Tag Archives: Thunder

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
 

Full Moon Phenology

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 March I 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!

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

Rumbles in the night.

Here in the United Kingdom of late, Autumn seems to like to imitate Summer and once again, overnight, proved no exception in this regard. To add to our October 26th Thunder day, we can now add November 4th. Four or Five rumbles awoke me from my slumber during the early hours, albeit, I had my curtains pulled and the windows slightly ajar. Am I the only one who does this when storms are predicted? I believe that now makes the total, 8 days of Thunder or Lightning heard or seen. By noting this data it provides a useful insight into annual climatic differences in the patterns. So far, for example, even without the precise data, the year so far, has panned out as below.

  • January and February, above average temperatures after the bitter December of 2010. 
  • Spring (March through May in meteorological terms) was exceptionally mild
  • Summer (June through August) much cooler than average.
  • Autumn (September through November) so far, you’ve guessed it! Exceptionally mild once again.
  • As for precipitation, there are obviously, differences dependent on your locality. However, as per recent years, the drought continues and we currently have a deficit of 121.7mm, which is nigh on, 5 inches.

Whatever, the weather, there’s always records to be broken and I live and breathe it as you are no doubt, aware. As we finally leave Autumn and enter the depths of winter, netweather is the place, to be kept informed on all the UK’s weather.

Autumnal Cheers

Tony Powell

Where’s the time going?

Hello world.

I’m sorry for the lack of updates and let’s hope it’s not writers block or bloggers block, ha ha. One thing that has been pre-occupying me and my family, is the removal of an old garden shed and the general tidying up associated with this task. However, whilst this was being undertaken, during the last couple of weeks, we have made some interesting animal discoveries in the garden.

Firstly, a Smooth Newt was uncovered from the base of where the orignal shed was situated. Not, a total surprise to us, as others had been seen in the neighbourhood, over the years. Other more usual finds, were ladybirds, in the form of 10 spot Ladybirds, centipedes and also, millipedes. Flying about the vicinity on the warmer days, were Peacock (Inachis io) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterflies. Also, as an aside, we had a rumble of Thunder in the late evening of the 26th October. The Thunder days count, is down from the average of 10 or so, which we witness during most years.  So, as you can see weather wise, it’s not always straightforward seasonal changes.

Happy Days.

Tony Powell