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.

Clump of frogspawn

(Jill Stevens)

Frogspawn in a pond

(Pippa Hine)

Mass of frogspawn

(Emma Davies)

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.

Male blackcap perching between hazel catkins

A male blackcap perching between hazel catkins (Maxine Bolton)

Female blackcap on a bird feeder

The female blackcap actually has a chestnut coloured cap (Kevin Habgood)

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.

Peacock butterfly with wings open.

Peacock (Marion Robertson)

Red admiral butterfly with wings open

Red admiral (Paulene Ashmore)

Peacock butterfly with wings open

Peacock (Anne Humble)

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.

Close up of a snowdrop with petals open

(Sophie Cooper)

A clump of snowdrops with petals just open

(Annie Dickson)

A clump of snowdrops amongst the brown fallen leaves

(Damian Stone)

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. 

Two clumps of snowdrops in the sunshine

Snowdrops first flowering 1 January 2019 - West Yorkshire

Yellow hazel catkins hanging from a tree

Hazel first flowering 2 January 2019 - County Antrim

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!

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of the spring? Is it a good year for wild autumn fruits? Take part in Nature's Calendar and help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

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