Like many of you, a lockdown in the height of spring has left me itching to get outside again! In hot anticipation, I intended to write a blog about top places to visit when lockdown comes to an end - my wish list if you will! But, somehow it felt premature and unhelpful.
I know that both my daily outdoor exercise and time spent in the garden have been a real tonic for me. I’ve revelled in the subtle changing of the seasons this year, but I’ve also missed the seasonal wildlife spectacles which I love. For example, the return of Rutland's ospreys, the black grouse lek and the flowering of early purple orchids.
We have lost the freedom to travel to some of our favourite sites as well as the ability to discover new loves in previously unexplored landscapes. Something I previously took for granted. Some of us even have lost access to outdoor space altogether. Therefore, with lockdown still very much a reality for us all, in this months blog, I want to help you to bring the outside, in.
As with the rest of our lives, technology can help. It takes us to places we've never been to before and can even help us enjoy our natural world in realtime. So allow me to guide you on a very British, ambling, 'armchair safari' to enjoy the best of British landscapes and discover some of the private lives of our native fauna. First stop: Dorset.
Lorton Meadows Nature Reserve
Lorton Meadows, near Weymouth, is a haven for wildflowers, insects and warbling birds. The rich meadows also provide perfect hunting habitat for owls. You can visit a resident family via the owl nest cam where you can hear the owlets chirrup and drop in at family feeding time.
On the remote and wild island of Alderney (one of the Channel Islands), you can step into the puffin colony (which as you might expect also has the benefit of sea views!). On the 'colony cam' you can spot other birds while you wait for the eggs to hatch and for the puffins to start getting a lot more active over the summer months. I must admit this is one of my favourite armchair safaris.
Just like wildlife watching in the field, you need to time and plan your trips well. No better example of this is the ‘badger cam’ at one of Essex Wildlife Trust’s reserves. Drop in just before dusk for the best chance of seeing badgers – at least from your armchair you don’t have to worry about which way the wind is blowing!
Weeting Heath, Norfolk
This one is quite special – it’s not every day you get to eyeball a stone curlew. Limited to a few sites in Britain this beautiful bird breeds at Weeting Heath. This area of open grassland and sandy soils makes it the perfect spot for these marvellous, crytpic birds. The webcam here is trained on a stone curlew nest and is definitely worth a ‘visit’!
Head up north to see the peregrines of Rochdale! Not wanting to completely miss out the diversity of wildlife in our urban areas, I was keen to include these fabulous birds. It has always fascinated me how peregrines have taken to nesting on our manmade alternatives for cliffs.
There are many peregrine cams around the UK, but I’ve featured this pair at the clock tower in Rochdale as this is where my family hail from (and I think this webcam is much overlooked)! If you’ve never been to Rochdale, here’s your chance!
No armchair safari would be worth its salt without a visit to the Aigas Field Centre in the Scottish Highlands. Their webcam set up at feeding stations attracts a variety of birds and mammals. Like the badgers in Essex, a great time to visit is before dusk as this will increase your chances of spotting an elusive yet enigmatic pine marten.
And so concludes the journey. I hope you've enjoyed some fantastic wildlife spotting and discovered some new places - even if you are stuck at home! Please do share any experiences you had or, suggestions of other armchair safari destinations in the comments below!