The implications of a mild winter bother our ecologist Danny Thomas in Norwich

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Did you see anything unusual this winter?  I don’t mean anything rare or scarce, I’m talking unusual for the time of year.

Already identified as one of the wettest ever on record it is also extraordinarily mild for the time of the year which is resulting in some very unseasonal behaviour by our local wildlife.  The end of February/early March should be a period when many animals are dormant or hidden away sheltering from the winter weather.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I have been out and about and I had a huge variety of unseasonal sightings at the end of February, including bumble bees and butterflies, early cherry blossom and other plants that continued to flower through the winter.

bluebells

Late in February, I stood watching at least four pipistrelle bats foraging along a hedgerow near my house, they clearly don’t realise they should have been in hibernation!

They’re not the only ones to be making use of the mild weather; great crested newts have already returned to their breeding ponds and birds have begun nesting already – some city blackbirds were reported nesting as early as January.  I’ve watched herons, blackbirds and jackdaws building nests and great tits took up residence in the nest box in my garden in early March.

It’s all quite bizarre but what are the implications?  Well they’re very mixed really; the mild winter is great for most species which are taking advantage of the additional foraging which in a normal year wouldn’t be possible.  However, a cold snap has been predicted by the Met office and this could be detrimental for animals that have become active prematurely.  A sustained period of cold is likely to jeopardise nesting efforts by birds and amphibians could be at risk of freezing temperatures if they get caught out in the open without the protection from frost they get from their hibernacula.

Of course the implications for The Ecology Consultancy are we have to get our skates on…the survey season has begun!

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