Tag Archives: Insects

January and February datasets

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.

1st Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

1st Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

2nd Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

2nd Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

3rd Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

3rd Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

4th Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

4th Thunder day (locally) in date order as of 2014

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.

First flowering Woodland Snowdrop (locally) in date order as of 2014

First flowering Woodland Snowdrop (locally) in date order as of 2014

First flowering Winter Aconite (locally) in date order as of 2014

First flowering Winter Aconite (locally) in date order as of 2014

First flowering Daffodil cultivar (locally) as of 2014

First flowering Daffodil cultivar (locally) as of 2014

First flowering Primrose (locally) as of 2014

First flowering Primrose (locally) as of 2014

First flowering Lesser Celandine (locally) in date order as of 2014

First flowering Lesser Celandine (locally) in date order as of 2014

First flowering Hazel (locally) as of 2014

First flowering Hazel (locally) as of 2014

First flowering Blackthorn (locally) as of 2014

First flowering Blackthorn (locally) as of 2014

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 Brimstone butterfly. Below are the respective day numbers and rolling averages over a succession of years for those seasonal treats.

Bumblebee (locally) as of 2014

Bumblebee (locally) as of 2014

Brimstone butterfly (locally) as of 2014

Brimstone butterfly (locally) as of 2014

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.

Blackthorn flowering

Blackthorn flowering

Bumblebee species

Bumblebee species

Hazel catkins flowering

Hazel catkins flowering

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

and

Bird Surveys, ill health and horrendous weather

Why the hiatus, I hear you ask. Well, let me explain if I may.

My current job role as a Bird Surveyor/Researcher allows me to intimately follow our feathered friends and log their breeding success. To best illustrate the differing roles out there, I will direct you to a couple of blogs. For example, Lewis Yates, whose exploits this birding season come from Skomer in Wales? Another equally interesting blogging view of things is available from Annette Fayet’s blog from the same Island. Who knows, maybe I will start a blog covering my exploits one day in the future too. As well as my fortunate paid position, I have been putting my experience to good use for the following survey, which is tracking Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) as shown here. In fact, having previously referred to my volunteering exploits, I would say there is no better way for improving your self-esteem.

Due to the busy schedule, I may have suffered a bit of burn out in recent weeks, which resulted in a cold and finally horrible chest pains. Sparing you any further details on that particular subject, I must say the recent weather has not exactly helped my cause, either. Since my last phenology related post, I would say I have added another 25 or so events. Eighteen having Ornithology as a background theme, a further four, flora related, two strictly weather related and the final one having an insect theme.

Insect sightings from Mid April to the end of the first third of May

Only the one addition being a First Holly Blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) was in the form of a flying individual during the brighter spells of 30th April. Based on a useful sample of 17 records, the usual flying date is 26th April. 

Thunder days since the last update

At Newbury, Berkshire we bore witness to another 2 Thunder days, making these the fourth and fifth respectively. The dates concerned were 19th April and 22nd April. Considering the more usual period for these phenomena (fourth and fifth dates of Thunder) covers the period between 30th June and 11th July, it does seem exceptionally stormy this season so far.

Trees and similar things from Mid April to the end of first third of May

During Mid April, I truly believed trees were budding and leafing well ahead of schedule, has this since changed?

Pendunculate Oak (Quercus robur) was first observed leafing on 23rd April and subsequently Beech (Fagus  sylvatica) budburst was on the 9th May. So how do these events appear in the general scheme of things?  Their averages based albeit on small samples, cover 19th April and 14th April respectively. So there is a clear difference between the timing of the two events with it seems, the colder April weather having particularly affected the Beech. With regard to flowering trees and shrubs, Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) was flowering on 22nd April, which compares to its normal emergence date of 27th April. Hawthorn (Crataegus) being first observed flowering on 8th May, near to its average date of 5th May.
 
Bird sightings from Mid April to the end of the first third of May
 
Seven down, Eighteen to go. Okay, to save this post from being too long-winded, I will only inform you of local events. After all, the birds on our own patch are of most interest!
 
Back on the 18th April, I had my first sighting of a House Martin (Delichon urbicum), matching well with the more usual date of 17th April. The local Nightingales (Luscinia megarhynchos) came next when heard singing on the 22nd April. With a healthy sample of 14 years of records, you can normally expect this event around the 28th April. Come the 27th April, I recorded a Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis), Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) and a Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) all for the first time on a local level. The respective mean dates work out at 23rd April (Whitethroat), 29th April (Garden Warbler) and 18th April (Redstart). The Redstart is a case in point for a lack of records, although as it is a rare bird in Berkshire, even on passage, I should not be disheartened. The 27th April saw the arrival of young Blackbirds (Turdus merula) in my neighbourhood for the first time this year. The mean expected date for these being the 21st April, so I would say it was feasible that some Blackbird have seen their first broods fail. The 29th April proved a rare day out for me, with a trip to the River Kennet. There, in the space of no more than five minutes, I came across firsts in the form of Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus), Common Swift (Apus apus) and Hobby (Falco subbuteo). The Sedge Warbler proved to be a bit later than is usual with its average date being 20th April. The Hobby witnessed dashing ferociously at the Swifts does represent a smaller sample with an average arrival date of 28th April. Likewise, the Swift shows a similar expected arrival date of 30th April.
 
Finally, the 7th May brought about some more young bird activity to my garden in the form of Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). To this end, I can be extremely proud of myself having witnessed the first nest building of Starling on the 29th March. A whole 39 days later, it is just possible I witnessed the return of the same bird and its fledglings. Is this a careless assumption? Is there any significance to the quoted dates? Hell yes! The B.T.O’s Field Guide to Monitoring Nests suggests a period of 38-40 days from the end of actual nest building to free-flying young. You do the math! From my phenology record point of view, these young Starlings were observed 10 days earlier than in 2011 and are more normally seen for the first time around the 18th May.
 
 
My only other sightings relate to non-local events and are of limited interest at this time. I look forward to updating you further in the busy days and weeks ahead. Being back to full health, I will have no excuses and with this dull weather hopefully in the past, there will be many more tales to tell.
 
Best Wishes
 
Tony Powell
 

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.

March and April Phenological madness

I have recently updated my natural events calendar to reflect all the activity since Mid March. So where are we now?

Unseasonably warm temperatures and a continuing drought have dominated the UK weather headlines from the past couple of weeks. The drought area recently increased in size to cover a larger area of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, snow and rain is imminent and as I type this, it is affecting large parts of Northern England and Scotland. Here is further news, which illustrates the impressive climatic differences between late March and early April. So what of the phenology?

Being an interested observer of natures ways, I have managed to add a further sixteen events since my last post on phenology related matters. Rather than go into the specifics of each one, it is possible to see these events by looking at the aforementioned calendar. However, I will also provide some evidence below.

9 events were insect themed with a further 6 differing butterfly species witnessed on the wing, either locally or further afield. The non-butterfly event was a local Red-tailed Bumblebee, the subspecies of which was unknown.

A further 3 events were three differing tree species in bud or full leaf. These again all coming from my home area.

2 bird related activities were a nest-building Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and a brand new migrant for the list, a Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe) seen on a local trip to the nearby downs.

Finally 2 final phenological highlights arrived in the form of flowering Cowslips (Primula veris) and Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta).

Spring is most certainly springing into action and for a little more detail of my sightings; you should look no further than at the attached.

PHENOLOGY UPDATE NATURESTIMELINE

PHENOLOGY UPDATE NATURESTIMELINE

When you analyse the data more precisely you will see of these latest sightings the following becomes apparent. 8 events are earlier than 2011, 5 are either later or on the same date and 3 were unobserved last year. However, an entirely different pattern becomes apparent, when compared to the long-term averages. There is an amazing tally of 12 of the 16 phenological indicators being ahead of the long-term averages. So it does seem on albeit early evidence, that 2012 is so far hinting at another dose of climatic shift for the natural world. What will the weather do next I wonder?

Best Wishes

Tony Powell


Keeping up to date with nature’s news

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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 illustrated hereWoodland Snowdrops which 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 (Quercusand 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.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell



naturestimeline – courtesy of Tony William Powell
on Google+

Some late winter warmth?

Tony:

Click on the reblogged from Matt Hugo link above for the rest of the post.

The effect this upcoming spell of weather will have on Phenology events will be most interesting. Some potentially record-breaking Temperatures could occur in the South of the United Kingdom. Given some sunshine, Bees, Butterflies and Blooms will be the most likely candidates, alongside the early migrant birds brought in by the Southwesterly flow.

Fascinating times ahead.

Regards, Tony Powell

Originally posted on matthugo:

Well the phrase “In like a lion, out like a lamb” could well sum up February by the looks.  Clearly the first half of the month or the opening week or two experience a far different spell of weather than experience so far through the winter given a continental feed of cold or very cold air across the UK.  The difference between earlier in the month and the coming week will be significant!…

The latest FAX chart for Thursday helps to highlight the reason why;

The synoptic evolution through this week will be characterised by high pressure to the south or south-west of the UK and low pressure systems developing and passing to the north and north-west through the week.  The combination of these two synoptic features later in the week will be for the development of a very mild and moist south-westerly air mass from the Azores.  I highlighted…

View original 253 more words

Miscellaneous news and finally some Phenology

I have been organising my life recently, well at least in the sense of some internal admin. Perhaps, it is because winter has suddenly turned into spring and I am in a “spring cleaning” mode. What with logging my old Birdwatch magazines and other valuable reading sources such as British Wildlife magazine, I oddly feel better for it. For easy access to interesting stories and snippets of information, this really was an obvious choice and everything will eventually be stored within Microsoft Excel. From here, I can look for specifics by using keyword searches. How many others do this with their documents or undertake annual “spring cleaning”. Am I the only one?

Anyway, onto other more interesting topics as yesterday I ventured down to Hayling Island to do some birding, alongside a bit of dog walking. The highlight of a reasonable list of species was a Shore Lark (Eremophila alpestris). The view achieved was merely of its backside disappearing over a gravelly bank and lasted for what seemed like “half” a second. Moreover, an addition to my birding life list and a tick nonetheless. The weather was also fine with a light cloud covering at times with Temperatures, slightly above normal for the time of year.

    • Now onto the Phenological happenings locally, albeit achieved in two parts. The first appearance of a Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) back in its breeding territory was a good sighting. Not only that though, I heard several birds in song for the first time this year.  No doubt, the warmer Temperatures and some brief sunshine triggered this activity.
    • My evidence for a Yellowhammer’s first visit back to their breeding territory returns an average date of 13th February, based on a sample of 8 records. Whereas, for a first heard singing Yellowhammer, the current evidence points to an average date of 19th February, based on a larger sample of 11 records. However, I wonder whether once the birds return, they are quick to sing despite my records indicating a gap of 6 days between the associated phenomenons. If this is the case, perhaps more research is required. Nonetheless, these iconic farmland birds breed well in this location and hopefully in high densities too.

Right then, after a briefly colder snap, warmer weather is forecast to be on its way for late February. With the anticipated rise in Air Temperatures next week, butterflies are likely to be on the wing and all manner of events could well be taking place.

Watch this space!

A Male Yellowhammer, courtesy of Finn Holding's (http://thenaturephile.com/) website

A Male Yellowhammer

*The above image is from a fellow blogger’s wonderful website – The Naturephile

Kind Regards

Tony Powell