The highs and lows of a rollercoaster year for wildlife

It has been a year of extremes for the UK’s weather and wildlife. Here is how 2018 unfolded month by month at National Trust properties around the UK.

January – With warmer-than-average temperatures across much of Britain, some bats started coming out of hibernation to feed at dusk.

February – The month started mild but quickly became much colder, with wading birds including woodcock, snipe and green sandpiper heading down into the South West along coasts and rivers in search of unfrozen ground.

The cold snap at the end of the month resulted in vast numbers of shellfish, starfish and fish being washed up on the east coast, while sea birds including kittiwakes and guillemots also suffered.

The end of February and much of March was cold and snowy, including at Stourhead, Wiltshire (Tamsin Holmes/National Trust Images/PA)
The end of February and much of March was cold and snowy, including at Stourhead, Wiltshire (Tamsin Holmes/National Trust Images/PA)

March – A cold and snowy month, with lapwing, golden plover, redwings and fieldfare all moving to the south and west coasts.

The hawfinch’s success story continued, with 400 of the rare and elusive finches spotted in Sussex and 600 in Surrey this month.

April – There was extreme flooding at Charlecote Park in Warwickshire at Easter with 60% of the parkland underwater, while marsh harriers were breeding and hares were boxing at Orford Ness in Suffolk.

May – Avocet and lapwing were breeding on the grazing marsh at Orford Ness, while swallows and swifts were travelling north later than normal.

June – Storm Hector hit North Wales and northern England with high winds and heavy rain, bringing down trees and creating a storm surge that wiped out colonies of beach nesting little terns.

Dark green fritillary butterflies were found at Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland for the first time (Matthew Oates/National Trust Images/PA)
Dark green fritillary butterflies were found at Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland, for the first time (Matthew Oates/National Trust Images/PA)

July – The rarely seen purple emperor  was spotted at Sheringham Park for the third year running, suggesting Norfolk now has its first breeding colony, while the dark green fritillary was seen at Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland for the first time.

Large numbers of the rare silver studded blue butterfly were seen at Bolt Head, Salcombe, Devon, and a migratory locust was spotted on the Lizard and a small number of other sites along the south coast.

August – The ongoing warm weather meant the blackberry harvest came early, with foragers finding enough to make pies by the end of July and the bumper harvest carrying on throughout August.

Grey phalarope was spotted at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire (Jana Eastwood/PA)
Grey phalarope was spotted at Charlecote Park, Warwickshire (Jana Eastwood/PA)

September – Wicken Fen struggled with its fenland habitat drying out, resulting in wading birds and wildfowl going elsewhere to find food, while Storm Ali hit Northern Ireland causing National Trust properties to close.

And there was a sighting of a grey phalarope at Charlecote Park, which is incredibly rare that far inland.

October – The rain which followed the long dry summer prompted an abundance of fungi, while there were some very late third broods of Adonis and chalkhill blue butterflies spotted in the South West.

Bats were still on the wing at the end of the month, while there was a big influx of bramblings, with an exceptional flock of 500 birds at Croft Castle, Herefordshire, and solitary bees normally flying in spring were seen across the South East.

A mating pair of Silver studded blue butterflies (Matthew Oates/National Trust/PA)
A mating pair of silver studded blue butterflies (Matthew Oates/National Trust/PA)

November – A goat and sheep count in Cheddar Gorge found sheep numbers were steady but goats were down, due to few kids surviving the Beast from the East.

Deer will be going into the winter in good shape because of strong grass growth, while there was an influx of rough-legged buzzards, though they seem to have flown onwards.

December – The month began with mild weather, and there were wasps, honey bees and hoverflies still on the wing.

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