Every Christmas, the National Trust publishes a report on the ways in which the year’s weather has affected the UK’s wildlife. This year, after the summer’s extreme drought, we can clearly see some of those effects in the reserve.
The extreme conditions made survival very difficult for some of the reserve’s inhabitants; everything from amphibians to bats, birds and butterflies, and from our veteran trees to wildflowers.
The Lambrok’s tributary stream dried up completely but the big pond came through the summer with just a few inches of water left in its muddy middle. Many water fly larvae will have been lost in the stream’s dried up pools: dragonflies, damsel and caddis flies. This year’s Odonata count was smaller than in previous years and we spotted fewer species. We hope that the pond saved some.
Swallows and swifts came late to the reserve and were seen less frequently because there were fewer flying insects to hunt.
Many of the stream’s pools dried out before the year’s tadpoles, both frog and toad, could finish their development. In the spring, we saw unspecified newt efts in the new GCN (great crested newt) pond but haven’t seen them since. The pond was reduced to the merest puddle during the drought; adult newts leave the water after breeding and look for damp dark places among the vegetation, few and far between last summer.
The flowering season was short because wildflowers rushed to make seed as the drought took hold. This impacted our pollinators and we saw fewer butterflies and fewer species than in previous years. Even the tough and adaptable buff tailed bumblebee was affected. Our feral bees swarmed as usual, but we think the swarms left the reserve to look for more abundant resources.
Header image: ruddy darter dragonfly (Sympetrum sanguineum) by Jorg Hempel [CC BY-SA 3.0] first identified in the reserve in 2019
Let us also not forget that the fields got sprayed with a very strong herbicide in May which was harmful to insects and mammals. The grass was then cut in June – just as any insects that survived the herbicide would have needed it the most. I’m sure this had a big impact on why insect numbers were down in the reserve this year.
The reserve has also (in my opinion) faced an increase in the abuse of the set-aside and woodland areas this year.
So this factored in with the extremely dry summer really did ensure that the reserve got its backside kicked this year. I hope that it has an easier time in 2023.