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Spring 2019 arrived in November 2018, says Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar project has received over 64 records of early spring activity that started in November 2018 – including insects that have been spotted active up to 5 months earlier than normal.

Mild weather seems to have temporarily disturbed insects from hibernation. A small tortoiseshell butterfly appeared flying outdoors on Christmas Day in Merthyr Tydfil, and a red tailed bumblebee on Boxing Day in Somerset. The average date for small tortoiseshells is 14 April, and bumblebees 26 March – making both over three months early. Even earlier still, a red admiral was seen on 17 December in Cambridgeshire; the average emergence date is 7 May, making it nearly five months ahead of schedule.1

Members of the public have sent in many other signs that spring has sprung:

  • Flowering snowdrops were spotted in Southampton on 30 November – over a month earlier than expected – and there have been 24 records of this in total
  • There have been 23 hazel flowering records, beginning 1 December. This usually happens in early March
  • A flowering oxeye daisy was seen in Gloucestershire on 28 December, despite normally blooming from mid-April to early June.


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Even birds have made an early appearance. The song thrush has been heard in eleven locations since 5 December and is increasingly reported singing all winter, though expected mid-late March. Blue tits were also seen exploring a nesting box on 26 December, though the UK average date for nesting is 4 April.

Met office records for the UK report both November and December as mild, with average temperatures more than 1°C above the 1981-2010 long-term average2. However, with a potential cold snap on the way, more delicate species could suffer.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, citizen science manager for the Woodland Trust said:

“Once again – despite being in the throes of January – flora and fauna are reacting to milder climates, and spring seems to have sprung early. We were far from a white Christmas, with hazel flowers and snowdrops being spotted by our citizen scientists across the UK.

“Data like this has continuously brought into question the way we think about the seasons, and to see spring in December no longer seems unusual. The more data we have, the better we will understand the effects of warm winters, cold snaps and heatwaves. In short, we need more Nature’s Calendar recorders.”

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.

In 2018 an early spring was paused by the Beast from the East, only for a summer heatwave to make berries ripen early and conkers shrink. Temperature research by the Met Office suggests that the growing season is extending by up to a month2, and this is corroborated by Nature’s Calendar data; budburst is happening earlier and leaf fall later.

To become a Nature’s Calendar recorder, visit naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk. Or, to watch time lapse footage of trees throughout the seasons visit our YouTube channel.

– Ends –

Notes to editors

For further information contact the Woodland Trust press office on 01476 581121 or email HollieAnderson@woodlandtrust.org.uk

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.

  1. 2001 is used as a benchmark year as weather conditions closely reflected the 30 year average supplied by the Met Office. Data from the year 2000 onwards has been used to get ‘expected date’ ranges for each seasonal event. Anything recorded outside of this creates an alert, which is sent directly to Woodland Trust staff to verify.
  1. Met Office records for the UK report both November and December as mild, with average temperatures for November as 7.3°C, and for December as 5.8 °C – both of which are more than 1 °C above the 1981-2010 long-term average.

Table of records, including baseline averages

Species

Event

Date recorded

2001 benchmark average date

Location (if given)

Blue tit

First nest building

26/12/2018

4th April

South Yorkshire

Bumblebee (red-tailed)

First recorded

26/12/2018

26th March

Somerset

Elder

Budburst

29/12/2018

19th March

Worcs

Elder

Budburst

30/12/2018

19th March

 

Hazel

First flowering

01/12/2018

2nd March

 

Hazel

First flowering

06/12/2018

2nd March

East Sussex

Hazel

First flowering

07/12/2018

2nd March

Hants

Hazel

First flowering

09/12/2018

2nd March

Hants

Hazel

First flowering

14/12/2018

2nd March

 

Hazel

First flowering

16/12/2018

2nd March

Devon

Hazel

First flowering

17/12/2018

2nd March

 

Hazel

First flowering

19/12/2018

2nd March

Merseyside

Hazel

First flowering

20/12/2018

2nd March

West Yorkshire

Hazel

First flowering

20/12/2018

2nd March

 

Hazel

First flowering

24/12/2018

2nd March

Merthyr Tydfil

Hazel

First flowering

26/12/2018

2nd March

Essex

Hazel

First flowering

26/12/2018

2nd March

 

Hazel

First flowering

26/12/2018

2nd March

Merseyside

Hazel

First flowering

26/12/2018

2nd March

 

Hazel

First flowering

26/12/2018

2nd March

Oxon

Hazel

First flowering

27/12/2018

2nd March

Glos

Hazel

First flowering

30/12/2018

2nd March

Oxon

Hazel

First flowering

30/12/2018

2nd March

 

Hazel

First flowering

30/12/2018

2nd March

Glos

Hazel

First flowering

01/01/2019

2nd March

Oxon

Hazel

First flowering

01/01/2019

2nd March

Glos

Oxeye daisy

First flowering

28/12/2018

26th May

Glos

Red admiral

First recorded

17/12/2018

7th May

Cambridgeshire

Small tortoiseshell

First recorded

25/12/2018

14th April

Merthyr Tydfil

Snowdrop

First flowering

30/11/2018

5th Feb

Hants

Snowdrop

First flowering

22/12/2018

5th Feb

West Yorkshire

Snowdrop

First flowering

23/12/2018

5th Feb

Vale of Glamorgan

Snowdrop

First flowering

24/12/2018

5th Feb

 

Snowdrop

First flowering

24/12/2018

5th Feb

Glos

Snowdrop

First flowering

25/12/2018

5th Feb

Glos

Snowdrop

First flowering

26/12/2018

5th Feb

Hants

Snowdrop

First flowering

27/12/2018

5th Feb

West Sussex

Snowdrop

First flowering

27/12/2018

5th Feb

Devon

Snowdrop

First flowering

29/12/2018

5th Feb

Gwynedd

Snowdrop

First flowering

29/12/2018

5th Feb

Highlands

Snowdrop

First flowering

30/12/2018

5th Feb

West Midlands

Snowdrop

First flowering

30/12/2018

5th Feb

Lincs

Snowdrop

First flowering

31/12/2018

5th Feb

North Yorkshire

Snowdrop

First flowering

31/12/2018

5th Feb

 

Snowdrop

First flowering

01/01/2019

5th Feb

Perth and Kinross

Snowdrop

First flowering

01/01/2019

5th Feb

Devon

Snowdrop

First flowering

01/01/2019

5th Feb

Glos

Snowdrop

First flowering

01/01/2019

5th Feb

West Yorkshire

Snowdrop

First flowering

01/01/2019

5th Feb

Cumbria

Snowdrop

First flowering

01/01/2019

5th Feb

Northumberland

Snowdrop

First flowering

02/01/2019

5th Feb

Cornwall

Snowdrop

First flowering

02/01/2019

5th Feb

Highland

Snowdrop

First flowering

03/01/2019

5th Feb

South Yorkshire

Song thrush

First recorded

05/12/2018

19th March

 

Song thrush

First recorded

07/12/2018

19th March

Cambridgeshire

Song thrush

First recorded

26/12/2018

19th March

 

Song thrush

First recorded

01/01/2019

19th March

Isle of Wight

Song thrush

Recorded all winter

15/11/2018

NA

Surrey

Song thrush

Recorded all winter

26/11/2018

NA

Worcs

Song thrush

Recorded all winter

17/12/2018

NA

Notts

Song thrush

Recorded all winter

17/12/2018

NA

Notts

Song thrush

Recorded all winter

17/12/2018

NA

 

Song thrush

Recorded all winter

17/12/2018

NA

 

Song thrush

Recorded all winter

26/12/2018

NA

 

  1. Please see press release from the Met Office in 2016 here.