How nature fell foul of the Beast from the East

PUBLISHED: 20:01 14 March 2018

The 'Beast from the East' hitting Attleborough with heavy snow.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The 'Beast from the East' hitting Attleborough with heavy snow. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY


The Beast from the East was bad news for wildlife as well as humans, says Mike Toms.

The ‘Beast from the East’ delivered some of the worst winter weather that East Anglia has seen for several years. Its impact was felt on daily commutes, on supermarket shelves and on busy farms. Whatever the impact on our activities, the ‘Beast’ had a far greater impact on many of the other species with which we share the East Anglian countryside.

Perhaps hardest hit were our wader populations, with widespread reports of dead redshank, dunlin and lapwing from sites across the county. Forced off favoured feeding sites, some of our waders found themselves in unlikely locations. For example, three dunlin and a knot were present on the BTO’s Nunnery Lakes reserve far inland – two of the dunlin were subsequently found dead – and I encountered a woodcock walking across a snow-covered road to the west of Swaffham and a lapwing wandering around on the short grass of a park in urban Thetford. Several early nesting attempts came to an abrupt halt when the cold arrived but started again once the thaw set in. A robin building in Thetford put the brakes on a half-built nest but reassuringly returned to continue just a couple of days after the snow.

Of course, many other creatures will have sat out the worst of the weather, either settled in some sheltered crevice or deep within a warm burrow. Over recent days these slumbering creatures have made their spring emergence, a few days later than was the case last year. The first buff-tailed and tree bumblebees have been seen, as have various of the butterflies that overwinter in the adult state. Many of our winter visitors are still here, however; redwing and wintering woodcock have been seen feeding close to long-tailed tits busy nest-building and a chiffchaff in full song. It is this mixing of the seasons that underlines the change from winter towards a much-wanted spring. Two interesting arrivals – a snowy owl to the Norfolk coast and a walrus to North Ronaldsay – provide a reminder that the winter’s bite can extend over a significant area. I, for one, am very much ready for the arrival of spring proper.

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