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Garden survey reveals sightings of frogs and toads are drying up in Cumbria

Common frog Rana temporaria (rspb-images.com)

[S]urvey results released today reveal that sightings of our amphibious garden wildlife such as frogs and toads are drying up, with the RSPB calling on people across Cumbria 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 Cumbria. Despite being the most common non-bird garden visitor, seen at least monthly in nearly 40% of gardens in the county, this was 15% fewer regular sightings than the last time they were surveyed in 2014.

This pattern was similar for toads who were seen in over 20% of outdoor spaces in Cumbria on a monthly basis, an alarming 20% fewer gardens than four years ago. The survey included results from over 1700 Cumbrian gardens.

At a quick glance a nature novice may not be able to spot the difference between a frog and a toad. A frog’s skin is smooth and moist and they have a pointed nose, whilst a toad’s 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, over 70% of people spotted one in Cumbrian gardens over the past year.

Bucking the national trend, red squirrels were one of the most common visitors to Cumbrian gardens, seen in over 40% of those surveyed, compared to 6% in the national results. More secretive creatures such as grass snakes and great-crested newts escaped much of the county’s gaze.

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 across Cumbria 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.

Emma Reed, RSPB Education, Families and Youth Manager in Northern England said, said: “It’s important for every child to get outside and discover nature. The RSPB Wild Challenge gives families the chance to explore their garden or local area and uncover all sorts of wonderful wildlife that they share their space with. As well as getting up close to some incredible creatures, you’ll be helping to give nature a home too.”

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

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