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RSPB Birdwatch in UK: Gardens are Invaluable for Wildlife

For the second time, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) encouraged people to get out and uncover the secrets of their gardens and outdoor spaces, at the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The results highlighted the importance of gardens to threatened UK wildlife.

Over 585,000 people across the UK took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch during the weekend of 24 and 25 January. They also supplied information on the other garden wildlife they saw throughout the year. The results of the birdwatch can be found here.

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Once again the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch survey highlighted how important our gardens are for an amazing variety of wildlife living there. A lot of garden wildlife is in desperate need of our help. By providing shelter and a safe place to make a home, gardens provide an invaluable resource and are a key element in helping to save nature.”

Grey squirrels remained the most widely-spotted non-bird visitor, with 74 per cent of participants 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 just two per cent of people seeing one on a monthly basis. One reason for this is a virus, that is carried by the grey and harmless to them, but fatal to reds.

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. The results revealed that eight per cent of people spotted a slow worm regularly throughout the year, while only two per cent saw a grass snake.

Daniel added: “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.”

Hedgehogs remained a popular garden visitor for the second year running and badgers were spotted by twice as many people living in rural areas than those living in suburban or urban areas.

Piles of logs and compost heaps 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.

The State of Nature report revealed that many garden favourites, such as: starlings, hedgehogs and butterflies, were all in trouble. By giving a home to the nature on our doorstep, everyone can help reverse these wildlife declines, whether it’s by putting up a nest box for birds, creating a pond for frogs and toads or building a home for a hedgehog.

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