Sunflowers sing in January: heat disturbs nature

The first week of the new year has never been so hot. The high winter temperatures resulted in a new ‘January record’ last week. What are the consequences of the spring weather in January for nature in North Holland?

Countryside Elswout in January 2023 – Rien de Vries

Although the high winter temperatures are good for a low energy bill, this does not apply to nature and animals. The warm temperatures have all sorts of different consequences. As it turned out yesterday in Den Helder, where an ice rink is closed, among other things, due to the warm weather. Forester for the Staatsbosbeheer Rien de Vries (26) is also worried, but also believes in the power of nature: “Because of the enormous slumbers, nature gets a little out of its rhythm, but fortunately it is robust enough to adapt to the current temperature.”

Snowdrops in January

Today, Rien (26) walks through Buitenplaats Elswout, where he can also clearly see the consequences of the warm weather in nature: “Here in Elswout, for example, the snowdrops are already raising their heads. Something that usually only happens at the end of February .” The forester explains that the rhythm of nature is based on the characteristics of each season. Where the great tits and blackbirds usually only start chirping in the spring, you can already hear them chirping happily.

Extreme changes

According to Rien, the warm winter days do not have a direct problem for nature, apart from the fact that it is seriously disturbed. It is especially the changes in (extreme) temperatures that can be dangerous. As an example, he gives the bat, which hibernates around this time of year. “At temperatures around 16 degrees, the bat will wake up and look for food. If it suddenly freezes in a few weeks, there is a good chance that there will be few insects and therefore not enough food for the bat.”

Hedgehog near a bowl of cat food – NH News

The insect population does not meet the standard

The limited food supply is a problem that also affects hedgehogs, says Dickie van Riemsdijk (66). As chairman of the Haarlem Hedgehog Reserve, she has seen a remarkably high number of weakened hedgehogs in her shelter in recent weeks. “They don’t weigh enough to safely go into dens. Because of the hot weather, the insect population is not up to standard and that means no food for hedgehogs.”

For example, Dickie says that last week there was a hedgehog of 230 grams, where around this time of the year it should be between 500-600 grams. “Hedgehogs need a certain percentage of fat to hibernate, otherwise they just won’t wake up.” Dickie has a tip for people with a garden: “To give the hedgehog some extra food on these warm winter days, you can put a bowl of cat food (no fish flavor) in the garden.”

“We are on a fast moving train that we don’t know if and when it will stop”

Jan Visser – Weatherman NH Radio

Climate change

Will the warm winter works become the new normal? We ask Jan Visser, NH Radio weatherman. According to Jan, the warm winter days have been a phenomenon for years and are a result of climate change: “It is without a doubt and you can no longer deny it.” Jan calls the current climate changes ‘irregular’. According to him, temperatures continue to rise and the climate is also becoming more extreme. “Of course I’m worried, we’re on a fast moving train that we don’t know if or when it will stop.”

As it looks now, the warm winter days will not have catastrophic consequences for nature and animal welfare in the short term. “The current forecasts predict that both January and February will be soft months. There are no concrete changes that February will be completely different.”

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