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.
As we are meteorologically speaking, now in the season of summer, let us look back at spring 2012. On reflection, do you feel it was a pleasant one, weather wise for the United Kingdom? As ever, courtesy of my Davis weather station, I can add some meat to the bones to my previous question.
Spring 2012 (March-May) was at its traditional best overall, although with a notable exception here and there. Look at the following plot for a closer view of Newbury, Berkshire’s Maximum Temperatures and Rainfall amounts.
NEWBURY SPRING SEASON TEMPERATURES AND RAINFALL 2012
From the above, it becomes apparent that 2012 proved a mixed bag. Indeed, the local climate changed abruptly on occasions. Take for example, the March rainfall deficit of 29.2mm when compared to the 30-year local average of 50mm. All the talk in the media at this stage was of impending drought and hosepipe bans. However, as most will be aware, April changed all that. Some of this, at least at a local level dramatically changed with a huge surplus of 61mm by the end of the month. May then ended up drier than usual with a deficit of 14.3mm when compared to the local 30-year average. What about the temperatures I hear you ask!
For your information, the 30-year mean temperature averages (Oxford 1971-2000) are as follows. March normally returns 6.3c, April 8.1c and May 11.3c with regard to expected temperatures. Please bear in mind, the figures shown in the above plot only show our achieved maximum temperatures. When mentioning the aforementioned averages, the weather station automatically calculates these against mean minimums and maximums so I don’t have to do the mathematics. Using the plot above you can now analyse the 2012 spring season further with regard to its temperature.
March, with a very warm finish ended 1.6c above the mean. April abruptly turned the warmth to cold with a temperature return 0.8c below the mean. Finally, May 2012 warmed up, especially in the final third to return a local mean, 1.2c above the norm. I attach a final summary below confirming the above figures.
NEWBURY SPRING SEASON CLIMATOLOGICAL SUMMARY 2012
As for the effect on phenology, further news will be forthcoming.
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).
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!Tony Powell
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?
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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 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?
This weekend will see a marked change in the weather as the dry spell makes way for snow and ice in many parts.
Over the past few days we have seen the coldest spell of winter so far, as very cold air has flooded across the UK from the continent. Temperatures have dropped as low as -9.4 °C in Shap, Cumbria, and -10 °C is possible in places tonight.
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.