News Join Birdwatch to helpwildlife

THE annual Big Garden Birdwatch bywildlife conservation charity RSPBwill be taking place at the end of January. The survey carried out bymem-

bers of the public acrossKent and theUKhelps the charity establish which species are thriving and which are barely surviving. In 2019, the birdwatch takes

place fromJanuary 26-28. All participants have to do is

spend an hour or two in total not- ing down the number of birds they see in their garden or in the local park. The RSPB is also looking to

compile data on common and not so common wildlife we some- times come into contact with, such as badgers, squirrels and snakes. A spokesman said: “We’re

going to continue including this part of the survey each year now, to help us see the trends in our other wildlife in the same way thatwe’ve been able towith birds.

Singers tobring

festiveharmony THEMaidstone Singers will be joining forces with St John’s CEP SchoolHandbell Ensemble onDe- cember 18 and 19 for Christmas Celebration concerts. The performances will be taking

place at St Martin’s Church, in NorthumberlandRoad. The events start at 7.45pm and

cost £12.50 for adults and £5 for under 16s. The Maidstone Singers were

founded20 years ago andperforma cappella choral works dating from the 16thCenturyto thepresentday. Further details are available at

This beautiful jay is one of the garden visitors you could spot “Themore people involved, the

more we can learn, so please en- courage your family, friends and neighbours to take part. “It’s not just birds facing tough

times... it's our badgers, snakes and other animals too. So to help us get amore complete picture of

the state of our wildlife, in 2014 we started to ask you to tell us about some of the other animals in your gardens, such hedge- hogs.” The Big Garden Birdwatch has

been running for more than 40 years and regularly gets half a

million participants. It helps to spot population

trends and to identify remedies. The RSPB added: “While some

changes in bird numbers can seemscary –we’ve lostmore than half our house sparrows and some three-quarters of our star- lings – it isn’t all doom and gloom. “Since Birdwatch began, blue tit

numbers have risen by 20 per cent and the wood pigeon population has increased by a whopping 800 per cent. Your results help us spot problems, but more importantly, they are also the first step in put- ting things right. This is why it’s so important that we count gar- den birds.” Read more or register at and follow the links to the Big Garden Bird- watch.

Call for flood force volunteers

THE British Red Cross has joined forces with the Environment Agency to enlist Maidstone bor- ough’s young people into a net- work of community reserve volunteers. The recruits would be tasked

with preparing safety kit and equipment, filling sandbags, sort- ing supplies and making refresh- ments at reception centres if swathes of the regionwere threat- ened by flooding. The volunteers would also

learn how to protect themselves and their possessions if a deluge hits. This, says the Environment

Agency, is crucial because its own research shows 18- to 34-year- olds are least likely to know if their homes are at risk of flooding andwhat actions they should take to stay safe. Less than half of under 35s

(48%) would know what to do if a flood warning was issued, the agency claims. Simon Lewis, head of emer-

gency response at the British Red Cross, said: “Flooding can have a catastrophic impact on homes and communities, causing untold damage to the things and the peo- plewe treasuremost.

“That's why it’s vital we all

know what to do, and how to help, to lessen the impact and help communities rebuild and re- cover faster. “Sadly we cannot always stop

things like this from happening, but by becoming a community re- serve volunteer, young people could help make a difference should theworst happen." Maidstone recruits would ulti-

mately join a national network of 10,000 people, the British Red Cross says. For details, visit:

Think before you call 999, saymedics

MAIDSTONE’S paramedics are urg- ing people to think twice before call- ing 999 thiswinter. SouthEastCoastAmbulance Serv-

ice (SECAmb) says its emergency hotline should only be used if a ca- sualty’s condition is life-threatening or serious. Other options are avail- able for patients suffering fromnon- emergency ailments, it says. SECAmb’s callhasbeenprompted

by the onset of winter and the ap- proach of Christmas andNewYear. The number of calls to the ser- vice’s emergency operations centres

4 Maidstone January 2019

is already taking off, it says, with 36,000 registered over a two- week period inNovember. Last year, 999 calls to SECAmb

topped3,200onChristmasDay and 3,600 on Boxing Day. Regional operations manager

Andy Cashman said: “When some- one is facing a serious or life-threat- ening emergency, they shouldn’t hesitate to call 999 for help. But we’re asking that, when it’s not an emergency,people considerallother services available to them. These might be calling NHS 111 - which

can offer health advice and direct callers to the appropriate service, or speaking to a GP or pharmacist. “Staff in our emergency opera-

tions centres and out on the road work extremely hard to get people the care they need as quickly as pos- sible. We will always prioritise life- threatening and serious calls butwe don’t respond immediately to lower priority calls. “People can help us manage our

demand by remembering that call- ing 999 should be reserved for the most serious incidents.”

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