Beccy Speight says watching wildlife offers a welcome distraction during lockdown and allows people to reconnect with nature.
For some people having more time to engage with nature has been an unexpected upside of lockdown.
Beccy Speight, CEO of the RSPB, tells Sky News there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of people birdwatching during the outbreak.
In a suddenly uncertain world, it’s been truly wonderful to see nature lifting the spirits of so many people as we all attempt to navigate our way through the lockdown and the COVID-19 crisis.
Temporarily, our physical worlds have been reduced to what we can see from our gardens, balconies, windows or on our daily walks or cycle rides.
Being able to watch wildlife has offered many of us not just a welcome distraction, but genuine happiness in rediscovering our innate connection with nature.
The reaction to Breakfast Birdwatch, which the RSPB has been hosting on social media during lockdown, has been phenomenal and highlighted how nature is keeping us entertained!
People have joined from around the world – from as far afield as India and New Zealand – sharing photos, videos and stories about a wonderful and quite exotic collection of birds and animals they’ve spotted during lockdown, from bullfinches and woodpeckers, to spectacular birds of prey and returning migrant birds such as swallows and swifts.
They’ve noticed a vast array of nature up close, and we’ve been asked frequently if there is more to see this year because of reduced human activity during the pandemic.
In terms of any benefits, we won’t know for certain until we can get back out to monitor population numbers.
It’s certainly possible that less disturbance has helped nesting birds. And of course, cleaner air is already helping all of us, particularly in our cities and towns.
But it seems mostly to be about our rediscovered connection with nature.
Our spring is always quite noisy as migrant birds return and join resident birds in busily building nests and rearing young.
Trees burst into beautiful blossom and our natural world starts to reawaken after a winter’s slumber.
This year, as we’ve slowed down and really watched this happen, it has simply reawakened many of us to the wonders on our doorstep and reminded us how precious and fragile our shared planet is.
Sadly, one thing we already know is that as magnificent as the dawn chorus is at this time of year, it will be 40 million birds quieter than 50 years ago.
That’s how many birds we’ve lost since 1970 and many iconic springtime favourites, like the cuckoo and nightingale, could soon disappear from our landscape altogether.
This is because of our human activities – whether that’s the impact of climate change, changes in agricultural policy or the ever-growing rates of consumption and development.
Which brings me to what could absolutely be the biggest benefit of all for our wildlife – for people to continue this new -found interest and relationship with nature when normal service resumes.
To help prevent this kind of pandemic happening in the future, to emerge from this using a green economic recovery plan and to recognise the urgent action needed to address the world’s pressing climate and nature emergency.
People right now are keen to help and asking what they can do.
Feeding the birds in your garden and making green spaces more welcoming for wildlife are great ways to get involved.
You could also write to your MP calling for stronger laws for nature protection. It all counts.
But I’d also ask you to reflect on and help shape our longer term future too – what kind of world do we want for our children to live in?
We need to create one where both humans and nature can thrive in harmony to mutual benefit.
Unless we make the right decisions on a global and UK level right now, the opportunity for that world to be the future we choose will vanish.