Lockdown? It gets our goat! Springwatch’s MICHAELA STRACHAN on how stags have taken to the street, mice are seen in the daytime and a donkey even popped to the shops while we hide away inside
While we’re all in lockdown, our wildlife is feeling liberated!
Pictures this week of Kashmiri goats freely roaming the deserted streets of the Welsh seaside town of Llandudno, happily nibbling the shrubbery, was a wonderful sight.
Not everyone was delighted by the fact these hairy characters were making the town their own and helping themselves to flowerbeds, but I couldn’t help but smile at their newfound confidence and freedom.
I filmed these goats years ago for Countryfile — we had to trudge up the hillside of Great Orme in shocking weather to try and get close to these shaggy, skittish fellows.
Now that the coronavirus has put most of us in the confines of our homes, our wildlife is enjoying the freedom and venturing beyond their normal boundaries — and not just Great Orme’s 122 Kashmiri goats.
Pictures this week of Kashmiri goats freely roaming the deserted streets of the Welsh seaside town of Llandudno, happily nibbling the shrubbery, was a wonderful sight
All over social media, there are similar stories of wild boar enjoying the deserted streets of Barcelona, coyotes on the empty roads of San Francisco and wild turkeys strutting around Oakland in California.
Closer to home, pine martens have been seen running down the road in the daytime in Scotland. Remarkable, given that these rare mammals are usually nocturnal.
Moles are daring to clamber above ground in search of worms. Oystercatchers are nesting on deserted beaches, stretching their wings and exploring places normally far too overcrowded for starting a family.
As humans retreat to their homes, stoats, weasels, deer, golden eagles, lapwings, skylarks and urban foxes are discovering a new freedom. The skies are clearer, the streets are quieter, waterways are cleaner, our beaches deserted and pollution levels have dropped so dramatically, the animals appear to be taking back control.
A pair of ducks walking down the high street in Louth, Lincolnshire. Wildlife has been free to roam as more people stay indoors
There has been a massive decline in British wildlife in recent years. When filming Springwatch or Autumnwatch, it has become obviously more challenging to find animals to film, which is really alarming.
Now, in the absence of human crowds, they are reclaiming their territories with a renewed confidence and reminding us of their existence, which can only be positive in these anxious times.
So has our wildlife somehow magically bounced back since the lockdown started? Unfortunately not. It’s just become more visible and, more importantly, we are taking time to notice it.
People who never usually have time to take a daily walk are using the opportunity to, literally and figuratively, smell the roses.
Wild deer have taken to wandering around a housing estate in Harold Hill, Essex, because of the quiet streets
So many people are saying there is much more bird song now. The truth is, it’s always been there — especially at this time of year — but now we can actually hear it with the lack of noise pollution from cars and planes.
We all know the mental health benefits of connecting with wildlife especially in these strange and challenging times. The other day I spent two hours just sitting and watching the beautiful birds in my own garden, which as a working mum with a 14-year-old son, was a rare treat.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it and how much calmer it made me feel. So, to take time out and connect with wildlife is hugely beneficial for everyone’s mental wellbeing.
There are so many ways you can connect with the natural world. You could keep a nature diary, make drawings of the birds, bees and butterflies you see. Maybe even order a ‘nest cam’.
There are so many resources online springing up right now. My mate Chris Packham is doing a ‘Self Isolating Bird Club’ with his step-daughter Megan, filming about 40 minutes live from his garden in the New Forest every day. I’m involved with Earthwatch Europe’s ‘Wild Days’, giving kids a daily dose of nature-based activities for them to do at home.
There are numerous ‘bird watching from your garden’ clubs being set up and people are getting super competitive with their tick lists. There are also lots of surveys you can do from your garden, the British Trust for Ornithology’s garden birdwatch, Butterfly Conservation’s Garden Butterfly Survey, the People’s Trust for Endangered Species’s Living With Mammals Survey and many more.
It’s the breeding season for most of our wildlife, so to be able to do so without disturbance is of great benefit to them. Pictured: a mouse in Surrey
It’s the breeding season for most of our wildlife, so to be able to do so without disturbance is of great benefit to them.
Ground-nesting birds are certainly making the most of what will hopefully be a more successful breeding season on our deserted beaches, free from dogs and tourists.
Of course, it’s way too early to tell just how many wildlife winners there will be, and I’m sorry to say there will also be losers. There will be fewer people monitoring more remote areas. Wildlife crimes, such as egg poaching, and the illegal persecution of badgers, birds and bats, will go unnoticed. Centres for rescued animals are finding it challenging.
Whatever happens, nature will always be there and I just hope this lockdown changes the way we value our wildlife after this crisis is over. Pictured: a robin in Berkshire
But while we wait to get back to the world we know, let’s enjoy looking at the positives for our precious wildlife and rejoice that at least the animals are making the most of their freedom.
Everything is so chaotic, yet you can look out of your window and know the sun is going to rise every morning and set every evening.
Whatever happens, nature will always be there and I just hope this lockdown changes the way we value our wildlife after this crisis is over.
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