Weather and wildlife – a review of the year so far

 

Matthew Oates, Nature and Wildlife expert for the National Trust, reflects on the weather so far this year and looks at how it has affected our wildlife.

“This winter was one of the stormiest on record and the wettest since 1766. Despite this, it was also the mildest winter in more than 100 years

“The storms damaged or seriously modified habitats and upset a lot of wildlife, including puffins, guillemots and razorbills.

“National Trust properties suffered huge tree losses because of the saturated soil and heavy winds, with the number of fallen trees reported to be the greatest in two decades. And at Birling Gap in East Sussex, the storm surges caused seven years’ worth of erosion on the chalk cliffs in just two months.

“The unseasonably warm January saw many song birds tuning up early and hazel catkins were fully out. As a result, hay fever season began early for many sufferers.

“At Formby red squirrels began their courtship behaviour far earlier than usual and could be seen chasing each other around the tree trunks from January.

“Moving to spring, it was good apart from two poor spells, at the end of April and again at the end of May which knocked out a lot of spring insects – the early spring species were hit by the end of April deterioration, the late spring insects by the end of May collapse. 

“Spring was an early mammal breeding season, with the earliest born wild bats in the UK discovered at Bodiam Castle in East Sussex on 16 May.

“It was an early and successful breeding season for amphibians with plenty of warm water for them this year. The warm, wet spring encouraged grass and other vegetation to grow astronomically.

“This summer is working itself up nicely, but we are hurtling towards autumn already!  Because of the ridiculously early spring there are already autumnal features around, notably unusually well-developed sycamore seeds, red hawthorn berries and beech nuts.  It’s almost as though this year wants to rush through.”

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