Well what a year 2012 was, and to be honest, I think it was pretty abysmal to say the least. The weather played merry hell with absolutely everything that even now, as I write this post, floods are playing havoc across the UK with the Environment Agency issuing 141 flood warnings and 346 flood alerts. In the Anglian region there are 12 flood warnings and 45 flood alerts. Our summer never really happened due to the poor weather and even the Mayan calendar foretelling the ending of the world failed too (although I’m not too sure you can blame the weather for that).
No, 2012 wasn’t good all round really. Although we had a mini heat-wave in March panicking the water companies to declare a drought and hosepipe ban, which I feel was really tempting fate. Not long after this declaration, the heavens opened and it stayed that way for pretty much of the year. This miserable weather was not good for our wildlife either. The insects failed to materialise, which had a huge knock on affect for the rest of the wildlife which fed upon the insects. Anyone who watched BBC’s Springwatch may remember seeing Chris Packham show the results of a small survey of Blue tits visiting the nest to feed their young some much needed insects. At one point the visits during the dry weather was around 70 times a hour, yet when the rain set in, and boy did it set in, flooding the whole Springwatch set causing an evacuation, the visits diminished greatly as finding food become much harder. Bats were also affected by the wet weather. Bats mate in Autumn, the females receiving a packet of sperm from a lucky male bat. Then they hibernate during winter, the females feeding the little packet of sperm, protein during the cold winter months to keep it alive, then come spring they ovulate. However, the weather was rubbish, the food was in short supply and the bats held off ovulating for as long as they could and this was seen by the amount of calls bat carers had to rescue baby bats. These calls were coming in much later in the year than normal, also, when a female bat is struggling to find enough food to feed both herself and her young, she will abandon the pup. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s all down to survival of the species. A bat will only ever have one bat in a year (and not every year), why risk putting both the lives of mother and pup at risk, when it would be wiser for the species to sacrifice the life of one young and try again next season. This is also why you must NEVER disturb roosting bats, because if it’s a maternity roost, the adults will abandon the young and if it’s a large roost you could be talking 100’s of baby bats facing a death sentence.
So this is just a couple of examples of how the weather had affected our wildlife. Yet, it still continues and families and businesses up and down our fair land are facing an utter miserable Xmas with property, presents, stock and much more ruined in the run up in to what is supposed to be one of our most joyous season of the year. My thoughts are with you all and I can only hope 2013 holds much better times ahead for all of you.
As the year comes to a close, it’s time to submit our records of the wildlife seen in the area to your local Biodiversity Recording Centre. SBRC (Suffolk Biodiversity Records Centre) is obviously the place where I sent mine to. You can download a excel spreadsheet from their website, fill it in and email it back to them, simples. Records are important. From our submitting of records we can monitor how well or bad species are doing in the local environment. A decline in invertebrate populations is usually the first indicator to something going wrong in the local environment. For example, the decline in the Silver-studded blue butterfly Plebejus argus from Purdis Heath was attributed to the changing habitat caused by human habitat encroachment which led to the increase in deciduous trees to a sand heathland environment. These trees over time were slowing changing this heathland environment into forest, a habitat that did not suit the Silver-studded blue. In 1998, over 300 individual Silver-studded blues were recorded at the site, in 2011 only 4 SSB’s were recorded.
You can see from the Google Earth images below the change in habitat from 1945 – 2008 is remarkable.
Around the edge of the heath in 2008, you can see the deciduous trees encroaching upon the heath, whereas in 1945, the only tree like object visible are a few bushes around the boundary of the heath. You will also notice the field to the left of the heath in 1945 has houses in it in 2008. You will also notice in the 2008 picture, paths weaving in and out and around dark patches. These dark patches are gorse which wasn’t present in 1945.
|Purdis Heath 1945|
|Purdis Heath 2008. Notice the trees and gorse.|
So there you have it, environment change happens and it can occur within your lifetime.
What can be done? Purdis Heath is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Butterfly Conservation organisation regularly hold volunteer work parties there to help cut back the encroaching woodland and gorse to help encourage the bell and ling heather which the SSB’s like in the hope of turning the tide and preserving this heathland in Suffolk. So if you want to work off those extra calories gained over the festive period with a bit of manual labour (nothing to heavy, so don’t worry), then you can contact Matt Berry who’s in charge of the work parties at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I think that’s enough for now, so I wish you all a very merry Xmas and a happy new year.