Nature in the city ...
On the basis of the weather so far this year, the seasons appear to be blurring, and we could get anything! Should my friend on the right go into hibernation, or not bother at all?
Alternating periods of hot and wet weather this summer meant that the mating and breeding periods of frogs, newts, birds and insects were affected. Frogs and newts bred early. From our survey, great crested newts appeared to have returned to their breeding ponds, mated, laid eggs, and disappeared back onto land before the end of April.
Birds generally had a good season, with many second broods for blackbirds and tits - perhaps due to good conditions or the failure of the first batch through lack of insect food- we don't really know - but the birds seem to have adapted. Nature's rather clever!
The real disappointment of the summer was butterflies. Apart from 'cabbage whites', other types weren't around in large numembers. We had a few sightings of brimstone butterfly early on - this is good news, as we've been planting its food plant (buckthorn) for the last two years. There have also been reports of a few 'blues' (common and holly blue), but not a lot of commoner species like tortoiseshells, peacocks and red admirals.
So, as one season follows another, it's not easy to give clear advice as to how to best help wildlife prepare for autumn and winter. We haven't got a crystal ball, or can foresee what's coming in the way of weather. So keep an eye out, and just in case of a hard winter, start building your insect hotels and hedgehog havens now!
(Jon Capel is the city ecologist.