Belfast Telegraph

A drop of snow, yes... but also some snowdrops

By Linda Stewart

It might not feel like it today - but spring is already on its way.

Snowdrops have flowered in Northern Ireland as early as January 2, according to the Woodland Trust.

Meanwhile, hazel catkins, ladybirds and even butterflies have been recorded across the UK on the Nature's Calendar website.

The sightings follow the warmest year on record for the UK, and one of the warmest for Northern Ireland. Indeed, three of the last four years have seen some of the earliest spring averages, thanks to records supplied to the Trust from members of the public.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust citizen science manager, said: "People still seem surprised to see snowdrops and butterflies in early January but our warmer climate in recent years means this is now pretty common.

"Records added to Nature's Calendar by the public have enabled scientists to learn how trees, plants and wildlife adapt to our changing climate. If we can ensure our natural environment is diverse, resilient and interconnected, it will make it easier for wildlife to adjust too."

The first snowdrop recorded in Northern Ireland seems to be appearing earlier and earlier.

The first report this year came from Newtownards on January 2, while the first last year was in Belfast on January 10, and the first in 2013 was recorded in Enniskillen on January 9. But this year's sighting doesn't break the record for the earliest snowdrop - that was a plant that flowered in Craigavon on December 22, 2008.

Spring activity normally first occurs in the south west of the UK and works its way north in the following weeks and months.

In November, the charity received a record of frogspawn on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, the earliest such incidence for nine years.

The conservation charity is appealing to people right through the province to play a part.

Patrick Cregg, director of the Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland, said: "The recent wintry weather may make you think it's too early to look for signs of spring, but the signs are out there nonetheless. The days are gradually starting to lengthen and our woods and countryside are coming to life: it's a good time to wrap up and get out and about. We're keen to get a good geographical spread of observations and are appealing to local people to take part. Please remember that your records - no matter how few - will make a valuable contribution to scientific research."

By recording natural seasonal signs, thousands of people have enabled Nature's Calendar to become the leading survey into how climate change is affecting our plants and wildlife.

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