The unseasonably mild winter in the UK this year is having knock-on effects on Swale’s flora and fauna.
As reports come in that signs of spring have already started to appear in parts of the country, effects of the unusual warm weather have been noticed at two local conservation areas.
At Milton Creek Country Park in Sittingbourne, ranger Ed Courtney says there are noticeably fewer birds at the park at the moment compared to normal.
Ranger Ed Courtney at Milton Creek Country Park.
He said they usually welcome flocks from Scandinavia in the winter and he suspects more of them are staying further north.
He said: “A lot of the migrating birds that we would normally have at this time of year do not seem to have arrived yet.
“It’s just not cold enough. As the cold weather moves down they try to stay ahead of it normally.”
He said there had been a noticeable drop in species such as thrush red wing.
“Some of the flowers are flowering at a very peculiar time of year like the viper’s bugloss [usually from May to September].” However, it’s a different picture on the Island.
Elmley Nature Reserve, off Sheppey Way, has also reported seeing thousands more birds than would normally be expected for this time of year.
Assistant reserve manager Gareth Fulton said it receives a lot of wetland birds which live in the Arctic in the summer and migrate through Europe in the winter.
He said a lot of them are seem to be arriving earlier and staying for longer than usual due to the warm weather and the fact that we have had plenty of rain, which has boosted food supplies.
Assistant reserve manager at Elmley Nature Reserve, Gareth Fulton
He said: “Imagine the birds are going on a journey along a motorway. We are basically the hotel on the service station. Some of the birds will stay at the hotel and some of them will continue on their journey.
“At the moment, more of them are staying at the hotel.” Currently, an estimated 12,000 lapwings have been recorded at Elmley, which is about 2,000 more than is expected for this time of year.
There has also been a noticeable rise in the number of curlews and also species of ducks and waders.
Although it is good news for bird watchers, Mr Fulton warned there is a danger that high bird numbers could reduce the food supply further down the line.