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Spring before Christmas for our wildlife

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 21, 2013


Rebecca Roulston, 31, from Bristol stops to look at the flowers which have bloomed just before the shortest day of the year

Rebecca Roulston, 31, from Bristol stops to look at the flowers which have bloomed just before the shortest day of the year

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This unseasonably mild winter is confusing our wildlife and farm animals across the West Country – with spring butterflies, lambs and birds bursting into life.

The roses growing in Bristol in this picture are not the only ones who have decided it's already spring.

Temperatures in Britain have been almost double the norm for this time of year and environment experts say animals and plants are being tricked into emerging earlier.

Lambs have been spotted in the fields ahead of schedule and red admiral and peacock butterflies, which usually hibernate until spring, have also been seen.

But while the butterflies might be a pleasant and unexpected sight for some, experts say they will suffer because there is not enough food for them.

Chris Wiltshire, the county recorder for butterflies for the Gloucestershire Naturalists Society, said: "It's not good for them. I've had a few reports of some red admiral and peacock butterflies still active at the start of the month. Adults of those species usually hibernate and if they're active now, there's not enough flowers, so they won't get enough nectar to build up their reserves.

"It was a good summer for butterflies in general, but they need a colder winter, most native species are adapted for cold winter."

Mr Wiltshire said that another warm spell later in the winter could also spell problems.

He added: "Things can wake up and think 'oh good it's spring' but there won't be enough flowers and there won't be the food supply and then they're in trouble."

Last week the Western Daily Press reported that Bristol wildlife expert Steve England was astonished to find his raspberry bush drooping with berries in the city. He said he's also discovered wild garlic, apples and rare lilies growing months before they are meant to. The unusual weather has also attracted some rare visitors to Britain.

Dave Paynter, reserve manager at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, said large flocks of migratory waders are arriving because it is relatively warm.

Nichola Maxey from the Meteorological Office, said: "Normally at this time of year we have an average maximum temperature of 6.7C.

"But many will experience temperatures of 12-13 degrees C – which is double what you'd expect."

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