By keeping a wildlife diary, not only will you enjoy reliving memories from your wildlife gardening experiences but, by doing this year upon year, it can also help you to build up valuable information and will give you a much sharper insight into how your immediate environment is faring. It will enable you to measure any increase or decline in local wildlife species which visit your garden as well as indicating which species no longer visit and any welcome new editions that come along.
What to Record in Your Diary
It’s well worth keeping two diaries in fact. One in which you can record your observations and another desk diary which you can use as a reminder to carry out specific tasks over the course of any given week or month. There are plenty of resources to help you plan a month-by-month ‘things to do’ diary for things such as starting a new project, when to prune plants and when to sow seeds, for example.
As for an observational diary, you should be looking to record things such as the species of any wildlife which visit your garden regularly and, if there are occasional visitors – when they arrive and when they tend to leave. You should also note the dates each year when you first see occurrences of a particular species arriving. Keep a note of how successful (or not) any products which you use in your garden are. This could include anything you have bought from a garden centre or something you have constructed yourself which you have found to be a success, beneficial or, indeed, a complete failure! Yes, even your failures should be recorded as they will help to improve things the following year as you look for alternative solutions. Keep a note of any wildlife or plants which you don’t recognise and try to find out what they are. It often helps to have a camera for this purpose. Also, keep a record of the weather. Perhaps, you can include a daily entry recording temperature, rainfall and wind direction. This could be useful over time for predicting weather trends which will help with your wildlife gardening planning.
How to Record Items
There are numerous ways you can keep an observational diary and how you will choose to do it will be a personal preference. Some like to take photographs and will create an online diary into which they can upload digital images of things that they have seen in the garden. You might choose to share this with others who will not only get pleasure from reading your diary but you may pick up some useful tips too. Those with an artistic leaning might like to draw images from their garden and others like to incorporate plant pressings. When it comes to photos, some people are fascinated by taking images from the same spot in the garden over each calendar month to see how the months compare and they’ll often use this method over several locations in the garden. If you’re working on a specific project – building a pond, for example, it’s often fun to take photographs which chart the progress of a project.
An Example of What to Record
Because birds are the most easiest of all wildlife species to observe in our gardens as they are the most visible, below is an example of what you should be looking to record in your diary. This example, however, could be changed and tailored to suit other species of wildlife which frequent your garden which you are interested in.
Things to include in a bird diary:
- The time it takes between putting food out for the birds and the first bird to eat it – does this change weekly or monthly?
- How many birds visit each week?
- Keep records of the different species and when they arrive and when they leave
- Feeding habits – differences between species in the food they prefer, how they feed, where they feed (on the ground or at a feeder or bird table), when they feed, weather effects on how they feed, how much do they eat, their food preferences (which you can determine by putting out equal amounts of nuts, seeds, fruit etc and seeing what gets eaten first)
- Observe differences between the male and female of the species
These are just a few pointers but by keeping a regular diary, you will get far more out of your wildlife gardening hobby and it will help you plan for future years as well as getting to understand the wildlife better.