Autumn review

Susan Guy_Calke Abbey_Serpentine Wood_Autumn 31.10.15_2

Autumn colours at the end of October in Serpentine Wood at Calke Abbey. Credit Susan Guy.

Matthew Oates, nature and wildlife specialist, looks back on the effects of a mild autumn on our wildlife:

Autumn has been incredibly mild, to date.  The south has had a single light frost, a windscreen affair on October 25th. It has also been dry, everywhere – with a drought in Northern Ireland – until the autumn rains arrived, perhaps with a vengeance, after the warmest November day on record (the 1st).

In consequence, many summer plants are flowering in garden and countryside.  Even tender summer annuals, such as Nasturtiums, are persisting.  In the wild some high summer plants have sprung back into bloom, notably the brambles.  Also, many of spring’s flowers are evident, again in both garden and countryside – especially Primrose, violets, Wild Strawberry and, most noticeably, the garden Viburnums.

Insects have lingered long into the autumn. Speckled Wood butterflies made it into November in numbers over much of southern Britain, and dragonflies, moths and crickets and grasshoppers have also persisted well. This year it will be the rains, rather than the frosts, that kill them off.

The leaves came off on time, with the exception of the Ash which dropped somewhat early in many districts. The maples flamed deep red this year.

Now, Fieldfare and Redwing seem unusually numerous, perhaps because poor weather in Scandinavia and Russia has pushed them deep into their wintering grounds.

It seems likely that the first part of the winter, at least, will be mild and wet, and perhaps stormy.

Not so common: where is the Common Blue?

Conservationists are seeking the help of millions of holidaymakers heading to the coast this summer in a bid to solve the mystery of a disappearing butterfly.

Common Blue at Cogden, National Trust beach in Dorset. Credit John Newbold

Common Blue at Cogden, National Trust beach in Dorset. Credit John Newbold

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A review of 2014: the year of the biting fly

Extreme weather in 2014 created an unpredictable rollercoaster of a year for our beleaguered wildlife and saw a raft of migrant species visiting our shores, say experts at the National Trust in their annual wildlife and weather round-up.

As a result of the warm, often wet summer, this year’s wildlife winners include biting flies, slugs and snails. More positively, many resident birds, mammals and amphibians also had good breeding seasons, although the picture is patchy and localised.

Birling Gap, Credit National Trust

Birling Gap, Credit National Trust

The year, however, will be most remembered for the winter storms in January and February; indicating the challenges that the natural world could face with the growing extremes of weather some of which may be caused by climate change.

National Trust rangers looking after the 742 miles of coastline cared for by the charity across England, Wales and Northern Ireland witnessed several years’ worth of erosion, while inland many of the Trust’s gardens and parklands suffered their greatest tree losses in almost 30 years.

Little terns along the Norfolk coast at Blakeney had to nest in low areas as a result of severe tidal surges which changed the beach profile. High tides followed in mid-June and flooded the seabirds’ nests resulting in a very poor breeding season.

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Big Butterfly Count – the recovery of the Small Tortoiseshell 

As Butterfly Conservation releases its results from the Big Butterfly Count, National Trust’s Matthew Oates, looks at some of the highlights. 

It was great to learn from Butterfly Conservation’s speedy analysis of the 2014 Big Butterfly Count data that the Small Tortoiseshell is continuing to recover. It is the quintessential garden butterfly, one of the nation’s favourites – but we took it for granted until it inexplicably started to nose-dive during the early noughties.

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Isle of Wight bee-eaters rewrite the record books

Bee-eaters nesting on the Isle of Wight have raised eight chicks – the most successful breeding attempt by these birds, normally found in the Mediterranean, on record in the UK.

Three chicks have now fledged from one nest, on National Trust land, and another five chicks have fledged from a second nest.

Bee eater

Bee-eaters on the Isle of Wight. Credit Danny Vokins.

An adult bee-eater was first spotted at Wydcombe on 15 July by National Trust dragonfly survey volunteer Dave Dana. And chicks were first sighted a month later on the 15 August. There were originally thought to be nine chicks but one has not survived.

Dave Dana, a National Trust Volunteer on the Isle of Wight, said: “I’d just come from counting golden-ringed dragonflies at a stream and I thought ‘that bird looks a bit different!’

“Its flight path seemed almost triangular. I didn’t really appreciate the bird until I got home and looked at the photos. I’d always wanted to see a bee-eater in this country but I never thought it would turn out to be a major wildlife event.”

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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

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Stormy weather and a blooming spring: a review of the year so far

Matthew Oates, the National Trust’s National Specialist on Nature, looks back at the year’s weather so far and asks what’s in store for us this summer:

“This winter was one of the stormiest on record, with a succession of powerful storms hitting our shores from 23 December right through until 24 February. So much so, in fact, that in England and Wales it was the wettest winter since 1766.

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