Who's visiting your garden?

PUBLISHED: 09:32 01 December 2010 | UPDATED: 16:24 20 February 2013

Who’s visiting your garden?

Who’s visiting your garden?

Herefordshire gardeners are welcoming a host of birds and beasts over to their place.

Birds are absolutely brilliant, no doubt about it, but at the RSPB we care about much more than just birds, because birds dont exist in isolation from the rest of nature the different plants, the soil and all the other creatures that share our planet. Throughout the 30 year history of the RSPBs annual Big Garden Birdwatch, our scientists have used the data to spot trends in bird numbers to help prioritise our bird conservation work. We've seen that house sparrows, starlings and song thrushes really need our help we're seeing fewer every year. Because we now know this, we're looking into what we can all do to help them.

So for quite some time we have been wondering how important our gardens are for birds and wildlife during the summer months, and because we know that people like to help us with the Big Garden Birdwatch (3,644 people from Herefordshire took part in January), we launched our first ever wildlife survey, Make Your Nature Count, in June this year.

While we were also looking out for the common garden birds, including fledglings (this is an important indicator of health in birds), we were also keen to find out more the other wildlife that share our gardens. More than 380 people from Herefordshire took part in the survey, and weve been surprised at the diversity of wildlife, gardens in the county support. Many people are seeing foxes, hedgehogs and badgers on a regular basis, species perhaps more associated with the wider countryside.

Our participants told us that more than one in every four gardens in Herefordshire are home to hedgehogs, and one in 10 attracts badgers and foxes. The results also revealed that frogs and toads live in many gardens in the county. Almost half of us recorded seeing frogs regularly and 26 per cent reported regular sightings of toads. The survey also revealed that gardens had an average of 10 different species of birds present. The blackbird is the most frequent visitor recorded in 96 per cent of all gardens, followed by the house sparrow in 83 per cent.

Of the summer migrants, swifts were seen in over one in four gardens, a good sign they are breeding nearby; 32 per cent saw house martins and 20 per cent had swallows. The decline of summer visitors is of great concern to the RSPB. Swift numbers have declined by almost a third since 1994. The cause of the decline is believed to be loss of nest sites through building improvement or demolition.

So overall, the survey showed us that our gardens are an excellent habitat for a range of different species. It seems like more and more people are realising the importance of feeding and gardening for wildlife. Also there seems to be a growing appetite for creating ponds and wildlife areas for feeding and shelter, and this is reflected in the results of the survey.

5 TIPS for creating a natural haven for wildlife in your garden

  • Create a water feature such as a pond or bog garden. Much wildlife relies on a regular supply of fresh water

  • Make a log pile. It will be the ideal place for insects, fungi, mosses and lichens

  • Plant native plants such as hawthorn, ivy and honeysuckle. They will provide berries in the winter for adult birds and insects for young birds in spring

  • Buy or build an insect home. Insects that spend the winter in these will be a valuable food source for young birds in spring

  • Give wildlife a home. Nest boxes for birds such as house sparrows should be put up now, while winter hibernation places for hedgehogs and roosting boxes for bats will all create valuable space for nature

For more information on gardening for wildlife, log on to www.rspb.org.uk/hfw, and dont forget to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch on January 30-31

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