Wet weather and wildlife

Posted: Friday 3 August 2012
by Kate Bradbury

Last week I wrote that populations of slugs and snails have boomed this year, but how has other wildlife fared?

Peacock butterfly

Last week I wrote that populations of slugs and snails have boomed this year, due to the incredibly wet conditions between April and June. But how has other wildlife fared?

Early reports suggest that it’s been a terrible year for swifts. Bats have also suffered, with many local bat groups reporting an increase in the number of bats found on the ground, unable to fly. This comes as no surprise, swifts and bats eat insects and insects cannot fly in rain. The worrying thing is that swifts and bats are already suffering huge declines.

But what about everything else? For many species, it’s too early to say, but I’ve done six butterfly counts for the Big Butterfly Count, and I haven’t seen a single peacock, small tortoiseshell or painted lady butterfly. I’m not alone. Butterfly Conservation’s chief executive Martin Warren said: "We think this may be the worst ever summer for the garden species. Because of the hot weather, people are now out looking for butterflies, and they're telling us they're seeing nothing.”

I’ve seen a lot of tree bumblebees, but less of those that nest underground, such as the red-tailed, white-tailed and buff-tailed bumbles. I presume this is because nests were flooded during the rains (tree bumblebees typically nest in trees, lofts and bird boxes). I didn’t see a single honeybee in my garden until about two weeks ago.

What have seen large numbers of, is baby blackbirds. Everywhere I go there’s a baby blackbird or three, clumsily hopping about, snatching at snails. Could it be that they’ve had a particularly good breeding season, given that they eat worms, slugs and snails? I’ve also seen a lot of ringlet butterflies, which apparently fare well in wet summers due to abundance of their caterpillars’ foodplant: grass. And I’ve noted a lot of gatekeepers and green-veined whites.

Now the weather is looking more stable, survivors of the wet spring and early summer have a fighting chance of building up their reserves in time for winter hibernation. But if you do find an animal in trouble – be it a grounded bat or starving hedgehog, then please call an organisation or charity for help. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society can give you advice on how to care for a needy hedgehog, while the Bat Conservation Trust can put you in touch with your local bat group. Sometimes all these animals need is some food and shelter.

We’d love you to share your sightings and anecdotes of the wildlife that’s been your garden this summer. Have you, like me, seen more baby blackbirds and fewer garden butterflies? Or is the wildlife in your garden bucking the trend?

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Wet weather and wildlife
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oldchippy 05/08/2012 at 19:55

Hi Kate, I saw a Sparrow hawk on my way home from the train ,It was trying to catch a Swallow but the Swallow was to quick,It look's like the Swift's have finally gone,I have seen two Swallow's today not very usual round here,What I took for meadow brown butterflies are Gate keeper's,Quite a lot in the park in the long grass,Still haven't seen any Hedgehog's can't remember the last live one I saw.I have only seen one bat all year so far.Lots of bees in the garden.
Old chippy.

Joe_the_Gardener 06/08/2012 at 08:52

Interesting to consider whether this Sparrowhawk might have been a Hobby.


kathryn.brock 06/08/2012 at 11:02

I have had a bat fly in my garden at dusk fir the last two summers hoever this year there are at least two maybe more, so here in Berkshire they are doing ok.
I have also had a lot of gatekeepers and a few tortoiseshell butterflies here along with whites.
I did the count and also did another one when volunteering with the RSPB in Yorkshire.

ricardio4 07/08/2012 at 22:24

where i live,i have a lot of trees along my road and i have seen a lot of honey bees hanging around them but i havent seen many butterflies about.

Lunarz 08/08/2012 at 09:59

I've had alarmingly few butterflies this year   I've had lots of bees, but apparently the very wet weather has had a terrible effect on bees this year:


Hedgehogs, on the other hand, are rife in my garden.  I get at least 4 or 5 a night, but this is because I put mealworms down for them I think.  They don't eat all the slugs though, which is a shame! 

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