Wildlife? We’re just nuts about it - Oxfordshire survey results revealed

A red squirrel

A red squirrel

First published in News Bicester Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Abingdon and Wantage, South Oxford and Kennington. Call me on 01865 425431

HALF of Oxfordshire residents have seen a muntjac deer in their garden, but only two per cent think they have ever had a visit from a red squirrel, pictured.

These are the results from the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey, which reveals Oxfordshire to be a snapshot of the national wildlife picture.

Grey squirrels were the most common species surveyed, with 72 per cent saying they spotted one in the garden every month.

Some 20 per cent said they saw a muntjac deer in their garden at least once a month.

And a fifth of those asked said they had seen a roe deer in their garden.

RSPB Oxford group volunteer Lyn Ebbs said she quite often saw muntjac deer in her garden in Stanton St John, which was a sign of a predator/prey “imbalance”.

She said: “I would like to see more big predators like wolves and bears, but I don’t think it would go down too well in Oxfordshire.

“We don’t have the diversity of wildlife that we had 50 years ago. There is roughly three times more land in gardens in the UK than in nature reserves.

“We have taken out quite a few big predators at the top of the pyramid, but also quite a few things at the bottom, like insects, through intensive farming practices.

“That means birds and other wildlife look to our gardens to find food.”

But Mrs Ebbs said she doubted whether anyone in Oxfordshire had actually seen red squirrels, despite the survey showing 0.4 per cent said they saw one on a monthly basis.

Bicester Advertiser:

Lyn and Richard Ebbs on the lookout for wildlife in their garden

She said: “I don’t think there are any in the county.

“At that time of year, grey squirrels are a little bit gingery, so I think there is an awful lot of wishful thinking.”

In Oxfordshire, 7,808 residents kept watch in their garden for an hour over the weekend of January 25 to 26 to count birds and other beasts.

More than 13 per cent of respondents in Oxfordshire did not know whether they had ever seen a common toad, but nearly 50 per cent saw a frog once a month.

It was the first time in the bird survey’s 36 years that participants were asked to record other wildlife visiting their gardens.

The survey found local bird populations had held steady over five years, and, in terms of other wildlife, the RSPB says Oxfordshire has nothing to worry about.

County spokesman Fen Gerry said: “Oxfordshire is following a national trend and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

“There isn’t a massive lack of anything here, it’s a happy medium.

“We’re certainly not alarmed by anything.”

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