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norfolk nature reserves and wildlife

When we organised a survey to quiz Brits about UK wildlife, we didn’t realise we’d learn so much about a country we thought we already knew a lot about!

But that’s precisely what happened when we gathered together 2000 UK adults to ask them about holidaying in the UK, exploring the countryside and how much they know about the rich and diverse wildlife of Great Britain.

When it comes to fauna, flora and areas of outstanding beauty in the UK, we wanted to get to grips with how much we all take advantage of something that is, essentially, on our doorsteps.

According to our poll, holidaying in the UK remains consistently popular, with 73% of those surveyed enjoying staycations. And out of all those enjoying British breaks, 80% said they made an effort to spot rare animals during their getaway.

Come rain or shine, Brits certainly take advantage of the great outdoors, with 80% of those questioned likely to make at least one yearly visit to a National Park, public park or forests, and woods. A further 10% go every few months, 5% make an effort once a month and a hardy 3% enjoy these rural gems of Britain every weekend.

Great Britain’s diverse wildlife

And what about Great Britain’s diverse wildlife? A holiday in the UK is one of the best times to explore nature and our poll reveals just how much there is to discover in the sand dunes, hedgerows, lakes, and forests of Britain.

While some of our rarer creatures are classed as endangered, there have been some incredible conservation projects that have helped to boost species numbers across the country.

The red squirrel is one of these animals whose population once peaked at 3.5 million before the arrival of the American grey squirrel. UK wildlife statistics now show their figure has dropped to around 280,000 and is classed as Near Threatened. Despite this, the red squirrel comes in first place in our survey as the most commonly seen rare animal in the UK, with 45% of respondents having spotted one. The hedgehog follows in second place with 44% and the tortoiseshell butterfly third with 33%. Other commonly spotted animals include the roe deer, otter, and snipe, a type of wading bird.

Our survey helped us form a list of the top 20 UK wildlife most commonly spotted by adults as follows:

  1. Red Squirrel
  2. Hedgehog
  3. Tortoiseshell Butterfly
  4. Roe Deer
  5. Otter
  6. Snipe
  7. Holly Blue Butterfly
  8. Common Cuckoo
  9. Turtle Dove
  10. Water Voles
  11. Marsh Fritillary Butterfly
  12. Scottish Wildcat
  13. V-Moth
  14. Freshwater Pearl Mussel
  15. Polecat
  16. Shrill Carder Bee
  17. Wart-biter Cricket
  18. Natterjack Toad
  19. Swallowtail Butterfly
  20. Black Fox

But while the red squirrel is instantly recognisable, how many of us would be able to spot a ghost slug, blue ground beetle or New Forest Cicada?

Surprisingly, all these animals are native to the UK – and with many under threat, they’re some of the hardest to spot on a nature trail, according to the survey.

With many on the critically endangered list, are our children getting access to these incredible animals? It seems we could all do more to teach younger generations about UK wildlife spotting – around half the parents who took part in the survey responded that their children have never seen a black fox, pine marten or polecat.

These are the animals featured in the top 20 list that are least likely to have been seen by children:

  1. Black Fox
  2. Ghost Slug
  3. Pine Marten
  4. Scottish Wildcat
  5. Beaver
  6. Blue Ground Beetle
  7. White-clawed Crayfish
  8. Ralf Spider
  9. Polecat
  10. Cosnard’s net-winged Beetle
  11. Freshwater Pearl Mussel
  12. New Forest Cicada
  13. Sand Lizard
  14. Bearded false darkling Beetle
  15. Turtle Dove
  16. Water Voles
  17. V-moth
  18. Natterjack Toad
  19. Wart-biter Cricket
  20. Holly blue butterfly

Again, just under half of the parents said their child has never come across a Cosnard’s net-winged beetle, with half of all respondents said they would not be able to spot one themselves. The New Forest cicada and raft spider were similarly unrecognisable.

Of course, with decreasing numbers, these creatures are difficult to track down, but it is still highly possible to find them in their natural habitats on a UK holiday. For instance, Cornwall is a great place to spot blue ground beetles and sand lizards, polecats can be found in Wales, pine martens in Scotland and there’s a thriving population of red squirrels in the Lake District.

A UK holiday is a great time to discover nature

But which of us in the UK are the biggest nature fans? Split into regions, the Londoners who took part in the survey will go out and try to spot British wildlife while holidaying. Those in the capital also came out of the poll as the luckiest region when actually coming across rare animals in the wild.

And despite being home to a large number of red squirrels, pine martens and otters, residents in Northern Ireland were the least likely to venture out and spot any rare animals on a UK holiday.

With such diverse wildlife, most parents questioned believe that the UK is a great place for educating children on UK wildlife spotting while on holiday. And with so many opportunities to go outside and roam, it seems all we need is to know what to look for.

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