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Hello! I'm Henrietta the Hedgehog and this is my new home, made by caring humans (thank you!). It's so cosy and has everything I need, importantly, a warm bed for those cold winter nights. My front garden has a beautiful wildflower meadow that attracts lots of essential pollinators (bees, butterflies and many many more!). Just a few metres away is an old rotten log pile, which might look a bit untidy or dirty for some of you clean-freaks out there but it is doing marvellous things like providing a habitat teeming with earthworms, beetles and earwigs (yummy!). Good luck ever getting me out of this paradise! 

We hedgehogs love countryside hedgerows (hence the name!) but over the last decades, many of these have been cleared for human development and agricultural use. Our favourite habitats and surrounding areas have also been sprayed with chemicals to grow crops and to get rid of the important bugs and weeds, which means  finding food isn't so easy these days. That's why we now wander further into built-up towns and cities to find suitable habitats. But these crazy places are full of dangers too. I mean, can you imagine how scary a car looks from where I'm standing all small and prickly?  These gigantic vehicles and the blinding lights are everywhere, it confuses us so much, we don't know which way to run. It's really difficult to find a safe place to call home. We're counting on you to help wherever you can to encourage wildlife to thrive again!

The challenges mentioned by Henrietta are common throughout the animal kingdom in today's world. According to the 2018 WWF Living planet report, worldwide wildlife populations have declined by a staggering 60% in the last 40 years. At this alarming rate, not much will be left in just a few years! 

You might be wondering what's causing this dramatic decline. Sadly, ALL of the below threats are driven by human overconsumption and population pressures on the planets finite resources.

Leading causes of wildlife population decline:​

  1. Habitat destruction for agriculture use

  2. Overconsumption and exploitation of species (for food and hunting)

  3. Pollution and other disturbances: Agricultural pollution, dams, fires and mining

  4. Globalisation causing spreading of invasive species and disease due to trade activities (e.g. shipping, traveling)

  5. The climate crisis

The good news is that we can do something by changing our personal behaviours identified in the Web of Change. Changing our consumption habits, transitioning to a plant-based diet, reducing waste, adopting a mindset of minimalism and supporting local and alternative economies will all have a massive impact on reducing our ecological footprint.

 

By applying the behavioural changes, especially observing nature we can change our perspective towards wildlife and think carefully about what it needs to thrive. We can, for example, choose to green our windowsills, balconies, gardens, allotments, school fields, house roofs. Practically any available open space is a potential magical mini-ecosystem that can attract and nurture all sorts of wildlife and edible foods too. A win -win! We only need to visualise and image the possibilities to realise they are very exciting and endless!

 

With the threats to wildlife from human activity clear, we can shift focus on what we can do to help bring wildlife back to our gardens and outdoor spaces. Who better to offer advice than the animals themselves! The hedgehog community together with their fellow nature friends: the frogs and toads, the dragonflies and newts, the butterflies and bees, the bats and birds put together some pointers of how we call all help to bring wildlife back to our gardens and outdoor spaces. Here are their essential tips!

It's clear that with wildlife habitat and species rapidly declining and 50% of the world's human population now living in cities, rethinking the way we view our outdoor spaces is essential to revive our lost connection with nature. While this might sound like an upward battle, the opportunities to turn things around and bring wildlife back into our predominantly urban lives are endless!

The traditional view of gardens and outdoor spaces has been one of ornamental decoration with features such as shrubs, blossom trees, flower beds and a well-kept lawn. While these features continue to play an important role in habitat and species survival, they're not necessarily the most optimal, for wildlife and people. Just think about the maintenance required to keep a tidy lawn: watering, chemical weed control, fertilisers and (noisy) mowing. These activities disturb and degrade the soil structure and fertility, essential to support plant and animal life and the have minimal wildlife benefits.

The key factors that wildlife needs to thrive

There are four key ingredients that enable wildlife to survive: access, food, shelter, and water. With this in mind and by thinking about thinking more holistically about the needs of both humans and wildlife, we can create magical spaces teeming with life above and below the ground.

Before we think about changing a space, it's important to check for features that might already harbour wildlife. By first observing our outdoor spaces. we can minimise any harm to existing habitats and choose to enhance rather than clear them. For example, it can be easy to overlook a prickly hedgerow that is home to hedgehogs or birds. Or an existing log pile might look like it's not doing much but hidden beneath could be all sorts of wildlife such as newts, frogs, earwigs, beetles and millipedes. 

Where an area might be lacking wildlife we can either enhance what we have or create something new. Here are some ways in which we can enhance and create new habitats. 

Wildlife habitats

  • Create a wildlife pond - the best single thing in order to attract wildlife into your garden. It doesn't have to be expensive or large. Reusing materials such as a car tyre or an open barrel works well.

    • Bog gardens and marshy plants are a great alternative if you have young children and are worried about safety around water.

  • Build rock piles and/or log piles.

  • Grow a wildflower meadow.

  • Plant native trees, shrubs and hedges.

  • Create a compost heap.

  • Build a rockery.

  • Make use of vertical spaces e.g. climbing plants on walls or hanging plants balconies.

This article provides some more ideas and guidance on how to create these habitats.

Access considerations

For wildlife that flies, access is usually not a problem but don't forget about the creatures scurrying on the ground. Here are some tips and tricks with which we can help wildlife move between our outdoor spaces:   

  • Choose mixed and preferably native hedgerows instead of fence panels to border gardens or property boundaries.

  • Create small holes at the bottom of fence panels to enable wildlife to move in and out.

  • Create edges, for example, shrubs or rockeries that connect adjoining habitats and allow wildlife to move freely.

Wildlife service stations will quickly attract all sorts of animals and insects into your personal or community outdoor space. A wildlife service station is a feature that allows animals to refuel, rest and nest, particularly during the tougher times, when food, shelter and water are scarce, especially in the winter. Here are some examples:

 

  • Bat box

  • Insect hotel/ bug box

  • Bee hotel

  • Bird boxes (many varieties)

  • Hedgehog home

  • Roosting boxes

  • Bird tables

  • Bird/bat baths 

  • Nectar borders for bees and butterflies 

Shelter & nesting boxes

Feeding & water stations

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Everyone can take part in bringing wildlife back - there's no need to be a wildlife expert. It's incredible to see the diversity of wildlife that will come and visit in just a few days and through observing more diligently we become more connected with the animals and insects we share our world with. 

 

Share your discoveries with your friends and family who enjoy watching nature too. Through social media platforms, it's easy to connect with other wildlife lovers and exchange experiences. There are lots of great apps such as Seek, where you can get expert help in identifying a plant or animals. Also the app Song Sleuth is fun for identify bird calls.

With all these actions, we are not just helping wildlife, there are plenty of health and environmental benefits for us too! Greening our environment generates cleaner air, water and restores natural beauty to our homes, communal areas, town and cities. We also benefit from the lifelong learning and pleasure that we experience by being in close contact with nature. Check out It's in our nature for more details about the benefits of observing and reconnecting with nature.

Henrietta recommends:

  • Small space: Set up an insect hotel/bug box, put up a bird feeder and some nearby shrubs for bird protection

  • Larger space: ​create a wildlife pond with native plant life, find a suitable location/orientation and hang up a bird and/or bat box

  • Avoid the use of chemicals on your garden and exotic plants and lawns that require unnecessary large amounts of watering

  • Download and try the Seek app by iNaturalist, helps you identify plants and animals in your local environment

  • Check out the Get out and about section for tips and recommended guide books

© 2019 Reconnect with Nature.

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