Have you spotted your first butterfly of the year yet? Or the first buds on trees? The first bluebells in flower? These are all things that The Woodland Trust are asking us to record on Nature’s Calendar, enabling scientists to track the effects of weather and climate change on wildlife.
Going out for a walk, breathing fresh air and enjoying the natural world around you, has proven health benefits. Not only does it give you the physical exercise that your body needs to remain healthy, it also has a host of mental health benefits, from reducing stress to decreasing depression. By recording sightings for Nature’s Calendar, you can now pair your walks with collecting the information that scientists need in order to make sure our ecosystems are also healthy.
The Woodland Trust isn’t asking us to record every single species that we see. Scientists have carefully selected a list of species that can help to further develop our understanding of how wildlife is affected by weather and changing climate. A few that they are looking at include: the common frog, with the first spawn and the first tadpoles of the year being of interest; blackbirds, with the first sight of them feeding their young, building their nests, and emerging as juveniles all being recordable; and seven spot ladybirds, with both the first sighting and the first mating to look for. They’re asking for the first sighting of a range of butterfly species, including: brimstone, comma, red admiral, peacock and small tortoiseshell, as well as several others. A few of the flower species that they’re interested in include: snowdrops, bluebells, lesser celandines, and oxeye daisies.
These are just a small number of the species that scientists want to know more about. The full list of what to look for can be found on their website, with a downloadable phenology calendar to tell you when to expect their appearances.
Joining in is simple. Just spare a few minutes to sign up on the Woodland Trust site, then all you have to do is select a handful of species from the list that you’ll be able to check at least twice a week – they don’t expect everyone to record everything – and select the locations where you’ll observing them. They suggest that you choose locations that you’ll be able to visit easily and regularly. Whether this is somewhere close to your home where you frequently walk, somewhere you pass on your way to work, or even your own back garden, is entirely up to you. After that you can check out the seasonal events for your chosen species, and start observing. Once you’ve seen an event occur, simply record the date on that species’ page. There are even live maps that you can view to see how your observed event fits in with the rest of the country.
The data from the Nature Calendar is collated into what is described as the country’s largest phenology database, which scientists then use to issue a twice yearly report. These reports look at what is happening this year in comparison to previous ones. You can access these reports here.
To find out more information about the Nature’s Calendar project, check out the Woodland Trust website.