Environment: Summer wildlife stocktake’s boost for birds

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Some of the nation’s favourite garden bird chicks had a good summer according to participants in the RSPB’s summer wildlife survey.

The Make Your Nature Count survey showed that almost half of UK gardens surveyed had baby blackbirds during June, a 15 per cent increase on 2010.

Almost a quarter of gardens had robin chicks, an increase of over a quarter on last year.

And young song thrushes were seen in five per cent of UK gardens, an increase of almost ten per cent.

People in every UK county took part in this year’s survey, with results coming in from Shetland to the Channel Islands. The survey ran from June 4 to 12 and more than 50,000 gardens were involved.

Experts believe the high numbers of young blackbirds, robins and song thrushes around the UK could be because the weather conditions were right when they were both in the nest, and when they fledged.

Richard Bashford, RSPB Make Your Nature Count organiser, says: “Thanks to the tens of thousands of people that helped us collect information on summer wildlife, we’ve been able to see how well some of our baby birds fared this breeding season.

“It’s great to know that blackbird, robin and song thrush chicks are back up from last June, and it would suggest that the weather conditions were just right in that month. Although we suspect that they may have struggled in the drier weather earlier in the spring.

“But of course there are no guarantees that the same will happen next year. Song thrushes in particular have suffered massive declines in the past and although they seem to be recovering, they have a long way to go before they’re back to where they used to be.”

And it was a good summer for some adult birds too.The number of house sparrows recorded increased by almost twenty per cent since last year, although the long term trend is still downward. Blue tit reports went up by almost a quarter and chaffinch numbers rose by almost thirty per cent since last year’s survey.

The survey also looked at the different wildlife being seen in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Participants were also asked to report bats and grass snakes for the first time this year.

Almost half of those taking part said they see bats in their gardens, and 33 per cent see them regularly. The results also showed that bats are twice as likely in rural gardens as urban ones. Wildlife friendly gardens with plenty of shrubs and trees are more likely to attract bats.

Nearly one in fifty participants reported seeing grass snakes regularly. Grass snakes are around 11 times more likely in rural gardens than urban ones.

Participants were also asked to record frogs and toads. Frogs were seen regularly in a third of gardens, and toads in 14 per cent. There was a decline in sightings of both species since they were surveyed two years ago.

Toads were twice as likely to occur in rural gardens as urban ones but frogs are almost evenly spread across both types of garden.

The RSPB also asked about features in the gardens of those taking part, such as ponds and water features.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results show that if you have a pond you are twice as likely to have grass snakes, three times more likely to have frogs, twice as likely to have toads and eight times more likely to have great crested newts. Although in some cases it may be that ponds simply make these animals more likely to be noticed.

Mark Eaton, the RSPB scientist who analysed the results, says: “It’s fantastic that so many people are seeing such a variety of wildlife and whilst some of our favourite species seem to have had a good year we’d urge everyone to keep doing all the fantastic things they are doing to help look after these creatures.

“There’s no doubt that wildlife friendly areas have an impact on the creatures that visit your garden, and things like ponds, water features and long grass are great assets and will help attract all kind of wild visitors.”

Next year’s Make Your Nature Count will take place from June 2 to 10

For more information on attracting wildlife to your garden visit www.rspb.org.uk/hfw