Warm winter weather disturbs flora and fauna: snowdrops and singing blackbirds in January

The recent and persistently warm winter days are good for a low energy bill, but not good for nature and the animals. Skovrider at Staatsbosbeheer Rien de Vries (26) is worried about the warm winter days, but also believes in the power of nature: “Because of the enormous slumber in the weather, nature can get a little out of its rhythm, but fortunately it is also robust.” What are the consequences of the spring weather in January for flora and fauna in North Holland?

Countryside Elswout in January 2023 – Rien de Vries

A new ‘January record’ was measured last week. It has never been so hot on the first day of the new year. The old daily record a year earlier (13.2 degrees) was more than beaten this year with 15.6 degrees. 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.

Snowdrops in January

Rien (26) is a forester and today walks through Buitenplaats Elswout, where he also clearly sees 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.

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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