Snowdrops flowering at Slimbridge on Saturday, 11 January 2014. An extremely mild winter has led to signs of an early spring sprouting across the UK, from snowdrops and hazel flowering to sightings of ladybirds and butterflies. Photo: Beth Nicholls / Twitter

By Adam Vaughan   
15 January 2014

(The Guardian) – An extremely mild winter has led to signs of an early spring sprouting across the UK, from snowdrops and hazel flowering to sightings of ladybirds and butterflies.

The Woodland Trust's network of nature watchers recorded snowdrops appearing as early as December, and have spotted budburst on elder bushes, plus butterflies including Brimstones, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells. Naturalists said the number of hazel catkins out was particularly unusual, though the number of insects sighted has been relatively low despite the mild temperatures.

2014 fits into the trend over recent years of traditional harbingers of spring arriving early because of rising UK temperatures. British flowers came out between two and 12 days earlier in the past quarter century than in any previous 25-year period, and the seasonal timing of reproduction has shifted forward by around 11 days between 1976 and 2005, previous research has shown.

Many of the signs of spring already out now, such as snowdrops and hazel catkins, used to appear more commonly in February.

"It doesn't feel like it's exceptional compared to recent years," said Kate Lewthwaite, project manager for the Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar. "But it is exceptional that this has become the norm because of climate change." […]

But a cold spell could spell disaster for many of the plants and wildlife emerging now, they warned. "It is turning out to be a mild spring, but I can't believe it will stay like this until March – I expect a nasty shock from Mother Nature in store," said Lewthwaite. [more]

Signs of spring appear early across UK after mild winter

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