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It's only January, but it looks like spring has sprung

It's only January – but spring has already sprung.

Rooks are building nests and snowdrops are flowering early in Northern Ireland as mild winter temperatures have ushered in early signs of spring.

The Woodland Trust says it has received a surge in records across the UK of birds nesting, shrubs coming into bud and even ladybirds and butterflies appearing, as Mother Nature takes advantage of the warmer temperatures.

The charity says the appearance of ladybirds and butterflies in some parts of the UK ties in with a long-term trend identified through its Nature's Calendar website, suggesting spring is arriving earlier. Research suggests that over the last 25 years, flowers have bloomed up to 12 days earlier than previously.

In Northern Ireland, nature-lovers have reported seeing rooks building nests, snowdrops flowering, song thrushes singing and hazel catkins flowering. Spring lambs are already starting to appear in the fields.

But the Woodland Trust warns that species fooled by warmer weather into early activity – whether blossoming or breeding – could be vulnerable to the sort of freeze not uncommon in February or March. Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust Nature's Calendar project manager, said: "People may be surprised to see such spring-like activity in January, but Woodland Trust data confirms that it has become more and more common over the last decade or so.

"What this highlights is the importance of having diverse, inter-connected habitats that allow species to react to any changes in climate and adjust accordingly. With habitats coming under ever greater threat and fragmentation, the pressure on our native flora and fauna will only increase."

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By recording activity of species found in native woodland and other habitats, thousands of people have enabled Nature's Calendar to become the leading survey into how climate change is affecting our plants and wildlife.

The Woodland Trust is appealing for more people throughout Northern Ireland to take part in this UK-wide survey, as records here are currently scarce.

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