Gardens are vital habitats for wildlife, providing shelter and refuge. Not many people are aware that the total area of gardens in the UK is greater than the total area of all our National Nature Reserves put together – meaning if we all look after our little patch with care, we can contribute to supporting biodiversity. There are many things you can do in your garden to encourage wildlife such as creating a wildlife-friendly lawn, planting for pollinators, feeding birds, creating a pond – the list goes on!
Once you’ve started encouraging wildlife to your garden, what next? Wildlife recording is extremely important, vital to painting the picture of long-term population trends. It’s even important to record the common stuff, as they are usually the best indicators of change. Now is a great time to get into wildlife recording, with all the time we are spending at home and the change in the weather.
You’ll be surprised at just how many things you can find once you start looking. The entomologist Dr Jennifer Owen famously recorded a whopping 2,673 different species in her 741 square metre Leicester garden over 30 years. This consisted of over 450 species of plant, nearly 2,000 species of insect, over 50 species of bird and seven species of mammal. Seriously impressive! Now whilst most people will not have the time or expertise to do such intensive recording, it is a great example of how diverse a garden can be.
To get you started, I’ve put together some bilingual starter sheets of common and distinct species of bee, hoverfly, butterfly and moth you might find in your garden. Whilst these by no means cover all possible species, it should give you a starting point to learn what you’re looking for. You can print these off and tick off what species you find – it’s a great activity to do with children.
You should note what you saw, when you saw it and where it was (a six-figure grid reference is best – you can download an app which tells you this) and this should be recorded on iRecord. Species records with photos attached are more reliable than without. Try to take as many photos as you can, so if you’re not sure, an expert can help you. Feel free to tag me in any insect photos on Twitter @abigailjayne26. For other groups, there are countless Facebook groups with experts on hand to help.
If you want to learn even more about a specific group, there are excellent field guides available which cover all or the majority of British species. Examples for the four groups I’ve covered in the sheets are below:
Bees: Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland – Falk & Lewington
Hoverflies: Britain’s Hoverflies – Ball & Morris
Moths: Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland – Waring, Townsend & Lewington
Butterflies: Pocket Guide to the Butterflies of Great Britain and Ireland – Lewington