A talented London street artist, ATM, is showing his support for some of the UK’s vanishing wildlife in a direct but novel way. His wonderful paintings of birds are appearing in some seemingly unlikely locations in London. This video by About Wonnish Films shows him painting a bittern – now a very rare marshland bird – in an alleyway in Bethnal Green. The urban jungle may have taken over here, but close by on the Hackney Marshes bitterns would have been found in the past.
I really enjoyed the film showing the painting process and the painting itself is amazing. I first read about ATM’s urban bird paintings in a Guardian article today.
You can see some photographs of the rare and secretive bittern on the RSPB’s website and hear a recording of its very unusual booming call too. The RSPB has done some sterling work in seeking to revive the bittern’s fortunes in the UK by careful management of the bird’s reedbed habitat on some of their reserves but the bittern remains one of the UK’s most endangered birds.
I certainly applaud ATM’s creative way of bringing our UK endangered birds to the attention of a new urban audience.
Today I was catching up on my Spring nature records – I had my Elder bud-burst to record from Sunday and then today (as I’d anticipated in my last blog post) at lunchtime I spotted our snowdrops had opened their flowers to this morning’s warm sun. Unfortunately, it started to rain at that point so no photos yet … perhaps tomorrow.
Phenology sounds like a phenomenally important kind of science I always think – and it certainly is. But the great thing about phenology is that many of us ‘just do it’ in our own small way without even thinking about it. As we go about our daily lives we notice nature’s own events – we spot snowdrops or bluebells coming into bloom, buds bursting on hedges, trees sprouting new leaves, frogspawn in a garden pond, a butterfly … and so on. We comment too on whether it is earlier or later than we saw them last year.
I tend to record my ‘sightings’ in a small notebook and take photos if possible. I’m usually fine with photos as long as the subject can stand still for long enough! So, flowers and frogspawn, yes; birds or deer, no!
As well as keeping my own notes and photographs I also try to share my nature records. Nature’s Calendar is one of the places where I submit my seasonal sightings. Nature’s Calendar is the Woodland Trust’s web-based phenology project and is also a really good source of information for anyone wanting to learn more about nature and the timing of seasonal events in their local area. This ongoing wildlife survey covers the whole of the UK and it’s easy to use and free to register.
As you would guess, currently Nature’s Calendar is recording Spring sightings as they occur in different parts of the country. Here is a quick peek at the key Spring events Nature’s Calendar would like us to record.
Together all of these records help to map changes in natural events over the years so every record submitted really does count. We have taken part in numerous ‘citizen science’ projects as a family and as well as being educational we find they are also lots of fun. … and of course grown-ups too can enjoy recording and learning about nature! So if you’ve never tried your hand at something like this before, why not take a look at Nature’s Calendar … beware though, it can become addictive!!
If you’re a UK-based nature watcher like me you’re probably also getting organised for the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend, 25/26 January 2014. This is the world’s largest wildlife survey!
We’ve taken part in this national annual spot check on the health (or otherwise) of our garden bird populations for a quite a few years now. I found it was a great way to introduce our boys to birdwatching when they were still very young.
In those days everything still came by post. So there would always be a build-up to this event when the Big Garden Bird Watch information arrived, which included a handy A4 bird ID poster. For years for our younger children we had an ‘original’ 2003 bird ID poster stuck at child height on the kitchen wall.
Nowadays everything is online and taking part is really easy whether you’re ‘just’ an adult or if you’re making it a family activity. Anyone can take part. As the RSPB explains:
“Watch the birds in your garden or local green space for one hour during the Birdwatch weekend. Record the highest number of species you see at any one time, rather than totalling them up over the hour, as you may record the same bird twice.”
… yes, if you don’t have a garden, you can do your bird watch in any nearby green space.
This year you can even record your sightings on your laptop, tablet or smartphone using the new timer facility. We will probably stick with pencil and paper as usual and then submit our results online afterwards. The results need to be submitted by 16 February 2014.
Because this survey is so big … an amazing 590,000 people took part and counted over 8 million birds last year … the data from it really is useful. Bird populations are a good indicator of wider wildlife health in our countryside.
All the information about the Big Garden Birdwatch is on the RSPB website so if you’re in the UK why not try and spare an hour over this weekend to take part?