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Have a nature-friendly bonfire night, says the RSPB

Last modified: 01 November 2017

Hedgehog foraging in leaves

Look out for hedgehogs this bonfire night

Image: Ben Hall

The RSPB is encouraging everyone to remember wildlife when planning bonfires and firework displays this weekend. The nature charity is urging people to mark Bonfire Night carefully to avoid harming animals and birds, but is also suggesting they make the most of a dramatic time in nature’s calendar by watching some of the UK’s favourite wildlife spectacles.

Event organisers and people having their own parties should leave bonfire-building as late as possible, says the RSPB, as this will avoid hedgehogs and other wildlife mistaking the woodpiles for cosy winter quarters. Bonfire makers are asked to look out for frogs, toads, newts, slow worms, common lizards and grass snakes, which all use log piles for shelter and sleep during the winter months. These animals tend to move slowly when the temperature is low and would have difficulty escaping a roaring fire.

“Bonfires and fireworks are great fun and we want people to enjoy them responsibly.” said Richard James, RSPB wildlife expert, “The trick with a bonfire is to build it with leaves, twigs and logs on the day to avoid wildlife moving in overnight. Generally birds can cope with the disturbance caused by thunder and lightning, so firework displays are not a big issue, but it is best to avoid areas where they are known to be roosting.

“As well as - or maybe even instead of - watching the fireworks this year, we’re urging people to take in some of the UK’s most exciting wildlife sights, which we think are more than a match for any pyrotechnic display. There are no damp squibs when it comes to nature at this time of year.”

To encourage people to watch a wildlife display as well as the fireworks this year, the RSPB has come up with a top 5 list of nature spectacles to enjoy this weekend:

1.     There are plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” as people look up to the skies for a spectacular seasonal display. Starling murmurations involve tens of thousands of birds wheeling and swooping in vast clouds as they settle into their evening roosts in trees, reedbeds or even under piers. Starlings form breathtaking patterns in the skies before swirling downwards to find a safe place to perch for the night.

2.     Many of us will be creating a “fun Guy” for our bonfire, but there’s plenty of fascinating fungi popping up all over the place at this time of year. Look out for the famous red and white fly agaric toadstools.

3.     Sparks fly as massive red deer stags battle over groups of hinds in parks and moors. The deer rut is a feast for the ears as well as the eyes: the bellows and roars of the stags carry for miles over open land. Watch from a safe distance and enjoy one of the most impressive wildlife displays in the UK.

4.     Who needs Roman candles when you can have ‘Roman noses’? The owners of these noses, grey seals, along with their relatives, common seals will all be raising their pups around the shores of Lincolnshire, and the Hebrides and Farne Islands.

5.     No flames are needed for the explosions of rust and bronze as trees such as beech, hazel and dogwood are ablaze with colour. At this time of year, leaves have switched from greens to reds as the green chlorophyll drains from the tree into the roots.

As well as avoiding wildlife disturbance on bonfire night, the RSPB is asking people to consider providing food and shelter for garden wildlife as the weather becomes colder, as part of the RSPB’s Giving Nature a Home campaign. The campaign is aimed at tackling the housing crisis facing the UK’s threatened wildlife. The charity is asking people to provide a place for wildlife in their own gardens and outside spaces, by planting pollen-rich plants to attract bees and butterflies, putting up a nestbox for a house sparrow, or creating a pond that will support a number of different species. The RSPB hopes to inspire people across the UK to create a million new homes for nature. So far 299,226 people have pledge to give nature a home in their gardens. A free guide is available at


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.