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18 : Nature’s Calendar MAKE YOUR LOVE FOR THE OUTDOORS COUNT Nature’s Calendar Kate Lewthwaite, PhD (The Woodland Trust) S

pending a lot of time outdoors means that beekeepers often take a great deal of interest in weather, nature and seasonal change.

Whether you’re a life-long outdoor enthusiast or just an occasional visitor to the garden, you may have pondered how this year’s spring compares with last year’s spring. Are the bees out early? When did you spot your first swallow of the year or hawthorn blossom? If these types of questions ignite your interest, the Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar survey, accessible at, may be of interest to you. The Trust’s 12-year survey, which also holds historic records dating back to the eighteenth century, records the timing of a variety of natural seasonal events throughout the year. This branch of science is known as ‘phenology’. Thankfully, however, you don’t need to be a scientist to take part; an interest in nature and a computer is all you need to qualify. As Dr Kate Lewthwaite, Nature’s Calendar Project Manager, enthuses: ‘The best thing

about phenology is its simplicity. Anyone can do it at any time of year and make an extremely valuable contribution to scientific knowledge’.

Over the past 30 years phenology has

provided clear evidence that the British seasons are changing. For example, Nature’s Calendar records demonstrate that on average, spring is arriving earlier and earlier, with 2013 being a surprising anomaly to the trend. Working with scientific partner the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the survey has shown that on average, active insects are being seen three weeks earlier (showing their greater adaptability compared with other groups), plant growth is up to two weeks earlier and bird activity is a week earlier. Autumn is also extending, with leaf fall becoming later in our milder winters. The seasons are truly changing in ways we don’t fully understand and it is becoming increasingly important to track what is happening, providing essential information for generations to come. As Dr Lewthwaite says, ‘The findings are an endorsement of the power of citizen science in helping fathom issues that demand

Elder berries

data collection on a vast scale. The results are used by government and the scientific community to help understand what is happening to our much-loved wildlife’. If you are interested in becoming a Nature’s Calendar recorder, you can contribute as little or as much as you like. Taking part can be as simple as noting wildflowers in your garden, insect or bird activity in your nearest park or the leafing of trees in a local wood. Your record can then be compared with other records over time or location and the Trust’s fascinating record of seasonal change can really come to life.

While tens of thousands of people sign up to receive Nature’s Calendar news and findings, a few thousand people commit to recording regularly and a core of around 200 enthusiastic recorders send in the majority of the data which provide the mainstay of scientific credibility to the project. Since the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent every year, this data collection has never been more important. With this in mind, the Trust is keen to find some new recruits. August 2013 Vol 95 No 8

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