A weird and wonderful November.

A quickie from me.

No more to add, other than to direct you to this link, courtesy of Wildlife Extra.


Tony Powell

Volunteering – Do you participate?

Do you volunteer? 

If not, would you consider doing so?

I have been volunteering in many guises over the years, but more recently I have become a WeBS counter. This is a survey organised by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) which covers a broad spectrum of wetland bird species. The surveys cover a large area of UK wetland habitats, currently approximately 2,300 in number. The counts are carried out by volunteers, who visit the sites through November to March, although some of which are visited all year round.

Yesterday (20th November) was my 2nd visit this season, to a local gravel pit complex where I undertake my count. These counts provide an invaluable dataset for the BTO researchers and it’s yet another good example of citizen science in action. Being a data geek, I look forward to the WeBS reports when they are issued to me as a participant. Over many years, trends become apparent in the statuses of the birds, although I would say too early to find them in my own data. Nevertheless, these trips to the local patch open my eyes as to what is out there to be seen. Furthermore, these additional efforts look good on my CV, in turn allowing further progress towards my career in conservation.

Happy Birding

Tony Powell

Not what to expect, come Mid-November!

As if to confirm, a quote I saw on a fellow subscriber’s blog, I give you some news. The Nearly half way through November post and it’s reference to “the seasons’ constant cycle ignores the diary” seems somehow appropriate, in light of current ornithological sightings.

By no means unprecedented, but interesting nonetheless, I will present the following snippets, courtesy of Birdguides.

I hereby admit to cherry-picking some of the above information and apparently ignoring some twitchable species. I am NOT a twitcher, merely a citizen scientist. Actually, the listing above is a small sample of the information that can be accessed as a subscriber to Birdguides. The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) will no doubt possess much more information on the current situation of November migrants in the United Kingdom. As the bird species aforementioned concern just those seen since November 1st, many will have since departed to warmer climes. All his however, takes me back to the original quote, in that nature does not always play by the rules.

Why are these migrant birds staying longer and arriving earlier?

Are these birds simply in an unfit physical state, deterring them from undertaking migration?

Are these birds simply developing a shorter migrational journey, year on year? Hence, staying longer and arriving earlier.

I don’t know the answers to the above questions. Science always requires answers but sometimes they are not always immediately obvious. In trying to resolve some of the mysteries surrounding Bird Migration. Can I refer you to a publication of the same title by Ian Newton, no.113 in the New Naturalist‘s series?

Good Reading.

Tony Powell

I’m obsessed

It must be said, I am obsessed with participating in Citizen Science. This might take the form of listing garden birds, a local patch list or trips farther afield. Maybe, it’s the daily transfer of weather records from my diaries, except this is not necessary any longer, due to owning an AWS (automatic weather station). Perhaps, as in today’s instance it’s keeping track of Phenological indicators and yes, in spite of it being November, there can be some events at this time of season. I take immense pleasure from “doing my bit” and it can feel like one’s been “warped back into time” when browsing over those personal snippets of information. Today, as in many recent weeks, I’ve been doing just that and it must be a most valuable way of spending my quiet unemployed time. You can also learn so much from the actual interpretation of your data, the deeper you delve.

Right, to put an end to my current rambling, I have up to today (11th November) , entered approximately 54 Phenology events onto Google Calendar and these can seen in My natural events calendar on this blog. This enables me and others, should they wish, to track and compare progress of the seasons in further intimate detail. After all, the purpose of this blog is just this.

  • I will endeavour to produce a timeline of natural events for the United Kingdom like no other

I will attempt to elaborate on each of the events, as they unfold, over the course of the climatic season. Hopefully then it will be possible to then explain their reasoning’s for happening on a given date. Learning from this, we may be able to ask why the phenological event differs from others within the dataset. How they may or may not then be used to forecast forthcoming weather etc.

Science in this subject is still in its relative infancy and this is precisely why I feel the need to explore my own records.

Obsessed Regards

Mr “Anorak” Tony Powell

How strong is the sun in November?

Looking at the above question, “How strong is the sun in November?”, “How exactly would we, or even can we answer that question?”

It’s an interesting topic for sure and folk in the weather forums have commented, even in recent weeks, that it’s been t-shirt weather. Also, some made comments  such as, it’s warm enough to sit outside and eat your dinner. Unfortunately, since these comments, for my neck of the woods at least, it’s been the more accustomed November, gloom and drizzle.

However, the reason for this rant is that today, the sun has finally returned to the skies above Newbury. This is shown to good effect by the temperature data from my weather station, as below.

Air Temperature profile - 5th November 2011 through to 9th November 2011
Air Temperature profile - 5th November 2011 through to 9th November 2011

Ok, there are other factors at play besides the emerging sun, but the Davis plot illustrates the sun’s effect well. Besides, warming the immediate atmosphere, it can and does provide a feel good factor, which is invaluable in our hectic and sometimes, mundane little lives. After all, whether you live in the Arctic, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, wherever, nearly every individual in this globes 7 billion population and the impending winter to come; I would certainly welcome more of it.


Tony Powell

Will it snow? What! in the UK in November?

Tonight’s BBC2 program Will it snow? attempts to enlighten us, as to whether this winter will bring us snowflakes, or just plain ole rain and drizzle.

For those more technically minded, the latest 12z GFS (that’s an US based weather model) ensembles output suggests zilch likelihood for my patch. Basically, I would simply use these plots to look for trends and more so, this needs to be done over a series of output runs to be of any use. To look for a trend, one should follow the Red (mean) line firstly and then the Blue (control) and Green (operational) lines equally. A general guide, but no means absolute, is when the lines (particularly the Red mean) drop below -5 then SNOW is of increasing probability. However, as with anything, the farther we delve into the future, things become less certain.

So, looking below at the Berkshire 12z only, it’s looking mild or at least near average, in terms of temperature until the 21st November at least, based on current predictions.

  • NB. These are upper air temperature profiles and don’t reflect the near ground conditions.

    Berkshire, Southern England's forecasted upper air profile from 7th through 21st November 2011
    Berkshire, Southern England's forecasted upper air profile from 7th through 21st November 2011

Now let’s go to the other extreme end of the United Kingdom, Orkney in the Shetland Isles, Scotland.

  • NB. These are upper air temperature profiles and don’t reflect the near ground conditions.
Orkney Shetland Isles, Scotland forecasted upper air profile 7th November through 21st November 2011 and beyond
Orkney Shetland Isles, Scotland forecasted upper air profile 7th November through 21st November 2011 and beyond

So, looking at the above Orkney 12z only, it’s looking mild for a while but the trend is there for something much colder, in terms of temperature, approaching the 21st November. Alas, to be expected for Scotland.

So, based on these current numerical model predictions, SNOW at least, seems a long way off. Although, don’t forget the professional weather forecasters analyse these and other sources of data, over many days and weeks. They also have access to stuff, we, mere enthusiasts do not. Anyway, enough from me and I’ll watch “Will it snow?” with great anticipation.

Many thanks to netweather.tv for provision of the charts, shown above.

Bye Bye and sweet dreams.

Tony Powell

Let’s build on the UK’s tree coverage!

I’ve just been sent the latest wildlife headlines from around the world via the wonderful Wildlife Extra newsletter and one news item in particular, has caught my eye. See a fruitful year for more on this.

These trees are so valuable and I’ve heard it said that the UK possesses only 12% tree cover in terms of its overall land coverage so more needs to be done.

Well some conservation is taking place and the ideas coming from the Woodland Trust are really promising. Click on MoreTrees MoreGood for further information this positive news story.

Well that’s enough ranting from this environmentalist for one day.

Best Wishes

Tony Powell