Thursday 1 May 2014

West Country garden wildlife revealed - via Tony Whitehead

Media release

World’s biggest wildlife survey reports a chorus of frogs hopping around in our gardens

Almost half of people in the south west see frogs in their gardens regularly, according to the second round of results from the world’s biggest wildlife survey, run by the RSPB.

This year, for the first-time in the 36 year history of the survey, Big Garden Birdwatch participants were also asked to tell the RSPB about some of the other wildlife that visits their gardens throughout the year, including common frogs, grey squirrels, badgers and hedgehogs. This follows the release of the bird results by the charity at the end of last month.

Almost half a million people took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch and most of them supplied extra information on the other garden wildlife they see. The RSPB hopes to use it to build an overall picture of how important our gardens are for all types of wildlife and tailor its advice so people can help their wild visitors find a home, feed and breed successfully.

The RSPB’s partners, including Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC), People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), and The Mammal Society, have been highly enthusiastic about including these data in their national datasets.

According to the results, grey squirrels came out on top overall, with two thirds of people seeing them in their West Country gardens at least once a month.  Hedgehogs were only seen regularly in a quarter of gardens and their populations have seriously declined by around 30% since the millennium. The West Country was also a garden hotspot for badgers, with over a quarter of respondents recording them regularly.
When not hibernating, the common frog takes the lead as the most abundant garden amphibian, according to the results. In the West Country eight out of ten people had seen frogs in their garden at least once, and half of people had seen them monthly.

When it comes to toads, a third of people in the south west see them monthly. The warty amphibians, which have declined especially in central and southern England, are more likely to visit gardens in rural areas, with 41% of householders in these areas seeing them on a monthly basis.
Last year, 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the groundbreaking State of Nature report revealing 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied have declined over recent decades.

Many garden favourites were among the creatures shown to be in serious trouble including starlings and hedgehogs, as well as some butterflies and ladybirds. All are in danger of further declines unless more is done to provide better habitats. 

Daniel Hayhow, RSPB conservation scientist, commented: “This massive survey shows how important our gardens are for the amazing variety of wildlife living there. 

“The State of Nature report showed that we need more information across many species groups, so widening the Big Garden Birdwatch’s scope to include other animals made perfect sense.

“This is the start of something big and something very, very important. In a few years’ time we’ll be able to compare how the distribution of garden wildlife may have changed. Hopefully, the fact that more people are helping to give nature a home in their gardens and outside spaces will mean we see improvements rather than declines.”

Dr John Wilkinson, ARC Science Programme Manager, said: “It’s great to know that frogs and toads are still widespread in UK gardens, which are a crucial habitat for both of them, but worrying that toads are relatively so much less common than frogs, especially in England. Future results from Big Garden Birdwatch will be critical in helping to understand all the factors affecting all our wildlife, including amphibians.”

David Wembridge, mammal surveys coordinator for the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, said: “Gardens can be ideal habitats for mammals but from the Big Garden Birdwatch and People’s Trust for Endangered Species’ (PTES) mammal surveys, we know that only a minority of gardens are regularly used by hedgehogs – one species we’re particularly concerned about. With numbers falling in the wider countryside, doing more to encourage hedgehogs into the green spaces around our homes and places of work could make a big difference.”

Marina Pacheco, the Mammal Society's Chief Executive, said: "Those taking part in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch have captured one of the largest snapshots ever recorded for some of our most endearing and threatened mammals. It's fantastic to know that gardens can be a vital refuge for rapidly-declining species like the red squirrel and hedgehog. As well as taking part in an enjoyable survey, participants have greatly increased our understanding of the distribution and relative abundance of UK mammals."

Giving Nature a Home is the RSPB’s latest 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 by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species.

The RSPB hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature.

To find out how you can give nature a home where you live visit


For further information and to arrange an interview, please contact:
Tony Whitehead, RSPB Press Officer, 01392 453754, 07872 414365
Gemma Hogg 01767 693582 /07738881359 /
Broadcast-quality radio interviews:
To arrange an ISDN broadcast-quality radio interview please contact Tony or Gemma.
Images to support this story are available from RSPB Images.
To access an image, please click on the hyperlink below and then enter the user name and password when prompted:
User Name:                        RSPB
Password:                           BGBW 2014
Editor’s notes:
1.       273,351 Big Garden Birdwatch participants across the UK provided information about other wildlife that visits their garden.  The overall West Country results are given in the table here. The numbers represent the percentage of respondents in the south west:

Grey Squirrel
Muntjac Deer
Roe Deer
Common Frog
Common Toad
Seen at least monthly
Seen ever
Never seen

2.       This year Big Garden Birdwatch participants were asked to record the wildlife they see in their gardens throughout the year from a list of eight non-bird species (badger, hedgehog, grey squirrel, red squirrel, muntjac deer, roe deer, frog, toad). The survey asked: You may not see these creatures in your hour watching (especially frogs, toads and hedgehogs, which are hibernating right now), but we’d like to know if any of them visit your garden or park, and if so, roughly how often (daily, weekly, monthly, less than monthly, never, don’t know). The survey also recorded whether their gardens were urban, suburban or rural.

3.       The State of Nature report: For the first time ever, the UK’s wildlife organisations have joined forces to undertake a health check of nature in the UK and its Overseas Territories. Working side-by-side, 25 wildlife organisations have compiled stock take of all our native wildlife. The report reveals that 60 per cent of the species studied have declined over recent decades. More than one in ten of all the species assessed are under threat of disappearing from our shores altogether. However, the report illustrates that targeted conservation has produced inspiring success stories and, with sufficient determination, resources and public support, we can turn the fortunes of our wildlife around. For a summary of the State of Nature report click here or for the full report click here.

4.       The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s biggest wildlife survey with around half a million people taking part every year. Now in its fourth decade, the survey has made a major contribution to tracking garden bird numbers over the winter

5.       The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, we protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. We play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

6.       Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) is a national wildlife charity committed to conserving amphibians and reptiles and saving the disappearing habitats on which they depend.

7.       Established in 1954, The Mammal Society is a charity advocating science-led mammal conservation, leading efforts to collect and share information on mammals, encourage research to learn more about their ecology and distribution, and contribute meaningfully to efforts to conserve them.

8.       In a constantly changing world where wildlife is under threat, many species are declining at an alarming rate. Since 1977 People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has been helping to ensure a future for many endangered species throughout the world.

9.       The RSPB offers everything to easily create a haven for wildlife in your garden. All our expertise has been used to develop the very best food and homes, using sustainable materials whenever possible. All the profits from our shop go towards helping birds and wildlife. Browse below, or view our online shop for our full range of products.

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