Survey results released today reveal that sightings of our garden amphibians are drying up, with the RSPB calling on people to help them by getting outside this summer to create more ponds and pools in their outdoor space.
Results from the RSPB’s wildlife survey, which is part of the Big Garden Birdwatch, show that frogs had been seen in more than three-quarters of gardens across the UK. Despite being the most common non-bird garden visitor, seen at least monthly in close to 40% of gardens, this was 17% fewer regular sightings than the last time they were surveyed in 2014 when they were observed monthly in around 46% of gardens.
This pattern was similar for toads who were seen in 20% of our outdoor spaces on a monthly basis, an alarming 30% fewer gardens than the 28 % of gardens in 2014. The survey included results from more than 174,000 UK gardens.
At a quick glance a nature novice may not be able to spot the difference between a frog and a toad. Frog’s hop, their skin is smooth and moist and they have a pointed nose, whilst a toad’s crawls, their skin is warty and dry and their noses are rounded – almost semi-circular in shape.
Dr Daniel Hayhow, RSPB Conservation Scientist, said: “Most people remember seeing tadpoles at the local pond or a toad emerging from under a rock while they were growing up – these first experiences with nature stay with us forever. Unfortunately, the sights and sounds of wildlife that were once common to us are sadly becoming more mysterious.
“There are lots of simple things we can all do in our outdoor spaces to make them perfect for wildlife. Frogs and toads are amphibious creatures meaning that they need a source of water close to their homes to survive. Creating a small pond in your garden, or a pool using a washing up bowl is so simple to do and could make all the difference.”
Other results from the survey revealed a small increase in the number of recorded sightings of hedgehogs. Despite the UK population suffering widespread declines in recent decades, 65% of people spotted one in their gardens over the past year.
Foxes remained one of the other most common garden visitors with one being spotted in 72% of our gardens and outdoor spaces, while more secretive creatures such as moles, red squirrels and great-crested newts escaped much of the nation’s gaze.
Dr Karen Haysom, Species Programmes Manager at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation said: “Frogs and toads face many pressures including the loss of habitat like ponds. Helping these fascinating creatures by making wildlife habitat in your garden or taking part in species recording and monitoring schemes so we understand how nature is faring is fun and can make a difference.”
Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest garden wildlife survey and takes place each year on the last weekend in January. The RSPB asks people to count the birds in their garden or outdoor space over the course of one hour at any point in the weekend to get an idea of how our feathered friends are getting on.
With the wildlife on people’s doorsteps becoming increasingly elusive, the RSPB is calling on families to spend more time outside this summer, discovering the nature that surrounds them and seeing how they can give it a helping hand.
By taking part in the RSPB’s Wild Challenge, families can have fun engaging in activities ranging from building a pool for amphibians to bug safaris, taking their first steps on their own wild adventure. There are 24 activities to choose from that will take you from your own back garden to exploring towns, cities, woodlands and even the coast.
Martyn Foster, RSPB Head of Education, Families and Youth, said: “Getting outside and discovering nature is important for every child. The Wild Challenge gives families the chance to turn the weekend walk into a wild flower foray or make the most of their school holidays by meeting the amazing minibeasts in their own outdoor space. And, as well as getting up close to some amazing wildlife, you’ll be helping to give nature a home.”
The RSPB’s ambition is for Wild Challenge to help more families across the country reap the benefits of spending time outside in nature. Research has shown that children who have a healthy connection to nature are more likely to benefit from higher achievement at school, better mental and physical health, and develop stronger social skills.
To learn more about the RSPB Wild Challenge and to see how you can take your firsts steps on your own wildlife adventure, visit www.rspb.org.uk/wildchallenge