Winners and losers

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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