According to an annual audit on the impact of weather on nature in the UK, it was a year full of storms, fires, and crumbling cliffs.
There were many losers including rare birds, mammals, and mammals displaced from uplands in the north, England, and Northern Ireland. But there were also many winners, such as the first-ever hearing of crickets in newly colonised places and the grey seals that had a successful breeding season despite the chaos.
The National TrustThis helter-skelter image was the new normal due to the climate emergency. The age-old patterns in nature and the shape of the UK were both undergoing rapid and permanent change.
Climate change is making some extreme weather events more common, said Ben McCarthy (head of nature conservation and restoration ecology at this conservation charity). Heatwaves are becoming more frequent, and heavier, and the consequences of heavy rainfall are more severe. The UK is witnessing the effects of wildfires, severe storms, such as Arwen, which is how climate change is changing our landscapes forever.
The 2021 lowlights included wildfires at Marsden Moor in Yorkshire, and the destruction of the Ypres Bridge in Scotland. Mourne Mountains Northern IrelandAfter long dry spells. In Yorkshire, birds such as the curlews, golden plover, and short-eared Owl were affected, while in Northern Ireland, the skylark, meadowppit and snipe were also badly affected.
November Storm Arwen caused havoc in northern Britain during the winter. Removing thousands of treesYou can also include cherished specimens like the champion coast redwood at Bodnant Garden, north Wales.
Warmer and wetter winters are leading to diseases like ash dieback, which can cause significant loss of trees and affect landscapes and habitats. At least 30,000 Ash TreesThe National Trust states that trees will be felled due to ash death this winter, an increase of 2m from last year.
90 metres of cliffs collapsed on the Dorset coast in April. This is again likely to be due to the prolonged dry spell, which changed the shape and form of that stretch.
It was a terrible year for butterfly numbers and scientists are still puzzled by the mysterious deaths of seabirds along the east coast.
McCarthy said that extreme events are putting more pressure on Britain’s wildlife, already in serious trouble. Many places have been changed forever by recent storms. This is a testament to the power of nature and the changing climate. It also shows how important our role in its future.
The fact that climate and nature crises are interconnected is clear and urgently needs to be addressed. Our unique UK is made up of our natural resources, and we all need to do our part in protecting it.
It could prove to be a good toad year on the Lizard peninsula, Cornwall, which is the most southerly point of mainland Britain. Toadspawn could be seen as early as November. If they are lucky, the young toadlets will be independent before the puddles or ponds dry up in spring. But if they aren’t, they could become dependent and freeze to death.
2021 Wildlife winners and losers
WildflowersEarly hazel catkins were found in the winter, and carpets of bee orchids were found in the summer at clifftop sites such as the Golden Cap estate in DorsetThanks to a dry March, and a warm June, slippages in clay caused damage to the beautiful pinkish-colored common centaury populations further up the coast at Thorncombe Beacon.
Butterflies Butterfly Conservations Big Butterfly CountThe event saw the lowest attendance since its inception 12 years ago. Many of the UK’s most loved species, such as the small tortoiseshells, and peacock butterflies dropped. Due to the cool spring, the large blue was seen declining at National Trust sites throughout Somerset and Gloucestershire.
Birds Many species had a difficult nesting season due to the cold April and rainy May. The cold ground conditions caused the abandonment of nesting areas by Barn Owls at Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland and Blakeney Freshes in Norfolk by lapwings. In late summer Guillemots and razorbillsThey were found dead or dying along the east coasts of Scotland and northern England. The reason is still unknown. The spring winds were a factor in swifts, house martins, swallows, and house martins arriving late in the season.
Fungi An unusually warm and damp autumn, with little to no frost, was a bumper year for grassland mushrooms, especially waxcaps. Conservationists in Herefordshire discovered a striking alien species known as devils fingers, also known as octopus smellhorn. It was accidentally introduced from Australia or New Zealand to Europe.
Seals, dormice, and squirrels Grey seal colonies had a successful year with healthy pups thanks to a lack of predators. The Dormice Holnicote estate in ExmoorGood numbers were seen at the autumn box checks. Three Red squirrel kittensThey were born on Brownsea Island, Dorset, in the latest second litter the team has recorded.
It’s amazing to see and hear the soundsMore than 100 species were identified at Clumber Park in NottinghamshireIncluding the critically endangered diamond-backed spider. A small red-eyed damselfly can be seen at Wenlock Edge in ShropshireIt is a sign that it is expanding north as a result of climate change. A singing tree cricket from Italy was seen at West Bexington, Dorset. This sound is reminiscent of the Mediterranean and has been heard in Kent over many years. Tree crickets are now colonizing other areas.