RSPB’s plea to un­cover wildlife

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

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

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