Grass growth dominated the year, enabling some wildlife species to thrive.
1. Hay, silage and grazing
Farmers have been rewarded with a brilliant year for livestock grazing and silage and hay making. Mild winters resulted in strong grass growth, coupled with warm weather during late July and August. Our floodplain meadow at Packwood House, Warwickshire, produced twice the number of hay bales as it did last year.
A warm autumn and rain late in the season producing an exceptionally sweet and juicy apple crop – especially in the south west. Rachel Brewer, National Trust cider maker and ranger at Barrington Court, Somerset, said: 'The apple juice this year is some of the best we’ve ever made.'
3. Migrant birds
Birdwatchers have enjoyed the rare winter migrant birds that arrived on strong easterly winds. In late October ranger Dougie Holden spotted an isabelline shrike at Souter & the Leas, near South Shields. The bird is believed to have been blown off-course during its annual migration from China and Mongolia to Africa and the Middle East.
4. Grey Seals
By January this year, 2,342 grey seal pups had been born at Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk Coast. The colony has grown from just 100 pups in 2004. The Farne Islands have seen large numbers of grey seal pups born this year, with 1,879 pups counted by rangers by the end of November – exceeding last year’s seal pup total.
5. Recovering from Storm Desmond
Wildlife and habitats in the north of England have recovered relatively well from the storms that caused widespread damage in the Lake District. In May, one ranger in Borrowdale found lampreys laying their eggs under gravel in a new stream that sprung up after the floods. Landslides at Allen Banks, Northumberland, closed the river gorge for eight months whilst ranger repaired paths and bridges; during the closure, otters were spotted on the river near the visitor centre for the first time in decades.
Bee and butterfly numbers have slumped after 2016 brought a tenth year of unsettled weather. Grass grew at an extraordinary rate - good news for farmers making hay and silage, but bad for the insects that rely on patches of bare ground to breed.