Weather and wildlife in 2013

Perhaps seven is THE lucky number; well for nature at least. After six fairly ordinary and often awful summers 2013 finally gave us the return of the Great British Summer. This was a godsend for wildlife that had suffered at the hands of wet and windy summer months as the seasons seemed to merge into a state of confusion.

The balance sheet for nature in 2013 was a pretty healthy one – with more winners than losers. Yes the big challenges remain around the loss of habitat, the impact of climate change and the unpredictability that is extreme weather – but we need to celebrate the positives aswell as the negatives.

For me the overall winner of the last year was that symbol of summer – the good old butterfly. I can’t remember a better year for them. On a local walk into the countryside just outside Bath to a stream at the bottom of a valley we counted twelve species fluttering gently on a warm sunny day in a matter of minutes. Yes the long term trend for butterflies is challenging but 2013 gave us and them a welcome respite: helping to lift the spirits and nourishing the soul.

The seasons of change – spring and autumn – seemed to defy logic in their length. Bluebells just about made it into June in some places and autumn colour crept into December – the burnt orange leaves of a local oak tree clung on raging against the windswept autumn days.

Apples bounced back after a pretty torrid 2012, wasps returned to bother summer picnics and after the boom year for slugs last year it was a case of bust for them in 2013. Fungi was a real winner as were most warmth loving insects.

At the bookends of the year we had heavy snow last winter – a challenge for over-wintering birds looking for food and the snowdrop season was late and long as a result – and the arrival of storms and torrential weather conditions causing flooding in the final quarter of 2013.

2013 must give us hope about the resilience of nature and its ability to bounce back. We all need to do our bit to help encourage and support nature in our back gardens, local green spaces and through the work of the nature conservation movement.

Nature provides a welcome tonic to the challenges and routine of everyday life and by opening our senses to the world around us it can help to give us the refreshment that we need for body and mind.

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