A cross posting to my other blog!

Sorry people but for those interested, I have a new blog up and running called UKbirdingtimeline, which can be accessed from here or via the home page. This blog will run in conjunction with naturestimeline.

I would just like to bring to your attention, the latest posting from over there.

Heightened garden bird feeding activity due to the weather?

Best Wishes

Tony Powell

Baby birds galore

My regular readers will know that I painstakingly (too strong an emotive really) update my phenology calendar to reflect on the natural events taking place in the United Kingdom. So, now that the mixed spring has passed, what effect did it have on nature, more especially our familiar breeding garden birds?

When it comes to young birds, my garden attracts many different species and these are a few examples. Bear in mind, this list is not exhaustive and further additions may become apparent in time.

When I first witnessed a juvenile Dunnock and a juvenile Chaffinch on the 18th May, the weather was still grim with winds from the northeast as can be seen below. 

May 2012 Climatological Summary highlighting May 18th.

Juvenile Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Juvenile Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Juvenile Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Juvenile Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

However, when compared to the average, where were these two aforementioned sightings in the scheme of things? The average date for Dunnock, based on 7 records is 25th May and on a smaller sample, Chaffinch would have been around the 3rd June. It seems highly probable that both species took advantage of the warmer end to March and thereby emerged earlier. Moving on to my next two observations, these being juvenile Great and Blue Tits, a more intriguing pattern appears to show itself.

Young Great Tits were seen for the first time on 21st May and with a reasonably healthy sample of 9 years, these birds were well ahead of their average date. My statistics are however, not unusual for Great Tits and they remain a cause for much research into trophic mismatching. The first observation of young Blue Tits was on the 22nd May. Their emergence was only 5 days earlier than would normally be the case. A mere coincidence, these birds were fledging at the start of the heatwave, perhaps? Frankly, the Air temperature hovered at no higher than 10.9c (52f) on the 20th May but by the 22nd had maxed out at 26.3c (79f). Put simply, an amazing transformation of local climate within the space of just 48 hours.

Juvenile Great Tit (Parus major)

Juvenile Great Tit (Parus major)

Juvenile Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus or Parus caeruleus)
Juvenile Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus or Parus caeruleus)

As we were now fully into our heatwave period, the next events taking place were fledglings of Robin and Nuthatch. Both of these sightings occurred on the 29th May and were ahead of schedule, perhaps not surprisingly. The 4th June and 16th June being expected averages from datasets of 10 and 4 records respectively.

Juvenile Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Juvenile Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
Juvenile Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Moving into June, I have since recorded first fledgling sightings of House Sparrow and Goldfinch at our feeders on the 4th June. These emergences closely match their expected dates of 1st June and 7th June.

Juvenile House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Juvenile House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Juvenile Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Juvenile Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Other phenology of note was a very late (12th May) first local Cuckoo for me, in fact my latest on record.  For further details on forthcoming phenology expected from my patch or even your own, please view my calendar link as mentioned at the start of this post.

*all the above bird images come courtesy of Birds of the Western Palearctic interactive DVD

A traditional UK spring season, but with a twist

As we are meteorologically speaking, now in the season of summer, let us look back at spring 2012. On reflection, do you feel it was a pleasant one, weather wise for the United Kingdom? As ever, courtesy of my Davis weather station, I can add some meat to the bones to my previous question.

Spring 2012 (March-May) was at its traditional best overall, although with a notable exception here and there. Look at the following plot for a closer view of Newbury, Berkshire’s Maximum Temperatures and Rainfall amounts.

NEWBURY SPRING SEASON TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL 2012

NEWBURY SPRING SEASON TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL 2012

 

From the above, it becomes apparent that 2012 proved a mixed bag. Indeed, the local climate changed abruptly on occasions. Take for example, the March rainfall deficit of 29.2mm when compared to the 30-year local average of 50mm. All the talk in the media at this stage was of impending drought and hosepipe bans. However, as most will be aware, April changed all that. Some of this, at least at a local level dramatically changed with a huge surplus of 61mm by the end of the month. May then ended up drier than usual with a deficit of 14.3mm when compared to the local 30-year average. What about the temperatures I hear you ask!

For your information, the 30-year mean temperature averages (Oxford 1971-2000) are as follows. March normally returns 6.3c, April 8.1c and May 11.3c with regard to expected temperatures. Please bear in mind, the figures shown in the above plot only show our achieved maximum temperatures. When mentioning the aforementioned averages, the weather station automatically calculates these against mean minimums and maximums so I don’t have to do the mathematics. Using the plot above you can now analyse the 2012 spring season further with regard to its temperature. 

March, with a very warm finish ended 1.6c above the mean. April abruptly turned the warmth to cold with a temperature return 0.8c below the mean. Finally, May 2012 warmed up, especially in the final third to return a local mean, 1.2c above the norm. I attach a final summary below confirming the above figures.

NEWBURY SPRING SEASON CLIMATOLOGICAL SUMMARY 2012

NEWBURY SPRING SEASON CLIMATOLOGICAL SUMMARY 2012

As for the effect on phenology, further news will be forthcoming.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell