These are the people who work tirelessly to help protect wildlife and connect people to nature within our area; within the Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere or the South Downs National Park – and sometimes both. Each week, we will focus on a different Nature Hero to highlight the projects they have worked on and find out how they have had a positive impact on our environment. We also asked them for some friendly advice on how we can all do our bit to help wildlife in Sussex, during and after lockdown.
Lynn Beun is a volunteer for the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and Leader of the Brighton & District Local group. As a child, Lynn grew up on farms in Yorkshire and gained her love of the natural world from her parents, who taught her about nature and wildlife. She joined the RSPB “Young Ornithologists Club” and enjoyed watching the flocks of lapwings on the farm. The soundtrack to her childhood was the evocative call of the curlew.
As an adult she moved to Sussex where her career and family took priority and her hobbies were set to one side. As time passed she grew to realise that the great flocks of lapwing she knew from childhood no longer existed and many previously common birds such as sparrows were also declining. On retirement she decided to learn more and to try and encourage others to make a connection with nature and to raise funds for research.
What do you love about the wildlife in Sussex?
The thing I really love about Sussex is the South Downs and the diverse wildlife you see there. However Brighton has some lovely parks and green spaces too. It is impossible for me to choose a single thing so I am going to give you a selection of my favourites and where I saw them. Please bear in mind we are still under Lockdown movement restrictions so I am not advocating you travelling to those places to see them.
- Near Arundel a few years ago: five short eared owls flew right over me whilst I was walking with friends. This was definitely a very special moment as I love owls.
- Stanmer Park last year: Walking in the bluebell woods there. I will have to miss doing that this year due to lockdown restrictions.
- Knepp Estate last year: Seeing purple emperor butterflies.
- St Ann’s Well Gardens, Hove this year: two nuthatches perched on a tree during my permitted local walk. I find them delightful little birds.
What have you worked on in Sussex that you feel has made the most difference?
The thing I enjoy doing most is helping people of all ages make a connection to nature and seeing their “Wow” moment as they experience that for the first time. For children, it might be showing them how to use a small pair of binoculars or telescope to look at, perhaps a large bird like a herring gull. Or it can happen when they use a microscope to see the structure of a feather or a leaf. Older people have often been preoccupied with jobs and family for many years and decide to learn a little more about nature when they retire. You are never too old or too young. People often don’t realise what wonderful wildlife we have in this urban area, thanks to the city parks and proximity of the seafront and South Downs.
How have you been connecting to nature during lockdown? Can you offer any advice to people?
What I have found during lockdown is a greater appreciation of the natural world immediately around me. Being indoors for much of the time has intensified the experience somehow. I enjoy hearing the birdsong on my daily walk, and the great thing about there being less traffic around is that you can hear birdsong much better too. I don’t just like looking at birds though, I enjoy seeing the bees and insects busy in my small urban garden, and have been surprised at how many different types there are. One of the things I enjoy about the natural world is that you never stop learning about it.
What project are you most excited to get back to when you leave lockdown?
When life eventually starts to return to normal, I will be looking at commencing some of my community teaching events again. I had quite a few planned with the Booth Museum, community groups and schools. I am also really looking forward to seeing my RSPB local group members again on one of our events – walks, coach outings and talks. I enjoy walking and have really missed having a good long walks on the South Downs. The thing I have missed doing this year is taking part in a South Downs farmland bird survey as it was cancelled, of course. I have done this every Spring for several years now. However, when the lockdown ends I will take a long walk in that location. I love the South Downs National Park.
What one thing would you recommend people can do to support wildlife in Sussex?
Everyone can play their part even during lockdown. During my daily walk I have been sorry to see litter such as cans, beer bottles and crisp packets in our urban green areas. These are hazardous to both wildlife and humans. Please – take your litter home, place it in the bin and recycle items whenever possible.
Also remember, you don’t need to have a big garden to give nature a home. I live in a flat and am always amazed at what I see outside my window and in the plant pots. If you have bird feeders and enjoy watching birds in your garden you can also prevent the spread of disease in birds by keeping your bird feeders, water dishes and bird baths clean, and making sure you replace the bird food regularly.
Above all I want you to do is this simple thing – just take a look at the natural world, listen to birdsongs and enjoy it. You might like birds, mammals, butterflies or bees. It doesn’t matter if you cannot identify what it is that you are looking at. Take pleasure in the small things around you. Make the connection with nature and learn something new about it.
Learn more about RSPB Brighton & District Local Group on their website.
Find out where best to hang your bird feeders and how to clean them from the Sussex Wildlife Trust.
If you find some birds are difficult to spot outdoors, you can see a wide range of Sussex birds up close at the Booth Museum of Natural History when we re-open. In the meantime, we hope you can enjoy hearing the birds from your window and spotting wildlife on your doorstep.
Watch out for our next Nature Hero of Sussex in our blog next week.
Grace Brindle, Collections Assistant