'Quirky weather confuses wildlife'
British wildlife has had to cope with a year of unusual weather that saw "two springs and no summer" but many species have fared well, the National Trust has said.
The hot early spring was a boon for insects, while the autumn's warm temperatures and sunshine saw something of a "second spring" with shrubs and plants such as dandelions and white dead nettle flowering again.
But the polarised weather, which saw the summer months hit by wet conditions in the north and a cold drought in central and eastern England, caused species such as the purple emperor butterfly to suffer.
The purple emperor laid hardly any eggs, while drought conditions hit species on a localised basis including frogs and toads which require shallow water for breeding and some birds such as waders which saw their food supplies affected.
But the dry conditions meant herbs and plants which get crowded out by coarse grass in wet years, including orchids, did extremely well, the Trust said.
Matthew Oates, wildlife adviser at the National Trust, said the year's weather had been "fantastically quirky", confusing native wildlife, but that some species had done well. Early insects and birds nesting in spring benefited from the good weather, he said.
The spring that promised so much gave way to a poor summer, but an Indian summer in the autumn months with spring-like temperatures led to second appearances of wild and garden plants, an abundance of berries and migrant species of birds and insects to UK shores, he said.
The warm autumn, following on from a good spring, saw an abundance of fruits and berries from spring-flowering shrubs and trees with a great year for apple, hawthorn, sloes, beechnuts and acorns, while holly and mistletoe berries were also in good supply.
The autumn feast has provided deer, badgers and grey squirrels with plenty of food, and winter birds should also benefit, the National Trust said. But with erratic weather dominating the year, Mr Oates said it was now a question of "what next?!".
The last good July and August were in 2006, and according to the law of averages, the UK is overdue a fine summer, Mr Oates said, suggesting 2012 could perhaps just be the year to have a vacation at home.