Phil Pickin: A lousy summer
It’s easy for us to moan about the wet weather. The effect on us ranged from flooded simply getting wet through to losses of lives and homes, and this has been reflected in the wildlife surrounding us. Not only that but it continues to affect wildlife well after the rain has stopped and the ground is no longer flooded.
The most obvious problems has been on the wildlife that inhabits areas that flood. Kingfishers nesting in riverbanks, water loving mammals in similar areas, water fowl whose nests have been washed away, all have been trying to raise young in the most difficult of circumstances. It’s only over the longer term that we will find out just what effect it will have on numbers of many differing species.
The cooler weather over this summer has also confused the migrating birds. Insect numbers have suffered and, as a result, so too have species further up the food chain. Butterflies and hover flies have had one of the worst seasons on record. Crops like apples will have a poor harvest this autumn – just look at the lack of fruit on the trees in many areas. However ‘it’s an ill wind…’ and for some species it’s been great weather. Slugs and snails have enjoyed the cool wet climate and no doubt you’ll see more of these about over the coming weeks. The grasses too have made the most of the damp weather – just look at most lawns. Mosses have also done well in the cold and damp.
One of the most resourceful and numerous rodents is the brown rat and with their love of our drainage systems taking them up close and personal with increasing numbers of us, it’s not surprising they too have had to contend with the recent surges of rain water. Drains that had been partly filled have become raging torrents which have claimed more than a few rat lives. However the ever resourceful rat has been getting even closer to man while looking for new accommodation. As a result warnings have been made to be careful and the pest control industry are expecting to be busy. Rats carry some very unpleasant diseases so avoid them if you can, but equally don’t be surprised if you see any.
As with most things in the natural world, there are always winners and losers and the result could well be a few unexpected sights when you are out and about. Let’s hope the jet-stream continues to move north and that we all get chance to not only dry out, but to also enjoy some great walks with the wildlife with whom we share our countryside.
Brown rat photo by Reg Mckenna. Flooded road photo by Phil Pickin.