It's a mad, mad, mad autumn
The longest period of hot weather since records began in 1659 has Britain's wildlife totally confused. Here are some examples
Sunday 22 October 2006
1. Basking sharks in record numbers off west Scotland/Hebrides: Their zooplankton food is drawn north by the warmer waters. More than 300 seen in six months; normally found off Cornwall/ Devon.
2. European white storks, Darlington: a stork stayed in the area for four days. It is believed to be only the second bird of its type to appear there since the 1960s.
3. Stunning foliage: the Woodland Trust predicts a colourful autumn; catch the maples turning at Westonbirt Arboretum, Tetbury.
4. Conehead cricket, Cumbria: a rare insect and never before found this far north.
5. Primroses, Isle of Man: at least five months ahead of schedule, this September flowering is a sign of a spring plant truly confused by our increasingly warm climate.
6. Carpenter bee, Huddersfield: normally found in the Middle East and North Africa, this is the furthest north that the inch-long carpenter bee has been spotted.
7. Piranha, Stockport: this sharp-toothed predator from the Amazon river was caught in a Cheshire pond this month by 14-year-old Josh Boyle. Experts believe it to be an abandoned pet.
8. Giant sunfish, off Cornwall: up to 2m long, these monsters have always visited in summer. Now they come in greater numbers, and stay for up to 11 months of the year.
9. Stingrays, Cornwall/ Devon, sightings up 10-fold: placid creatures, but they can attack when provoked.
10. Conker crisis: up to 10 per cent of drought-weakened horse chestnuts infected with bleeding canker; fungus and moths attack the trees too.
11. Baby blackbirds, Sussex: magpies and blackbirds spotted building nests and rearing chicks, in an extended breeding season. A cold snap will spell disaster for them.
12. Blackberries, Margate: recorded 21 June in Kent, for BBC's "Autumnwatch". Average fruiting is 1 August now; it's no longer an autumn fruit.
13. Little egrets, London: this Mediterranean visitor regularly nests on the south coast; it has now established a breeding colony at Thames Water's Walthamstow reservoirs.
14. Wild grapevine, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex: a wild vine, with great bunches of black grapes, is thriving on a railway embankment.
15. Baby hedgehogs, countrywide: Hallswood Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk is caring for 20 babies. Warmth has led hedgehogs to rear new families that are unlikely to survive the winter hibernation.
16. Harlequin ladybird, Nottingham: from Asia, these invaders devour greenfly, leaving few for native ladybirds. First found here in 2004, they soon covered the South-east and this year have also been seen in Leicestershire and Wales.
17. Hummingbird hawkmoth, South Yorkshire: rare northern sighting; the moths' home is Central Asia and Japan.Spotted also in Surrey and London. People see them hovering and report "hummingbirds" in their gardens.
18. Speckled wood butterfly, Edinburgh: never before seen in central Scotland, one of these butterflies was spotted in a garden in Edinburgh. It is one of a number of species moving their usual habitat north.
19. Hoopoe, Aberdeen: the colourful birds are sometimes blown off course and land in the UK while migrating, but this one was a long way from its usual route. Hilda Fowlie spotted the bird - she said it grubbed for worms, then flew off.
20. Triggerfish, Thurso: found washed up in the extreme north of Scotland. Not uncommon in the English Channel but extremely rare so far north. One was also caught off the Isle of Man last week.
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