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Winters and losers
11th April 2013
What a strange start we’ve had to 2013. Baring the odd sharp frost, we had a mild but damp start to the year with all our plants and animals ticking along waiting for the brighter days of spring. Then just as we’re getting set for longer days, wham! Snow and lots of it. As a mail order supplier of wild bird food we can usually track weather across the UK by the type and levels of orders by region. This year there was no differentiation, the whole of the UK was locked in a brief but harsh freezer. Recent winters have led us to believe spring is arriving earlier year on year and to expect early reports of returning migrant birds and flowering trees. Not so in 2013!
We’re well into April now and on my walks I’m only now seeing blackthorn in flower and the first signs of skylark song and rooks nest building activity. Sights and sounds I’ve witnessed as early as January in recently passed years.
Anyway, overall I reckon it bodes well for the rest of the year. A late spring lessens the risk of a hard frost that can strip the hedgerow of flower buds, a cold spell during which nesting birds struggle to feed their young and reckless gardeners planting out their bedding to early and losing the lot to a frost!
More importantly is a fully flowering hedgerow and meadow will offer spring food to insects, forage throughout the summer and a plentiful supply of fruit, seeds and nuts in the autumn to set up our wildlife for the winter ahead. On a personal note, I’d also like to see a lot more blackberries and sloes this autumn for my drinks cabinet. I’m partial to the odd glass of homemade fruit liqueurs (email me for recipes) but when fruit is in short supply like the autumn of 2012, I leave what there is for the wildlife. I just hope some of my vintage reserves will see me through this summer!