We can all help our wild vis­i­tors to find a home

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

MORE than half a mil­lion peo­ple are ex­pected to watch and count their gar­den birds for this year’s RSPB Big Gar­den Bird­watch in Jan­uary, with some sur­pris­ing new crea­tures on the list among our feath­ered friends too.

The survey, now in its 36th year, pro­vides in­for­ma­tion about the changes in num­bers of birds us­ing our gar­dens in win­ter, and helps to alert con­ser­va­tion­ists to those species in de­cline like house spar­rows, green­finches and star­lings.

Last year, for the first time, the RSPB asked par­tic­i­pants to log some of the other wildlife they see in their gar­dens to help build an over­all pic­ture of how im­por­tant our gar­dens are for giv­ing wildlife a home.

For the next wildlife survey, slow worms and grass snakes have been added to the list.

Par­tic­i­pants don’t have to see and count th­ese other species dur­ing their Big Gar­den Bird­watch hour, just fill in the form to tell the RSPB whether they have ever seen them in their gar­dens, at any time of year.

It’s not al­ways pos­si­ble to survey other an­i­mals in the same way as birds, as they tend to be more se­cre­tive, noc­tur­nal, less nu­mer­ous or hi­ber­nat­ing at the time the survey is car­ried out. But this way the char­ity can find out where­abouts in the coun­try th­ese crea­tures ap­pear and how fre­quently.

The RSPB will share the re­sults with con­ser­va­tion part­ners such as Am­phib­ian & Rep­tile Con­ser­va­tion – ARC, Peo­ple’s Trust for En­dan­gered Species – PTES, and The Mam­mal So­ci­ety to add to their species data­bases and build all our un­der­stand­ing about the threats fac­ing our wildlife.

Al­ter­nat­ing the wildlife species list each year will en­able a sys­tem by which species are sur­veyed at least once ev­ery three years. This will pro­vide suf­fi­cient data to de­ter­mine whether distri­bu­tions change over time.

Other species which will be sur­veyed again this year in­clude bad­gers, hedge­hogs, deer and foxes.

The char­ity hopes to use the data to build an over­all pic­ture of how im­por­tant our gar­dens are for all types of wildlife and tai­lor its ad­vice so peo­ple can help their wild vis­i­tors find a home, feed and breed suc­cess­fully.

The survey is part of the RSPB’s Giv­ing Na­ture a Home cam­paign, aimed at tack­ling the hous­ing cri­sis fac­ing the UK’s threat­ened wildlife.

The char­ity is ask­ing peo­ple to pro­vide a place for wildlife in their own gar­dens and out­side spa­ces – whether it is by plant­ing pollen-rich plants to at­tract bees and but­ter­flies, putting up a nest­box for a house spar­row, or cre­at­ing a pond that will support a num­ber of dif­fer­ent species.

To find out how you can give na­ture a home where you live visit www.rspb. org.uk/homes.

Daniel Hay­how, RSPB con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist, com­mented: “This mas­sive survey shows how im­por­tant our gar­dens are for the amaz­ing va­ri­ety of wildlife liv­ing there.

“Adding slow worms and grass snakes to this year’s survey is a big step to­wards cap­tur­ing more data to help us and our part­ners iden­tify how the dis­tri­bu­tion of gar­den wildlife may have changed among a va­ri­ety of species in a few years’ time.

“Hope­fully, the fact that more peo­ple are help­ing to give na­ture a home in their gar­dens and out­side spa­ces will mean we see im­prove­ments rather than de­clines.”

Read­ers can reg­is­ter to take part in Big Gar­den Bird­watch 2015 at www.rspb.org.uk/bird.

RSPB

●● Deer are among the species be­ing sur­veyed in the RSPB’s Big Gar­den Bird­watch this year

The Laugh­ing Bad­ger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glos­sop

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