Nationwide nature diary to capture first day of spring
Wildlife lovers across the UK have the chance to contribute to a crowd-sourced nature diary today to celebrate the official arrival of spring - Friday 20 March.
The digital diary aims to capture the start of the season by calling on people to document their observations of wildlife, the weather and what spring means to them in no more than 150 words.
As the nation adapts to a very different way of life over the coming months, the initiative will encourage people to engage with their own natural surroundings, which can offer benefits to both physical and mental health.
Observations can be made in people’s gardens, in the countryside or even through windows, so those limited by the effects of the coronavirus can still take part.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Land Lines research project at the University of Leeds and the National Trust, who are behind the project, say that nature can offer comfort in uncertain times and are encouraging the public to take notice of the seasonal changes around them.
In 2019 more than four hundred people from the four nations of the UK contributed to the first diary – the ‘Writes of spring’.
The National Trust has closed its houses, shops and cafes to restrict the spread of coronavirus but is working hard to keep open spaces accessible where possible.
The charity’s nature expert Andy Beer said: “Spring is the turning point of the year, when we can step outside without a winter coat and feel the warmth of the sun on our face.
“But for many of us, this year’s spring will feel very different.
“In these uncertain times, nature can offer comfort and calm. Right now, wildlife is busy waking up, trees are bursting into blossom and garden birds are singing. Nature is there for all of us – whether we experience it in our garden or local park, or simply through the window.”
All of the diary entries – which could take the form of a poem or prose – will be curated on a special spring blog.
Nature writer Natasha Carthew will then produce a creative essay using the nation’s observations as inspiration.
She said: “I’m honoured to have been asked to be a part of this nature writing project to mark the start of spring and I’m really looking forward to reading the nation’s nature diaries.
“Connecting to nature and the wild places that surround us, no matter where we live, is at the heart of my work and I can’t wait to capture people’s observations and weave them into a new body of work that will celebrate the first day of spring in our beautiful country.”
The project follows a long tradition in nature writing of celebrating spring’s arrival.
Dr Margaret Charleroy, Head of Health and Environment at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, said: “The much anticipated arrival of spring is something that generations of writers have sought to capture as the natural world bursts into life.
“We’re looking for people across the UK to record the official start of this season of change in our second crowd-sourced nature diary, whether the sweet melodies of song birds in a back garden or splash of colour as trees come into bloom.”
A recent report by the National Trust and the University of Derby found that people who notice nature are more likely to take action to protect it. The research also discovered that people who had a ‘daily dose’ of nature reported feeling more mindful and being able to slow down the pace of life.
The first day of spring has long been a turning point of the year, with the lengthening of days and arrival of warmer weather, however this year’s mild winter – the warmest on record – left naturalists predicting an earlier start to the season.
This can be problematic for wildlife, particularly hibernating animals who can awaken too soon when food sources are still scarce.
A combination of Storms Ciara and Dennis and the unprecedented rain which much of the country experienced throughout February, however, appears to have postponed the early arrival.
The spring equinox marks the first day of astronomical spring when day and night are almost exactly the same length.
People can upload their diary entries and any accompanying photos via springnaturediary.com and share them on social media using #springnaturediary.
Wildlife lovers and budding writers have until midnight on 20 March to submit their entries.