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.
Followers of this blog are aware my passion for Natural History “knows no bounds”, many other blogs, several of which are listed on My Favourite Blogssection, also share this overwhelming desire. However, since the inception of both naturestimeline and UKbirdingtimeline, my professional career has also evolved, as has my quest for knowledge on the State of Nature. See what I did there? Anyway, below I outline some of the changes you will notice as I intend to develop these pages.
Naturestimeline and UKbirdingtimeline will broadly stick to its original principles. However, I aim to make the place more engaging, scientific, informative and above all else, entertaining. As anyone who follows my Facebook page will know, I like to be kept “in the loop”, the place acts like a kind of newsfeed. So much so, that when it comes to the Natural World, I care, because you care!
Let’s bring impassioned debate on conservation and environmental issues to the table. Please interact and share your thoughts on how you would like to see the blog develop, it’s mine as much as it’s yours, the readers. What do you care about? Do you work in conservation? What kind of future do you think the UK’s and the wider world’s wildlife faces?
*I have no shortage of ideas myself, more about these in time. There is no hiding place, so Bee kind and we can bee in this together.
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.
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
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?
With not much talk of Phenology, I will attempt to make this post short. Meanwhile, my previous news still applies since the calendar is moving, see here - The Birds, they are a-singing and the daylight hours are 9 hours 38 minutes in length now and increasing rapidly.
For my locality, this February’s weather has brought 3 days where snow was seen falling. The 5th February produced a day of snow lying. However, the main story is that of the cold and frosty nights. Unusually for my location, I even recorded an ICE day (yesterday) and it is just possible that today will be yet another. By definition, an ICE day is a day whereby the temperature never exceeds ZERO Celcius (32 F). Although it is a rare event, it did happen 10 times during the record-breaking December of 2010. This was the coldest December in the UK for over 100 years and I must say at this stage, February 2012 looks like joining this elite band.
Check out below for some evidence, courtesy of my Davis weather station.
Davis February 2012 daily data to 1216 090212
Davis annual data up to 1216 090212
Please look closely at the figures enclosed in blue or red ink as these show the figures in question. I am a very keen amateur meteorologist as will have become obvious by now. More of my insights into the UK weather can found at netweather.tv where I post as gottolovethisweather
Now that the secret is out, all I can hope is that this spell does not become too detrimental for our wildlife and as humans; we all take care out there.
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.
It’s the 18th December and in recent weeks, I have been busily entering data into the BTO BirdTrack Project. The latest data that I have entered is particularly broad ranging and precise as it covers my records from the surveying work for the GWCT. Even now, I still have some way to go, but intend to finish by the end of the year, this being particularly important as the Breeding Bird Atlas figures are required by then.
Next, it will be upping the research for my followers and lurkers who wish to know more about this Phenology malarkey, which as I have said before, are the main ethics behind this blog. On that note, nature continues to be confused with a personal report of a singing Blackbird in December, alongside the more usually singing members of the Thrush family, Song Thrush and Robin. Even more bizarre, courtesy of Birdguides once again, are further reports of migrant species loitering on our islands. Northern Wheatear, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler to name but some, are 3,000 to 5,000 miles or more away from their wintering grounds. Strange but true!
Getting back to personal Phenological records of the past, some events have occurred before the year has even turned. One event that springs (geddit) to mind was a Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming, during December, in one particular season. So all is not what it first appears to be, in the ever-changing world of nature.
One last thought I would like to share with you all is the following http://thedragonflywoman.com/2011/12/18/social-science/ link. This particular blog is a wealth of information for folk, into their Dragonflies and more especially insects. The fantastic thing about this, is the fact that she (Christine), is also an addicted Citizen Scientist. Boy!, I know how she feels.
As if to confirm, a quote I saw on a fellow subscriber’s blog, I give you some news. The Nearly half way through November post and it’s reference to “the seasons’ constant cycle ignores the diary” seems somehow appropriate, in light of current ornithological sightings.
By no means unprecedented, but interesting nonetheless, I will present the following snippets, courtesy of Birdguides.
I hereby admit to cherry-picking some of the above information and apparently ignoring some twitchable species. I am NOT a twitcher, merely a citizen scientist. Actually, the listing above is a small sample of the information that can be accessed as a subscriber to Birdguides. The BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) will no doubt possess much more information on the current situation of November migrants in the United Kingdom. As the bird species aforementioned concern just those seen since November 1st, many will have since departed to warmer climes. All his however, takes me back to the original quote, in that nature does not always play by the rules.
Why are these migrant birds staying longer and arriving earlier?
Are these birds simply in an unfit physical state, deterring them from undertaking migration?
Are these birds simply developing a shorter migrational journey, year on year? Hence, staying longer and arriving earlier.
I don’t know the answers to the above questions. Science always requires answers but sometimes they are not always immediately obvious. In trying to resolve some of the mysteries surrounding Bird Migration. Can I refer you to a publication of the same title by Ian Newton, no.113 in the New Naturalist‘s series?
Looking at the above question, “How strong is the sun in November?”,“How exactly would we, or even can we answer that question?”
It’s an interesting topic for sure and folk in the weather forums have commented, even in recent weeks, that it’s been t-shirt weather. Also, some made comments such as, it’s warm enough to sit outside and eat your dinner. Unfortunately, since these comments, for my neck of the woods at least, it’s been the more accustomed November, gloom and drizzle.
However, the reason for this rant is that today, the sun has finally returned to the skies above Newbury. This is shown to good effect by the temperature data from my weather station, as below.
Air Temperature profile - 5th November 2011 through to 9th November 2011
Ok, there are other factors at play besides the emerging sun, but the Davis plot illustrates the sun’s effect well. Besides, warming the immediate atmosphere, it can and does provide a feel good factor, which is invaluable in our hectic and sometimes, mundane little lives. After all, whether you live in the Arctic, India, the United Kingdom, Australia, wherever, nearly every individual in this globes 7 billion population and the impending winter to come; I would certainly welcome more of it.
I love life. I wish to fathom how and what it is, that makes our natural world tick. We need to understand it and cherish it. Amongst my many differing interests, I would include blogging, citizen science, ornithology, phenology, biodiversity, climate change processes and more. The list goes on.