Seasons in the sun: Signs of an early autumn

AN EXPERT from the National Trust has claimed there are already signs of early autumn – despite only being halfway through the year.

Trees display an autumn glow, but its still only July
Trees display an autumn glow, but its still only July

Nature specialist, Matthew Oates, said nature had hurtled “helter-skelter” through the seasons and signs of autumn are already in the hedgerows and woods.

He said sycamore seeds were well developed and hawthorn berries were already exhibiting a red skin.

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Scotland has already seen a glut of berries last week which led to 70 tonnes of strawberries which were surplus to requirements being dumped.

Farmers in Angus and Fife blamed fruit crops ripening at the same time with Fife Council confirming the fruits, which were already packaged having to be processed as commercial waste.

Mr Oates said: “Looking at this year, where does it want to be?

“It raged its way through winter, then we went into an incredibly early spring, and then it rushed helter-skelter through spring without stopping for breath.

“We’re ahead still, remarkably ahead, birds have largely stopped singing, a lot of butterflies are very early and are still coming out early.

“There are really strong signs of autumn already here, like the beech nuts, it’s an amazing beech mast year and the nuts are incredibly well developed.”

He said the early spring and summer seemed to have benefited more species than had been hit.

Mr Oates added: “If we go back to that winter, it was the wettest, stormiest, wildest winter, and very stressful for every living thing, including us, but wildlife seems to have come through it incredibly well.

“There are always winners and losers.

“At the moment there seem to be far more winners than losers, though we must remember a lot of our wildlife is in a pretty beleaguered state.”

Despite the generally good situation, Mr Oates raised concerns about low numbers of butterflies such as cabbage whites and the scarcity of bees and many flying insects.

“More positively, some species of insect may be able to fit in an extra brood because they are so far ahead for the year,” he said.

And an early autumn would not spell problems for wildlife, he said, so long as creatures such as squirrels and dormice had had the chance to fatten up before winter set in.

Mr Oates said if hot dry conditions set in for the summer, and the water table was high after the wettest winter on record, 
the chances of damage to wildlife due to drought were “very low”.

Pete Brownless, Nursey Supervisor at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh said the weather is Scotland had been milder than the rest of the UK.

He said: “Looking back, Scotland experienced a mild winter when temperatures rarely went below freezing and we registered slightly below average rainfall and sunshine hours.

“While many plants have performed much as they do every spring, flowering in some species has been exceptional.

“This is probably due to last year’s warmer than average summer and a much better the average rate of survival of some less hardy plants.”