It’s the world’s largest bird survey and by getting involved, you are helping to uncover the secret lives of British wildlife.
Why You Should Get Involved
British birds are in decline – since 1979 the Birdwatch has recorded the decline of several bird species. By getting involved, you can help track the trends and help conservationists reverse the trend.
It’s a fun way to get in touch with wildlife – Every garden is different, and getting to know the unique wildlife in yours is a great way to getting the most out of your outdoor spaces.
What might you see this year?
One of the most common birds in the UK. Found in 63% of gardens
The most recognised bird – 83% recorded seeing one in 2019
Only found in 43% of gardens, this beautiful bird is in decline. Can you help find where it’s thriving?
One of the more elusive birds in the country, the waxwing is out there, but can you find it?
This small bird is common but hard to spot. Can you be one of the 34% who did see one last year?
Seen by 77% of people, this common bird is drawn to a well-stocked bird feeder.
The fantastic speckles of the starling might not be around much longer. They’ve seen an 80% drop since 1979.
You’ll hear the wren before you see it, and only 21% did in 2019 – spot them near woodlands.
See what you can find this year, and see how your garden stacks up against the rest of the nation.
Bees are highly beneficial creatures, responsible for pollination an estimated 80% of the western diet. However, due to attack from the varroa mite and agricultural pesticides, their numbers have been in steady decline. British gardens cover a combined area estimated at over 10 million acres, and as agricultural land becomes less bountiful for pollinators, they are becoming increasingly important in conserving bees and the environment as a whole. So here are some eco-friendly gardening techniques for bees you can use to help preserve pollinators and the planet.
An immaculate garden is great for impressing the neighbours, but not so great for wildlife. To encourage bees and other wildlife, allow your garden to grow a little wild, with overgrown shrubs and climbers, leaves, and dead stems. It is a good idea to allow an area of your grass to grow long, which will allow wildflowers to grow and increase insect diversity. Allowing a few weeds to flourish also provides food for insects.
Choose open flowers
Bees need flowers to feed on the nectar, and how accessible the nectar makes a big difference. Open flowers such as daisies, or any set on a “bobble” such as thistles are perfect. Unhybridized species tend to be a richer source of pollen than elaborately-bred show blooms. Bees also love fruit trees, flowering trees, legumes, blackberries, and ivy. Growing a variety of species is also important for attracting a diverse range of wildlife.
Avoid chemical pesticides
Pesticides and insecticides can be highly efficient in disposing of unwanted pests, however, these chemicals do not discriminate, and will also destroy many beneficial organisms. Alternative methods to protect your plants include using copper rings or beer traps to deter slugs; covering plants with fleece or netting; and encouraging pest-eating animals such as birds and hedgehogs into your garden. Companion planting can also be highly effective. Garlic, dill, chives, borage, basil, and nasturtium are good pest deterrents, and planting spring onions near carrot plants can deter carrot fly.
Peat-based compost and synthetic fertilisers are damaging to the environment, as naturally-occurring peat bogs absorb a great amount of carbon dioxide, and the process of making synthetic fertilizers can emit CO2. Making your own compost is an eco-friendly alternative that has the added advantage of recycling your household waste. You can compost leaves and other foliage; grass and wood cuttings; dead plants and shrubs; leftover food such as vegetable peelings; and old newspaper, cardboard, and paper. Avoid any diseased plant parts, anything sprayed with pesticides, or pet waste. You can use a ready-made compost bin, create your own using a metal bin or plastic bag, or simply pile up the compost material. Composting is also great for wildlife as it enhances the bacterial and fungal life in your garden.
Not only can a garden water supply be great for wild birds, but it is also important for bees. A garden pond is ideal, but otherwise, you could put out a bucket or tray filled with water. There are some great eco-friendly alternatives to lessen the demand on mains water. A water butt can store rainwater, which is great for watering plants as it is chemical-free, and it can also be used for filling your wildlife drinking area. Add rocks, or floating plants or wine corks to give bees a safe place to land. For watering plants, you can also purchase a greywater diverter to reuse water from your kitchen sink, showers, and baths.
Many species of bee are on the decline due to lack of suitable nesting areas, so a bee hotel is a great way to help bees in your garden. These handy homes provide a sheltered area for rainy days, along with purpose-built tubes for female bees to lay their eggs. You could even build your own bee hotelwith bamboo canes. Place in a sunny area facing south to the south-east at least a metre off the ground, and watch as bees come to stay.
Wildflower meadows are a pollinators’ paradise. Bursting with a diverse range of nectar sources, these magnificent meadows were a haven for bees, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. However, since the 1930s, we have lost over 99% of these areas, which is a likely contributing factor to the decline of the bee population. Luckily, there are ways of recreating these biodiversity patches in the comfort of your own back garden. Not only can these wild patches look fantastic, but they are also great for supporting bees along with other pollinators and wildlife. Here is how to grow a wildflower meadow in your garden.
What is a Wildflower Meadow?
A wildflower meadow, or bio-diversity patch, is an area of grass where wildflowers grow. They occur naturally in the British countryside, referred to as semi-natural or unimproved grasslands, but can be created manually. These spaces attract a multitude of wildlife and provide an eye-catching alternative to lawns and flowerbeds.
Annuals & Perennials
Perennial wildflower meadows are more representative of those found naturally. These meadows are most successful in larger areas and may take years to fully establish. They thrive best on poor soils so the grasses will not crowd out the flowers.
Although not a true meadow, annual wildflower meadows can create a bold display of colour for a season. Unlike perennials, these wildflowers grow better in rich, fertile soil. Some seed mixtures contain a mixture of annuals and perennials.
How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow Step by Step
1. Choose your area
The first step to creating your wild meadow is to select an area of your garden for it to occupy. It needs to be an open space in a sunny position, but can be on flat or sloping ground. You may choose an area of your lawn, or an unused flower bed or border. The plant seeds can be planted into the soil or an established grass area.
2. Reduce fertility
Highly fertile soil encourages excess vigour in grasses causing them to crowd out wildflowers, so if your soil has been enriched with fertiliser, it may be too rich for growing a perennial wild meadow. You can reduce the fertility of the soil by removing 3-6 inches of topsoil using a turf cutter or spade, or plant a crop of mustard plants as these will absorb a lot of nutrients. If you are planting your wildflowers on an existing lawn, stop using fertiliser and weed killer beforehand. This step can be skipped if you are planting an annual wildflower meadow.
3. Prepare the soil
If you are sowing in soil, making sure to prepare the ground beforehand. Rake the soil to a fine tilth (like breadcrumbs), then lay some black plastic sheeting over it so any existing weeds in the soil germinate then die. If your soil contains stronger perennial weeds such as docks, nettles, and dandelions, you may need to employ some chemical weed control to eliminate them. Use a systemic glyphosate-based weed killer. You can then water if necessary. If you are planting on a lawn, mow the lawn to less than 5cm long before sowing wildflowers.
4. Sow the seeds
Now time for the fun part- sowing the seeds! There are some great wildflower seed mixtures out there, which offer a ready-made diverse meadow. Our Wildflower Mixture Seeds offer a colourful variety of native flowers, and our Wildlife Attracting Garden Varieties Mixed Seeds have been specifically selected to attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators into your garden. If you prefer, you can also choose your own selection of flowers. Good varieties include ox-eye daisies, red clover, cowslip, and field scabious. The most useful addition is the yellow rattle, which has the magic ability to reduce the vigour of grasses. Rattle, eyebright, and lousewort can also be effective.
You will need about 5 grams of seed per square metre of meadow. Scatter the seeds as you walk across the ground; there is no need to cover with soil, but gently walk across the seeds afterwards to make sure they are in contact with the soil. If you are converting a lawn into a meadow, using wildflower plug plants can be a good option. Keep growing plants well-watered until they are established, and protect from birds and slugs.
In the first year of growth, cut your wild meadow in July-August. In subsequent years, cut it from September onwards once the summer is over, and perhaps again in early spring. For a small meadow, you can use a strimmer or a power scythe; larger areas can be cut with a power scythe. Leave the cut hay on the patch for a week so the seeds can drop, then clear away and compost to prevent the soil from becoming too rich.
You may need to do some weeding to remove dock, nettles and thistles. It is a good idea to water annual wildflowers while they establish. Perennial meadows should be left to grow naturally without any additional water.
Your meadow will continue to evolve year by year; some may take years to establish properly and flower, with some species overtaking others over time. You may wish to add more flowers as you go along, particularly if you are using annual species which die after one blooming season. Wildflower meadows will attract bees and butterflies- you may also see bats, birds, grasshoppers, and other wildlife.
Earth Day is an annual series of demonstrations and events that push engagement with issues surrounding the environment on a global scale. This year’s events focus on climate action. In a year where we’ve been inspired by individuals like Greta Thunberg and groups like Extinction Rebellion its time to put plans into action and halt the growing crisis.
When is Earth Day?
Earth Day takes place every year on April 22nd.
April 22nd 1970 marked the first Earth Day. It acted as a voice for growing environmental concern in a world that was beginning to consume more and more. The Paris Agreement was signed on Earth Day 2016; this is perhaps the most important declaration for change that has occurred for the environment. Nations have pledged to hit strict targets for lowering carbon emissions, protecting ecosystems, investing in green businesses and a whole host of other topics.
Why is 2020 so important?
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth day. Since 1970, the event has grown to include millions of people across thousands of organisations. That’s people and nations all over the world who have pledged to do their part and take action. In a year that’s already seen the damage created by extreme weather the time for action has never been clearer.
How can I get involved?
There are many things you can do as an individual to help celebrate Earth Day 2020. Below are just a few ways you can engage with the day this year:
Research the history of Earth Day and the many achievements they’ve helped bring about. Spread the word about the day and its importance in the world today.
Charities all over the world are dedicated to tackling the issues that Earth Day engages with. Supporting these charities with your time or your money is a great way to ensure their work continues.
If change is going to come about it has to come from the organisations and business that affect are day-to-day lives and the best way to bring this about is with individuals holding business to account. Contact the businesses you regularly engage with and question their green credentials; let them know that you take their effects on the environment seriously.
World wide change can start in your own back garden. Local wildlife is essential for healthier ecosystems. You can set up habitats and feeding stations or plant a wildflower meadow to help your local environment out; a small action that if done collectively can make a difference nationwide!
Scott Roberts is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.