There are certain things which make me tick when it comes to following events from the Natural World. One is the enjoyment of being out in the wider countryside or even in the garden and observing nature in the raw. After all, I am a keen tracker of natural phenomena and how they interact under specific climatic conditions over a number of years (phenology). A few recent highlights are shown below.
Woodland Snowdrops (Galanthus_nivalis) – These were captured on 29th December, some 14 days ahead of the long-term average.
Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) – These were captured on 15th January, a day after they were first witnessed in bloom, some 3 days behind the long-term average.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) – The not so rare, in fact annual sighting of wintering Blackcaps in our garden, a male has since joined her.
The above sightings represent just a tiny fraction of recent phenology events. Another topic which enthuses me is how we can all learn from other’s tales from the world of nature conservation and even its politics. Much of this information can be gleaned from online sources and below I will share with you some of my personal favourites. *in each circumstance, if you hover over said link before clicking, it will reveal the owner of the blog
These are simply a select few and I will have to revisit this post in future and bring your attention to the many other hard-working ecologists and conservationists or put simply nature lovers that are out there for us all to discover, go follow them!
What I find fascinating about us conservationists, is the fact that we won’t always see “eye to eye” on matters pertaining to effective nature conservation, in spite of this we all share one united passion. We care, we each possess amazing knowledge of our core subjects and we have an unrivalled will to succeed for the creatures with no tongue or voice with which they could communicate their story. Back to us, what’s your story? Please tell.
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.
Breeding Bird Atlas for the British Isles 1988-1991 front cover
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.
No, you did not imagine it, it has been miserable for far too long so I haven’t ventured out much. This is partly the reason for my lack of posts, alongside a busier working life. More news to come, honest!
These are early figures covering 1 – 25 of April and not full month statistics, so are therefore very likely to change. Especially regarding ranking. Full month figures will not be available until provisionally Wednesday 2 May.
Figures for 1 - 25 April show the month so far has seen well above average rainfall across the UK, with 97 mm of rain recorded – this is 139% of the long-term monthly average (1971-2000). The wettest April in the records dating back to 1910 was 2000 which saw 120.3 mm of rain.
Currently the month is the 9th wettest April for the UK in the records. However, it’s not possible to say where the month will end up in the records until all the figures are in at the end of the month – especially as we are expecting heavy rain on Sunday.
How does the following video affect you emotionally?
The above is in relation to a post entitled “the last days of wildcat falls” courtesy of Rebecca in the woods. Rebecca is from across the pond but this matters not! This kind of destruction is happening on a global scale, along with it, the biodiversity, crucial to man’s existence is lost forever. These ecosystems are non-transferrable and you cannot simply replicate them in another place. On this very topic, the great David Attenborough once stated, “If we continue to damage our ecosystems we damage ourselves”. Sadly, most decisions appear to revolve around making a quick buck at the expense of common sense.
With climate change being a background focus to my blog, why does man insist on adding to the woes and insists on pressing our self-destruct button.
Let me ask you this. What irks you when it comes to caring for our ecosystems, be it on a local, national or even global level? Are some authorities who insist on ignoring common sense solutions out of our reach on a personal level?
I am by no means an activist but believe me, I am deeply passionate about our environment. The next post will be return to a much cheerier topic, Phenology.
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 April, it 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.
*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 illustratedhere. Woodland Snowdropswhich 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 (Quercus) and 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.
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.
On the one hand, this government appears to want to press ahead with concreting over our precious countryside. On the other hand, there is still hope for this country to remain a green and pleasant land.
This leaves me to believe that the United Kingdom government’s policies are in a state of chaos. Then again, who am I to judge as I only possess the right of vote in the first place?
I, for one would not argue against this latest evidence. See my Natural Events Calendar link for a personal slant from last year. It is pure conjecture as to whether there is a definite trend but these events are thought provoking, to say the least.
I love life. I wish to fathom what makes our natural world tick and how and why species interact the way they do. We need to cherish our natural world and not plunder it. Amongst all my differing interests, I would include blogging, participating in citizen science, ornithology, scientific study of biodiversity, climate change activities and so much more. The list goes on.