Nature lovers encouraged to ramble for the bramble

EARLY indications from data compiled by the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project suggest the unseasonal weather in early summer has delayed the fruiting of bramble, rowan and elder across the UK.

First recordings of blackberries, rowan and elder berries are all much later than last year. The first sighting of a ripe blackberry this year was on July 13 and was, perhaps unsurprisingly, in south east England. Last year the first sighting was on 4 June 4.

Closer to home, the first ripe blackberry recorded last year in Northern Ireland was on 7 August in south Belfast; with no such observations recorded so far this year on Nature’s Calendar.

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Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Woodland Trust Head of Nature’s Calendar, said: “The fact that first sightings of all of these species are late has implications for our resident wildlife. Fruit-eating birds and mammals will be kept waiting for a first taste of their autumn feast.

“However, the average dates, which will be compiled from data recorded by members of the public across the UK over the next few months, will give a more robust picture of the effect this very unusual year has had on our flora and fauna. For this reason we are appealing to everyone to look out for these wild fruits and record the first ripe ones they see so we can continue to accurately monitor what is happening.”

Fruiting dates are normally related to flowering. Last year’s flowering and fruiting records tended to be early after the exceptionally warm spring. This year, while spring was warm and dry, the cooler temperature associated with the relentless wet weather of early summer does seem to have delayed fruiting.

According to the Woodland Trust, fewer people jot down what they see in autumn than they do in spring; and here in Northern Ireland records are particularly scarce. The charity is appealing for local people to record natural seasonal signs, such as the ripening of fruit and, later in the year, first leaf tint, conkers and the departure dates of migrating birds. Your observations will help show what impact this year’s unusual weather has had on our precious wildlife, and will allow the Trust to make comparisons with the 300 years of records it holds.

To find out more and to become a recorder, visit www.naturescalendar.org.uk