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.
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.
My 19th Februarysighting 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.
The United Kingdom’s mad March weather was well documented by the media and the official climate statistics are below.
I won’t bore you with my personal weather station’s data, other than reproduce the following chart.
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 Northeastwith 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 5thbrought 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 Marchsaw 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 Marchprovided 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 Marchand 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 onemigrant 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).
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.
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.
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.
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 0.8cabove the long-term average, mentioned previously. This time around, January2013 saw the following daily Air temperature trend.
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.
The next phenology indicator of interest came courtesy of First Hazel Flowering (Corylus avellana) on 11th January. This compares favourably with the 7th Januarysighting from the previous year. A record shot of which, I have attached below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The best way to observe nature is to follow the changing seasons. I subscribe to many blogs, of which the Woodland Trust is one. Their latest post reblogged above, illustrates how many folk are becoming highly valued citizen scientists.
For the past 14 years, enthusiastic volunteers have been helping track changes in seasonal natural events through Nature’s Calendar, adding thousands of records to the UK Phenology Network database. Faithfully, they have observed and recorded when trees come into leaf or flower in spring, when migrant birds arrive and leave, and have spent their autumn days noting when leaves change colour, then fall, or when fruit ripens. The data is being used by students and scientists across the UK, and even further afield, to research the implications of climate change for our natural world.
These recorders are part of a tradition that goes back much further, starting with Robert Marsham, who began recording his ‘Indications of Spring’ back in 1736 on his family estate near Norwich, Norfolk, and continued to record for 62 years. From 1875 until 1947 the Royal Meteorological Society co-ordinated a nation-wide network of recorders…