Nature in Cambridgeshire

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Summary Report


The Cambridge Garden Watch Survey was run during Summer 2001 by the Cambridge Local Group of The Wildlife Trust, with help and funding from the city council’s environmental initiative, Cambridge Sustainable City.

Gardeners were asked to complete the survey form, in return for which they received a free leaflet on gardening for wildlife and a packet of wild flower seeds.

The survey had two main aims:

  • To record garden wildlife in the Cambridge area
  • To encourage people to welcome wildlife into their gardens

We had an amazing response. Over 800 survey forms were returned, recording 26,645 individual sightings and covering 141 acres of gardens – more than four times the size of Midsummer Common. The results show:

  • Great enthusiasm for wildlife gardening
  • A large variety of wildlife both in and around Cambridge
  • Concerns over the trends in garden wildlife
  • Gardening for wildlife does make a difference



This was the most reported group, with households listing on average 13 species per garden. Most frequently reported were: robin (94%), blackbird (93%), blue tit (80%) followed by song thrush, house sparrow, starling, pigeon, dove, magpie, great tit and chaffinch.

There were also good numbers of three birds not always associated with gardens: green and greater spotted woodpecker and sparrowhawk. In all, 100 species were recorded in or over gardens throughout the survey area.


24 species of butterfly in total were recorded - a very respectable figure. However, the average number of species reported per garden was quite low, and many people said that they had trouble identifying their butterflies.


The survey confirmed that the city has a thriving fox and deer population, with 91 and 41 sightings respectively. Hedgehog were reported in 71% of city gardens, more frequently than squirrels at 52% and bats at 27%. In all, over 30 mammal species were reported in the survey.

Other Records

The survey showed just what a huge variety of wild flowers and insects can be found in the garden – over 200 species of each were reported. In addition, we had a separate list of 228 moth species attracted to a single garden in Trumpington in five years.

Amphibians are well-known for their patronage of gardens, and our gardens were no different. Over three-quarters reported frogs, nearly one half had toads and almost a quarter had newts. Gardeners with ponds were much more likely to report amphibians. 12 gardeners reported great crested newts, a protected species. Reptile records were few, but 46 gardens had grass snakes.


We asked whether you thought there was any change in garden wildlife over the last two years. Many people had a lot to say on the subject! Of the 1270 observations received, 45% were of wildlife increases and 55% were wildlife decreases. The main losers were house sparrows and song thrushes. The main winners were magpies and squirrels.

These observations are analysed in more detail in the full report.


Does Gardening For Wildlife Make a Difference?

Yes! 57 gardeners commented that they thought that wildlife was on the increase because of their wildlife-friendly gardening.

Feeding the birds also made a big difference. Gardeners who feed the birds all year round reported on average five more bird species than those who do not feed the birds at all.

And finally, the more wildlife-friendly features a garden has – such as a pond, wildflower area or log pile – the greater the total number of species reported.


Gardeners in the Cambridge area have shown a huge interest in, and concern for, the wildlife that visits their gardens.

The survey shows that Cambridge gardens are visited by a great variety of wildlife, and that gardeners play an important part in safeguarding garden wildlife for the future.

Further wildlife gardening events are being planned in the coming months to build on the success of the survey. A full report on the survey including further analysis, species lists and a comparison between city and countryside records is available. For further details contact:

Cambridge Environmental Resources Centre,
Cambridge City Council,
The Guildhall, Cambridge CB2 3QJ.
Email:Sue Woodsford
Tel: 01223 457046

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