As promised, how is the phenology looking against a backdrop of a very wet but reasonably mild Winter. One notable thing for me were the number of Thunder days, four in total, all of which occurred before the 16th January. This is quite exceptional under any circumstances and as a consequence there is a notable shift towards earlier day numbers.
Now onto the flowering plant and shrub species. The flowering plant species witnessed for the first time in Winter were Woodland Snowdrop, Winter Aconite, Daffodil (cultivated type), Primrose and Lesser Celandine. The flowering shrub species were the Hazel with its catkins and the Blackthorn in blossom.
Several of the above events are generally regarded as not suitable for accurate phenological tracking by certain well-known naturalists, can you guess which ones?
Two insect species were seen on the wing for the first time before the end of February and these were the first Bumblebee, presumably of the genus bombus terrestris as well as Brimstonebutterfly. Below are the respective day numbers and rolling averages over a succession of years for those seasonal treats.
There were some other bird related sightings occurring for the first time this year, some of which will be apparent when looking at MY NATURAL EVENTS CALENDAR. I hope to blog about these over at ukbirdingtimeline soon, in the meanwhile, I will leave you to ponder any determinable trends in the data alongside some images of the above phenomena.
Click on the following underlined links in the blue text for other folk’s images of Primrose and Lesser Celandine in this previous posting.
Best Wishes and more updates soon
*the warmer start to March has accelerated some events yet further, keep watch on the events calendar for updates
After the Winter we have witnessed here in the United Kingdom, I think most would welcome a human type gestation period of calm before the rebirth of a Winter anything like the one we’ve just witnessed. By way of example, just how wet was it? Here is the view from the UK Met Office. To add a personal perspective, here’s the Davis data for my locale from Berkshire in England.
When viewing the above charts, I have put in a false red line which shows in my view at least, the days you would normally describe as soakers, i.e. those producing 10mm or more, which is the equivalent of approximately 2/5ths of an inch. In actual Meteorological terms, a “wet” day is where precipitation exceeds 2mm and a “very wet” day is classed as a day on which 20mm is exceeded. So yes, you can safely say Winter 2013/14 has been wet in my patch with only 20 out of the 90 days registering as a day without precipitation*. However, it wasn’t necessarily my region which made the headlines. The attached link from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) shows the devastating effects of the flooding from Somerset. On there you should be able to view other reports, complete with video clips, from other UK regions which were affected by the odd Winter weather. We should not forget that it was also very windy on occasions, although my own readings are lower than most, you can see from the attached images, where winds have exceeded the 38mph mark as indicated by my red line. This dates can be described as Gale days, although perhaps not strictly under Meteorological definition. Any wind gusts which exceed the green lineshown would normally represent a windy day for my location, based on my own experiences of past events.
As for snow, well, Scotland nicked it all, this article again from the BBC being typical of highland Scotland’s Winter in 2013/14. For the rest of the British Isles, it had been a very poor one for those who wanted to see some wintry ice crystals, in fact I barely saw two days of sleet throughout the whole Winter. The Air Temperatures weren’t especially noteworthy with the mean for the Winter as a whole, somewhere around 1c above the long-term average, based on the 1981-2010 CET series. The lack of Air Frosts was notable for my location however, with only nine (9) being achieved in total and not all of these were before dawn due to my 24 hour reporting periods. As for the effect on the Natural World by way of phenology, more reports on that are forthcoming.
*only one dry day in January and this fell within a period of 33 days with only the one dry day in total
I apologise for the inactivity surrounding this particular Blog and without further ado, I will attempt to address the poll’s results.
Firstly, as an aspiring conservation professional, I produced the poll, solely for the reason that I believed it would be a unique way to engage with my readership. Judging by the responses I received, it seems to have worked. Now, after the participation, there is the analysis. For me, the Blog header, says it all. Understandably, being that Wildlife Conservation is complicated, the poll results, as you can see, are mixed.
Attempting to break things down a little, one can find that just over 50 per centof voters, believed that processes of Habitat lossand Habitat mismanagementwere key reasons behind wildlife/biodiversity decline. According to my pollsters, intriguingly, ecological imbalances between the Prey and Predator and the processes of Climate Changewere deemed to have minimal impact on the state of our wider environment. Prior to other’s involvement, my view, on which I voted accordingly, was that Climate Change and Predation issues were key indicators driving wildlife declines.
Moving on then, you may ask what do the poll findings prove and where can we take things from here? Here are some of my evolving objectives for this Blog, whilst keeping wildlife observation as a central theme.
I want to be able to find answers to everyday questions about Wildlife Conservation practice!
Based on the current scientific evidence, what can be done to improve Wildlife Conservation?
Are we collaborating enough with other parties
Are we utilising the evidence base, when making decisions at a local level?
Is there one key message** which could be taken from the poll which could serve to halt the declines in biodiversity?
As a Birding Professional who is keenly awaiting his copy of the 2007 to 2011 United Kingdom Breeding Bird Atlas to drop through his door, I’ll finish this post with a quote* from the 1988 to 1991 Atlas.
Courtesy of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh
Quite apart from the influence of human activities, nature is a dynamic process and the success of species has always depended on a number of natural variables, including climatic conditions throughout the year and the relative abundance of prey and predators
**Even twenty years ago, looking for answers on an effective way of managing habitats for wildlife, it was complicated. I just hope we are progressing on the right path now, as we look ahead a further twenty years.**
Google+naturestimeline – courtesy of Tony William Powell
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.
Fellow bloggers, here is an overdue update of my findings from the final winter month of February2013. As you can see, at least in my patch, it ended up both on the cold and slightly dry side.
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 2012showed 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.
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.
Just three days later on the 16th FebruaryI 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.
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 Marchconfirmation of first leafing of Hawthorn was very late in comparison.
For information purposes, you can view the ongoing trend in these two aforementioned phenomena below.
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.