SOMERSET Wildlife Trust has announced the launch of the Big Count 2022, a countywide citizen science venture to help monitor changes in local wildlife populations.

People are being encouraged to take note of and record the species living in their gardens, parks and communities.

The count hopes to inspire participants to get outside and connect with nature and wildlife and become important eyes and ears on the ground as they collect vital data about some of Somerset’s native species in order to help inform the work that's needed to stop further species declines.

The Big Count is part of the Great Somerset Wildlife Count initiative, a joint venture between Somerset Wildlife Trust and Somerset Environmental Record Centre (SERC), which holds over 2.5million records of species present in Somerset.

But there are gaps in its knowledge about more common species, and it hopes the Big Count will help complete the picture and provide important information about the health of the ecosystems that exist to support them, ensuring county-led decisions are made with wildlife in mind.

Earlier this year, the two organisations hosted their first wildlife count within this initiative, which encouraged the public to record important data about frog and toad spawn populations, with 100 respondents.

This year's Big Count runs from June 17–26. For a period of an hour in the day - it can be done every day as long as it’s in different places each time - the public are being asked to record their wildlife sightings on the popular iNaturalist citizen science platform for eight species of wildlife and any species within four whole species groups, which includes goldfinch, dragonflies, spiders, and several species of butterfly.

This is an activity for everyone to get involved in whether family, friends, neighbours, school, social group, scout group, or congregation.

People will be able to see their sightings on the iNaturalist map immediately. There is a free downloadable pack which explains everything people need to know on the Somerset Wildlife Trust website.

Leon DeBell, SERC manager said: “During the pandemic we know that people have opened their eyes to nature and wildlife — whether on their doorstep or in their local green space — so this is a brilliant way to extend and nurture that nature connection and think about the relationships they have with wildlife and, at a time where so many more people are now asking, 'What can I do to make a difference?'.

"It’s something simple to do that really can make a difference.

"When it comes to records, it’s quite literally a numbers game, so we want as many people taking part as possible. We can’t do this without the public behind the Big Count so we want everyone to spread the word.”