Monday 27 February 2017

Blooming great winter for busy birds and bees

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Gardener Ita Patton with some of the Ericaceae Rhododendron rigidum growing in the
National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin
Gardener Ita Patton with some of the Ericaceae Rhododendron rigidum growing in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin
A woman enjoys the winter sun in St Stephen's Green in Dublin

Unseasonably mild temperatures have knocked nature out of kilter and some of our plants and animals are behaving as if it's still the height of summer.

Dragonflies, butterflies and bees are still active. Roses and rhododendron are flowering, and rodents are in a feeding frenzy before the onset of winter.

It's a vastly different picture from the same month last year when temperatures fell so low that ice and snow brought the country to a halt.

"This afternoon it was 16.6C -- that's Irish summer weather," Met Eireann forecaster Dr Sandra Spillane said yesterday.

"It's unseasonably mild."

The increased number of insects and animals still active is because temperatures are so high, the Irish Wildlife Trust said.

"In the last couple of years I've noticed more midges and mosquitos. If they're available, other animals will take advantage," said spokesman Billy Flynn.

And its not only the fauna that's taking advantage. The National Botanic Gardens said there were flowers on plants that shouldn't have arrived for four months.

"There's two strange things happening," said foreman Denis McNally. "We have a rhododendron which would normally flower in January or February, and it's in full flower. We also have a crabapple, which normally flowers in April, and there's a few on that."

Our birds have been badly affected by two successive cold winters. The late onset of winter will help restore numbers.

The fact that they're snacking on insects this late in the year could have a knock-on effect.

"Because the insects are out longer, the birds are taking advantage of that," said Dr Eugenie Regan from the National Biodiversity Data Centre.

"But in spring, you could have a mismatch in timing. Birds rely on caterpillars, and if they mismatch their timing, there may be a food shortage to feed the young."

Irish Independent

Read More

Promoted articles

Editors Choice

Also in this section