Pete Dommett urges us to do something wild in 2019
Forget going to the gym more often – make one of your new year’s resolutions to notice nature on a regular basis. A simple way to do this is to keep a dedicated nature journal. Every evening, make a note of something natural that caught your eye during the day. It could be a cobweb covered in jewel-like dewdrops on your way to work, a flash of foxy red fur on your commute home or a sickle-shaped swift screaming across the city sky in summer. Here are some further suggestions for getting in touch with the wild world this coming year.
January: New Year’s Day is a red letter date in the birdwatching calendar. Twitchers try to tick off as many different species as they can to get their so-called ‘year lists’ off to a, er, flying start. Why not shrug off the inevitable hangover and see how many you can spot? Or join in with the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch (26 – 28 January).
February: Get outside and search for the first signs of spring. Blackthorn blossom, hazel catkins, singing song thrushes, emerging butterflies and frog spawn can all be discovered during the shortest month. Submit sightings at naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk to help track the effects of our changing climate on wildlife.
March: Bluebells begin to flower in the woodlands around Bristol this month. Weston Big Wood and Prior’s Wood (both near Portishead) and Folly Farm and Greyfield Wood (south of the city) are some of the best sites locally to see springtime’s spectacular carpet of colour. April: Food for free? Yes please! Forage for wild garlic at Brandon Hill (or plenty of other places in the city). Both the spear-shaped leaves and white, star-like flowers are edible. Blend with walnuts or pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan for a deliciously creamy pesto.
May: It’s International Dawn Chorus Day on Sunday 5 May. Make like the proverbial early bird and head to the woods, your local park or just out into the back garden at daybreak. Then close your eyes and immerse yourself in nature’s sunrise symphony.
June: Bristol’s Festival of Nature, at the harbourside on the 8th and 9th of the month, is the country’s biggest celebration of the natural world, with a host environmental organisations offering interactive exhibitions, performances and talks. And it’s still free! See bnhc.org.uk for details.
July: Go for a stroll upstream on the Frome Valley Walkway (fromewalkway.org.uk) starting at Eastville Park. Butterflies, dragonflies, grey herons, dippers, kingfishers and even otters are just some of the star species to look out for along the river.
August: Peregrine falcons (the fastest creatures on the planet) have bred in the Avon Gorge for nearly 30 years. By late summer, the young will have left the nest and the whole family can be seen circling the Peregrine Watch Point on Clifton Down.
September: Put the fun into fungi by joining a guided foray at Leigh Woods. Search for earthballs, sulphur tufts, turkey tails, King Alfred’s Cakes and other magical mushrooms. See nationaltrust.org.uk/leigh-woods for dates and details.
October: Pure and simple: play conkers in the park!
November: Watch the red deer rut at Ashton Court estate. Stags lock antlers and fight for the right to mate with the harem of hinds. Visit early-morning for the best views of these testosterone-fuelled duels.
December: Feed the birds. Let them know it’s Christmas time (again).