Tag Archive: survey

Hedgehog Survey- Can You help?

photo by Hedgehog Champion Mark Sant

‘2014 Hibernation Survey

We need your help to collect hedgehog records from 1st February until 31st August 2014.

Simply tell us every time you see a hedgehog, noting its location and whether it is alive or dead…..’

Click on the link above for more information

Old School Gardener


Nurture the Nature in your Garden

A link to information about the latest ‘citizen survey’ of wildlife in our gardens, which begins today.

‘Britain’s biggest public-led investigation into the health of native wildlife has begun, with the launch of the national Garden Wildlife Health project

A partnership between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Garden Wildlife Health is the first collaborative citizen science project of its kind, relying on data provided from garden-owners across the nation….’

Old School Gardener

happy-gardenerA survey of 1500 adults in the UK has found that those who garden have a higher probability of being ‘satisfied’ with their life than those who don’t.

The survey for Gardeners’ World magazine found that 80% of gardeners feel satisfied with their lives, compared to 67% for non gardeners – and nearly all gardeners (some 93%) think that gardening improves their mood. Other hobbies that seem to make you happy are walking, fishing and, believe it or not, computing! All of these activities account for over 70% life satisfaction, whereas only 55% of those without any hobbies are ‘satisfied’ with their lives.

The most popular hobby in the UK is computing or gaming, (52% of respondents name it as their favourite pastime), while gardening came joint second with walking or hiking (43%), according to the study.

 Lucy Hall, editor of Gardeners’ World  said:

“We have long suspected it, but our research means we can definitely say gardening makes you happy. Part of it comes from nurturing something but also a natural optimism that no matter how bad the weather, there’s always next year. It’s also about passing the seed of knowledge and the pleasure that gives.”

Cawston primary School- weeding the cabbages and calabrese

Cawston primary School- weeding the Cabbages and Calabrese

Further support for the benefits of gardening comes from research across several UK universities. Jules Pretty, from Essex University, said:

“Engagement with green places is good for personal health. We also know that short-term mental health improvements are protective of long-term health benefits. We thus conclude that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate more with what we at Essex call green exercise. Gardening falls into this category – it is good for both mental and physical health, and all social and age groups benefit. It provides a dose of nature.”

Source: The Times, Belfast

Link: BBC News report

Old School Gardener

Turtle dove, hedgehog, harbour seal, early bumblebee, small tortoiseshell butterfly, natterjack toad (c) NaturePL / Photoshot / RSPB / Butterfly Conservation

Picture: BBC

A major report on the ‘State of Nature’ in the UK is launched today by Sir David Attenborough. It makes grim reading. 25 of the nation’s top nature bodies have got together and reviewed a wide range of information on how different species have fared over the last decades. They’ve found that 60% of the species studied are in ‘long term decline’ and, perhaps even more worrying, 1 in 10 are on the ‘endangered’ list. Once common critters like hedgehogs are now in serious danger – they have declined by around a third since 2000.

The report, hailed as a ‘wake up call’ to conservation policy and practice in the UK, says that current approaches are not halting these declines. The data – collected by dedicated volunteer enthusiasts through many surveys – are impressive, but they only cover 5% of the UK’s estimated 59,000 native species.

One of the report authors, Dr Mark Eaton of the RSPB, said: “These declines are happening across all countries and UK Overseas Territories, habitats and species groups, although it is probably greatest amongst insects, such as our moths, butterflies and beetles. Other once common species like the kittiwakes, Scottish wildcat and arable wildflowers are vanishing before our eyes”.

The elusive Corncrake is one of the bird species which the report cites as a positive example of what can be achieved by conservation projects. In Scotland, schemes which support changes in the timing and methods of mowing hay and silage during the breeding season are said to have secured a three-fold increase in the number of singing males.

The ‘State of Nature’ report offers clues to the fate of the UK’s 59,000 species. Some of the species seeing the largest falls in numbers are turtle doves, water voles, red squirrels and hedgehogs.The reasons for the decline are said to be “many and varied” but include rising temperatures and habitat degradation through development or agricultural practices such as pesticide use. Species requiring specific habitats have fared particularly poorly compared to the ‘generalists’ who are able to adapt to the country’s changing environment more easily.

“This report shows that our species are in trouble, with many declining at a worrying rate,”

said Sir David Attenborough. He commented in a radio interview today –  ‘There is no single answer – what we have to do varies from species to species.” He points to the many expert organisations that can advise on how to provide or encourage habitat creation; e.g. the Wildlife Trusts network plus a number of specialist bodies for particular species.

Whilst small-scale action to create or conserve habitats – by gardeners for example – can help, the scale and continuing trend of decline is bound to raise questions about Government policy on biodiversity and the case for even more large-scale action to create/recreate/ conserve habitats. ‘Rewilding’ is the term applied to large-scale conservation aimed at restoring and protecting core wilderness areas, connecting these areas, and protecting or reintroducing key species. Such projects may require ecological restoration, particularly to restore connectivity between protected but fragmented areas, and reintroduction of predators. It is a conservation method based on “cores, corridors, and carnivores.”


BBC report on ‘State of Nature’

Rewilding Europe

Rewilding our children – article by George Monbiot

Other relevant articles:

Four Seasons in One Day (1): Climate change and the garden

The Lost Fens

Moths- unsung victim of climate change and habitat loss

Mistle Thrush missing…Big Garden Watch this weekend

Winners and losers in latest butterfly survey- 7 tips for gardeners

Old School Gardener

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Four Seasons in One Day – survey on climate change and the garden

The Royal Horticultural Society needs your help! They’ve partnered with the University of Reading, asking Britain’s gardeners to share your view on climate change and whether it will influence your choices and plans in the garden. Please complete the survey: http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/crg/climate-change-and-gardening

My next article on climate change and the garden will look at how we can be prepared for the unpredictable weather patterns that come with climate change – due out Monday 25th March.

Recording wildlife near you

01 February 2013

Recording wildlife near you

This isn’t a strange safari group, but a request from Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre (CPERC) to help increase wildlife records across the county. Thanks to a grant of £40,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, CPERC have been running a recording project to help communities recognise and record their wildlife, which has already led to an increase of over 2,500 extra records from the general public in 12 months – more than 20 times what was submitted in 2011!

Although a year through this eighteen month project, there is still a lot to do and plenty of chances to get involved. CPERC’s Biodiversity Outreach Officer, Jane Andrews-Gauvain, explained:

We are extremely grateful to everyone who helped us record species last year, they did a fantastic job! We only have six months left, but we feel sure with help we can double our public records for last year in that time! There are plenty of opportunities for anyone to get involved, both in recording species near you (whether in your own garden, or out and about in the beautiful Cambridgeshire countryside with friends) and in surveying larger areas, particularly in Fenland District and east Peterborough. It doesn’t matter what your expertise are as there is training available and we can provide help with transport, all you need is an interest in wildlife and a bit of patience.

Toad and Frog Spotting
Toads and frogs are the first species CPERC want help recording as the weather warms up. CPERC are teaming up with Froglife and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Amphibian and Reptile Group (CPARG) to record these species. CPERC would like to hear from you if you are happy to just record when you see them hopping about, to let them know if your pond has frog spawn in, to help search for the species’, or to help at a Toad Crossing.

Specialist Training
Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and support of several wildlife organisations and county naturalists, there is a chance for members of the public and organisations to learn about recording and identifying bats, butterflies, dragonflies, otters, water voles and several other species in Cambridgeshire. If you want to have this opportunity, make sure you contact CPERC!

Further details
To ensure you get all the latest information about events and how you can help, contact Jane Andrews – Gauvain on 01954 713572, or email jane.andrews-gauvain@cperc.org.uk.

You can find out more about ‘Recording Wildlife’ and see events coming up on CPERC’s website,www.cperc.org.uk and their Facebook page www.facebook.com/cperc and to find out more information about Toad Crossings and Toad patrols go to www.froglife.org/toadsonroads/

From Cambridgeshire Action for Communities in Rural England

Old School Gardener

moth on leafA new report charting the numbers of moths in Britain over forty years makes grim reading. Climate change and habitat loss are driving some to extinction – especially in southern Britain.

Moths are perhaps not as popular as butterflies. But they are an important ‘indicator’ of how our native ecology is faring, a significant pollinator and source of food for birds, bats etc. Whilst many are subtly coloured, others are as eye-catching as their cousins.

The Butterfly Conservation report  says that two-thirds of common and widespread larger species of moth (macro-moths) declined in the last 40 years, most seriously in southern Britain. The report suggests that the decline in habitats through development and agricultural practices are the factors behind the decline in the south, whereas it sees climate change (a gradual warming) as a key factor in the broadly neutral results in the north – declines in some species have been matched by increases in others.

And climate change is also the explanation behind the growth in new species in the country. More than 100 species have been recorded for the first time in Britain this century and 27 species have colonised Britain from the year 2000 onwards. However, the report says that three species have become extinct in the last 10 years and three more are at serious risk of extinction, having already declined by more than 90% in the last forty years.

What can gardeners do to create the right habitats for moths? The Royal Horticultural Society makes several suggestions about planting.

  • Night-flowering, nectar-rich plants, such as Nicotiana (Tobacco plant) and Evening Primrose (Oenothera) have evolved to feed night flying insects – and the wonderful evening scent of some is a bonus for any garden
  • Day flying moths can be served by plants such as Sea Lavender, Buddlejas, Red Valerian and Lychnis
  • It’s also important to provide food for caterpillars with plants such as Clarkia and Fuchsia. leaving a ‘wilder’ area of the garden with longer grasses, thistles and knapweeds will benefit smaller moths. Many native trees, hedges and ornamental plants also provide food sources fo moth caterpillars.
Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar

Garden Tiger Moth caterpillar

Kate Bradbury suggests:

‘Avoid using pesticides to give their caterpillars free rein on your plants (which will mostly only be nibbled a bit – so don’t worry).’

The website Mothscount says we also need to tolerate some untidiness in our gardens:

‘Moths and their caterpillars need fallen leaves, old stems and other plant debris to help them hide from predators, and especially to provide suitable places to spend the winter. It’s very helpful to delay cutting back old plants until the spring, rather than doing it in the autumn, and just generally be less tidy. If you want your garden to look tidy in the summer, try leaving some old plant material behind the back of borders or in other places out of sight…..’

All green form of the Red - Green Carpet Moth'

All green form of the Red – Green Carpet Moth

Further information:

Back Garden moth.org

Winners and losers in latest butterfly survey – 7 tips for gardeners

Old School Gardener

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The Mistle Thrush- photo RSPB

The Mistle Thrush- photo RSPB

The Mistle Thrush is in decline, warns a major bird charity today.

The RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch survey reveals that they are being seen in less than half the number of British gardens than 10 years ago, resulting in the species being given an ‘amber’ warning of it disappearing. Other birds have seen their numbers decline since 1979, when the survey began, but the numbers of Blue, Great and Coal tits, in contrast, have been on the increase.

The Mistle Thrush is the largest bird in the Thrush family and its name means literally ‘Mistletoe eating Thrush’. It can be seen romping across the garden or standing defiantly on the lawn, but is more likely to be heard perched high up in a tree singing its melodious song. Because it sings so loudly on exposed perches in bad weather it’s sometimes nicknamed the ‘Stormcock’.

Living in parks, woodland and gardens they build their cup-shaped nest in trees early in the year. Of some benefit for the gardener because they like to eat worms, snails, insects, and slugs, in winter they turn to fruit such as berries from trees- mistletoe, holly, yew, rowan and hawthorn. They can be quite combative too, defending ‘their tree’ against other thrushes! They will occasionally visit gardens for food particularly if they are provided with their favourites on a regular basis –  meal worms and suet seed mixes are a good bet.

The RSPB Big Garden Watch takes place this weekend and everyone can take part by recording the numbers of different birds they see in their garden. A handy recording sheet can be downloaded from the website here.

rspb survey

The RSPB Big Garden Watch survey sheet

There are also a number of events taking place around the country; e.g. A ‘Wild Weekend’ event at The Forum in Norwich will show how to garden for wildlife and there’ll be lots of family activities on offer. Norfolk Mastergardeners will also be on hand with wildlife gardening and grow your own food  tips and advice. For tips on making your garden butterfly friendly click here.

Old School Gardener

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The Small Tortoiseshell- under threat

The Small Tortoiseshell- under threat

The latest ‘Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey’ reveals that some butterfly species- notably the Meadow Brown- seem to have benefitted from last year’s wet summer, whereas others- such as the Common Blue and Small Tortoiseshell– were around 50% down on the previous year.

The Small Tortoiseshell was once prolific in Britain’s gardens, but it seems to have been one of the big losers in 2012. Last year’s weather  is only partly to blame, as wider agricultural policies and practices are a key driver behind a longer term decline in butterfly species and numbers and parasitic flies may also be part of the story. Around three quarters of the 59 native British species are now in decline.

So what can gardeners do to arrest this trend?

1. Think about providing year- round sources of food for emerging and mature butterflies. Examples of plants which feed butterfly caterpillars are: Dill, Antirrhinum, Columbine, Berberis, Marigold, Ceanothus, Cercis, Cornus, Foxglove, Wallflower, Ivy, Hop, Holly, Jasmine, Honesty, Ragged Robin, Crab Apple, Oregano, Cowslip, Rudbeckia, Thyme, Nasturtium, Verbascum and Pansy.

Species which are food sources for mature butterflies are: Achillea, Anthemis tinctoria, Bergamot, Buddleja, Columbine, Coreopsis lanceolata, Red Valerian, Ceanothus, Marigold, Echinacea, Globe Thistle, Knautia, Lavender, Tobacco plant and Hop.

2. Try to plant butterfly-attracting plants in groups– butterflies prefer to visit stands of brightly coloured flowers.

3. If you have room, choose a quiet but sunny area of lawn where the grass can be left to grow long – some butterflies such as the Meadow Brown prefer to lay eggs in long grass.

4. Allow a small patch of nettles (Urtica dioica) to grow unfettered– these will provide food for some of the more common butterflies such as Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Milbert’s Tortoiseshell.

5. If you have fruit trees, don’t be too tidy about windfalls– leave some rotting fruit as a source of food for some butterflies.

6. Try to provide a shallow, muddy puddle in a sunny spot– many butterflies love to drink from these and they also provide essential minerals and salts.

7. Avoid using chemical sprays to deal with insect pests and weeds– many will harm beneficial insects and butterflies as well as the pests.

Groups of butterfly- friendly plants such as Bergamot are better than single specimens

Groups of butterfly- friendly plants such as Bergamot are better than single specimens

Sources and further information:

Guardian online

Butterfly Conservation

UK butterflies

‘Wildlife Friendly Plants’- Rosemary Cresser

Quizzicals- two more cryptic clues to plant, fruit or veg names:

  • Our monarch continues to work hard
  • Nasty spot causing urination problems

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