Tag Archives: birds

A naturestimeline Facebook page production – Snail pictures!

As stated, some photographic captures from my bird research activities from recent years. Should I receive welcoming feedback, more images will follow over the coming weeks and months.

Please click of the link below to see the relevant imagery and commentary on this and past debates.

 

http://ow.ly/xUQwC

#research
#wildlife
#nature
#snails
#naturestimeline

and

Inspiring the next generation – a random post

Why not inspire the next generation to care about our natural environment by participating in citizen science. In doing so, you can provide a data source of immense value and it truly is fun.

http://ow.ly/tFQo6

#science
#nature
#citizenscience
#birds
#education

There are so many options out there, get searching for citizen science projects you can participate in.

Current conservation practice – not fit for purpose, why might that be?

It is an undeniable fact that as a nation, or even across the globe, we are largely failing to look after the Natural World. With this in mind, here is a chance to engage in conversation about conservation. What do you believe to be the biggest reasons for the demise of many wildlife species*.

To kick things off, please would you be so kind to participate in a poll, as laid out below. Please vote for the options which you consider are the most relevant. You are allowed to supply multiple answers, should you wish. In turn, I will let you know my thoughts and will search for appropriate topics to comment on in the future of this blog.

Best Wishes


naturestimeline – courtesy of Tony William Powell on Google+

*as evidenced by the State of Nature report, see below.

http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/science/stateofnature/index.aspx

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/news/2013/05/22/state-nature-60-uk-species-decline-groundbreaking-study-finds

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/22609000

March madness

Before I venture into the mayhem of March 2013, I must apologise for missing out the first Butterfly emergence of the year. This appeared in the form of a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). Find a splendid example of this beauty below, from Finn Holding’s The Naturephile Flickr account. *Finn Holding’s website is one of several, my readers might find of interest under My Favourite Blogs link on the main page. 

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

My 19th February sighting came about whilst undertaking a Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) survey at a local woodland. Indicated below, you can see the trend of first emergence dates of Red Admiral over time.

Red Admiral Butterfly (locally) as of 2013

Red Admiral Butterfly (locally) as of 2013

The United Kingdom’s mad March weather was well documented by the media and the official climate statistics are below.

March is joint second coldest on record

I won’t bore you with my personal weather station’s data, other than reproduce the following chart.

Monthly Climatological Summary for March 2013

Monthly Climatological Summary for March 2013

I have highlighted in red and blue, the figures that stand out the most and these were the Mean Temperatures of 2.8c, the precipitation amount of 108.6mm (largely from two heavier interludes, some of which fell as snow). Finally, the dominant wind flow from the Northeast with very little coming from the West. In spite of this, I documented 11 phenology events throughout March and I will now refer to these below.

March 5th brought about both the first Brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni) and the first Queen Wasp from the genus (Hymenoptera).

March 7th saw the first attempts at nest-building by Blackbirds (Turdus merula).

The 9th of March saw us venture out into the local countryside for the first time in weeks, having endured another bout of illness. It was to prove a good decision with 4 events being logged that day, which were as follows. A first heard singing Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) sadly lacking the usual close correlation with their return to territory dates, as emphasised in previous posts. The same day also produced further yellow natural indicators with first Wild Daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) in flower and Flowering Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) only one day behind their 2012 emergence dates. Lastly, it was wonderful to hear the first song of Woodlark (Lullula arborea), a sound clip of which is available here. *It is just possible that I could have included a probable singing individual from the 19th February.

The 13th March provided a rather late Lesser Celandine (Ranuncula ficaria) in flower, which made sure we continue the yellow theme of spring.

Two Thunder days were to follow with the first of the season on the 16th March and the 2nd Thunder day, coming courtesy of the 19th March.

A final March phenological indicator arrived courtesy of a Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe). This witnessed on another local trip to our hillsides on the 29th March. This species, at least according to my records is seemingly bucking the trend of earlier arriving migrants, as illustrated by comparison of actual dates against rolling averages, see below. Furthermore, based on evidence from elsewhere, I am fortunate to have witnessed at least one migrant bird species as they appear to have been held up on the nearby continent, no doubt partly due to the persistency of the wind direction aforementioned.**

Let’s get graphical and photographical, firstly a few images (not the best quality, as I’m no photographer).

Queen Wasp

Queen Wasp

Coltsfoot flowering

Coltsfoot flowering

Wild Daffodil flowering

Wild Daffodil flowering

And now onto the charts, please refer to past calendars in order to understand the individual actual day numbers, against which you may recognise a developing trend over time, when making comparison against rolling averages. In order of appearance, I give you the following.

Queen Wasp (locally) as of 2013

Queen Wasp (locally) as of 2013

Brimstone Butterfly (locally) as of 2013

Brimstone Butterfly (locally) as of 2013

Blackbird Nest Building (garden) as of 2013

Blackbird Nest Building (garden) as of 2013

Wild Daffodil First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Wild Daffodil First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Coltsfoot First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Coltsfoot First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Yellowhammer First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Yellowhammer First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Woodlark First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Woodlark First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Lesser Celandine First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Lesser Celandine First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

1st Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2013

1st Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2013

2nd Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2013

2nd Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2013

Northern Wheatear (locally

Northern Wheatear (locally

Some events are starting to show remarkable consistency, with rolling averages either slowing down their descent to earlier dates (recent cold winter impacts) or remaining similar over recent years.

** Yes, I haven’t even achieved a singing Chiffchaff (usual date, 11th March) yet alone an early hirundine or something along similar lines. Perhaps, not so amazing, considering the bizarre weather and the fact, 10 days were witnessed as snow falling days, alongside 19 Air Frosts.

naturestimeline – courtesy of Tony William Powell on Google+

February catch up

Fellow bloggers, here is an overdue update of my findings from the final winter month of February 2013. As you can see, at least in my patch, it ended up both on the cold and slightly dry side. 

February 2013 to 3rd March 2013 Air Temperature highs and lows

February 2013 to 3rd March 2013 Air Temperature highs and lows

February 2013 to 3rd March 2013 rainfall

February 2013 to 3rd March 2013 rainfall

When looking back at February 2012 it did not differ that greatly. A Temperature mean of -1.0c below normal was less cold than this time around, which registered -1.8c below the 30 year mean. In fact, the main difference climatically speaking, was the ongoing drought which faced many last February. My statistics for February 2012 showed a precipitation deficit of 36.9mm, whereas the deficit this time around was only 11.7mm. Away from the statistics, there were still some stirrings coming from the Natural World.

Daffodils were first witnessed in bloom on 7th February, whilst in 2012 it was to be the 2nd January. *It is just possible that this sighting may have been slightly off target, due to your resident blogger suffering from a bout of flu. The ongoing trend given off by sightings of first flowering dates for Daffodil is represented below. However, it is the truly wild variant (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) which comes into bloom later and provides us with a more reliable phenological indicator.

Daffodil First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Daffodil First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Next up was my first sighting of a Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) back in its breeding area, coming on the 13th February. This once again provides us with an area of debate, as to how easily you can readily interpret the bird’s return as a correlated to its willingness to breed. Moreover, the data does tend to show a short timeframe between its arrival back in its breeding territory and the more significant activity of the bird’s actual first seasonal song. As before, the ongoing data range is provided below.

Yellowhammer back in breeding area (locally) as of 2013

Yellowhammer back in breeding area (locally) as of 2013

Just three days later on the 16th February I was to hear a first drumming Woodpecker species. The candidate we are tracking here in the United Kingdom is the  Great-Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), a personal sound recording of which can be accessed by the following the link below.

Great-Spotted Woodpecker Drumming

The 17th February went on to produce two phenological firsts by way of locally flowering Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), a week earlier than last year’s date of the 24th February. Also, well ahead of 2012 was the first leafing of Hawthorn (Crataegus). Unbelievably, in spite of a colder February this year and a rather ferocious March which followed, last year’s 5th March confirmation of first leafing of Hawthorn was very late in comparison.

Blackthorn flowering

Blackthorn flowering

Hawthorn leafing

Hawthorn leafing

For information purposes, you can view the ongoing trend in these two aforementioned phenomena below.

Blackthorn First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Blackthorn First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Hawthorn First Leaf (locally) as of 2013

Hawthorn First Leaf (locally) as of 2013

As to how nature’s events were to unfold in March, please stay tuned for updates in the near future.

naturestimeline – courtesy of Tony William Powell on Google+

January catch up

Looking back at January 2013, were my local climatic conditions much different to that of 2012?

Firstly, in the United Kingdom, 2012 began as “the year of the drought” * with recorded precipitation totalling 32.8mm in my neck of the woods. By comparison, January this time around looked like this.

January 2013 rainfall

January 2013 rainfall

In total, we received 61.6mm, which is still below the revised 1981 to 2010 mean by approximately 25% or so. What about the Air Temperatures?

January 2012 was mild in comparison with some 11 double-digit Fahrenheit Maximums being achieved back then and unsurprisingly a mean of 0.8c above the long-term average, mentioned previously. This time around, January 2013 saw the following daily Air temperature trend.

January 2013 Air Temperature highs and lows

January 2013 Air Temperature highs and lows

Due to almost two-thirds of January 2013 being in the cold to very cold category, it is unsurprising that the mean return of 4.0c was below the long-term average by 0.6c. As a result of the above, can you guess which phenological indicators were to show themselves amidst the cold of January?

The first Primroses (Primula vulgaris) were witnessed in bloom on 5th January. However, before we jump for joy at seeing them so early in the year, one should perhaps, read an excerpt from Richard Mabey‘s wonderful Flora Britannica. In there, Richard states that they are not the most reliable of indicators when it comes to tracking climate change. Oh well! They are however, beautiful to see and always brighten up a dull day.

An early songster is always nice to hear and one of the first to embrace the New Year was the Blackbird (Turdus Merula). I first heard the 2013 song of this particular species on 7th January, whereas last year it was 9th January. A personal sound recording of a Blackbird can be heard below. This link will take you to another website, which upon opening, you should click the orange icon on the Left Hand side of your screen to allow playback of the sound recording.

Blackbird song

The next phenology indicator of interest came courtesy of First Hazel Flowering (Corylus avellana) on 11th January. This compares favourably with the 7th January sighting from the previous year. A record shot of which, I have attached below.

Hazel catkins flowering

Hazel catkins flowering

The final phenologically related event of any consequence came about on the 21st January. This revealed itself in the form of a Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) first heard singing. The corresponding date last year was the 13th January. A personal sound recording of a Chaffinch singing is available via the link shown below.

Chaffinch song

A final way to view the ongoing trend in my datasets is to observe them in graphical format. Good news! 

Represented below are the aforementioned sightings in such a manner. Please note each event recorded annually is represented as a day number and not in date format. The events have been logged, only during years, in which I managed to achieve a meaningful result. Please make what you will of the data.

Primrose First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Primrose First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Blackbird First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Blackbird First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Hazel First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Hazel First Flowering (locally) as of 2013

Chaffinch First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Chaffinch First Heard Singing (locally) as of 2013

Given the cold conditions of January and the fact that I have often been preoccupied in my personal life, things have been rather slow to unfold. February was to prove a different story.

* The year of ongoing drought quickly became the year it never stopped raining, officially 2nd wettest in Met Office recorded history.




naturestimeline – courtesy of Tony William Powell
on Google+

Sort your life out……………………………………

Naturestimeline is back, I hear you gasp. Cue rapturous applause…………………………..

Where has our venerable host been and why were there no updates! Well, sometimes life’s chores tend to overwhelm but hell; I am not to be defeated by what seems a never-ending list of tasks. Besides, I have a responsibility, as a blogger to inform and educate (at least to my knowledge) so here is a brief rundown of what I meant by my “Sort your life out” comment.

As a relative newbie to the Conservation/Ecology sector, like most of us, I must devote time to career expansion. Much reading, studying and attending courses, webinars and the like has taken place during this time. For example, I attended a Dragonfly workshop back in early August. Additionally, I have met up with or have been networking with important work colleagues. As a requirement to add skills to my CV, I am also currently undertaking a Project Management course and have other ventures in planning. Aside from this however, there were occasions when nature did acquire my full attention. To this end, I will now enlighten you with a select few natural events.

Today has seen most of the additional Phenological events logged onto My Natural Events Calendar. As usual, you can best access this via the Agenda option and from there you can view past dates for any action missed, since my last post.

Ten weeks can be a long time for the natural world and since my hiatus; many phenological events have taken place locally and non-locally. For example, many young birds have been flocking to my busy feeders and for the first time, I have added an immature Carrion Crow to the records, not bad for a semi-suburban locality. Alongside this, during this time, various finches, tits, a Great-Spotted Woodpecker, daws and corvids had been raiding the feeders and fat balls with a summering Blackcap on the latter mentioned. Only in recent weeks, has this feeding frenzy decreased and I suspect the reason for this is simply moulting activity. Who says we shouldn’t feed the birds all year round? In fact, many of the youngsters were finding the bird table and its feeders, useful sheltering positions during the wetter periods.

Looking back

On the 10th June, it was most pleasing to witness a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden during a sunnier interlude. By the 30th June, the Buddleia was noted in bloom, which it still is to this day.

July continued the overall weather pattern (often cool and wet) of the previous few but briefly relented, come the final week. It was during this period, in which I most probably saw my final Common Swift of the season. The 27th July date for this event being significantly earlier than the normal date of 14th August, albeit based on a limited sample size. The first harvesting locally and predictably a couple of Thunder days during July were to be expected. Also on a local level, I witnessed the first Ringlet on the 13th July, Marbled White and Meadow Brown on the 19th July and a first Gatekeeper butterfly on the 24th July. Only the Meadow Brown butterfly showed up as being well behind schedule with the rest within a week or so of their usual emergence dates. Birds of Prey were well to the fore over my neighbourhood with a gathering of seven thermalling Common Buzzards on one special day.

August has so far proved to be a very busy period for personal reasons, whilst it has been a quiet month phenology wise. Only the Thunder days of 15th August and 25th August being especially noteworthy. Both dates occurring pretty close to their usual positions in the calendar year.

*It seems that tomorrow also marks a happy anniversary for a certain blogging adventure

Cheers, I’ll drink to that.


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

Early April offerings from nature

Here are my latest offerings from my Phenological sightings.

I first witnessed a Pendunculate Oak (Quercus robur) in budburst on the 3rd April. This matches quite closely to last year’s date of 7th April but is well ahead of 2010’s date of 24th April. The average date on which this bud bursting happens is 14th April, based on a sample of 11 records. Another similar observation being European Larch (Larix decidua) seen leafing. Being the 6th Aprilit matches 2011’s date and is four days behind 2010. The average date for European Larch leafing comes out at 1st April. As to the reliability of the aforementioned sighting, it is often difficult to separate leafing from budburst, when it comes to European Larch. *However, my keen eye also allowed me to witness Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in budburst on the 8th April.* This particular event was very early when compared with other years. 2011 being the 24th April and in 2010 it was later still at 6th May. If compared to the average, Ash budburst normally takes place around the 23rd April, albeit based on only seven personal records. A final tree related offering, arrived in the form of European Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) budburst, which I observed for the first time on 9th April. This event ties in nicely against the average observation date, also of 9th April. Now on to some insect related phenomenon.

The 6th April saw a further two annual butterfly sightings with Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) and Orange-tip(Anthocharis cardamines) being seen. The Speckled Wood sighting tied in nicely with last year with the 8th April. The average date of first emergence returns the 15th April. As for the first Orange-tip sighting, this year’s emergence is remarkably consistent with last year’s date, the 7th April. Once again, the average date of first emergence returns a date very similar to that of the Speckled Wood in that it is 16th April. Both samples are very healthy at 16 and 18 years of data respectively.  News on flowering plants and bird activity to follow. Interestingly, I have not to date, noted Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) in flower which happens to be the food plant for the caterpillar of the Orange-tip butterfly.

Flowering Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) was to be in a very early state of emergence in the gloomy weather of yesterday (9th April). This particular event occurred on the 17th April last year and not until 9th May in 2010. I have noted the first emergence of flowering Wild Garlic on nine occasions and this year’s date is the earliest in that dataset. The more usual date for flowering Wild Garlic returns the 24th April. Now some birding activity at last.

Firstly, the birds are a-singing more and more each day now. Mind you, it is not just the singing, which is increasing, so too is the breeding activity. I am pleased to report that on the 5th April, I was fortunate enough to observe a Blackbird (Turdus merula) with food in its beak. The significance of this event of course being that it is most probably feeding young. If this is to be the case, this event is actually behind schedule with the 31st March being the more usual date, albeit based on a rather poor sample of garden records of 6 records. With Red Kites (Milvus milvus) appearing each day above our estate and a flyby Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) being recently added to the garden list, things ornithological wise are very good. Further news from a local woodland patch of mine were groups up 10 Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) seen feeding by other birders but personally, a new migrant arrival pleased me the most. The first returning Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) heard singing came about on the 8th April. This event closely matched last year with 6th April being the date and the average returns the 8th April too.

More next time.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell


EDIT: Apologies, the reference to Ash budburst was incorrect, this realated to an instance of Ash flowering. Subsequently there have been many more occurrences.