Predicting spring and summer weather, sun or soak? according to the birds…

Having previously mentioned here, my passion for tracking Europe’s returning African visitors, I recently attempted an analysis of the latest data from the Gibraltar region. To do this, I reviewed a spreadsheet, set up in previous years that use the First dates of migrant bird sightings, sourced from Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society. Having gone through my seven randomly chosen bird species’ arrival dates (on return from Africa), they were to reveal some intriguing trends.

Below you can see a link to a copy of the above-mentioned spreadsheet.

gibraltar migrants

What does this data tell you? To me it hints at a good pattern match to 2010, when looking at the First known sightings of the seven listed bird species. Later, I will refer to the actual climate of two years ago. Meanwhile, a question arises. When looking at these bird arrival statistics, is it possible to predict the future climate for the United Kingdom, i.e. what will spring and summer weather be like? Currently, the latest news from Gibraltar indicated a relaxation of the High Pressure areas that have largely plagued that part of Europe since last autumn. Furthermore, it is a fact that Low Pressure systems with their associated weather fronts can move the migrant birds on mass, which sometimes result in bird falls (exceptionally large numbers). What effect if any, will this have on the United Kingdom, being that it is still under the firm grip of High Pressure and has been for several weeks now?

Has the current atmospheric situation resulted in a lack of bird movement? Oh, no! With quite a few spring overshoots such as Night Herons (Nycticorax  nycticorax) and Hoopoes (Upupa epops) already in, you can add to the mix the more usual Cuckoos (Cuculus canorus), Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus), Wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe) and Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla)*. Is it possible we could be having an early migration season this year?

2010’s weather for the UK, based on my local data proved a dry and rather warm spring (March through May) and cool wet end to summer (June through August). The official data from the Met Office shown here – Spring 2010 and Summer 2010 roughly correlated to mine.

Newbury 2010 climate
Newbury 2010 climate

As you can see from the above, spring came early, as did autumn in 2010.  Watch this space for further news of any resemblance with that particular year.

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

*as ever, Thanks to Birdguides

The Birds, they are a-singing

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).

Kind Regards

Tony Powell

Severe Weather Incoming for Scotland in particular

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.

Severe Weather Incoming – Latest Weather News –

  • Stay tuned to the media sources if in the affected areas; this is potentially life threatening for some.

Keep safe and best wishes.

Tony Powell

Now where’s that hot toddy!