It’s March and officially the start of spring, says the meteorological calendar. Meanwhile, the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar has received a wave of reports of natural seasonal signs, suggesting that spring isn’t just on track, it’s early.
So far, 352 individual pieces of ‘unusual’ data have been sent in by volunteers across the UK. The first of these – hazel flowering in Southampton on October 27 last year – was the earliest recording of this event since the year 2000. Other species recorded include blackbirds nesting, snowdrops, frogspawn and red-tailed bumblebees.
Closer to home, the first sighting of hazel catkins (shared with Nature’s Calendar) was on January 10 at Cookstown, with the first snowdrops recorded near Enniskillen on January 12.
While spring seems to be unfolding early, the Woodland Trust says that records in Northern Ireland are scarce and more are needed to make a meaningful contribution to the research. The charity is appealing for local nature lovers to turn citizen scientists.
The trust’s Northern Ireland director Patrick Cregg said: “We’re appealing to people across the country to spare just a minute or two of their time. We need many more local records in order to get a clearer picture of how spring – and later autumn – unfolds.
“It’s the perfect excuse to rally the kids for a walk in your nearest woodland and, if that doesn’t suit, simply keep an eye on your own back garden. From first bud bust to first bumblebee, we will truly appreciate each and every observation shared.”
Charlotte Armitage, citizen science officer for the Woodland Trust, said: “We’ve been shocked by the volume of early records received this year across the UK. The public are providing us with information that helps us better understand how flora and fauna are faring in a fluctuating climate – and we need more people to sign up.
“With the cold snap now upon us, the sort of freeze not uncommon at this time of year, the danger is that some species will suffer.
“Species fooled by warmer weather into blossoming, breeding or emerging early are vulnerable. While plants have the chance to flower again later in the season, some creatures, for example insects and frogspawn, will not fare well. We’re very much relying on the public to keep us informed.”
Nature’s Calendar is a continuation of seasonal recordings which date back to the 18th century. By recording the timings of natural phenomenon, thousands of people have enabled Nature’s Calendar to become the leading survey into how climate change is affecting UK plants and wildlife.
To find out more and to add your records, visit naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk