Grey squrrels most common visitors

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Grey squirrels were the most widely-spotted non-bird visitor in Londonderry gardens, according to the results of a recent RSPB survey.

More than 2,500 people in Londonderry took part in the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch during the weekend of January 24/25 and also provided information about other wildlife, which they spotted during the year.

Thirty-six per cent of Londonderry participants saw grey squirrels scurrying across their gardens or climbing up trees at least once a month.

At the other end of the scale, the grey’s native relative, the red squirrel, continued to struggle and was one of the least-seen species – with just four per cent of people here seeing one on a monthly basis.

The red squirrel is under threat by loss and fragmentation of woodland habitat, and a lethal virus carried by the grey, and has been lost from large parts of the UK.

Despite remaining a popular garden visitor, hedgehogs have continued their steady and widespread UK decline. Around 54 per cent of people set eyes on the spiny species throughout the year in Londonderry but it’s thought there are less than a million left in the UK, compared to more than 30 million in the 1950s.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, badgers were spotted by twice as many people living in rural areas than those living in suburban or urban areas in Northern Ireland, and in Londonderry 28 per cent of people reported they had seen one at some point during the last year.

Amy Colvin from RSPB said: “This is the second year that we have asked local wildlife lovers to record some of the mammals and amphibians that they see in their gardens and we hope these results will encourage people to go out and explore their garden or outdoor space to uncover the wonderful wildlife that is living there.”