Summer wildlife stock-take gets prickly


Almost a quarter of UK gardens regularly have visiting Hedgehogs, according to participants in the RSPB's summer wildlife survey. The 'Make Your Nature Count' survey also showed that the prickly visitors are sighted in almost a third of urban gardens.

Experts believe that the high numbers of Hedgehogs in gardens prove what a refuge they can be, as a loss of quality hedgehog habitat in the countryside makes it increasingly difficult for them to survive further afield.

Hedgehog was reported from 30% of gardens in the survey. (Photo: Tobilander)

Participants in the RSPB's summer wildlife survey doubled in 2010, with over 90,000 people counting birds and mammals in almost 70,000 gardens. Analysis has shown that Hedgehogs are seen in good numbers in both rural and urban areas, whereas most mammals are much more common in rural gardens.

Richard Bashford, RSPB Make Your Nature Count organiser, said: "Many thanks to everyone who helped us collect this fascinating information about our garden wildlife. For many species the only way of counting them is to ask people to take part in a garden survey like this and some of the results have been quite surprising. Lots of people see Hedgehogs, Moles and deer in their gardens which you may only expect to see in the wider countryside. The range of creatures we have in UK gardens highlights how important wildlife-friendly gardening is, wherever you live, to ensure our fabulous wildlife continues to survive."

Hugh Warwick, Hedgehog expert, added: "Gardens are clearly very important for Hedgehogs — a great example of a truly wild animal not only at home with us but also of great benefit to gardeners. The Hedgehog not only brings a voracious appetite for garden pests, it represents a little bit of wildness. We should treasure the fact that they live comfortably in our gardens and so many people can get nose-to-nose with them."

30% of people taking part in urban areas have seen Hedgehogs in their gardens before, and more than one in seven see them regularly. They were reported from 48% of gardens in rural areas where more than a quarter of participants see them at least monthly. Participants were also asked to report Moles and Roe Deer for the first time this year. 14% of participants recorded Mole sightings, including mole hills, with one in six detecting them regularly. Unsurprisingly, most Moles were recorded in rural gardens and were most frequently sighted in Wales — in 25% of gardens, compared with 15% in Scotland and 13% in England.

Roe Deer doe in hazelwood, Islay, Scotland. (Photo: Laurie Campbell (rspb-images.com))

Make Your Nature Count was one of the first garden wildlife surveys since the extraordinarily cold winter and participants also recorded common garden birds. The RSPB also asked questions about how well Robins, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes are breeding.

The survey, which took place in June, also showed that the Blackbird is still the most frequent visitor, although it has declined slightly since last year, recorded in 92% of gardens, followed by the Woodpigeon in 80%. The House Sparrow takes third place in 74% of all gardens. 37% of gardens recorded young Blackbirds, 18% recorded young Robins and 5% saw young Song Thrushes.

Blackbird, Retford, Nottinghamshire (Photo: Dave Read)

Participants were also asked to record summer migrants, particularly nesting House Martins. Only 4% of respondents had House Martins nesting under their eaves and experts are keen to build on this in future years to find out the extent of their suspected declines.

House Martin
House Martin, undisclosed site, Lancashire (Photo: Ade)

Next year's Make Your Nature Count will take place from 4th–12th June 2011. For more information on attracting wildlife to your garden visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw

The top mammals recorded on the survey were:

Species Seen regularly (at least monthly)
Domestic Cat79.41
Fox 26.23
Hedgehog 23.35
Mole 7.33
Badger 5.50

The 15 most numerous birds recorded on the survey were:

Species Average per garden % of gardens seen in
House Sparrow4.4874.57
Blue Tit2.3192.90
Collared Dove1.6264.86
Great Tit1.3354.44

With gardens becoming increasingly important for birds and other wildlife, the RSPB hopes people will be motivated to transform their homes and gardens into wildlife havens. The RSPB's Homes for Wildlife is an exciting project offering free wildlife gardening advice helping people make the area around their home even better for wildlife. Everybody registering to take part in the project will receive an information pack full of simple advice and recommendations for all types and sizes of garden. For more information, visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw.

Written by: RSPB