Frogs have been spawning: January news and photos
Lorienne Whittle, 15/02/2019
January has been a busy month for Nature's Calendar. We recently featured on BBC Winterwatch (find out more below), and a number of new recorders signed up to the project as a result. A warm welcome if you're reading this as a new recorder! I’m also new to Nature's Calendar this month, and will be looking after the project with Judith Garforth, who returned from maternity leave at the end of last year.
Whether you’re new to Nature’s Calendar or have been recording for many years, we look forward to tracking the changes in the seasons with you through 2019 and beyond. Below are some of the highlights from January.
Frogs have been spawning
Eager eyed citizen scientists have been recording clumps of little googly eyes staring back at them from garden ponds and other watery habitats across the UK. We’ve had just over 20 records of frogspawn in January, which is a little earlier than we’d usually expect common frogs to be spawning. Let’s hope the snowy weather that hit much of the country in the middle of last month hasn’t killed off the next generation of these particular early laying amphibians. Keep us up-to-date with how frogspawn (and later the tadpoles) are doing near you.
Nightingales of the north
The melodic song of the nightingale has been famed by poets, musicians and playwrights, among others, for centuries. Why am I telling you about nightingales, you may ask, when they are not a species recorded on Nature’s Calendar?
Here at the Woodland Trust headquarters in Grantham we are just about at the northern limit for nightingales in the UK. The plucky, plump blackcaps are far more widespread however, and also have a beautiful song. So much so, they are sometimes nicknamed ‘nightingales of the north’. Commonly seen in towns and cities, blackcaps are easy to spot and often frequent garden bird feeders, bullishly seeing off any competition.
We've had over 20 blackcap records in January and interestingly over two thirds of these were recorded as ‘first seen’. The remaining have been ‘recorded all winter’, meaning the blackcaps have overwintered in the UK. Further studies are needed as to the extent of this change in blackcap behaviour and repercussions for the species. Your records are invaluable in collecting data that can be used by scientists to study such changes. To find out more about blackcaps and other winter birds, read Martha's blog.
Butterflies already out and about
Some adult butterflies become dormant over the winter months when there is less food available and the temperatures drop. They are stimulated to awaken by the warmth; however, those that have chosen to overwinter indoors can be confused by our artificial heating and wake too early. Nature’s Calendar is interested in butterflies reacting to the outdoor temperature. In January we had records of three peacocks and six red admirals sunning themselves outside.
A continued flurry of snowdrops
Popular as ever, snowdrops have continued to flower across the country, blanketing the ground with their pretty white blossoms. A symbol of hope and rebirth it seems fitting that this is one of the first flowers we see every new year. We had almost 300 records of flowering snowdrops in January alone. I couldn’t resist including a few of my favourite photos.
Nature’s Calendar featured on BBC Winterwatch
Nature’s Calendar was delighted to be featured on the fourth episode of BBC Winterwatch, which aired on 1 February. Some of the project’s early spring sightings were shared with viewers (you can see which ones below), and this has inspired new recorders to join the project. We are always keen to have more citizen scientists sign up to tell us about the timing of natural events. Our database of your phenology records is used by scientists to understand how UK wildlife is responding to the recent weather and climate change, so every record is valued.
Thank you to everyone who has been spotting signs of spring at the beginning of 2019. Having begun working on the Nature’s Calendar project at the start of the year, I can already see that looking through your photos to see what is happening to wildlife around the UK is going to be a monthly highlight!