We can all help our wild visitors to find a home
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.
●● 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