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New survey reveals the creatures living in your garden

Last modified: 06 July 2017


Image: Niall Benvie

  • Hedgehogs spotted in more than half of Scottish gardens last year, while other creatures such as great crested newts were seen by a lucky few.
  • Foxes were the most common garden visitor after being spotted in 64% of outdoor spaces.
  • RSPB Scotland is calling on families to uncover the mysterious creatures living on their doorstep by taking up the Wild Challenge this summer.

A new study has revealed the mixed fortunes of our most familiar and favourite garden wildlife with a decline in sightings for some, as RSPB Scotland calls on people to discover the ‘mysterious’ wildlife on their doorstep by taking up the Wild Challenge this summer. 

Results from the survey of almost 15,000 wildlife enthusiasts showed that hedgehogs were seen in 57% of Scottish gardens or outdoor spaces last year. However, worryingly the spiny mammals were absent from over a quarter (27%).

Moles spend most of their lives alone, digging tunnels and hunting for food, only occasionally coming to the surface. They remained elusive to the majority of the 9,700 gardens that recorded wildlife, with the creatures, or one of their more familiar molehills, going unseen in 44% of outdoor spaces.

Great crested newts are only found in a few areas of Scotland and participants from a lucky 2% of gardens recorded sightings of these elusive amphibians. Foxes meanwhile remained a common visitor with 64% spotting at least one throughout the year.

James Silvey, All Nature Species and Habitat Officer at RSPB Scotland, said: “Gardens and outdoor spaces are often where we have our first experience with nature, such as blackbirds singing from fences or foxes dashing past. Unfortunately, such garden wildlife and the sounds and sights it creates are becoming less and less familiar for many people.

“There are lots of ways that we can make our outdoor spaces great homes for nature where wildlife can thrive. From making feeders for your garden birds to building a cosy home for a hedgehog, or simply letting the grass grow to provide an important refuge for invertebrates - simple steps like this can make a big difference to local wildlife.”

With the wildlife on people’s doorsteps becoming increasingly mysterious to them, RSPB Scotland is calling on families to spend more time outside this summer and reconnect with the nature that surrounds them by taking on the Wild Challenge.

By completing fun and engaging activities ranging from mini-beast safaris and rock pooling to creating a hedgehog cafe and planting for wildlife, families can take their first steps on their own wild adventure. There are 24 activities to choose from that will take you from your own back garden to exploring towns, cities, woodlands and even the coast.

Jasper Hamlet, Youth and Families Officer at RSPB Scotland said: “Having outdoor adventures and discovering nature should be part of every child’s life and our Wild Challenge is here to help families do that. Whether your motivation is happy healthy children, getting out in nature and spending time together as a family exploring your local area or giving nature a home and helping wildlife, there is a whole heap of Wild Challenge activities to do help you do this. It’s great fun, free, and you can work towards awards too!”

RSPB Scotland’s ambition is for the Wild Challenge to help more families across the country reap the benefits of spending time outside in nature. Research has shown that children who have a healthy connection to nature are more likely to benefit from higher achievement at school, better mental and physical health, and develop stronger social skills.

To learn more about the RSPB Wild Challenge and to see how you can take your firsts steps on your own wildlife adventure, visit

How you can help

Nature in the UK is in trouble and some of our more familiar garden species are amongst those suffering serious declines. We can all help by giving nature a home where we live.