Now the Coast Care team are back, it’s been great to organise small sessions to allow our volunteers to get back to protecting the beautiful Northumbrian coastline. We’re still having to limit how much we do and how many people we do it with though in order to keep everyone safe. There are plenty of other things you can do though to help the natural world in a safe, socially distanced manner. Keep reading for our suggestions.
Explore the local area
Many of us have had more time to appreciate the beauty on our doorsteps. I’ve been really grateful for the many public footpaths around Alnwick; I think I could walk them blindfolded at this point! Getting outdoors and connecting with nature is so important for our wellbeing and mental health, especially at stressful times like this. There are lots of well-marked paths to explore along the coast, from the historic St Oswald’s Way to the more recent addition of the Northumberland Coastal Path. The Tweed and Coast Nature Trail in Berwick is a fantastic short walk. At a little under three miles and with blue butterfly shaped information boards along the way, it’s a great one for kids too. Find out more at https://www.tweedandcoast.org/.
Whether you’re out enjoying one of Northumberland’s iconic footpaths, strolling along the beach or running errands in the local town, the 2 Minute Foundation is a great organisation to support. All they ask is that we all spend two minutes picking up litter when we’re out and about. Learn more at https://beachclean.net/.
Summer is a great time to take part in a citizen science survey. You don’t need to be an expert, just download what you need rom the relevant website and get recording! Here are a few that are asking for your help at the moment:
- The Natural History Society of Northumbria are gathering information on how our pollinators are faring with the North East Bee Hunt. Download their guide to Northumberland’s bees for lots of information and spend some time hunting for their 5 target species - https://www.nhsn.ncl.ac.uk/activities/the-north-east-bee-hunt/
- Our Swifts will soon be heading back south to their warmer wintering grounds, but there’s still time to record any in your area on the RSPB’s Swift Mapper app. They’re particularly interested in breeding birds, so if you see any Swifts entering holes in buildings or flying fast at roof height, the RSPB want to know - https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/conservation/conservation-and-sustainability/safeguarding-species/swiftmapper/
- If you’re more interested in what goes on along the shoreline, the Big Seaweed Search might be right up your street. The Natural History Museum are asking for volunteers to pick a 5m wide strip of coastline to survey for seaweed. Again, there’s a great guide for you to download on the website. This one is particularly important, as seaweed is often overlooked but can tell us a lot about how climate change is impacting marine life - https://www.nhm.ac.uk/content/dam/nhmwww/take-part/Citizenscience/seaweed-survey/big-seaweed-search-guide.pdf
- Butterfly Conservation are running their annual Big Butterfly Count until August 9th. All you need is 15 minutes and some sunny weather. There’s a great free ID guide on the website that you can download and bring with you too - https://bigbutterflycount.butterfly-conservation.org/
- If you have a garden pond, you might like to give it a health check as part of The Big Pond Dip with The Freshwater Habitats Trust. August is a great time for pond-dipping, and is a fun one for kids to take part in too - https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/get-involved-2/big-pond-dip/
- Our native wildflowers are looking glorious at the moment, and are also really important for pollinators. Because of their significance, many organisations are collecting data on them. Record wildflowers in your garden with the Garden Wildflower Hunt at https://bsbi.org/garden-wildflower-hunt, or in your local area with the Great British Wildflower Hunt at https://www.plantlife.org.uk/wildflowerhunt/.
- If you’re lucky enough to spot any Hedgehogs in the coming weeks, let Hedgehog Street know at https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/hedgehogs-after-dark/
- Further from home, Oxford Universities SeabirdWatch is a great initiative if you’re feeling cooped up during lockdown. Explore some of the world’s most remote places from the comfort of your own home, and contribute to important scientific work at the same time. They ask volunteers to count various seabird species at their breeding colonies from cameras set up at the site. This monitoring is vital, and will inform future conservation work - https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/penguintom79/seabirdwatch
Make changes to your daily routine
For many, this pandemic has been an opportunity to reflect on how we want to live in the future as we come to terms with the impacts of Covid-19. The environment is front and centre in this. There is a growing desire to rebuild our society into one that values everything the natural world gives us, which can start with small changes that we are all able to make at home:
- The Marine Conservation Society have been running a Plastic Challenge through July, with lots of tips on how to reduce your plastic consumption - https://www.mcsuk.org/campaigns/plastic-challenge-home.
- Meat Free Mondays is a campaign headed by Paul McCartney to encourage us all to eat less meat. This is an essential part of how we can combat climate change, since the FAO estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions - https://www.meatfreemondays.com/
- Do you have space in your garden for a tree, or do you know of a suitable spot for trees in your local area? Over the next five years, Northumberland County Council will be offering every household a free sapling to help offset carbon emissions - https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/News/2020/Feb/Berwick-tree-planting-scheme.aspx. Alnwick Friends of the Earth have also recently launched their Hope Tree Project and are looking for places to plant their trees - https://www.facebook.com/groups/1560313810933855/announcements.
Are there any that we’ve missed? How have you been connecting with the natural world during these strange times?