Nature Counts

Orange-tip butterfly on bluebells (c)Richard Bowler(c) Adam Cormack

Through collaborative citizen science involving volunteers, the general public and expert biological recorders, our exciting two-year project has collected and collated data on Sheffield’s key species and habitats to produce an innovative State Of Nature report for Sheffield.

Nature Counts was a two-year partnership project working with local and national partners to explore and celebrate Sheffield's wildlife and wild spaces. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Nature Counts supported and trained volunteers to learn skills of biological recording and field surveying through 22 workshops, ran three sub-projects to collect data on otters, hedgehogs and bluebells, and produced Sheffield's first ever State of Nature report to document how local wildlife is faring. 

Over two years, Nature Counts has collated and reviewed existing survey data, reports and records for priority species and habitats as well as conducting further priority ecological surveys in key habitats and sites. The Sheffield State of Nature 2018 report has interpreted these new and existing data to give Sheffield’s natural heritage a ‘health check’ and address additional gaps in data and survey efforts.

The video below was produced by Museums Sheffield for the Nature Counts display at Weston Park Museum. Thanks to the BBC for the harvestman footage.

Recording Sheffield's Wildlife

(c) Tom Marshall

Nature Counts has trained, educated, guided and inspired more people to record wildlife sightings around Sheffield. The project has involved the general public, who have helped to count local wildlife. We have engaged Trust members, volunteers and other local natural history groups in monitoring, protecting and celebrating Sheffield’s wildlife. We have collaborated with key local organisations, including the City Council, Sheffield’s Universities, the Weston Park Museum, Sorby Natural History Society (www.sorby.org.uk) as well as numerous local environmental groups, all of whom brought valuable knowledge and experience to such an undertaking.

Sara Blackburn, Nature Counts Project Coordinator, has been inspired by the scope of the project:

"Having worked on the Nature Counts project for two years, including producing the Sheffield State of Nature report, it’s clear that many individuals and organisations in Sheffield work tirelessly to build a better future for the wildlife and wild spaces we all love.

"There’s also a huge appetite for citizen science in Sheffield. For example, nearly 500 people helped us map the distribution of hedgehogs across the city and over 20 dedicated people helped us collect over 120 field signs of otter along 24km of the river Don, helping to inform this report.

"Despite these efforts, local threats to wildlife, such as invasive species, remain and there’s still lots we don’t know about Sheffield’s natural environment. The challenge now is supporting people to record, monitor and protect Sheffield’s key species and habitats, and to promote the active conservation of wildlife for future generations."

Paul Richards, Engagement Officer for Nature Counts, said: “There is nothing I would rather do than record species and motivate other people to do the same. My enthusiasm to share skills and involve people in recording is only matched by my desire to be out looking for new things and learning more for myself. I am particularly evangelistic about showing that Sheffield is a fantastic place to do this.

"It’s vital we have a more accurate account of the wildlife present in Sheffield - including birds, butterflies and insects - so that we can better monitor changes and to inform our work to improve their habitat. Sheffield people can help by recording the animals in their back gardens, as well as getting involved in more challenging surveys." 

Nature Counts culminated in a museum exhibition and a launch event for the Sheffield State of Nature report, celebrating Sheffield’s rich natural heritage and showing how nature can thrive in an urban context. The report is intended to inform new conservation plans, influence policy makers and generate action to better conserve and restore our local wildlife and natural resources.

Visit wildsheffield.com/stateofnature for more information on the Sheffield State of Nature 2018 report.

(c) Elliot SmithExciting Projects

Alongside extended recording efforts, Nature Counts focussed on three exciting sub-projects.

‘Otterly Amazing!’ tracked the city’s elusive otters with the help of camera traps and state-of-the-art DNA analyses. We collected over 140 signs of otters along the River Don and captured over 70 shots of these elusive mammals. View one of the videos below:

 

 

(c) Jon Hawkins

Our 'Otterly Amazing' appeal has also been supported by Garfield Weston, the Banister Charitable Trust, Yorkshire Water and you, our supporters. You can read more about the project here. We have been working with our dedicated team of volunteers to monitor the otters more closely to find out more about them. Our camera surveys have been made possible through a generous donation from Pakatak with additional cameras and support given by Thomas Jacks, NatureSpy and Camera King

It's really important we protect these shy and elusive creatures from any interference so we can't divulge their location - they are also protected from disturbance by law. Watch this space for further updates and follow us on facebook and twitter (@wildsheffield) for updates tagged with #nature counts

(c) Paul Hobson

True Bluebells centred on the hybridisation of our native British bluebells with the encroaching Spanish variety. Run in spring 2017, the project focussed primarily on documenting the extent of hybridisation in our precious ancient woodlands. This has allowed us to carry out essential conservation work in key areas to protect and conserve our beautiful bluebell woods. We also engaged with the general public to both celebrate and protect the UK’s most loved flower. To read more about our True Bluebells project, click here

Our Hedgehogs Heroes was started in 2016 but is still ongoing. It involves asking the public to help count, and protect, our beloved garden hedgehogs to assess if our local populations have suffered the same decline as elsewhere in the country. During 2016 we collected almost 400 hedgehog records thanks to a great response from the general public. The project is still ongoing and we will be extending our work to conduct hedgehog surveys on our reserves. You can read more about our work surveying and standing up for hedgehogs here. We're still interested in your hedgehog records, so if you've seen a hedgehog, please tell us about it here.

Thanks to all involved!

The Nature Counts team would like to thank all who have participated in the project over the past two years. Whether you've attended an event or training workshop, submitted a hedgehog sighting, or volunteered to survey for otters, you've played an important role in both understanding and protecting Sheffield's wildife. 

You can still play a part today by helping us to record hedgehog sightings. Keep an eye on our events page for other opportunities to be involved in the Trust's work. 

Visit wildsheffield.com/stateofnature for more information on the Sheffield State of Nature 2018 report.