Every year is different – the last few winters were particularly mild, this spring was late, summer was dry, last year spring was early and summer a bit of a non-starter! That said if you look at weather and wildlife observations over longer periods of time for all that things fluctuate from one year to the next overall it has become increasingly clear that our climate and weather is changing and that this is having a noticeable impact on wildlife.
After a ‘normal’ start to this years autumn the weather has turned unseasonably mild, and of course this has a detrimental affect on our wildlife. For example the wasps around the reserve are still very active.
During our regular reptile surveys around Blashford Lakes there was a grass snake still out and about basking instead of finding a suitable hibernation spot called a hibernaculum. Typically grass snakes (Natrix natrix) will occupy one location, and adders (Vipera berus) will inhabit the other. During October snakes and other reptiles should be finding their way to a hibernaculum (usually this is located close to where they were born).
Swallows (Hirundo rustica), predominantly known as the first signs of spring are typically known for being late to leave its UK breeding grounds in recent years, this can be due to several factors, perhaps a few individuals move around to different nesting sites. Some of the later broods throughout the summer may not even start fledging until early October, which will have a knock on effect on migration times and numbers.
Alternatively House Martins (Delichon urbica) have been breeding later on in the year due to colder springs where there is limited food resources, this year for example, there was an icy spell throughout the whole of April so this pushed breeding of the species back several weeks, meaning that as they started breeding later on in the year then they will inevitably leave later as well. (September and October is typically the start of their migration to Africa).
Bats are also still out hunting, making the most of the abundance of insects still about. The abundance of this years November moth species seems to be particularly pleasing to their pallet. During the colder evenings when the skies are clear the bats tend to hunt at the beginning of the evening ‘dusk’ and early morning ‘day break’. Also at this time of year the bats are starting to look for roosting spots, they will typically go for barn roofs, derelict buildings and tree trunks, so it’s always worth keeping an eye out for the bats locating a preferable roosting area.
Flowers have also started re-flowering; I have noticed this with both our wild flowers on the reserve and also domestic garden flowers. This is not an unusual occurrence in recent years. In fact the only plant species that don’t seem to be doing this are our trees, but on the other hand they do seem to be keeping their leaves for longer than anticipated.
Although a warm autumn may be enjoyable for us this will also have a detrimental effect on our wildlife. Not only does the warm weather affect our hibernating native wildlife, but it also interferes with the migratory patterns of our wintering visitors. This is particularly noticeable on our lakes as the wintering duck numbers are greatly reduced for the seasonal norm.
Seasonal favourites such as shoveler (Anas clypeata), wigeon (Anas penelope) , and teal (Anas crecca) are not only scarce but were late arrivals to the lakes this year. As far as the wildfowl are concerned the ‘early’ arrivals to the reserve were earlier then expected, so they set the ‘base layer’ for the wading and wildfowl species. However the late arrivals (the individuals that we should be expecting round about now) are later than usual to the lakes.
I’m Emily Turner and I am the volunteer placement post holder here at Blashford lakes!!
I work with both the education and conservation teams around the reserve getting stuck in with everything the job entails. (I’m here until March, so you’ll probably see me doing all the odd jobs around here).
Over the next couple of months I’ll be writing blog posts based around the “week in the life of a volunteer placement” which will cover some of the experiences I have during the week! So keep your eyes peeled for that. 😀