and what we can do to still enjoy seeing nature to boost our wellbeing.
So how will nature cope during this? Actually a lot better simply as there will be less human
disturbance. Already there are signs of nature returning to areas where previously they were almost devoid. For example, take the canals of Venice. Now that the gondolas are not criss- crossing the canals and the silt is not being disturbed, the water is almost crystal clear, and a variety of fish species are being seen again in the canals. Nature knows no difference in all of this, but will certainly take advantage of a lack of disturbance. Many species will thrive even better when left alone, and it is a welcome thought to think that the hunters won’t be able to go out into the countryside and cause mayhem with their guns during their sad inhuman pastime. Oh bless them!. As a result, birds such as the beautiful Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Quail, Woodpigeon and Mallards will have some well-deserved respite from the barbaric minority. The same can be said of dog walkers too, and while there are some sensible dog walkers who keep their dogs on leads and adhere to the countryside code, there are unfortunately those that have the ‘I will do what I want to do’ attitude.. There have been a number of occasions where I have expressed my feelings to these selfish people.
There is of course less carbon being created, which is good for us as well as wildlife. Looking up at the sky at the moment will see some vapour trails running across the sky, but nothing like what we are used to. I think the natural world must be feeling pretty good inside right now. Reserves such as the Albufera Marsh would seem eerily quiet without the throng of visiting birdwatchers. A downside of this for those of us who keep records of the species on Majorca – is that if a new species was about somewhere, there is a good chance that it won’t be seen and recorded. But you can’t have it all ways.
Now is the time that we all have to respect and embrace the lock down, and this offers us a
chance to think outside of the wildlife box. As horrible as it feels not being able to take a
walk along the beach, or amble through an Olive grove, or even take in the crisp mountain air on a walk through beautiful scenery, we can still see some wildlife, albeit temporarily on a
restricted basis. If you are one of the luckier ones who have a garden, no matter what size
this is, start to keep a garden bird list. You will be surprised at how many different species of birds could be visiting your garden. The usual ones will probably be the odd Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, House Sparrows or Sardinian Warbler – and a Hoopoe would certainly brighten up any garden. Now would be a good time to trim back any bushes that are leggy or have branches crossing over and rubbing together, this will encourage new growth and also bear more flowers and blossom, much loved by Bees and Butterflies. It is a lot of fun keeping that extra eye out as to what birds (or other wildlife) venture into your garden. Consider putting up some feeders too. Although there will soon be a lot of natural food about, you can still encourage birds in to take advantage of things like suet balls and peanuts.
For those unfortunate not to have a garden, for example if you live in an apartment block, then you can still have some fun by starting a ‘seen from my home list’ which can include any birds flying overhead or in view from your home and even birds in the distance on a beach or out at sea. Again this provides a bit of fun whilst still getting some wildlife watching done. A nice cup of coffee or a beer on your balcony will pass away some time whilst you are scanning the skies above and the vistas below. If room permits, how about building an owl box if you are a garden owner?. If you have a tree large enough or an old outbuilding, then a Barn Owl box will provide a very suitable nesting and roosting site. Similarly, boxes for Common Swifts or House Sparrows are always a worthwhile job and for those living in the south, a Starling box could be worth considering. Whilst the Common Starling is a winter visitor (and may use it for roosting), the Spotless Starling is however a resident, with small populations near to Palma and I have found them too at Llombards (near Ses Sallines).
Planting wildflower seeds will not only provide you with some fantastic colour in the garden,
but will attract a multitude of flying insects, which in turn will attract the birds. And leave
them to seed, not only to increase your yield for next year, but birds such as the finches and sparrows will take advantage of seeds in the autumn. But the ultimate for a garden of any size is a pond. A water feature in a small garden can be as simple as turning over a dustbin lid and filling it with water. But if you can, put in a pond of any size you want. Remember to leave gentle sloping sides on case wildlife such as Hedgehogs fall in, they can climb back out. Birds like to drink and bathe from the edges of the water so provide some stones from which they can perch on. You will be amazed at how quick a Dragonfly or Damselfly will find a water source too. Keep in mind however the safety of children if you have or are thinking of putting in a pond, and sit back and enjoy watching the wildlife during these times of restricted movement.
Male Common Darter.