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
After the Winter we have witnessed here in the United Kingdom, I think most would welcome a human type gestation period of calm before the rebirth of a Winter anything like the one we’ve just witnessed. By way of example, just how wet was it? Here is the view from the UK Met Office. To add a personal perspective, here’s the Davis data for my locale from Berkshire in England.
When viewing the above charts, I have put in a false red line which shows in my view at least, the days you would normally describe as soakers, i.e. those producing 10mm or more, which is the equivalent of approximately 2/5ths of an inch. In actual Meteorological terms, a “wet” day is where precipitation exceeds 2mm and a “very wet” day is classed as a day on which 20mm is exceeded. So yes, you can safely say Winter 2013/14 has been wet in my patch with only 20 out of the 90 days registering as a day without precipitation*. However, it wasn’t necessarily my region which made the headlines. The attached link from the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) shows the devastating effects of the flooding from Somerset. On there you should be able to view other reports, complete with video clips, from other UK regions which were affected by the odd Winter weather. We should not forget that it was also very windy on occasions, although my own readings are lower than most, you can see from the attached images, where winds have exceeded the 38mph mark as indicated by my red line. This dates can be described as Gale days, although perhaps not strictly under Meteorological definition. Any wind gusts which exceed the green lineshown would normally represent a windy day for my location, based on my own experiences of past events.
As for snow, well, Scotland nicked it all, this article again from the BBC being typical of highland Scotland’s Winter in 2013/14. For the rest of the British Isles, it had been a very poor one for those who wanted to see some wintry ice crystals, in fact I barely saw two days of sleet throughout the whole Winter. The Air Temperatures weren’t especially noteworthy with the mean for the Winter as a whole, somewhere around 1c above the long-term average, based on the 1981-2010 CET series. The lack of Air Frosts was notable for my location however, with only nine (9) being achieved in total and not all of these were before dawn due to my 24 hour reporting periods. As for the effect on the Natural World by way of phenology, more reports on that are forthcoming.
*only one dry day in January and this fell within a period of 33 days with only the one dry day in total
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.
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.
As ever when sticking your head above the proverbial parapet, certain things can go awry. However, did any the above happen? Nature as ever, is NOT standing still and I hereby make no apologies for the length of this post.
The 20th Februarysaw the emergence of Seven-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella 7-punctata) and the usual date of occurrence for this bug is now 8th March, albeit based on only 6 records in my dataset.
Come the 23rd February, the Temperatures soared as anticipated and many more events came to the fore. This date saw the emergence of the first Bumblebee in my garden, most probably a queen of the Bombus terrestris variety. The rolling average date for this, based on a sample of 16 records, actually returns this very date. Remarkably earlier than usual however was the queen Wasp, given my 14 records now indicate a date of 5th April. The 23rd February also brought about the appearance of a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae) which was ahead of schedule by some five to six weeks, the usual date being around the 30th March, based on 15 individual records.
The 24th February provided evidence of first locally flowering Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and this is on record 14 times with a normally flowering date of6th March. Also in evidence were nest-building Blackbirds (Turdus merula). The 6th March being normal for this event, based on my 15 records sample.
The 25th February proved a date for a First lawn cut which normally returns a date of 13th March based on6 records. An enlightening observation was of a nest-building Robin (Erithacus rubecula). With weak evidence of this phenomenon, I only possess4 records with an average date of 25th March. The same day(25th February) produced another wonderful event of a singing Woodlark (Lullula arborea). I have 9 records of this phenomenon, which tends to happen for the first time around the 7th March.
This concludes a busy period of observation and with the United Kingdom’s weather remaining mild; you can safely predict more Phenology events to be forthcoming.
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.
Snow showers are expected along parts of the eastern coastline today and tomorrow, but most places will continue to see bright, dry and cold conditions.
Things are set to change as we go through into Saturday, however, as an Atlantic front moves in from the west.
Paul Gundersen, Chief Forecaster at the Met Office, said: “As this front moves in from the west it will come up against cold air and we’re likely to see a mixture of rain, sleet and…
The birds have been most vocal in recent days on my local patch and in the nearby countryside. To break down the detail, let us look at the birds that have been singing more or less every day since the autumn.
Great Tit(Parus major) has been a joy to hear with its “tit-su, tit-su, tit-su” lilt.
Song Thrush(Turdus philomelos) with its repetitive three or four noted phrases rendered by myself as “did you do it, did you do it, did you, did you, did you” is a species which has been singing for many a week now.
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) whose sweet notes delivered at an effortless pace something like “too de le, to de lu, swee, swee” is another species to have defending its territory since October or even before that.
Eurasian Collared Dove(Streptopelia decaocto) with the monotonous undertones of a weary football fan singing “united, united, united, united” has been singing since about late November.
Please notice that I have now given up on my pathetic renditions of the songs, which you access via places such as the Archival Sound Recordings link at the British Library. However, I do also possess many semi-professional standard sound recordings myself, which are a joy to listen to.
Now, in January, one can add a whole multitude of other bird species to be heard singing. If you are an early riser, only the early mornings will likely provide you with a Blackbird(Turdus Merula). My first recorded date for Blackbird, being the 9th January is my earliest date on record, based on a series of 14 individual dates. The only thing I will say, is that along with the aforementioned Robin, they can be fooled to sing by the street lighting and may well be heard singing, even on a mild Christmas day. I did actually hear the Blackbird on one day in December, however now that it has started, it will sing every day right through to late June.
Another bird, which I keep records for, is the Chaffinch(Fringilla coelebs) and again, the date on which I heard it, the 13th January is my earliest on record based on a series of 9 individual dates. My two most amazing records this year must however be the Chiffchaff(Phylloscopus collybita) and Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla). Both of which I heard on the 15th January during a WEBS count at a local gravel pit. Needless to say, the first heard singing Chiffchaff is again, my earliest date on record, this time, by nearly two months. My average date of 11th March for a singing Chiffchaff and based on 18 individual records shows the oddity of this date. As for the Blackcap, I do not keep individual records as we often get these winter visitors come to our feeders in the garden.
As you can see from the above, I do not note every bird species that I hear singing for the first time, but from memory, you can additionally add the following species, as having been in song since January 1st.
I have also heard three good woodland dwelling species in form of Coal Tit(Periparus ater),Eurasian Nuthatch(Sitta europaea) and Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) on occasions since early January. In addition, today – 18th January, I was surprised to hear the Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) in song, for the first time since last summer.
The above is not exhaustive and there may well be others to add to the avian songsters list as upon browsing the internet, other folk have reported the following.
Wrens(Troglodytes troglodytes),Dunnocks(Prunella modularis) and even Great-Spotted Woodpeckers(Dendrocopos major) drumming and of course, there are always those darn Wood Pigeons(Columba palumbus).
The unseasonal autumn weather has left me feeling miserable, desperately waiting for some active weather and on top of that, I now have a cold. Looking back at autumn, here are the official UK statistics – UK has a warm autumn – Met Office
So, as we are now moving into meteorological winter, what is on the cards? Interestingly, the weather is cranking up a gear or two. During recent days, there have been several inches of snow in Scotland and on the northern hills. Next up, for tomorrow and in the forthcoming days, there will be a series of very active storms, see below for this very newsworthy story.