UK public seeing and hearing more birds and wildlife during lockdown. But nature remains in trouble.
The RSPB has seen an uplift in the number of people sharing sightings of birds and wildlife they have never noticed before. The trend was first noticed on social media as part of the wildlife charity’s popular Breakfast Birdwatch.
Tony Whitehead, spokesperson for RSPB in England, said; “Since the beginning of the Covid-19 restrictions we’ve had lots of people starting to notice the wildlife in their gardens and on their doorstep. We’ve had people telling us they have seen bullfinch and greenfinch for the first time and people who have seen buzzards over their garden. We’ve had reports of herons in gardens too and people seeing jays when they’ve never noticed them.”
The RSPB says these are not unusual sightings, but simply a result of more people spending more time at home and locally.
“All these sightings are not a result of wildlife becoming more numerous in response to the new conditions, as has been suggested, but more people simply being around and paying more attention to what’s around them. This uplift in interest, and of people’s increased connection to nature is really heartening, and it’s to be hoped that it will continue once the restrictions are lifted.”
Lucy Hodson, RSPB Communications Officer, said: “On my daily exercise, I’ve found myself paying a lot more attention to my local patch. Despite birdwatching regularly, staying close to home means I’ve seen a kingfisher most days – I never would have believed it before! The restrictions mean I’m getting more enjoyment from the wildlife on my doorstep, as well as seeing new things.”
In the wider environment, particularly in some urban areas, the RSPB adds that some wildlife may also be starting to respond to lack of people.
Sara Humphrey, Communication Manager for RSPB in England said; “While exercising in my local patch I’ve noticed that normally shy creatures like grass snakes and Cettis warblers have been far more visible than normal, which is probably down to less people walking around their usual habitats.”
Tony Whitehead added; ‘We’ve seen reports from around the world of animals “returning” to places they are not normally seen. Again, this is highly unlikely to be because those animals are suddenly becoming more numerous, but that they are simply losing that “fear response” they have to normally busy places. As the restrictions go on, we will undoubtedly witness more of this.”
“However, it’s important to dismiss claims that nature will “increase” as a response to this. We are still in an ecological emergency, and it will take much more than a few months “quiet” to put nature back, nature that we’ve been losing for decades. Indeed, for many species that rely on how we manage land such as nature reserves, the current restrictions may have a detrimental effect. Which is why wildlife charities such as the RSPB still need public support, perhaps now more than ever. We really hope that the increase in interest we are seeing will translate into the support that nature so badly needs.”