TrackATree second coming – where I brave snow’s ghost

4 March 2015

I rushed out there for my second census a couple of days late, but as soon as I came back from my time away. Tuesday woke up freezing and covered in snow – not just the Sidlaw hills in the distance this time, but here, on the banks of the river as well. I was looking forward to catching some of it in the woods as we’ve had so little this winter. But apparently it was not freezing enough for it to linger into the afternoon and I had to do my census bare-earthed. It was still freezing enough, even with the occasional rays of the late afternoon sun breaking though, to motivate ‘efficiency’ so it was a rather rapid affair.

Magus Muir

There were fewer dog walkers – perhaps not surprising, given the weather but it might have been the timing of the visit, around 4pm, which just a week or so ago would have been in the dark.

The wind and the weather silenced the birds, and all you could hear is the movement of the trees above against the grey sky, occasionally broken by the shots from the bird scarer guns in the fields. Grim.

There were no signs of the buds bursting on my birch either.

Craighall Den

It was more cheery here – at least the birds were still out and about – the same flocks of great tits and robins rummaging away among the branches sheltered from the wind by the gully.

There were more of the hazel catkins showing – including a rather pathetic effort of my own census tree – but many still holding back their pollen for the better weather. No leaves poking through the scales on any of the three trees either, although the sycamore’s and hazel’s buds were swollen with impatience for the new season.

It’s not all dull and uneventful here in our TrackATree community though. The peeps in charge of the project have been working hard over winter and got a publication in Global Change Biology journal (here for the BBC coverage). Congrats! The data they used is the 200 year historical record of spring events available from the Marsham family estate in Norfolk, claimed to be the original citizen scientists here in the UK. Old data but new analysis – with special attention to the effects of temperature in autumn, winter and spring. And it turns out that rising autumn temperatures, may force much earlier oak leafing and delay the birches. Are these results generalisable across larger geographic range? Will the oaks be leafing before birches on regular basis? How do the understorey plants react? TrackATree data will help resolve these questions.

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