Monthly Archives: March 2012

Predicting spring and summer weather, sun or soak? according to the birds…

Having previously mentioned here, my passion for tracking Europe’s returning African visitors, I recently attempted an analysis of the latest data from the Gibraltar region. To do this, I reviewed a spreadsheet, set up in previous years that use the First dates of migrant bird sightings, sourced from Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society. Having gone through my seven randomly chosen bird species’ arrival dates (on return from Africa), they were to reveal some intriguing trends.

Below you can see a link to a copy of the above-mentioned spreadsheet.

gibraltar migrants

What does this data tell you? To me it hints at a good pattern match to 2010, when looking at the First known sightings of the seven listed bird species. Later, I will refer to the actual climate of two years ago. Meanwhile, a question arises. When looking at these bird arrival statistics, is it possible to predict the future climate for the United Kingdom, i.e. what will spring and summer weather be like? Currently, the latest news from Gibraltar indicated a relaxation of the High Pressure areas that have largely plagued that part of Europe since last autumn. Furthermore, it is a fact that Low Pressure systems with their associated weather fronts can move the migrant birds on mass, which sometimes result in bird falls (exceptionally large numbers). What effect if any, will this have on the United Kingdom, being that it is still under the firm grip of High Pressure and has been for several weeks now?

Has the current atmospheric situation resulted in a lack of bird movement? Oh, no! With quite a few spring overshoots such as Night Herons (Nycticorax  nycticorax) and Hoopoes (Upupa epops) already in, you can add to the mix the more usual Cuckoos (Cuculus canorus), Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus), Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) and Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla)*. Is it possible we could be having an early migration season this year?

2010’s weather for the UK, based on my local data proved a dry and rather warm spring (March through May) and cool wet end to summer (June through August). The official data from the Met Office shown here – Spring 2010 and Summer 2010 roughly correlated to mine.

Newbury 2010 climate

Newbury 2010 climate

As you can see from the above, spring came early, as did autumn in 2010.  Watch this space for further news of any resemblance with that particular year.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

*as ever, Thanks to Birdguides


Keeping up to date with nature’s news

Hello, Firstly I want to advertise shamelessly, two amazing information sources of British Wildlife news.

H a b i t a t – Daily wildlife and environment news from the British Isles.

And

*British Wildlife Publishing

*Should you decide to subscribe, please inform the recipients of my situation, as there is currently an offer in progress. 

Some belated highlights of mine were further Brimstone Butterflies seen on the wing during the sunnier days. On the local downs, some gatherings of Northern Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) hereby shown courtesy of Finn Holding’s thenaturephile. In addition, a couple of sightings of Grey Partridges (Perdix perdix) being very special as both of the aforementioned  iconic bird species were frequenting potential breeding areas. Whilst undertaking my March WEBS survey, I also saw the amazing structure that is a Long-tailed Tit’s (Aegithalos caudatus) nest being built. You can see a typical Long-tailed Tit’s nest illustrated hereWoodland Snowdrops which were mentioned in a previous post of mine, are generally going over now but new plant and tree life is on its way. I will elaborate further on this, below.

As of 15th March, I observed my first Wood Anemones (Anemone_nemorosa) in flower. Intriguingly, the first instances of Wood Anemones were on this exact date last year. In 2010 they were a full two weeks later. The flowering Wood Anemones returns an average date of 14th March, based on a strong sample of 16 records. Of the trees, showing signs of springing to life on my countryside patrol were the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus_hippocastanum). One particular Horse Chestnut was in budburst and the more usual date for this to occur is the 21st March, based on 13 records. There have been reports of Ashes (Fraxinus), Oaks (Quercusand other specimens of trees and shrubs being further forward than is normal for the time of year. Therefore, it does seem that many trees will unfortunately be budding earlier this year adding further stress to nature’s imbalance.

That is about all the news from me as the phenological year continues unabated.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell



naturestimeline – courtesy of Tony William Powell
on Google+

Early Birds

As per recent years, some of our bird species are well into their nesting routines even before the spring equinox. The link shown below illustrates this situation well. The information source is from the British Trust for Ornithology and comes courtesy of Birdguides.

Early Birds

 

Best Wishes

Tony Powell

Full Moon Phenology

The first Spring Full Moon (meteorologically speaking) has been and gone and our distant planet is on the wane once more. I have found it intriguing over the years how the moon phases, more especially the Full Moon, alter the flora and fauna around us. Maybe it is my overactive imagination but with the lengthening of daylight also increasing, are there not observable changes? Let us recap the first ten days of March, phenologically speaking.

On the 2nd March I first observed the emergence of leafing Elder (Sambucus), the mean date of this event returning 4th March, based on twelve records. Come the 3rd March my brother confirmed a Thunder day (Thunder heard or lightning seen). Personally, I was away at a B.T.O conference so could not confirm this event. The very first Thunder day, based on sixteen records also returns a mean date of 4th March. Weather wise, the 4th March was a wet day, hoorah! Of the 12.6mm, which fell during that day, a small proportion was actually melted wet snow. Between the 5th and 7th March, things calmed down once again until the arrival of the Full Moon 8th March.

A Siskin (Carduelis spinus) visited our garden feeders for the first time in ages, although if you are lucky they may be heard calling in the vicinity. On this day (8th March), the raptors were very noticeable with two Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) and two Red Kites (Milvus milvus) circling above our suburban patch. A Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) visiting us on the very next day. The phenological indicators were not overlooked with the following being witnessed. The first emergence of Flowering Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), Flowering Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) and the first leafing of Hawthorn (Crataegus) all observed during the busy 8th March.  Looking closely once again at the dates of average occurrence of these events, they return the 5th March, 9th March and 12th March respectively.

Breaking news for today (1oth March) has been my first garden Frogspawn and first emergence of Brimstone Butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni). Once again when looking at the averages, the returns are the 9th March and 12th March, both being based on a healthy sample of records.

As to the future, many more phenological events will be likely as warmer weather is in the forecast. In fact, even as I type this, the warmest day of the year is happening with the Air Temperatures approaching the mid-60’s Fahrenheit. Oh how I love this time of year!

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

Spring budburst

I thought this was worth a reblog and would be of interest.

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/research-technologies/2012/120302-pr-model-how-buds-grow-into-leaves.aspx.

Regards

Tony Powell

“All eyes to the South” once the snow clears

Today has been a mix of wet snowflakes and cold sleety rain. Temperatures, which had been falling earlier, are now on the rise, so I am somewhat glad to be indoors.

Now that the official winter climate statistics are in, it is time to have a look back at how the season fared. This is achievable courtesy of this link – here. My figures tie in nicely with the actual C.E.T. Temperatures, with my anomaly being approximately 0.6C above average. The rainfall figures continue to show their undeniably downward trend, with a deficit of 43mm or so. According to my figures, we have received only 73% of the average precipitation across the winter season with 82% officially reported for England as a whole. After the warmth and dryness of autumn, I do hope spring brings us much-needed rainfall. With plans locally for yet more urban development (many thousands of new houses), our natural ecosystems will face damage beyond recognition. 

On a lighter note, the spring equinox, is approaching fast and migrant birds are on the move. I like to track this phenomenon online and there are many ways to do so. A website that I would highly recommend is The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society. The aforementioned website can be an excellent resource for tracking the incoming and outgoing African migrants due to its global position. In addition, from a UK perspective, I use reports from birdguides and it is from here, that I will quote a few recent highlights.

Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) have possibly overwintered in the UK once again, with more recent coming from Cork and East Sussex.

Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) are being quite widely reported in low numbers. Yorkshire, Norfolk, Bedfordshire, Manchester and Pembrokeshire, has reported this species so far.

Reports of Stone-curlews (Burhinus oedicnemus) received from Devon and West Sussex and a Hoopoe (Upupa epops) from Nottinghamshire are interesting. I am also aware of two reports of Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), one being in January from West Yorkshire and a February sighting from Gloucestershire.

I suspect there are other tales of interesting sightings and it shows the build up to migration changeover is gathering pace.

Best Wishes

Tony Powell