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Is Winter the New Spring

Rural Matters

Article written by 23 January 2014

Sightings of ladybirds and butterflies indicate long-term trend for advance of spring.

The Woodland Trust has received a surge in records of birds nesting, shrubs coming into bud and snowdrops flowering as Mother Nature takes advantage of the mild weather. The charity has also received sightings of ladybirds and butterflies, which is consistent with a long-term trend identified through data on its Nature’s Calendar website, suggesting spring is advancing earlier.

The Trust has received sightings1 of snowdrops in places as far afield as Kent, Suffolk and Anglesey, hazel flowering in Devon, Lincolnshire and Cheshire and elder budburst in Hampshire, Essex and Somerset.

The early sightings of so many species conform to a long term trend in which spring has gradually arrived earlier in the UK, highlighted by data recorded on Nature’s Calendar since 2001. Over the last 25 years flowers have bloomed up to 12 days earlier than previously 2. However, species fooled by warmer weather into early activity, blossoming or breeding, such as frogs, could be vulnerable to the sort of freeze not uncommon in February or March.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust Nature’s Calendar Project Manager, said: “People may be surprised to see such spring-like activity in January but Woodland Trust data confirms that it has become more and more common over the last decade or so.”

“What this highlights is the importance of having diverse, inter-connected habitats which allow species to react to any changes in climate and adjust accordingly. With habitats coming under ever greater threat and fragmentation the pressure on our native flora and fauna will only increase.”

The Trust recently launched a campaign urging Government to increase protection for ancient woodland in England and safeguard its future. The charity firmly believes that it should be preserved for the benefit of the many species which rely on it for survival.

By recording activity of species found in ancient woodland and other habitats thousands of people have enabled Nature’s Calendar to become the leading survey into how climate change is affecting UK plants and wildlife.

1As of 14 January:
– 31 observations of snowdrops (across UK)
– 13 observations of elder budburst
– 44 observations of hazel flowering

 

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