Posted by Frances Bennett on 23/02/2016

After two record breaking months this winter with December being the warmest and January the wettest since records began, wildlife has been up to some very strange things these past weeks. There have been records of both flora and fauna exhibiting unseasonable behaviour including the appearance of daffodils as early as the middle of December, hedgehogs remaining active and bats recorded foraging regularly over the Christmas period, when they both should have been deep in hibernation.


Red Admiral Butterfly
Usually seen: May to October
Recorded: 4 December 2015
Red admiral, wintering adult taken by postman.pete


Usually hibernating between: October to April

Recorded: Awake all winter!
Autumn juvenile hedgehog taken by Frances Bennett


What are the Affects of a Wet and Mild Winter?

For some plants, including fruit and nut bearing species, a period of dormancy over the winter months is vital to the coming years’ fruiting season. Without it spring growth can be delayed or uneven and susceptible to damage by frosts which can severely limit crop yields. Many animals, such as badgers and dormice, rely on a range of different species to provide plentiful foraging resources throughout the year.


Usually seen: April to October

Recorded: late-January 2016
Female slow-worm taken by Annie Hatt


Cherry Tree Blossom

Usually seen: Early spring

Recorded: mid-January 2016
Early cherry blossom taken by oatsy40


Pollinator populations are also at risk of getting caught out in wet weather when it’s mild as their natural habits are disrupted and we usually look to harsh winters for killing off viruses and bacteria which affect both plants and animals. With some resources appearing early, some being delayed and others susceptible to disease and reduced numbers of pollinators an uncertain time is coming for many species with the full effect of a wet and mild winter unknown for months to come.


Usually seen: February to early May

Recorded: Mid-December 2015
Daffodils taken by Timo Newton-Syms


Common Newt

Usually seen: March to October

Recorded: late-January 2016
Common newt taken by Annie Hatt


How Does this Affect the 2016 Survey Season?

There have been reports of bats and reptiles already active this year as well as amphibians heading towards breeding ponds and even frog-spawn present in ponds around the country. However, without extensive survey programs of local populations, it is impossible to create a well-reasoned argument against accepted ecological consulting survey timings to accompany applications, whether they be for planning or a Natural England European Protected Species mitigation licence. As such any ecological surveys required for legal or planning compliance must still be undertaken in line with best practice guidance.

It can, however, be expected that birds will begin nesting soon. With a wealth of invertebrates available to them we’ve already seen birds setting up territories and singing more in the past few weeks and nesting birds should be considered accordingly when undertaking vegetation clearance and tree removal works in March.

Full details of optimal timings for seasonally restricted surveys can be found in our online survey calendar here - http://www.ecosulis.co.uk/page/survey-calendar.