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RSPB highlights role played by gardens as mini nature reserves

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 17, 2014

By Martin Hesp, Editor-at-large, Twitter: @MartinHesp

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Gardens used to be regarded solely as the preserve of mankind and our vegetables, flowers and shrubs – now they are increasingly seen as tiny nature reserves.

So says a new report which delights in the fact that more than half of the householders in the Westcountry regularly see frogs in their gardens.

The second round of results from the world’s biggest wildlife survey, run by the RSPB, has also discovered that Westcountry gardeners spy many other creatures on their land, including toads, which have been suffering a decline in recent years.

This year, for the first time in the 36-year history of the Big Garden Birdwatch survey, 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.

Some gardeners might regard the most commonly seen animal as a pest – according to the results, grey squirrels came out on top overall, with two-thirds of people seeing them in their Westcountry gardens at least once a month.

There will be farmers who will shudder over the idea that another animal – the badger – was spotted regularly in more than a quarter of this region’s gardens, inspiring the RSPB to state that the Westcountry is a “garden hotspot” for the controversial brock.

A few will claim this fact might be directly related to the sad statistic that hedgehogs are only seen regularly in a quarter of gardens. Hedgehog populations have seriously declined by around 30% since the millennium.

Regardless of the politics surrounding wildlife, though, it is undoubtedly the case

that collectively gardens supply a vast and vital patchwork of environmentally friendly havens.

RSPB conservation scientist Daniel Hayhow said: “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. 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.”

Last year, 25 wildlife organisations, including the RSPB, released the State of Nature report revealing 60 per cent of the wildlife species studied have declined over recent decades.

The RSPB’s latest campaign, Giving Nature a Home, is now 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 be planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nest-box for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support different species.

To find out more, visit rspb.org.uk/homes

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