Dec 30 2010
This year’s weather may not always have been to everyone’s taste but for British wildlife and plant life, at least, a return to four “traditional” seasons has been good news, conservationists said today.
The cold winter, reasonably decent summer and good old-fashioned spring and autumn benefited many kinds of fauna that had suffered through previous mild wet winters and soggy summers.
The National Trust, which produces an annual Christmas round-up of how the weather has affected wildlife, expressed relief.
Matthew Oates, the charity’s nature conservation adviser, said: “For the first time in a generation we have experienced a traditional year of weather and our wildlife has mostly responded favourably. A cold winter enabled wildlife to hibernate properly while a warm spring and early summer created ideal conditions for insects and led to bumper autumn berry crops in our orchards, woods and hedgerows.”
Two years ago the trust was warning that “unseasonal” weather could start to spell disaster for many species of insects, birds and mammals. It was especially concerned about miserable summers that were making life difficult for creatures from craneflies (or daddy-longlegs) to species of butterflies, members of the tit family and bats.
This year, Oates said there had probably been more winners than losers. He picked out native endangered and beloved species such as the heath fritillary butterfly on Exmoor, the netted carpet moth in Cumbria and puffins on the Farne islands as having done well.
• It was a good early spring and early summer for many flowers as the dry weather meant they were not overgrown by vigorous grasses.
• Bluebells were still in flower at the end of May in woodlands as far as south-west as Devon, and autumn produced a fantastic colour display and was “great” for grassland fungi.
• The large blue butterfly had its most successful year yet at Collard Hill in Somerset, and attracted a record number of visitors.
• An abundance of the (largely passive) hornet, which has spread well in southern UK recently.
• Hazel catkins, which usually appear in March and April, appeared early in autumn at Washington Old Hall, Tyne and Wear, for the second year running • Mammals generally entered the winter in good condition, especially badgers, wild deer, and the wild sheep and goats in Cheddar Gorge.
• Large flocks of chaffinch with some bramblings in woodland, abundant redwing and fieldfare in hawthorn hedges, and rare waxwings appearing in unusually high numbers.
Insects largely had a good year, until the weather turned in mid-July and the country was hit by an unseasonal gale that killed off many winged creatures. And those poor old daddy longlegs have continued to suffer.
- Plans to dispose of nature reserves in chaos (independent.co.uk)
- Wakehurst Place: before and after the Great Storm of ’87 (telegraph.co.uk)
- Butterflies: a stunning new film gets close to these elusive insects (guardian.co.uk)