Volunteer issues SOS to help save wildlife

George Millins has helped set up a biodiversity trail with information boards at Wheldon's fruit far

George Millins has helped set up a biodiversity trail with information boards at Wheldon's fruit farm in Newton Leys, Sudbury.

AS a new survey reveals a sharp decline in the number of garden birds during past year, a west Suffolk conservationist has issued a desperate plea to gardeners to help create suitable wildlife areas.

The results from the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Birdwatch, based on half-a-million people counting birds in their gardens during a January weekend, showed that the number of house sparrows had fallen by 17% on 2012 figures. Bullfinch numbers have dropped by 20% and green finches have declined by nearly 21% since last year.

Wildlife volunteer George Millins, from Great Waldingfield, said the situation for native wildlife including butterflies and bees, was becoming “desperate” and he urged people to change their attitudes to gardening methods in a bid to prevent some species from dying out.

He said: “We are really in a position where we have to issue an SOS to save creatures such as the common blue butterfly, which has seen a dramatic 70% decline in recent years. In Suffolk, we have to make provision for wildlife to live in our gardens because this area is mostly arable land, which is a disaster for wildlife.”

Mr Millins believes that much of the former wildlife habitat in private gardens has been destroyed because of modern machinery and an “obsession” with tidiness. He added: “Ponds in gardens which were vitals to amphibians have virtually been eradicated because of health and safety fears, and as mowing is largely mechanised, people find it easy to mow where they might not have bothered before. Rather than spending time keeping the whole lawn mowed neat and tidy, I would urge people to consider leaving a patch as a butterfly and bee meadow.”

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According to Mr Millins, numbers of butterflies such as the Brown Argus, the Small Heath and Small Copper are at critical levels, while the small tortoiseshell, which used to be one of the most common butterflies, is also becoming rare. He believes taking a few simple steps in the garden could have a dramatic effect on numbers.

“Something as simple as leaving a patch of nettles will help some species, while other measures such as leaving the heads on any perennial border plants for part of the winter will provide food for seed-eating birds. Most garden centres stock native wildlife flowers these days so planting an area with nap weed or primroses would also help. It’s easy to create a log pile for reptiles or a ‘brash pile’ of rough branches for hedgehogs. These are small steps which can make a huge difference,” he added.

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For advice on creating wildlife habitats in your garden, call Mr Millens on 07534 263629.

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