After six consecutive years in which awful weather had blighted the UK’s wildlife, 2013’s cheerful summer turned around the fortunes of flora and fauna across the country, an annual audit has found.

The heat of July and August was a particular fillip for insects that thrive in the warm, such as butterflies, moths, bees, crickets and grasshoppers, according to the National Trust, which publishes its report today of how the weather affected the natural world.

It flags up in particular the success of the tree bumblebee, which only started to colonise the UK in 2001 and has expanded its range considerably, even creeping into Scotland. But there is also good news for a range of mammals, birds and flowers from pine martens to puffins and orchids.

Matthew Oates, the National Trust‘s naturalist, said: “We were more than overdue a good summer, and eventually we got a real cracker.

“The way our butterflies and other sun-loving insects bounced back in July was utterly amazing, showing nature’s powers of recovery at their best. We have seen more winners than losers in our wildlife year, which is a tremendous result, considering where we were last year.”

In the 2012 audit, the best that could be said was that it was a good year for slugs, which relish the damp, and for picnickers, who were not tormented by wasps. This time, the cold spring and hot summer meant slugs had a tougher time, a relief for gardeners. Another piece of reasonably good news for horticulturists was the scarcity of aphids, though on the other hand that meant birds such as tits and insects such as seven-spot ladybirds, which feed on aphids, lost a food source.

That chilly spring made life difficult for summer migrant birds such as swallows and martins, and resident species including some owls – especially the barn owl – lost out.

“2013 was one of the most remarkable wildlife years in living memory. Best of all, this year has set up 2014 very nicely,” Oates said.


A mild first half of the month, followed by 10 days of a 10-day cold, snowy spell.

A wonderful winter for waxwings, crested birds that overwinter in the UK


A dry but cold and grey February; the land dried out.

Snowdrops continued to flower for an unusually long period, slowed down by the cold weather.

Rooks began building nests mid-month and went on to have a hugely successful nesting season despite the weather. But it was a poor breeding year for chough http://www.cornishchoughs.orgon the Lizard in Cornwall and on the Welsh coast.

A survey of 54 gardens at National Trust properties revealed that the cold, snowy weather put a pause on spring as flowering plants and bulbs held off for warmer weather. There were 46% fewer of plants in bloom compared with last year.


The coldest March since 1962 – chillier than December, January or February.

The extreme cold weather stopped frogs breeding in many ponds.

Badgers and hedgehogs suffered from a shortage of worms and there was little food around for dormice coming out of hibernation, although these all recovered later in the year and mostly went on to have successful breeding seasons.

It was a disastrous month for owls, especially barn owls, and many seabirds starved to death off the north-east coast.


April began with a cold drought, then became pleasant towards the middle of the month, but finished with a cool spell.

Spring was running late, with dandelions reaching their peak only at the end of the month, two to three weeks late, and trees were leafing three weeks behind time.

A hard month for nesting birds and returning summer migrants, which arrived on time, as food was in short supply due to the late spring.

A really challenging start to the season for bats because of the shortage of nocturnal flying insects.


The month began and ended brightly, but was otherwise cool and grey with many cold nights. Spring was by now even further behind.

Puffins on the Farne Islands.
Puffins on the Farne Islands. It was a record breeding season in Northumberland by May but March saw seabirds starving to death. Photograph: Jeff Mitchell/Getty

A record year for puffins nesting on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, and Lundy in the Bristol Channel.

The first recorded tawny owl in Ireland attracted many birdwatchers to County Down. Bluebells were almost a month late, not reaching their peak flowering until mid-May, while daffodils persisted well into May.


A welcome break to the cold, with a 10-day fine spell early on, although thereafter the weather was mixed.

It was a record year for nesting sandwich terns in Norfolk, and for eider ducks at Strangford Lough, Co Down.

Bitterns – one of the UK’s rarest birds – were found nesting at Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire, for the first time.

The orchid population at Plas Newydd, a country house and estate on Anglesey, exploded from 20 in 2007 to almost 150,000 this year.


Hot and sunny weather for all of July – the first hot summer month since 2006.

Chalkhill blue butterflies, which saw huge population explosions on many downs
There were huge population explosions of chalkhill blue butterflies on many downs, notably at Denbies Hillside, Surrey. Photograph: Butterfly Conservation

Butterflies appeared from nowhere, with a spectacular emergence of purple emperors in the woods. Late in the month, there were huge population explosions of chalkhill blues on many downs, notably at Denbies Hillside, Surrey.

Tree bumblebees were visible all over the country, even in Borrowdale in the Lake District, one of England’s wettest spots. There were also good numbers of rare moss carder bumblebees at Cwm Soden, Ceredigion.

The cold winter and late spring led to a dramatic increase in wasp numbers following last year’s lull


After an unsettled start, the year’s highest temperatures were recorded across south-east England.

A rare migrant butterfly, the long-tailed blue, established breeding colonies on the south-east coast, particularly on the white cliffs of Dover.

Cabbages were riddled caterpillars of small and large whites. Few seven-spot ladybirds were around but there were many grasshoppers and crickets, with a record count of wart-biter bush-crickets on north Wiltshire downs.


A combination of lots of the common autumn crane fly (daddy long legs) and many moths was good news for hungry bats ahead of mating and hibernation. It was also a good year for blackberries, although they arrived late as a knock-on from the cold spring.

The seal-pupping season on the Farne Islands was a few weeks late but the cold spring and hot summer helped to produce some of the sweetest and most colourful apples for years, although it was the latest crop since 1985.


An unsettled month, ending with the St Jude storm which that hit southern parts of England and Wales.

Yellow-rumped warblers were seen on Lundyisland, swept over from North America by the storm.

It was a great year for fungi in woods and rough fields, particularly in Saltram, Plymouth, where a field full of mushrooms was the best in more than 40 years.

The attractively named slime mould dog’s vomit fungus was prominent in many woods and particularly common at Giant’s Causeway, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Fieldfares and redwing (migrant birds from northern Europe) appeared early in southern England, were brought in by north-easterly gales.


A late, colourful autumn, with lots of most berries, fruits, seeds and nuts, especially rowan berries. There were good amounts of acorns, conkers, sloes and sweet chestnuts too.

Deer in parks entered into the rut and winter well fed, and it was a good year for many mammals after a hard start, including for the pine marten , which is spreading well in Northern Ireland and Scotland.


Plenty of holly berries for Christmas and a great year for mistletoe with an abundance of berries.