Another year has passed and, due to some unusual and record-breaking weather patterns, it has been a challenging one for our wildlife.

The findings from experts at the National Trust in their annual weather and wildlife review found there were species that fared badly but also, as you might expect, those that have done well because of it.

According to Matthew Oates, nature and wildlife specialist for the charity, there was an even balance of winners and losers this year, but he said, “If you forced me I'd go for bad, just because of the poor summer.

“Every year our wildlife has to deal with our weather’s highs and lows, and this year was certainly no different,” he said.

We’re seriously overdue a good summer

The year started with the sunniest winter on record, but then spring arrived late and the birds returning for the summer were delayed by northerly winds and late-leafing hedges.

Late spring and summer both turned out to be disappointingly wet and windy, with only a few periods of fine weather. This could be one of the contributing factors to a decline in our insect populations, and in particular it was another bad year for wasps.

While summer plants continued to flower, and insects could be seen, long into the autumn thanks to the unseasonably warm weather, temperatures that have continued to remain high into winter.

The weather has more influence on our wildlife than we think, explains Mr Oates, because insects are especially affected and they are fundamental in the food chain.

Annual vegetation growth is also a massive factor, “We’re in a run of strong grass growth years, which is bad for anything needing bare ground and warm microclimates.

“And wet springs are rotten for breeding birds,” he told BBC Earth.

A good year for:

Barn owls

Barn owl populations around the National Trust’s Malham Tarn and in Upper Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales flourished as a result of improved conditions through a reduction in grazing pressure and the planting up of areas of young woodland, leading to good numbers of their favoured prey, the field vole.

Barrel jellyfish

This summer there were huge swarms of barrel jellyfish, particularly around the south west of England and Wales. As sea temperatures rise with climate change and plankton blooms become bigger and last longer, there are likely to be more jellyfish occurring even further north.


A lack of stormy weather, or frosts, in the early part of autumn ensured it was a fantastic year for autumn tints, boosted further by a superb apple crop.

Little terns

Little terns had their most productive year on Blakeney Point since 2011. A second nesting site on the Point which is better protected from an ever increasing risk of flooding seen elsewhere on the Point, only attracted two pairs of nesting birds last year. In an attempt to boost numbers, a decoy was established by National Trust rangers, which attracted 11 pairs this year.


It’s been another record-breaking year for breeding guillemots on the Farne Islands.

Long-tailed blue butterflies

The long-tailed blue butterfly, an extremely rare migrant, returned to the south east, breeding again on the White Cliffs of Dover.

A bad year for:


Puffins, which this autumn were placed on the Red list of Birds of Conservation Concern, had a poor breeding season on the Farne Islands when their burrows were flooded.

Frogs and toads

Frogs and toads in the south of England faced a difficult year as many pools dried up over the spring. Natterjack toads, including those at Formby in Merseyside, had a particularly difficult time but fortunately the May rains arrived just in time.

Common wasps

Although considered a nuisance by some, the common wasp is a very effective gardeners' friend, being one of the most efficient predators of caterpillars in the garden. Their numbers, however, dropped this year but no one really knows why.

Arctic terns

On the Farne Islands there were 600 fewer breeding pairs of Arctic terns this year due to poor food supplies and stormy weather. Arctic terns are on the Amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern.

Sandwich terns

Also on the Amber list are Sandwich terns, which had a bad year at Blakeney Point. The birds, which were already struggling due to a shortage of sand eels, were affected further by stormy weather in late June.


It was a disappointing autumn to see fungi due to a dry autumn after a cool, wet summer.

The highlight of the year for Mr Oates was the reappearance of the long-tailed blue butterfly, so the 2013 invasion wasn’t a one-off he said, “This butterfly means business here.”

Next year, says Mr Oates, will be the 40th anniversary of the long hot summer of 1976 and “We’re seriously overdue a good summer.”

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