Autumnal oak-leaves

Photo by     |     Article by Nancy Lowe, The Natural Gardener     


It’s early December and starting to feel pretty chilly outside now. What a mild Autumn it’s been though!

And I’m sure I’ve seen all sorts of things flowering that shouldn’t have been. It’s always really hard to say for sure isn’t it – whether the funny weather and random flowering are because of climate change or not, but these days it always makes me wonder. And that reminds me to look up Nature’s Calender, which – if you’ve not come across it yet – is one of the UK’s largest citizen science projects that is making it possible to track some of the ways our seasonal events have been shifting and changing over recent years.

Nature’s Calender is run by The Woodland Trust and it records key seasonal events, such as leaves opening, flowers appearing, the arrival of migratory birds and the timing of fruit ripening. We are all invited to help record these events as they happen in our part of the UK and this data is being used to build up a detailed picture of how the UK’s seasons are changing. Interactive maps show how seasonal events emerge across the country and regular seasonal reports explain how each season compares to the historical average. They haven’t put up a report for this Autumn yet, so we’ll have to wait to see what is made of all the Autumn apple blossom and other unseasonal flowerings. However, the report for our sunny, locked down Spring – which felt like such a gift for those of us stuck at home – makes interesting reading. Every month, from January to June, had higher than average temperatures. At the same time, Spring events, such as the first leaves, flowers and insects, happened a good two weeks or more before they usually do.

Researchers are using the data we collect to look into ways wildlife is likely to have a hard time coping as our climate changes. One of these projects, led by the RSPB, looked at those early spring events, noticing that while trees came into leaf early and caterpillars hatched early to eat those young, fresh leaves, the birds didn’t start nesting early and so their chicks missed out on their usual caterpillar feast. It’s amazing how finely tuned everything is. And rather galling when we discover how unbalanced it may well become.

Still, once we can see what the problems are, there is a chance we can help in some way. So, I’m really keen to support Nature’s Calender in getting out there to record seasonal events here in my patch of Shropshire.

It’s really easy to get involved and if you’re up for it too, it’s not too late to record the last events of the year. Oak and Hazel have yet to drop their leaves, so get out there and find your nearest ones and be ready to record the date the last leaves fall.

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