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Summer 2022

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As I write the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the UK are being broken for the second time in 3 years. Right across southern Europe wildfires are destroying forests, heaths, wildlife and threatening homes. Surely there can't be anyone still in denial about man induced climate change?.

Evidence of climate change is also demonstrated by our wildlife. North European animals and plants are under severe pressure if they cannot adapt to the changing climate.

Plants are at most risk as they are unable to migrate to avoid the worst excesses of a warming climate. But birds and animals are also at risk - some of our montane species such as Capercaillie and Ptarmigan may well become extinct in just a few years. Many of our seabirds are particularly at risk as the fish that they normally feed on are pushed further north, beyond their nesting territories. That is not the only threat that they face as I will describe later.

Bee-eater with Dragonfly
However, it is not all bad news as we are also gaining birds and other animals that are extending their range northwards as conditions in the UK become more favourable for them. You are now more likely to see a Little Egret than a Grey Heron and Great White Egrets and Spoonbills are also colonising our country. One other new arrival caught the imagination of our media; the beautiful Bee-eater. Seven birds were spotted in a quarry near Cromer in north Norfolk and immediately became celebrities. As I write it looks like they are nesting in holes which they excavate in the sandy cliffs of the quarry.

New arrivals are not confined to birds. The Willow Emerald Damselfly is extending its range northwards and a dragonfly that we call the Norfolk Hawker, more correctly named the Green Eyed Hawker on the continent, can now be found further north in my home county of Lincolnshire.

Silver-washed Fritillary

Butterflies in general are still suffering a massive decline in the UK, but a common butterfly in southern England, the Marbled White that was considered to be rare in Lincolnshire and on the edge of its range, seems to be increasing in both numbers and distribution. The Silver-washed Fritillary was considered to be extinct in the eastern counties only a few years ago but is now a common sight in the woodlands near my home and I read that it is also increasing in Norfolk. Even the impressive Purple Emperor which I used to travel to Northamptonshire to see can now be found sparingly in some local woods.

Marbled White

The recent acquisition of a moth trap from some dear friends in my village has reawakened my enthusiasm for these insects. Only recently, moths have been recognised as important pollinators and so many of them rival their cousins, the butterflies in both size and beauty. I have selected a few of the more impressive ones here for your perusal.

Peppered Moth

Privet Hawkmoth

Elephant Hawkmoth

Small Magpie Moth

Hummingbird Hawkmoth

Bee Orchid

I was also impressed by a plant that looks like an insect. I am referring to Bee Orchids and I came across some very impressive specimens this year.


Now back to more threats to our seabirds. The outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) spreads particularly quickly in gregarious birds like our wintering geese or birds that nest in colonies such as our seabirds. Our seabird colonies are not only important on a national scale but they are also globally important as Britain hosts a high proportion of the world population. I visited RSPB Bempton Cliffs recently and was told that Gannets and Fulmars in particular had suffered terribly, but Razorbills, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Terns and even our much loved Puffins are vulnerable to this killer disease.

Razor Bill


There is a theory that the bird flu outbreak was triggered by a mutation of the virus caused by climate change. Certainly, climate change is responsible for the many diseases of trees which are having a devastating effect on our landscape.


Family of Cranes

On a happier note the Cranes that nested in Lincolnshire for the first time in 400 years during the lockdown of 2020 have nested again this year and raised two young which are now flying with their parents.

Ian Misselbrook
July 2022


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