Discover nature on your doorstep with 30 Days Wild

duck © Martin de Retuerto

So what is 30DaysWild actually about? Simply put, it’s about random acts of wildness. It’s a friendly challenge to make every day one that has something wild

“Make room for nature this June – no matter where you are or how busy your life!” Each year the Wildlife Trust’s challenge grows. Social media is a buzz with people celebrating an array of ways that they have engaged with nature in some way and highlights the growing interest in both the natural environment and how time spent outdoors in green spaces benefits our wellbeing. The 30 days of June creates a focal time, but June is a brilliant juncture between spring and summer. People want to be outdoors and at a time when the countryside is an explosion of life and colour.

So what is 30DaysWild actually about? Simply put, it’s about random acts of wildness. It’s a friendly challenge to make every day one that has something wild. It doesn’t have to be ‘highbrow’ naturalist study of difficult to name things that people have never heard about, although it could if that’s your thing. It’s about the simple to the sublime or the sensational to the serious. Its any way of engaging with what nature provides every day. It can be a few seconds to a whole day.

Working for the Wildlife Trust you tend to be aware of a vast suite of places and things that would make brilliant ticks on your 30 day list. With so much to see in June this can be a little overwhelming and in the first year I probably started with the same mind set that many others do, thinking that we need to go somewhere and to tick off something worth the effort. Having young children your family become the focus and motivation for 30DaysWild, but the logistics of carting two small children around means that the best made plans sometimes fail miserably!

Last year 30DaysWild suddenly became so much simpler. I realised that my garden was the perfect amphitheatre for so much activity and in a place where my children were at the heart of new and unexpected wildlife experiences. If you have a garden or access to immediate green space watch carefully and you will realise that you may have a microcosm for the wider countryside or even our favourite nature reserves. Equally, being able to step into our gardens can provide the immediate stress buster that we need each day.

I have two young boys and their interest in wildlife is very different. My eldest, most of the time seems to be humouring his nerdy dad while waiting to go back and do anything to do with football, although he does raise an eyebrow for the more spectacular. The youngest, shows an innately inquisitive nature for anything that moves. He’ll pick up a worm without hesitation and always wants to be shown something new. What brings them both together is their enjoyment for the outdoors and the green back drop that creates so much scope for adventure. For me this is where 30DaysWild easily starts. It involves playing hide and seek in the hedges, climbing trees or their absolute favourite – sticky weed fights! I’m sure this has been my source of biting ticks!

In fact June last year was rather special, with new experiences for all. With the importance of pollinators always at the forefront of my professional life I never expected to find a honeybee swarm suddenly appear in my compost bin. Being able to view close up the behaviour and engineering feat of the colony as they, within days, assembled several layers of honeycomb was one of my wildlife highlights of all time and drew genuine amazement from my boys. It gave a close up context to talking about honey and in a rather inconvenient sense to the operational use of my compost bin made me proud to be hosting an important keystone species. As a parent this was also somewhat a dilemma of what to do being three feet from the boys play shed. The parental danger factor didn’t stop here. A wasp nest appeared in our green waste bin and hornets set up shop in a bird box! The garden had become a militarized zone! But now I had three awesome garden 30DaysWild ticks!

With nesting season in full swing throughout May and June the hedges are full of chatter and with nest boxes you can draw the action into the garden. Our blue tits this year have provided a source for commentary, drama, near despair and celebration. As a licenced bird ringer I was fortunate to be able to show my boys the ten blue tit chicks closely, while I put rings on their legs for future monitoring. This was another first experience for the boys while having to hold back the enthusiasm of my youngest to hold the chicks. So, with ten healthy chicks returned and the parents recommencing feeding we were alarmed to see a great spotted woodpecker appear two days later and start to vigorously peck the hole opening in search of a large meal, probably for its own chicks. Having witnessed these assaults a handful of times we were relieved to finally witness the first flight of the tits with all ten confirmed as having left he building! Tits 1 - Woodpecker 0.

Unexpected has become the inspiration for us and with birds being a generally easy group to watch and cater for where on earth did a female mallard come from this year? We’re not particularly near a river but Frieda as we named her set up a nest and added another marvel, yet with more access restriction to the garden. All chicks seemingly hatched and moved on with mum. But perhaps my biggest surprise was my youngest enquiring what animal had left the poo on the lawn. Hedgehog I exclaimed. I’d forgotten that it used to be normal to have hedgehogs and we hadn’t seen or been aware that they had been using our garden.

Following the saying “If you build it [or leave it], they will come” you can attract wildlife from all directions. A pond or wetland is always a focal feature to enjoy while being a wonderful habitat. Just watching what colonises is part of the fun. But be careful what you plant, nature can find a way to make the most of its opportunity. Wild strawberries have now left the designated area and formed triffid like swarms, while meadowsweet has manged to leave the pond area and join various plant pots.

The list of encounters and new ideas to add to the 30DaysWild tick list continues to grow and it has definitely given me more motivation to discover more and see what we can attract into the garden. Sticky weed fights will probably always be a staple, but as evening descends and when my wife and I can enjoy the few evenings when its warm enough to have our dinner outside, probably my absolute favourite period in June is sitting back (with a glass of wine) and watching house martins feeding above in the early evening sun.
Picture – Its not just swifts that need homes. Remember the house martins!
So this 30DaysWild, do visit great places, but why not keep it close to home as well. You might find that it provides everything!