Plea to count, and care for, garden wildlife.

People are being urged to count, and care for, the wildlife in their gardens during the UK's largest summer wildlife survey.

As the third annual snapshot census of birds and mammals gets under way this week, householders are also being encouraged to ensure there is plenty of water out for the wildlife as creatures contend with the continuing dry spell.

Thousands of people will keep their eyes peeled for wild visitors as part of the RSPB's Make Your Nature Count, running from June 4-12.

And this year, as well as common garden birds, the wildlife charity is interested in creatures that are associated with water, such as frogs, newts and toads.

The RSPB is particularly concerned about how the early dry weather has affected wildlife and wants to highlight how important access to water is for many creatures.

Some parts of the UK, particularly in the South and East, had the driest start to summer on record and the RSPB hopes the survey will encourage people to think about providing more water and building ponds or smaller water features.

The charity's senior conservation officer Simon Tonkin said: 'Many farmland and garden birds rely heavily on insects that live in the soil and due to the continued dry weather it has been extremely difficult for birds to access this vital food at such a critical stage in their breeding cycles.'

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'As the region's farmers struggle to grow crops destined for our tables, the volumes of unharvested crops left for birds over the winter will also have suffered, which may lead to further food shortages for birds this winter.'

The RSPB has already asked people to create damp mud patches in their gardens to provide house martins, swallows, blackbirds and thrushes with nesting material.

As well as asking about adult birds and chicks, the charity wants to know about frogs, toads, great nested newts, stag beetles and even bats and snakes.

Counting young birds will help give an indication of how important our gardens are for these birds to breed in, and how their fortunes change from year to year. This year the RSPB will be looking to see if the dry weather has had an impact.

Eastern region spokesman Rachael Murray added: 'Much of the UK missed out on the April showers and it has been mainly dry since, we want to highlight how important water is and how you can help birds and other wildlife thrive in such conditions.'

People are asked to spend a hour doing the survey between June 4-12. For further information about Make Your Nature Count visit the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk/naturecount. An online survey form will be available from tomorrow, or telephone 0300 456 8340.

? More than 70,000 gardens were surveyed last year, involving nearly 100,000 people. The top 10 birds recorded in Norfolk were:

1 Starling 4.48

2 House sparrow 3.52

3 Wood pigeon 3.07

4 Collared dove 2.44

5 Blue tit 2.32

6 Goldfinch 1.96

7 Chaffinch 1.83

8 Greenfinch 1.60

9 Great tit 1.47

10 Swift 1.45

The figures show the average number of times the birds were seen in gardens.

Results also revealed 38pc of local gardens had visits from hedgehogs at last once a month.

Cats were the most frequent visitors at 77pc, with moles at 17pc

?A local nature trust is also asking people to do a weekend wildlife check in four areas of Norfolk.

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust wants to focus on Norwich, King's Lynn, Thetford and Great Yarmouth in its Big Urban Wildlife Watch.

People are asked to record how many creatures make their home in urban areas in a bid to spot 300 species in just 24 hours between noon on Saturday and noon on Sunday.

Trust director Brendan Joyce is optimistic about the event, saying last year more than 500 people submitted wildlife records covering 1,200 species recorded. This year they hope to get even more people involved. The initiative would not only give a greater insight into the biodiversity of our towns, but would also encourage a broader range of people to get involved in conservation, without even needing to leave their gardens. It was well known that urban areas today support foxes, grey squirrels and feral pigeons but many rarer species now thrived in urban areas, said the trust. Otters are frequently seen on the river near the centre of Thetford, the globally endangered European eel occurs in urban Kings Lynn and Great Yarmouth is the best place in Norfolk to see the uncommon Mediterranean gull. NWT is organising a series of expert guided walks in all four towns, which will provide the opportunity to take part in the event.

Information on all walks and a recording form can be found on NWT's website at www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/urban

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