Northern Ireland

NI gardens shelter some of the few remaining red squirrels

A Red Squirrel
Image caption Red squirrels are fast becoming a rare sight in the UK and Ireland

Northern Ireland gardens are among the best places in the UK to see a red squirrel.

According to this year's RSPB Make Your Nature Count summer wildlife survey, the region is home to some of the few remaining pockets of red squirrel populations in the British Isles.

Compared to national figures, Northern Ireland gardens also attract more finches, as well as jackdaws and coal tits.

In June, the RSPB asked people around the UK to spend an hour counting the animals they saw in their garden, local park and school grounds.

Stephanie Sim from RSPB Northern Ireland said that this year's count was particularly important in light of the harsh weather last winter.

"We were particularly keen to learn how garden wildlife had weathered the difficult conditions last winter. Make Your Nature Count was one of the first garden wildlife surveys since the extraordinarily cold spell."

Image caption Sightings of young robins are more common in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK

In Northern Ireland the most commonly sighted bird was the house sparrow with more of the birds spotted on average per garden than the national average. The house sparrow was seen in 81.59% of our gardens. The next most visible birds were starlings, goldfinches and chaffinches.

Conservationists have been concerned about the decline in numbers of summer migrants such as house martins and swifts.

However, house martins seem to be doing better here than in other regions.

In Northern Ireland nearly 11% of respondents had nesting martin colonies. That is compared to a UK average of 4% of households reporting the birds nesting in their eaves.

Sightings of young robin and song thrush are also much higher than national averages. An estimated 22% of gardens had breeding robins, while 6.45% were home to families of song thrushes.

The RSPB said the healthier population numbers were thanks to people in Northern Ireland providing food, safe nesting spots and wildlife-friendly conditions.

Richard Bashford, RSPB Make Your Nature Count organiser said that it was an important task because "for many species the only way of counting them is to ask people to take part in a garden survey like this."

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