COLCHESTER and Manningtree might have the most insect species in Essex but Thurrock and Basildon has the most mammals, making them wildlife hotspots.

New research to tie in with the spring equinox has calculated Essex’s animal hotspots which puts Colchester on top for having the most species (2,613), followed by Manningtree (1,787), Burnham (934), Braintree (895) and Harlow (604).

Bottom of the ranking is Halstead, Clacton, Witham, Thurrock and Basildon, which has just 181 different species of animal according to NBN Atlas’s Explore Your Area tool which aims to make biodiversity data more accessible.

Halstead Gazette:

A small hedgehog surrounded by tinned food. Picture: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

In light of the fun facts, which were calculated within a 2km radius of each town by Faraway Furniture, the Essex Wildlife Trust has offered these top tips to bring species back to your home town.

Starting with hedgehogs…

• Hedgehogs are starting to wake up from their hibernation. By cutting a small 13cm x 13cm hole in your fence (the size of a CD disk) to help connect gardens, this will allow hedgehogs to travel safely through different gardens on the search for food, water and shelter.

You can also leave out wet catfood, a water dish, and build or buy a hedgehog house to give hedgehogs that extra helping hand.

• Provide fresh water in your garden throughout the year as birds and mammals need to access water to drink and bathe in. A simple shallow bowl of clean water will work for mammals or a hanging water bath or stand will be perfect for birds.

• Leave your garden with some wild areas such as piles of leaves or deadwood – this will make a perfect nest for animals to rest and hide in.

Halstead Gazette:

A male scorpion fly by Peter Hewitt. Picture: Essex Wildlife Trust

• Having a compost heap in your garden provides a warm safe place for reptiles like slow worms to hide in.

• Ponds are an absolute wildlife oasis, offering a complex habitats for many different species. Certain fauna such as frogs and newts even return to the same pond each year.

• Keep your hedgerows healthy and full of life – these habitats are very important for providing shelter to birds, mammals and insects, with many nesting and feeding in the hedgerows.

The species of wildlife in the study make a long list, including birds, reptiles, fish and molluscs, plants, algae, fungi and even bacteria.

Birds were most alive in Burnham (180), Colchester (177), Manningtree (169), Maldon (126) and Braintree (117). 

But lowest in Witham, Chelmsford, Basildon, Halstead and Clacton.

Most of the approximately 10,000 casualties South Essex Wildlife Hospital receive each year are birds. 

During nesting season, there can be upwards of 30 birds a day which need attention, because of being injured by cats.

Halstead Gazette:

A cat resting on a bird table after evicting the Great Tit birds. Picture: Mike Garrard

Sue Schwar, who founded the charity, said: "We would love to see more public awareness, particularly with free-roaming cats who themselves are often in need of help when they too become injured, or subjected to deliberate acts of cruelty.

"We have had several shot and poisoned.

"We rescue around 1,000 hedgehogs each year and it's becoming virtually impossible to find suitable habitat in Essex to release them into.

"Hedgehogs are rapidly declining - there are actually more tigers in the world than hedgehogs in the UK.

"Without more consideration for their needs, I foresee a future without them in our gardens and woodlands - a very sad departure for our national species."