Wiltshire and Swindon Biological Records Centre

Warm Weather Brings Unseasonal Wildlife Sightings

Holly Blue Tony Coultiss/ WWT

The end of November and across the county hedgehogs and other overwintering or hibernating species are still active, roses are still in bloom and many plants are in bud once again. This year has seen the warmest September and October since 2006 with average temperatures 2 degrees centigrade higher than the 1971 – 2000 average, with October being the 8th warmest October seen in the last 100 years.

Not only have we seen record breaking temperatures but we have also had record breaking wildlife sightings. The majority of butterfly species are seen in flight between March and October however Mike Fuller, the Butterfly County Recorder, has received sightings for a number of species well into November. Most notably a Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) was sighted in Bratton on the 9th, a county record by 17 days and 2 male Meadow Browns (Maniola jurtina) which were spotted at Crockerton Combe on the 13th, a county record by 12 days, a record previously dating back to 1972. Unseasonal sightings of Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni), Peacock (Inachis io) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterflies have also been reported, with a Red Admiral seen in flight as recently as the 27th November.

Butterflies are not the only species to be affected by these temperatures; on the 7th November a Natterer’s bat (Myotis nattereri) was seen in flight. By October bats are usually building up fat reserves and seeking out hibernation sites and in November spending prolonged periods of time in torpor.

Dave Shorten, the county recorder for fungi has noted that fungi have also been affected by the unusual weather this year with some species including the Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) seen fruiting twice this year. Meanwhile several species of powdery-mildews, which usually occurring in late spring and early summer, have reappeared in areas where there is fresh re-growth of small woodland plants. Some of our rarer county residents have also been affected with the Violet Coral (Clavaria zollingeri), an ancient-grassland coral fungus, first recorded fruiting at the usual time of October being seen in fruit again in mid-November.

With the effects of climate change ever increasing, unseasonal weather patterns are expected to occur more commonly. However the effects such changes may have on our wildlife are often poorly understood. The key to increasing our understanding is information and therefore we would be very interested to hear about any unseasonal wildlife encounters you have had.

You can contact us via the Your Records page.

More information about recent weather patterns can be found at the Met Office website.

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