Scouring your local patch for wildlife

Wherever you live, there’s wildlife to be discovered, even in our towns and cities. Our concrete jungles might not be the Amazon, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have an amazing ecosystem of their own. And, just like in a rainforest, the wildlife is often hidden away, going about its daily life tantalisingly close to us, but so often just out of sight. Unless you look a little closer...

We’ll start by looking up. It’s natural for our gaze to gravitate towards our feet as we walk, perhaps rising as far as the horizon to check our progress. But lift your sights higher still and you might spot some feathered masters of the air. 

Peregrine falcons are the fastest creatures on the planet, clocking speeds of over 240 miles per hour as they stoop towards their prey. They’ve taken readily to large towns and cities, office blocks and church spires replicating the cliff ledges on which they would naturally nest. If you’re lucky, you might spot one plummeting towards its pigeon prey.

But even if your home range doesn’t host a pair of these fabulous falcons, there are likely to be other birds of prey to be spotted. Buzzards spreading their broad wings to ride thermals over open fields and suburbs, sparrowhawks circling over parks and woodlands, or kestrels hovering as they scan grasslands for voles. Look for a sudden commotion amongst flocks of pigeons, as this often signals the presence of a predator. 

Looking up can reveal some amazing birds, but the floor shouldn’t be neglected either. There are some hardy plants pushing through the cracks in pavements and springing up wherever they find the space, from railway banks to road verges. Species that are often considered weeds, like daisies and dandelions bring a splash of colour to streets and “waste ground”, attracting bees, butterflies and a host of other incredible insects. 

Where there’s water, there’s life. That’s as true in the heart of London as it is in the wilds of the Peak District. Stroll along a local canal path whilst taking your daily exercise or detour past a pond and you could discover all kinds of watery wildlife. 

Red-beaked moorhens swimming along, flicking their tails, perhaps with a few fluffy black chicks in tow. Dragonflies and damselflies buzzing low across the water, flying gems that glisten in the summer sun, with evocative names like skimmer, hawker, chaser and darter. Look for the imposing emperor dragonfly, imperiously patrolling canals or large ponds. If you have a pond of your own, you might be visited by common blue or blue-tailed damselflies.

Animals in urban areas are often more accustomed to people than their rural relatives, allowing you to enjoy much closer views. You could stroll right past a grey heron, poised as it watches for passing fish in the waters of a canal, or share a close encounter with a fox or a deer in the most unlikely of surroundings. With an open mind and an exploring eye, a wild surprise could wait around every corner.

But even if you can’t get out to seek the local natural treasures for yourself during these difficult times, there are still ways to enjoy wildlife from home. Gardens can be an oasis for wildlife, and it’s surprising just how much can be spotted from a window – in April alone, I recorded over 40 species of bird from within my town centre flat, far more than I would have believed possible.

For even more of a nature fix, The Wildlife Trusts have a great selection of webcams to choose from, offering a glimpse into the lives of animals like barn owls, bats and badgers.

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