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
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.
*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.
The first Spring Full Moon (meteorologically speaking) has been and gone and our distant planet is on the wane once more. I have found it intriguing over the years how the moon phases, more especially the Full Moon, alter the flora and fauna around us. Maybe it is my overactive imagination but with the lengthening of daylight also increasing, are there not observable changes? Let us recap the first ten days of March, phenologically speaking.
On the 2nd MarchI first observed the emergence of leafing Elder (Sambucus), the mean date of this event returning 4th March, based on twelve records. Come the 3rd March my brother confirmed a Thunder day (Thunder heard or lightning seen). Personally, I was away at a B.T.O conference so could not confirm this event. The very first Thunder day, based on sixteen records also returns a mean date of 4th March. Weather wise, the 4th March was a wet day, hoorah! Of the 12.6mm, which fell during that day, a small proportion was actually melted wet snow. Between the 5th and 7th March, things calmed down once again until the arrival of the Full Moon 8th March.
A Siskin (Carduelis spinus) visited our garden feeders for the first time in ages, although if you are lucky they may be heard calling in the vicinity. On this day (8th March), the raptors were very noticeable with two Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) and two Red Kites (Milvus milvus) circling above our suburban patch. A Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) visiting us on the very next day. The phenological indicators were not overlooked with the following being witnessed. The first emergence of Flowering Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), Flowering Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus) and the first leafing of Hawthorn (Crataegus) all observed during the busy 8th March. Looking closely once again at the dates of average occurrence of these events, they return the 5th March, 9th March and 12th March respectively.
Breaking news for today (1oth March) has been my first garden Frogspawn and first emergence of Brimstone Butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni). Once again when looking at the averages, the returns are the 9th March and 12th March, both being based on a healthy sample of records.
As to the future, many more phenological events will be likely as warmer weather is in the forecast. In fact, even as I type this, the warmest day of the year is happening with the Air Temperatures approaching the mid-60’s Fahrenheit. Oh how I love this time of year!
Dear readers, I have two further events as mentioned in yesterday’s post. They are as follows.
I first witnessed a truly wild Primrose (Primula vulgaris) in flower on 7th January but as on other occasions, I have seen other varieties elsewhere, even in November and December this year just gone. However, if taking my 7th January date as gospel, my list of dates range from the certain Novembers or Decembers through to 2nd March. The adjusted mean date for all 16 records being 23rd January.
Primrose (Primula Vulgaris) in flower
Primrose with its vernacular name of “spinkie” or more appropriately “prima rosa” meaning first flower/first rose is always a welcome sight early in the season. In the past there were a very common sight and were picked profusely. However, numbers in the wild have dwindled a little but remain in good numbers in the right habitats. Having a scattered distribution, Primroses are seen in ancient woodlands or adorning hedge banks, and are often planted in gardens as they can be widely purchased. They also have a habit of colonising motorway embankments. They are able to self-pollinate, however bees and certain Lepidoptera will also help in this process.
In addition, Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) was flowering locally for the first time on 7th January. The current range of dates extends from 21st December through to 13th March, this being based on 16 records. The adjusted mean date works out at 7th February, a full two weeks earlier than in Gilbert White’s day.
Lesser Celandine (Ranuncula ficaria) in flower
Gilbert White, the 18th Century naturalist quoted these delightful little yellow star-like flowers as blooming on average around 21st February. Like many other phenological indicators however, the current climate as per my figures above denotes otherwise. Lesser Celandines have possessed various names over the years. Known names have included “spring messengers” or “pilewort” and a Greek derivation of “chelidonia” meaning a “swallow” you can see the fondness associating with them. The swallow connection being especially bizarre as this migrant species arrives well after the Lesser Celandine has started flowering. Moreover, folk now believe this was misquoted as it were more likely associated with the unrelated Greater Celandine. Being another member of the Ranunculaceae – buttercup family, they are sometimes looked upon as weeds, which, can soon carpet many a meadow and field. Some farmers believe the plants to be responsible for poisoning cattle and sheep.
The year 2012 is upon us and the UK’s climate is continuing with its bizarre approach. Today, the 3rd January has seen 54mph gusts at my sheltered location and winds in excess of 100mph in other parts. Christmas Day and New Years Eve and New Years Day all possessed temperatures 3 to 4c above normal.
So, what of this new era, how is nature coping with the upheaval?
One thing for sure, the phenological indicators are keeping me on my toes.
Firstly, Winter Aconite (illustrated below) has bloomed in my garden at its earliest date on record, the 27th December.The range, being represented by 12 personal records is from 27th December right through to 24th January.
Winter Aconite –Eranthis hyemalis.
Known as choirboys in Suffolk and more commonly as wolfs bane, Winter Aconite is a member of the Buttercup family. It is a tough plant, being tolerant of frost, snow and ice. The harshest winters bring about the best show of this beautiful flower. It will bloom all the way into March in most years. Although a popular ornamental plant, it is known to be poisonous. Occasionally planted alongside Snowdrops and other early bloomers, they are a joy to behold on a crisp sunny winters day. I know of a wonderful display under a canopy of deciduous trees near Andover in Hampshire, England. I will be visiting there in a couple of week’s time to see how the Aconites are progressing.