Comment | 'We all have a big part to play in helping wildlife'
By Alana Wheat, Sustainability Engagement Officer at Keele University. This article first appeared as a Personally Speaking column in the Stoke Sentinel on Friday, March 17, 2023.
Now March is here, you may be able to see the first of the spring bulbs sprouting from the ground – snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, and more. As the days lengthen and we fly towards the spring season, the garden birds like blue tits are searching for suitable nesting sites and the hedgehogs may be rolling out of hibernation during milder spells, replenishing their fat reserves ready for breeding. However, some species are struggling with the effect of climate change causing warmer and wetter winters, impacting food availability, habitats and consequently the wildlife breeding season. We need to restore nature and connect our gardens, green spaces, playing fields, campuses and verges to help with the intertwined nature, climate and health emergencies.
Hedgehogs are vulnerable to extinction in Britain, due to habitat loss, development, roads and garden hazards. There are now thought to be fewer than one million hedgehogs left. Hedgehogs have declined between 30 to 75 per cent since 2000 in rural areas. City dwelling hedgehog numbers appear to be recovering after a long period of decline but there is more work to be done.
So, how can you help wildlife? For hedgehogs, you can put out a combination of meat-based wet dog or cat food sheltered in feeding stations; a shallow bowl of water is also a fantastic hydration station. For birds, National Nestbox Week took place in February, so now is the time to put up nest boxes in your gardens or local green spaces. You’ll start to hear more birdsong when you step out of your door as they sing to establish a breeding territory and begin their quest to attract potential mates.
Why are nest boxes and feeding stations important? Think about your local green space... is it wild? Does it have log and stick piles dotted around? Does it have a hedge? Are there trees and lots of natural holes, nooks and crannies for birds to use? Natural spaces are in trouble, wildlife needs shelter and security for their homes so that they can survive and hopefully thrive. By helping to feed these species it gives them a bit of extra help in their day to keep going and find suitable habitats.
Students and staff at Keele University are looking at how the campus can increase in biodiversity. The University is one of two universities awarded Platinum Hedgehog Friendly Campus status thanks to the work of volunteers, students, staff and Nurture CIC. We'd love the public to celebrate this and other sustainability activities with us at Keele Green Festival 2023, on Saturday 18th March 10am to 2pm near Keele Hall. Members of the community are welcome to visit Keele and explore the campus.
For wildlife, every small action counts. I take action for nature because it makes me feel alive. It helps my mental health and going out to see it helps my physical health too. Across Staffordshire you can act for wildlife by creating local wild-spaces, potting plants, letting gardens grow a little wild and helping to campaign for change. There is a network of fantastic organisations such as Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (see the Wilder Stoke and Newcastle project for example) and RSPB and activities that you can join in with and support, either from the comfort of your own home or by going outdoors. Seen and identified some wildlife? Report it to help build the databases of sightings. Contributing to important citizen science helps increase the understanding of wildlife populations in the local area.
We're living through the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and we all have a part to play.
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