The recent cold weather spell across the UK following a mild winter could have a detrimental effect on our wildlife says Woodland Trust.
From insects to frogs, birds and bees, the UK’s wildlife may struggle this spring after a mild start to the year was followed by the coldest April night in 70 years and snowstorms across the country.
Butterflies such as brimstones, red admirals and peacocks, along with ladybirds and red-tailed bumblebees have all been recorded on the Trust’s Nature’s Calendar database after emerging earlier due to a mild spring.
Many of these animals may struggle to survive if the current wintery weather continues, and with fewer pollinators around and extended snow, species like willow and blackthorn, which are flowering now may struggle to thrive this year.
Nature’s Calendar is a citizen science project which collates seasonal sightings from members of the public to help track the effects that the weather and climate change have on nature.
Lorienne Whittle, citizen science officer for the charity’s Natures Calendar project said: “We’ve had record-breakingly early springs in recent years and 2022 was largely following a similar mild pattern, until the recent cold weather. Nature’s Calendar records have shown that many insects have awoken and we’ve all enjoyed these spring sights on the sunnier days through March.
“However, insects struggle in sub-zero temperatures, for example, bees won’t fly in snow or very wet conditions. Last year we had incredibly late frosts at the end of April, which caught out a lot of gardeners as well as had a negative impact on trees like oak and apple trees, which flower around then. We’ll be keeping a keen eye on Nature’s Calendar records through the rest of spring to see how this season pans out.
“The recent IPCC report also highlighted the trend in earlier springs and lengthened growing seasons in temperate regions, though noted how different groups of plants and animals differed in their responses. It’s vital we continue our long legacy of recording seasonal events in the UK so that we can continue to better understand the impacts of climate change and inform reports such as this.”
Records of blackbirds nesting have been also been submitted up and down the country as well as some sightings of them feeding their young.
Blue tits, great tits and rooks have been recorded building nests with some already near to hatching their eggs. Freezing weather conditions means these birds may have to work harder to incubate their eggs and find food.
Some amphibians may struggle with this weather too, and though frogspawn can generally survive a short period of being frozen over, an extended cold snap this late in the season could spell disaster for this generation.
Ms Whittle continued: “We’re right at the end of the frogspawn laying season and some adult frogs may have hedged their bets, having been stimulated by the mild spring to lay the frogspawn very early this year, meaning their tadpoles could now pay the price.
“Our wildlife is facing a plethora of pressures in the UK and Nature’s Calendar records are critical in tracking one of the most significant – that from climate change. As our winters continue to become milder, springs earlier and we get more unseasonable weather, our plants and animals will have to adapt. We need the public’s help to track these changes.”
Anyone can take part in citizen science by recording signs of the seasons for Nature’s Calendar at www.naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk