It is said that one swallow does not make a summer, but Aristotle probably never expected that temperatures could one day soar high enough that flocks would begin arriving in the winter.

The warm Saharan breeze that brought unseasonably clement weather to the UK over the past week is also encouraging our migratory songbirds to travel back to Britain far earlier than usual.

The RSPB is already receiving reports of swallows and house martins in Cornwall, Devon and south Wales weeks ahead of when they would usually be expected to be seen back in the UK.

On Monday Britain recorded its hottest February day since records began as temperatures soared to 68.5F (20.3C) at Trawsgoed, Ceredigion, Wales, the first time a winter day has ever tipped past 68F (20C). On Tuesday temperatures rose even higher, hitting 70.1

(21.2C) at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, West London.

The Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar scheme, which asks the public to track signs of the seasons, has also been receiving unusually early records of spring for several weeks now.

Mild weather has led to records in January of red admiral, small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies and queen wasps, which are usually seen in mid to late February or early March.

Trees including field maples and European larches have been bursting into bud early and blue tits have been spotted making nesting attempts as early as Boxing Day.

The latest bout of unseasonably warm weather has seen more than 250 records of brimstone butterflies emerging for the first time since February 12, with 163 of the sightings taking place since Friday. The butterfly normally comes out around March or April, the Trust said.

“With butterflies, bumblebees and snowdrops being recorded across the festive period, we may have to start featuring different species on our Christmas cards.”

Gardeners are being encouraged to put food and water out for the unexpectedly early visitors, plant insect-friendly plants, and create nesting sites or install swift boxes.

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