2015: Winners & Losers
We British people love our weather; we love the unpredictable nature of our weather. Will it snow at Christmas? Will it rain all summer? Deep down we probably all love it when the weather goes a bit haywire as it gives us something to talk about. 2015 certainly gave us some good talking points as we witnessed yet more record-breaking weather; but how did our nature fare?
2015 started with the sunniest winter on record but spring failed to arrive on time which along with strong northerly winds delayed migrant birds arriving for the summer. Indeed in 2015 everything seemed to be as punctual as trains during the Christmas period. Whilst spring and summer showed up late; autumn and winter didn’t seem to really arrive as temperatures stayed mild throughout them. All of this has a huge and often overlooked impact upon species throughout the food chain, causing 2015 to have many winners and losers.
2015 was dubbed the summer of jellyfish as huge blooms were visible across the South West coast of England and Wales. In particular Barrel Jellyfish really capitalised on the warmer seas which meant they had an abundance of food as plankton blooms also occurred. It is thought as climate change causes sea temperatures to continue to rise jellyfish will continue to prosper and their blooms will be spotted further North.
Long-Tailed Blue Butterfly
Overall it was a poor year for the UK’s butterflies as The State of the UK’s Butterflies 2015 report revealed that 76% of our resident and migrant species had declined in abundance and occurrence over the last 40 years. However the Long-Tailed Blue an uncommon migrant to our Southern shores has had another great year after its unprecedented presence in 2013. Currently our winters are too cold for the species to survive and colonise, however 2015 witnessed an almost identical influx of the butterflies to the White Cliffs of Dover which created a substantial local breeding population for the summer.
2015 saw the highest number of nest sites occupied by barn owls although there were regional differences in the breeding success of the species. Most notably those individuals in the Yorkshire Dales made the most of improved conditions created by planting up young woodland and the removal of grazing pressure. This meant they had a plentiful supply of field voles as prey leading their populations to flourish.
20 years ago goldfinches were relatively rare garden visitors, however the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) is reporting that 70% more Garden Birdwatch participants are reporting them in their gardens in 2015 compared to 1995. However it is not fully understood why this small bird is become more and more common. BTO are asking for your help in identifying the reason behind this by taking part in their Goldfinch Feeding Survey by clicking here: Goldfinch Feeding Survey.
You may have noticed this year that there were less small, black and yellow things harassing you at family picnics, BBQ’s and in beer gardens. You were probably pleased by this if you did notice it however the decline in many insect species is not one to be applauded too quickly as they make up a vital part of ecosystems. Wasps in particular fared particularly badly in 2015 and nobodies sure why, although one reason could be the wet and windy spring and summer we endured.
Not only did puffins find themselves placed upon the Red list of Birds of Conservation Concern but they also suffered a terrible breeding season on the Farne Islands. One of the UK’s most important seabird colonies; the Farne Islands were hit by freak August downpours which flooded the birds burrows. It is thought this led to a large decline in the number of fledged chicks in 2015.
Arctic & Sandwich Terns
Both these species can be found on the Amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern and both fared badly throughout 2015. Arctic Terns were also affected by the stormy weather hitting the Farne Islands, whilst Sandwich Terns at Blakeney Point in Norfolk found a shortage of sand eels and stormy weather greeting them in June.
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