Discovering the wildlife in your garden

People understanding how much wildlife and biodiversity is in their gardens has become vital to both the City Nature Challenge and wildlife recording in general.

Everyone is confined to their own gardens, yards, balconies and four-walls at the moment, but as was shown by the videos created on the @yoeGreenspace Twitter page and Facebook page, there is plenty to still be found!

I chatted to local wildlife recorder Jackie Binks (@birderjack on Twitter) about what she's managed to find in their garden during this difficult time.

Long-tailed tit perched on a twig with nest material in its beak

Long-tailed tit with nest material by Jackie Binks

How much have you been able to get out and record wildlife since lockdown began?

I spend an hour after work most days at Garston coastal reserve as it’s only a five-minute walk from home. I also have a wildlife-friendly garden which I spend a lot more time in and love watching all the birds and wildlife that visit.

Does using the iNaturalist app relax you at this uncertain time?

It really does relax me as it’s so lovely to just think about all the beautiful plants, birds and animals we have and takes my mind off what is happening. I find it interesting to add records to the app, which will be useful to check in the future, and to help as much as I can with the City Nature Challenge.

A female blackcap with a chestnut head perched on a twig

Female blackcap by Jackie Binks

Have you still been able to make discoveries in the confines of your own garden?

Yes, since the lockdown I spend more time in my garden now. I have lots of bird feeders and love to watch the birds enjoying the variety of seed, peanuts and fat balls. I have hedgehogs feeding in the evenings and have been able to video them. I have seen blue tits carrying nest material into a nest box that has recently been installed under the eaves of my house.

I also have a wildlife-friendly pond. It was fun watching and listening to the frogs mating and spawning in late February and it’s now full of tadpoles. I am amazed at just how many birds use the pond for bathing. Today a chiffchaff came, which is a new visitor, and there have been blue tits, blackbirds, greenfinches, robins and goldfinches and it’s wonderful to watch them splashing about. A wren has been collecting moss from the pond and the starlings have been collecting the old plant stalks for nesting material. Long-tailed tits have been busy picking up loose feathers from around the garden which they use in their nests.

A coal tit perched amongst tree leaves

Coal tit by Jackie Binks

Do you think the City Nature Challenge is a good way to get kids involved and learning about wildlife?

I think it is, the message is in the name - 'challenge'. Give kids a competition and they are interested! Before they even know it they are learning as well as competing.

What recommendations would you have for someone who hasn't recorded wildlife before?

I would say that they should just enjoy it. Just concentrate on enjoying and learning about wildlife - the more they do that, the more they will learn and the more they will eventually record. iNaturalist and other apps like merlinID help them learn, too, as well as getting involved with local groups.

Do you want to get involved with City Nature Challenge this year? Make sure you download the iNaturalist app and get recording!

We’d love to see what you find, so make sure you use the hashtags #EverydayWildlife and #CityNatureChallenge on social media so we can share your findings far and wide.

Take part in City Nature Challenge