Mild autumn, second spring?
Guest post: Matthew Oates, the National Trust Naturalist-in-Residence, reports on the repercussions for our wildlife of November's record-breaking mild weather. Have a read then tell us what you've been seeing where you are. Even better, if you have a photo post it on our photo group.
Never has spring promised so much only for summer to produce so little! Trees and bushes rushed ahead of themselves in an ecstatic spring, then burnt out prematurely during a dire summer. So autumn came early, and as a welcome relief - but delivered big time. It's been an incredibly long and deeply interesting autumn.
The weather improved when the schools went back, giving a great start to September. A gale blew in from the west on the 6-7th. The month then oscillated a bit before ending on a real high: a heat-wave raged from 28th Sept to 3rd October, producing the warmest October day ever.
October went on to be one of the mildest ever (just two cold nights around the 20th), and was very dry away from the South West, Wales, Northern Ireland, northern England and Scotland - where it was persistently wet. A localised autumn drought developed.
We are now heading for a record-breaking mild November, which has been very dry in central and eastern England. But remember that November 2010 was mild until late on, when a severe winter suddenly enveloped us.
Currently, flowers are enjoying a second spring, with dandelions and white dead-nettle prominent along verges, and Aubretia, Kerria, Magnolias, Skimmias and Viburnums blossoming in gardens - plus springtime's Yellow Corydalis flowering profusely in walls. Brambles, hogweed and homeysuckle have re-flowered, and late summer plants like yarrow have carried on in the absence of frost, as have Nasturtiums and other garden annuals. It was too dry an autumn in many districts for fungi.
It's been a fascinating autumn for insects, with some crazy late sightings and rare moth immigrations on southerly winds. Butterflies, moths and dragonflies just wont stop. Some record late butterflies, notably Duke of Burgundy on Oct 2nd, a fresh ringlet on Oct 11th, green-veined white on Oct 22nd (all Hants), and meadow browns as late as Nov 13th (Wilts). Also some late and odd 'second brood' moths, common darter dragonflies numerous well into Nov, plus migrant and southern hawker dragonflies until mid moth. Bumblebees and wasps just kept going too, though the good weather came too late for most crickets and grasshoppers.
So good feeding conditions for autumn bats, prior to hibernation. And a great feeding up autumn for dormouse, voles and mice too, due to the abundance of autumn fruits and seeds - the produce of the fine spring.
An interesting autumn for birders, with Hurricane Katia bringing in rare vagrants from North America - notably buff-breasted and semipalmated sandpipers, northern water thrush and yellowlegs. Some great birds from Europe too, with Twitch of the Year surely being a Siberian rubythroat.
We get one or two mild autumns per decade, though usually after good summers - like 2003 and '06. This one was more like those of 1985 and '86, which came after poor or average summers. The best mild autumn in living memory, though, must be that of 1975 - which heralded in the Long Hot Summer of '76.
Our weather continues to amaze.