Winners and losers

Wednesday 31 October 2012, 15:42

Paul Deane Paul Deane Web Producer

2012 was the wettest summer on record which was miserable for many of us but how did the UK’s wildlife fare?

Various organisations have been gathering data on our birds, mammals, insects and trees and although the analysis is not yet complete it seems that there may have been some winners and losers from the unusually wet conditions.

Most people have noticed the bumper crop of snails and slugs, and earthworms have flourished too. These have provided a good source of food for blackbirds and song thrushes, helping them to have a good summer, and badgers have also benefited.

Swallows also eat earthworms and have the ability to rear a late brood, and this year these factors help to explain a record late fledging in the first week of October! Barn owls also managed to produce late or second broods, avoiding the wettest period of early summer.

Blue tits were among the summer’s losers due to the late caterpillar hatching and, like many other birds, suffered from rain-soaked nests, with many chicks dying in the wet and cold.

Another well-publicised loser has been the humble conker. This may be the worst year for conkers in living memory, with many horse chestnuts producing very few conkers and smaller fruit than usual. But the fate of this autumn’s conker was actually sealed well before the summer. When horse chestnuts came into bloom the heavy April rain kept the bees that should have pollinated them in their hives, and a late frost in May then damaged many of the blossoms. The result is disappointment across the country for anyone hoping for a game of conkers this autumn.



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    Comment number 1.

    "Swallows also eat earthworms". Really???

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    Comment number 2.

    That's not Uganda!! Chris! You were pointing at the Democratic Republic of the Congo!

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    Comment number 3.

    Whereas the feeders are well visited by blue and great tits, chaffinches and covered in coal tits the greenfinches have gone. Now, I know they flock in the winter but this is the first year that the birds, feeding in numbers in the summer, have completely gone. Is the greenfinch disease the cause?

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    Comment number 4.

    My grandson was walking along the wall just past the BBC Bristol towards the museum when he noticed a gatepost covered in Ladybirds of different colours. We had never seen so many together in one place. The opposite gatepost had as many crawling after tiny insects. A specialist at the Museum told us they getting ready for hibernation, as we had thought.When they congregate like this do they swap positions like Emperor penguins or are the outer ones always out in the cold?

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    Comment number 5.

    We have used a bird feeder in our garden for many years but some months ago found a rat trying to eat from the table and around the ground at the base where nuts etc had fallen. Have spoken to others who say that these bird feeders attract rats. Sadly, have had to stop feeding them but is there a way around this problem; with winter coming very keen to start feeding again. Is this a problem that others have encountered?


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    Comment number 6.

    Hi, I have some great footage of a badger which regularly comes into our garden. We live in Airdrie, Scotland. How do I go about sharing this footage with the Autumnwatch team? I can't seem to upload it onto Facebook........

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    I agree with the comment about swallows- they seemed to have had a really tough year where I live, possibly because we haven't had many scorching days to bring all the flies out! House martins, however, he resort to worms more than swallows (from my experience) have faired better.


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