How the wet and windy weather has affected the British wildlife

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  • A badger exploring the surrounding forest in Gloucestershire in January. Photo: Ben Birchall (PA Wire)

    Stranded seal in Monmouthshire. Photo: @BBCWalesNews (Twitter)

    Starlings flying back to the nest under the pier in Aberystwyth. Photo: @visitceredigion (Twitter)

  • How the wet and windy weather has affected the British wildlife
    15.02.2014 13:59

     

    As we are all well aware, the UK has been battered by wet and windy weather this winter. We know the damage it’s done to our everyday lives, but what has it done to our wildlife?

    Badgers, foxes and rabbits generally live under ground in burrows or dens. With the amount of flooding we’ve had recently these burrows are likely to have been flooded, trapping these animals and possibly killing them. In Highbridge, Somerset a family of baby badgers were rescued earlier this week before the flood water got to them. It is believed their intuitive mother knew the storms were coming and so got them into a barrel. The result of whether badger, fox and rabbit populations have been affected by the weather will not become apparent until the spring when they begin to wake up, but there are already possibilities that the wet weather has done a better job at culling the badgers with bovine TB in the south-west than the Government has in the last couple of years. 

    The seal population has also been affected by the recent weather. Back in December, over 100 seal pups were taken to the East Winch centre in Norfolk after the strong winds and high tide brought them all ashore. Since then, seals have been popping up in unusual places. In the past fortnight, seals have been seen in Newly Green in Penzance, in Looe in Cornwall and even in Monmouth, Wales which is 20 miles inland! In addition to the seals, there have even been suggestions a penguin was flung from the Arctic to Cornwall during the stormy weather, but this is very unlikely as penguins come from Antarctica.

    As well as being unusually wet and windy, it has also been unseasonably mild. This has lead to some migratory birds remaining in the UK through the winter period. In fact it appears the habits of some migratory birds are starting to change as the planet warms.

    Our native birds have also been affected by the wet and windy weather. There are indications some birds have been blown of course, have been unable to find food and had their homes destroyed. For example a flock of starlings nest under the Aberystwyth Pier throughout the year. After the Welsh coastline was battered at the end of January there were worries that the birds would not return. However, there was rejoicing when they returned to their nest after the storm and have continued to nest there since.

    Finally, it has to be considered how the weather has affected domestic animals and livestock. Livestock could not be left standing in flood water in the Somerset levels, so had to be transported to drier locations. This could not only lead to emotional problems for the animals, but is likely to affect what meat is available in the shops over the next year. There are also reports domestic animals such as cats and dogs have refused to go outside because they have been scared by the unsettled weather.

    As with the cost to properties, it will take a while before we know the full extent of how damaging this wet and windy winter has been on our wildlife.

    By: Sally Webb