RSPB’s plea to uncover wildlife
REGULAR readers will recall the recent Big Garden Birdwatch which was organised across the UK by the RSPB.
And judging by the figures just in, many of you will have taken part, which is fantastic, not least because your results will greatly assist the conservationists in their efforts to monitor the state of the nation’s animals.
Although the RSPB is primarily an organisation involved in protecting and monitoring birds, they are obviously interested in all animals and indeed the countryside and other environments. In excess of 585,000 people across the UK took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, with 72 per cent of them also supplying information on the other garden wildlife they saw throughout the year.
In Greater Manchester, nearly 16,500 people took part, helping to contribute to the national results, and 63 per cent of you reported seeing a hedgehog moving around their garden at some point in the year, and I was pleased to note that a fair number of gardens had badgers visiting on a regular basis.
The RSPB is encouraging people across the UK to make the most of the spring weather and to go out and explore their garden or outdoor space to uncover the wildlife that is living there.
In a few years’ time they hope to be able to show any changes in the distribution of garden wildlife using the data collected. For the first time, Big Garden Birdwatch participants were asked to keep an eye out for slow worms and grass snakes slithering around their gardens.
These secretive reptiles are often found in compost heaps or near a source of water. The results revealed that eight per cent of people nationally spotted a slow worm regularly throughout the year, while only two per cent saw a grass snake, unfortunately not many up north, though.
Despite remaining widespread in many areas of the UK, important habitats for slow worms and grass snakes have been lost. As gardens have become tidier, reptile homes have been lost, leaving a shortage of suitable habitats in which to live and breed.
Piles of logs, compost heaps and ponds provide ideal warm, sheltered environments for these species to breed, find food and to hibernate.
The more people providing these features will increase the habitats available for all reptiles in their gardens and will hopefully contribute to reversing their widespread decline.
For the second year running, grey squirrels remained the most widely-spotted non-bird visitor, with 86 per cent of participants in Greater Manchester spotting one scurrying across their garden or climbing up a tree at least once a month.
At the other end of the scale, the grey’s native relative, the red squirrel, continued to struggle and was one of the least-seen species, with less than one per cent of participants in Greater Manchester seeing one on a monthly basis.
The red squirrel is under threat by loss and fragmentation of woodland habitat, and a lethal virus carried by the grey, and has been lost from large parts of the UK.
This virus is relatively harmless to grey squirrels, but is fatal to reds.
The RSPB’s partners are also highly enthusiastic about the wildlife results and the help that they provide in building a better picture of UK wildlife.
Henry Johnson, People’s Trust for Endangered Species hedgehog officer, said: “No other country in the world can muster half a million people for a wildlife survey.
‘‘Spotting animals is just the start.
‘‘For more people to see hedgehogs in the future, we need more holes in fences, joining up gardens, and more insect-friendly gardening.”
Big Garden Birdwatch is a 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’s putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs and toads or building a home for a hedgehog.
To find out how you can give nature a home where you live visit: rspb.org.uk/ homes.
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop
●● Badgers pay a visit to our gardens on a regular basis