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City Nature Challenge: will we win?

The Bristol and Bath city region is competing with 65 countries across five continents in the world’s biggest ever wildlife recording competition on 27-30 April. But with so many wildlife-rich areas taking part, including places in Canada, Brazil and Antarctica, do we really think we stand a chance to win? We decided to take a closer look at what our region has to offer in terms of wildlife, to find out whether Bristol and Bath are the pick of the litter, or if we are about to embark on a wild goose chase…

Wild places

Avon gorge. C: M!G Photography

When it comes to wild areas in Bristol and Bath, we really do have it all. A huge portion of the UK’s Green Belt lies in the region, with large swathes of protected land surrounding the two cities. It’s not just the countryside which offers the perfect home for our wildlife, we also have a huge amount of natural land within our cities too: Bristol alone has 99 Sites of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCIs), including the Avon Gorge, Ashton Court and Blaise Castle Estate. Avon Gorge also has international recognition as an EU designated Natura2000 site, meaning that it benefits from extra protections. Fantastic news as the Gorge is home to several species which appear nowhere else in the UK – enter the Bristol Onion…

Rare and endangered species

bath asparagus. C: Bjorn S…

The Bristol Onion, otherwise known as the round-headed leek, has a beautiful purple flower and is well-prized by gardeners and botanists alike. In the summer it peppers the floor of Bristol’s Downs, overshadowed in places by another rare species: the endemic Bristol Hornbeam. Bath and South Gloucestershire also have their own rarities, with fantastically named plants such as the Bath Asparagus and Adder’s-tongue spearwort, both of which are found uniquely to the area. We also share our region with a litany of endangered species including dormice, water voles, white-clawed crayfish, otters, barn owls, horseshoe bats and a large number of butterfly species including brown hairstreak, chalkhill blue and various species of fritillary – phew!

Thousands of wildlife-lovers

We all know that Bristol and Bath are internationally renowned for their love of wildlife. We are lucky to have some incredible organisations which have chosen to settle here including the BBC Natural History Unit, Avon Wildlife Trust and the world’s fifth oldest zoo, Bristol Zoo Gardens – and many of them are taking part in City Nature Challenge! Of course, we can’t forget to mention Festival of Nature, which has brought nature into the heart of Bristol for the past 15 years and celebrates its fifth annual event in Bath this year. Not to mention the fact that Bristol was crowned Europe’s Green Capital in 2015 and continues to benefit from the international spotlight on its green credentials.

So, what do you think? Will we win?

We think that all of this means we are in with an amazing chance of winning the City Nature Challenge: we have the green spaces, we have the wildlife, we have some amazing organisations taking part, and we have YOU! Together, we can find and record a substantial amount of species, from bird to bugs and everything in between, and be in with a chance of winning one of three prizes for most species, most records or most people.

All you need to do to help is download the iNaturalist app on to your phone, and start recording! You can record in your garden, your school grounds, your local park, or anywhere else you see some wildlife. Any records you submit through the app during 27-30 April will count towards our grand total and help us to win the title of the most wildlife-rich city in the world. There is also a huge programme of free events for you to take part in, just check out our online programme for more details. The race is on!