Chang­ing wildlife re­vealed

Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - Yourviews - Dr Daniel Hay­how, RSPB Con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist

SUR­VEY re­sults re­veal that sight­ings of our am­phibi­ous gar­den wildlife such as frogs and toads are dry­ing up, with the RSPB call­ing on peo­ple across Cheshire to help them by get­ting out­side this sum­mer to cre­ate more ponds and pools in their out­door space.

Re­sults from the RSPB’s wildlife sur­vey, which is part of the Big Gar­den Bird­watch, show that frogs had been seen in more than three-quar­ters of gar­dens across Cheshire.

De­spite be­ing one of the most com­mon non-bird gar­den vis­i­tors, seen at least monthly in over 40% of gar­dens in the county, this was 15% fewer reg­u­lar sight­ings than the last time they were sur­veyed in 2014.

This pat­tern was sim­i­lar for toads which were seen in over 20% of Cheshire out­door spa­ces on a monthly ba­sis, an alarm­ing 23% fewer gar­dens than four years ago. The sur­vey in­cluded re­sults from more than 3800 Cheshire gar­dens.

At a quick glance a na­ture novice may not be able to spot the dif­fer­ence be­tween a frog and a toad.

A frog’s skin is smooth and moist and they have a pointed nose, whilst a toad’s skin is warty and dry and their noses are rounded – al­most semi­cir­cu­lar in shape.

Most peo­ple re­mem­ber see­ing tad­poles at the lo­cal pond or a toad emerg­ing from un­der a rock while they were grow­ing up – th­ese first ex­pe­ri­ences with na­ture stay with us for­ever.

Un­for­tu­nately, the sights and sounds of wildlife that were once com­mon to us are sadly be­com­ing more mys­te­ri­ous.

There are lots of simple things we can all do in our out­door spa­ces to make them per­fect for wildlife.

Frogs and toads are am­phibi­ous crea­tures mean­ing that they need a source of wa­ter close to their homes to sur­vive.

Cre­at­ing a small pond in your gar­den, or a pool us­ing a wash­ing up bowl is so simple to do and could make all the dif­fer­ence.

Other re­sults from the sur­vey re­vealed a small in­crease in the num­ber of recorded sight­ings of hedge­hogs.

De­spite the UK pop­u­la­tion suf­fer­ing wide­spread de­clines in re­cent decades, morer than 65% of peo­ple spot­ted one in Cheshire gar­dens over the past year.

Foxes re­mained one of the other most com­mon gar­den vis­i­tors with one be­ing spot­ted in over 60% of gar­dens and out­door spa­ces in Cheshire, while more se­cre­tive crea­tures such as grass snakes, red squir­rels and greatcrested newts es­caped much of the county’s gaze.

Big Gar­den Bird­watch is the world’s largest gar­den wildlife sur­vey and takes place each year on the last week­end in Jan­uary.

The RSPB asks peo­ple to count the birds in their gar­den or out­door space over the course of one hour at any point in the week­end to get an idea of how our feath­ered friends are get­ting on.

With the wildlife on peo­ple’s doorsteps be­com­ing in­creas­ingly elu­sive, the RSPB is call­ing on fam­i­lies across Cheshire to spend more time out­side this sum­mer, dis­cov­er­ing the na­ture that sur­rounds them and see­ing how they can give it a help­ing hand.

By tak­ing part in the RSPB’s Wild Chal­lenge, fam­i­lies can have fun, en­gag­ing in ac­tiv­i­ties rang­ing from build­ing a pool for am­phib­ians to bug sa­faris, tak­ing their first steps on their own wild ad­ven­ture.

There are 24 ac­tiv­i­ties to choose from that will take you from your own back gar­den to ex­plor­ing towns, cities, wood­lands and even the coast.

It’s im­por­tant for ev­ery child to get out­side and dis­cover na­ture.

The RSPB Wild Chal­lenge gives fam­i­lies the chance to ex­plore their gar­den or lo­cal area and un­cover all sorts of won­der­ful wildlife that they share their space with.

As well as get­ting up close to some in­cred­i­ble crea­tures, you’ll be help­ing to give na­ture a home too.

The RSPB’s am­bi­tion is for Wild Chal­lenge to help more fam­i­lies across the coun­try reap the ben­e­fits of spend­ing time out­side in na­ture.

Re­search has shown that chil­dren who have a healthy con­nec­tion to na­ture are more likely to ben­e­fit from higher achieve­ment at school, bet­ter men­tal and phys­i­cal health, and de­velop stronger so­cial skills.

To learn more about the RSPB Wild Chal­lenge and to see how you can take your firsts steps on your own wildlife ad­ven­ture, visit the web­site www. rspb. org. uk/ wild­chal­lenge

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