Wildlife Update : British creatures tough out the weird weather

A National Trust property sign at Gordale

Image via Wikipedia

From The Telegraph Earth

The hot early spring was a boon for insects, providing more food for breeding birds, while the autumn’s warm temperatures and sunshine saw something of a “second spring” with shrubs and plants such as dandelions and white dead nettle flowering again.

But in between the summer months were hit by wet conditions in the north and a cold drought in central and eastern England, causing some species such as late emerging butterflies to suffer.

The purple emperor laid hardly any eggs, while drought conditions hit species on a localised basis including frogs and toads which require shallow water for breeding and some birds such as waders which saw their food supplies affected.

Matthew Oates, wildlife adviser at the National Trust, said the year’s weather had been “fantastically quirky”, confusing native wildlife.

However certain species have thrived in the unusual conditions. For example dry conditions meant herbs and plants which get crowded out by coarse grass in wet years, including orchids, did extremely well.

“It was a mixed year. The overall winners were spring insects – not just butterflies and moths, but all the other things like mining bees and bee flies, many of which have done really well,” he said.

“But the late summer insects fared very badly and there will be knock-ons for them in 2012.”

“Early birds nesting in spring also benefited from the good weather.

“There were no periods of foul and abusive weather, which kill things off, until June.

“There weren’t any gusty storms knocking everything out or drowning things in their nests.”

The spring that promised so much gave way to a poor summer, but an Indian summer in the autumn months with spring-like temperatures led to second appearances of wild and garden plants, an abundance of berries and migrant species of birds and insects to UK shores, Mr Oates said.

“It just demonstrates how reactive and strongly influenced wildlife is to weather, and how it can exploit good weather windows like those in the spring and again in the autumn,” he added.

The warm autumn, following on from a good spring, saw an abundance of fruits and berries from spring-flowering shrubs and trees with a great year for apple, hawthorn, sloes, beechnuts and acorns, while holly and mistletoe berries were also in good supply.

The autumn feast has provided deer, badgers and grey squirrels with plenty of food, and winter birds should also benefit.

But with erratic weather dominating the year, Mr Oates said it was now a question of “what next?!”.

The last good July and August were in 2006, and according to the law of averages – and Mr Oates – 2012 could perhaps just be the year to have a ‘staycation’ or holiday at home.

Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/8978148/British-wildlife-toughs-out-the-weird-weather.html

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