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2013 Was a Great Year for British Wildlife

2013 Was a Great Year for British Wildlife

Despite some severe concerns about the world’s different species, 2013 actually turned out to be a bumper year for British wildlife. Here’s why, and a look ahead at what 2014 might have in store.

An unusually warm summer that ended a spate of six dismal ones helped wildlife up and down the stretch of Britain to flourish during 2013, according to a report from Britain’s National Trust.

The National Trust’s Matthew Oates, a specialist on nature and wildlife, is quoted as saying: “We were more than overdue a good summer, and eventually we got a real cracker, although it kicked in after the slowest of possible starts. The way our butterflies and other sun-loving insects bounced back in July was utterly amazing, showing nature’s powers of recovery at their best. Many birds and mammals also recovered well from the cold late spring. Importantly, we have seen more winners than losers in our wildlife year, which is a tremendous result, considering where we were last year.”

This is in reference to the fact that 2012 is largely considered one of the worst years on record for butterfly populations in the U.K., with wet and cold conditions having hit insect populations particularly hard. While 2013 didn’t herald a complete recovery the National Trust, which collects data from all over the U.K., saw a rebound in numbers, particularly around the July and August months when summer finally arrived and temperatures became rosy. Indeed, even the long-tailed blue butterfly chose to stop a spell and forge a handful of colonies at the tip of the South East coast.

It wasn’t just the warm summer that helped though. The cool spring, while miserable at the time, actually provided an extended flowering season for many spring flowers like the snowdrop and bluebell. This extended season also set up June to be one full of ripe berries and ready-to-eat nuts and seeds, all of which gave British wildlife a fair banquet to feast on.

Other big winners among the British wildlife scene included the tree bumblebee. A relative newcomer to the British Isles, having only arrived 12 years ago, the tree bumblebee decided to amble past Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England, the first time it has ever been spotted so far north.

Another success story the National Trust points to is fungus. The summer saw a rise in several fungi because the swelter of summer settled upon Britain without a drought, meaning it was warm and wet and perfect for proliferation. Orchid populations also boomed in certain areas.

All that said, the year wasn’t great to all.

Birds, frogs and aphids all suffered due to the extended and cold spring months, with several summer migrant birds, such as swallows, failing to make an appearance in many of their traditional spots until relatively late in the year. The barn owl, too, had a poor time as a result of the extended cold season, probably in part due to the fact that many hibernating animals didn’t really become active until later in the year.

That said, because the summer months were so good, the National Trust notes several bird species did manage to recoup some of their losses as the mild summer went on, with it eventually being a record year for nesting Sandwich terns in certain areas, among other notable cases where birds managed to thrive.

What is encouraging is that, while nature can throw many a curve ball, it tends to be that when we have one good year like this another will usually follow. With Britain’s relatively mild if at times very blustery winter underway there is hope that, even with the predicted February cold snap, 2014 might be another year that is kind to Britain’s wildlife.

This is especially needed given recent warnings about the decline in Britain’s traditional bird populations. A few good years, though, and perhaps some of the steps being taken by the British government and nature groups can help save threatened species like the tree sparrow and willow tit from disappearing from British skies.

So here’s to a good 2013 and, hopefully, an even better 2014 in which bird populations bounce back and insect newcomers, mammals and all manner of wildlife thrive.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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44 comments

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4:37AM PST on Jan 9, 2014

Yeah sure, the Badgers in the UK had a fantastic year. They had such a great time they are hoping that 2014 will be the same, only bigger and better.

(please read sarcasm into this, I am fully opposed to the badger cull)

7:44AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

I live in the U.K and sadly didn't see much evidence to prove this. Worryingly I noticed so many dead bumble bees this year - something I haven't seen before. Agree with Jan M. Also I don't know if I would trust what the "National Trust" says - I certainly don't since I found out that they allow hunting on their land. Don't think you can say you "support nature" when you also support it's killing.

1:57PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

I find this hard to believe because they are still killing badgers (bad science) and foxes and turtle doves (just signed the petition). They are like every other nation; some good news mixed with a lot of bad!

12:48PM PST on Jan 2, 2014

Thanks for sharing

1:55AM PST on Jan 2, 2014

I'll take any good news I can get my hands on these days.

8:03PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

The British certainly did raise the bar, along with some other countries. We must get the USA and other countries to follow their lead. Bring on the partitions and elections. I will not be voting for any candidate that doesn't support wildlife, pets, farm animals or the environment.

5:37PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Unfortunately not so much in the US.......... Mustangs rounded up by the ever stupid, taxpayer dollar wasting BLM and sold for slaughter, wolves being decimated because of rancher/hunter greed and stupidity, polar polars without habitat and food, bison shot for no good reason, ocean occupants decimated by oil spills. And on and on and on.

4:06PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Thank you Magdalen B for sacrificing your brassicas to help the butterflies. And I agree with Heather R: it was not a good year for badgers! It was a good year for mother nature but more needs to be done by people. For instance, has the UK banned bee-killing pesticides? Without changes in human behaviour, one good season will not save UK's wildlife!

3:07PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Thanks

1:19PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

We are the stewards of our planet. So we need to help the other life forms. It is that simple and that complex.

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