Our gardens are an entire eco-system filled inhabitants for you to spot
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Our world may have shrunk significantly in recent weeks – but our gardens are home to an entire eco-system. Here’s a few things you look out for
Those of us lucky enough to have a garden are being asked to go mammal spotting and record sightings to help protect Britain’s wildlife - all without having to leave their homes.
Many of Britain’s mammals are under threat and recording sightings of these species can help conservationists protect their future. Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling for volunteers to take part in its annual Living with Mammals survey, which started, asking for people to help. And Cornwall Wildlife Trust is also looking for help in recording sightings in the county.
Volunteers across the country are needed to record sightings of wild mammals (or the signs they leave behind, such as footprints or droppings) they see in their gardens, to help conservationists understand how their numbers are changing. You don’t need a big garden to take part - mammal watching can be from balconies or windows. Sightings can include anything from hedgehogs and hares to roe deer and rabbits.
Hedgehogs are among the most sought-after sightings for both PTES and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Hedgehogs numbers have been declining for at least 20 years. The current reduction in human – and vehicular - traffic may mean a good breeding season with fewer being killed on the roads, explains Sarah Raynor from the trust.
“Our own gardens are a great place to start to bring nature back,” she says. “The single best thing we can do is to appreciate the complexity of a non-manicured garden, nature certainly will! We are a nation of nature lovers, yet we go to huge efforts to over-tidy our gardens and allotments. We attempt to rid them of the creepy crawlies that form the basis of the food chain, then buy fat balls and meal worms to feed the birds. It makes no sense when you think about it.
The results of the PTES survey so far suggests hedgehog numbers may have picked up, but more records are still needed in order to find out exactly how each of Britain’s mammal species are faring.
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“Living with Mammals is something positive we can do at a difficult time and while we all stay in, we hope people will take the opportunity to appreciate their wild neighbours,” explains David Wembridge, mammal surveys coordinator at PTES. “People across the country are helping to build an extraordinary picture of how our wildlife is changing, but with fewer records in some areas, the picture is less clear.
To date more than 3,000 gardens across Britain have been surveyed by volunteers, which is fantastic, but we still need more records to help us understand, and encourage, the wild mammals on our doorstep.
“Towns and cities are busy, noisy places, but it’s here that most of us live and encounter nature day-to-day. We know the importance of connecting to nature for our own health and wellbeing, and by monitoring wild mammals, it gives us an indication of the ‘green health’ of a town, city or village.”
Their current priorities include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers and stag beetles. They are also looking at protecting traditional orchards, native woodlands, wood pasture and parkland and hedgerows.
To take part in the 2020 survey (and find out how to identify different mammals) visit ptes.org/LwM.
You can also share your snaps on social media using #LivingWithMammals.
THINK LIKE A HEDGEHOG
If you want to test your garden’s wildlife credentials, you need to think like a hedgehog. And if you get it right for hedgehogs you will be getting it right for a plethora of other species. Get down on your hands and knees if you can and look around from a hedgehog’s eye view. If you can see straight across a tight-mown lawn, under neatly clipped ‘lollipop’ shrubs, over weeded flower beds to a solid wall or fence the offer for hedgehogs is lacking. Hedgehogs need cover to nest during the day and to breed. Hedgehogs feed on worms, beetles, slugs and caterpillars; these are found around log piles, compost heaps, leaf piles and long grass areas. It is a mind-set change we need. If your neighbour comments on your untidy garden tell them it isn’t untidy, it’s just complex because that is what wildlife needs.
You can find out more about the trust’s work – and donate to their hedgehog fund at cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk/hedgehogs