2018 weather and wildlife review
Raging storms and seesawing temperatures have taken UK wildlife on an extraordinary ride this year.
A long harsh winter, the Beast from the East, a mild spring and baking hot summer meant some animals and plants thrived, while others struggled. 2018 saw changes to the migratory patterns of birds, flourishing seal populations, parched grassland and resilient fruit trees.
Keeping an eye on the weather gives us a better understanding of the challenges facing wildlife. We can then make changes to the landscape to help it cope better in the future. The National Trust aims to create 25,000 more hectares of land for wildlife at the places we care for by 2025.
David Bullock, head of species and habitat conservation at the National Trust, says: 'This year's unusual weather does give us some indication of how climate change could look and feel, irrespective of whether this year's was linked to climate change.
'It's becoming less predictable every year to gauge what weather we are likely to experience, and what this means for our wildlife.
'We need to ensure that we continue to look after the land in our care and work with others to create a joined up areas of the countryside, in effect nature corridors, to enable wildlife to move around easily if needed, to survive any type of weather.'
Many birds were caught up in the devastation left by the cold snap at the end of February. Freezing temperatures claimed the lives of many seabirds on the east coast, including guillemot, shag, fulmar and kittiwake.
The Beast from the East, which raged across continental Europe at the end of February, saw the arrival of many unusual birds on UK shores. Among the birds forced to leave the continent and travel westwards in February and March were fieldfare, redwing, golden plover, lapwing, snipe, jack snipe and woodcock.
A scattering of Arctic redpoll, known for the distinctive red spots on their heads, were also seen in the east of England. And snowy owls, which are usually only found in the Arctic and rarely visit the UK, were seen at Scolt Head Island off the Norfolk coast in February and St David's in Wales in late March.
The hawfinch, normally a shy bird that is difficult to spot, was seen in its hundreds in Sussex and Surrey in March. Many of these silver-billed birds came over to the UK from eastern Europe and returned there to breed.
Butterflies and moths
Rare butterflies such as the silver-studded blue, the Adonis and Chalkhill blues had a good year. The mild weather meant that these butterflies had second or third broods into late summer and early autumn in the south west.
In late October many striking butterflies were spotted in Dorset, including speckled woods, small tortoiseshells, red admirals and clouded yellows.
Butterflies that feed on nettles, such as tortoiseshells, red admirals and commas didn't have an easy time. Pesticides, parasites and climate change are all reasons that could be behind the falling numbers.
The migrant silver Y moth was seen in its highest ever numbers at Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland.
Trees, meadows and moorland
Many fruit trees managed to make it through the cold long winter and sprang into life on the late arrival of spring. The moisture in the air stood the fruit trees in good stead for the baking hot summer, leading to a glut of apples, brambles, damson, pears, figs and sloes.
However, many of the places we look after found signs of the disease Ash dieback, caused by a fungus, on both young and old trees.
The hot summer wasn't kind to the fields and meadows, which became scorched and dried up around the country. There wasn't enough lush grass for grazing animals so farmers had to supplement their feed with hay and silage from earlier harvests.
But the grasses truned green again during a 'second spring' in the the autumn, and we saw the return of spring blooms such as violets and primrose.
Wild fires on Saddleworth Moor in Greater Manchester and Winter Hill in Lancashire ripped through moorland and bracken, destroying areas home to groundnesting birds and reptiles. Ancient peatland and large areas of heather were also destroyed.