Wildlife mostly did well in a changeable year

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British wildlife has had to cope with a year of unusual weather that saw “two springs and no summer” but many species have fared well, the National Trust said.

The hot early spring was a boon for insects, 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 the polarised weather, which saw the summer months hit by wet conditions in the North and a cold drought in central and eastern England, caused species such as the purple emperor butterfly 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.

But the dry conditions meant herbs and plants which get crowded out by coarse grass in wet years, including orchids, did extremely well, the Trust said.

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

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

Early insects and birds nesting in spring benefited from the good weather, he said.

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

The spring gave way to a poor summer but an Indian summer in the autumn months led to second appearances of plants and berries and migrant species to UK shores.