The Heat Is Online

Warm Winter Keeps Migrating Birds At Home

Some European Birds Delay Migration Due to Warmth, Dec. 20, 2006

OSLO - Some European birds have failed to fly south for the winter, apparently lured to stay by weeks of mild weather that experts widely link to global warming.

Birds including robins, thrushes and ducks that would normally fly south from Scandinavia, for instance, have been seen in December -- long after snow usually drives them south. And Siberian swans have been late reaching western Europe.

"With increasing warmth in winter we suspect that some types of birds won't bother to migrate at all," said Grahame Madge, spokesman of the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Many individual birds were leaving later, and flying less far.

One Swiss study this month suggested that Europe has just had the warmest autumn in 500 years. Frosts have crept south in the past week -- chilling any birds gambling that the entire winter will be balmy.

Madge said that Bewick's swans, for instance, which usually arrive in Britain in October from Siberia in Russia had apparently stopped for longer than usual in countries such as Estonia or the Netherlands because of plentiful food.

Birds cutting down on migration save vast amounts of energy on dangerous flights -- such as from the Arctic to Africa and back -- and can have the pick of northern breeding sites in spring. But they risk being killed by a snap cold spell.

"Some birds are much more common in winter here than they were about 30 years ago," said Geoffrey Acklam, a veteran amateur ornithologist who lives near Oslo where there is no snow but some overnight frosts.

"It's a result of a series of mild winters."


He said he first saw a robin in winter in the 1970s but recently nine were spotted locally in one day. Migratory chiff chaffs, thrushes and field fares were also increasingly common.

The World Meteorological Organization said last week that 10 of the warmest years since records began in the 1850s were in the last 12 years -- 2006 ranks a provisional sixth.

Changing migratory patterns can also affect distant habitats -- hundreds of millions of birds fly from the Arctic as far as Australia and South America every year, where they can be food for other animals.

Experts say that the spring migration is becoming earlier.

"Birds are arriving earlier across Europe," said Endre Knudsen, a researcher at Oslo University. Birds often needed to race to grab the best nesting sites.

But he said it was risky because the arrival of migrants was sometimes out of step with the availability of insects and other food.

Almost all climate scientists reckon that human emissions of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels are driving up temperatures and could lead to more floods, erosion, desertification, spread of disease and rising sea levels.

Birds and bees in winter denial

The Telegraph (U.K.), Dec. 20, 2006


Maybe the hard frosts have given them the hint but less than a week before Christmas there were reports of swallows still swooping for insects across the country.


These summer migrants might usually be expected to be 5,000 miles away in southern Africa instead of cluttering up the rarity sightings section of bird watchers' websites.


The unusually long run of mild weather  in what experts say could be Britain's warmest year on record  has seen leaves hanging stubbornly on the trees, dragonflies flitting across rivers when they should have died off and butterflies that should have hibernated still on the wing.


A third of the way into what is usually winter, there have been records of all of the hibernating butterflies  red admiral, small tortoiseshell, peacock and comma  still about, according to Tim Sparks of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire.


"We often see red admirals late in the year but seeing the others, comma especially, is unusual," he said.


The buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus terrestris was still out foraging in gardens, at least until the hard frosts, whereas usually only the queens survive to hibernate over winter.


The phenology (study of change) records compiled by Monks Wood have detailed ospreys still hunting at Nayland, Suffolk, and Exeter, Devon, instead of retreating to West Africa, sandwich terns still at Emsworth Harbour, Hampshire, and Studland, Dorset, and a roseate tern unwilling to leave Dun Laoghaire, Dublin.


Martin Mere, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve at Rufford, Lancs, reports that it has a brood of nine mallard ducklings, either six months early or six months late  it is hard to tell.


The grounds manager Andrew Wooldridge said: "Mallard ducklings are not completely uncommon at this time of year, but it is a very unusual sight to see which illustrates how the warmer weather is beginning to merge the seasons."


The ducklings have survived as they have access to a heated area.

The centre near Ormskirk has already chalked up another first this year because of climate change: Mediterranean black-winged stilts nested for the first time in 100 years.


After the warmest September, October and November since records began in 1659, the Woodland Trust is asking its members to report trees that are still in leaf.


Horse chestnuts have flowered late into the autumn and Dr Sparks reports a precocious blackthorn which usually only flowers in February or March flowering in a hedge at Monks Woods.


Oxeye daisies, field scabious and ragwort are still flowering and, at a farm in Monksilver, near Minehead, Somerset, a whole field of charlock, the wild relative of oil seed rape is in flower.


The plant normally flowers in the spring but never usually before late January.


The owner of the 30-acre field, who asked not to be named for commercial reasons, said: "I would have been spraying weedkiller on it around this time but because it has bloomed so early it's too late for that."


Lucy Hodsman, agricultural manager of the National Non-Food Crop Centre, said: "We are going to see a lot more of this. It will be interesting to see what effects it will have on the crop's development. Blooming too early might stunt the growth of the crop when it does get colder."


At sea, the Environment Agency reported that the common tortoiseshell limpet, the acorn barnacle and the toothed topshell, the largest seashore shell, have all moved northwards to cooler temperatures in the past few years.


Researchers mapped the distribution of 57 species at 400 locations around the coast and found that the purple acorn barnacle had extended its range eastwards from the Isle of Wight to Kent.


The toothed topshell had extended its range from Lyme Regis to east of Weymouth and a northern brown seaweed, called Dabberlocks, had disappeared from most of south west England.


The project, known as MarClim, carried out by scientists from Plymouth Marine Laboratory and three other institutes, recorded that the common tortoiseshell limpet, has only been seen in Scotland in recent years having retracted from the Irish Sea and Isle of Man.


(c ) Telegraph Media Group