Ward on the wild side

PUBLISHED: 12:22 23 January 2006 | UPDATED: 21:37 28 May 2010

As I walked along a farm track the other day with just a light fleece as an extra layer, it struck me just how mild it has been this winter. It is hard to believe there is not some significant change going on with the weather now, with hard winter weathe

As I walked along a farm track the other day with just a light fleece as an extra layer, it struck me just how mild it has been this winter. It is hard to believe there is not some significant change going on with the weather now, with hard winter weather now seemingly distinctly rare.While in a thinking mood, it also occurred to me that I haven't seen any significant flocks of 'winter' thrushes. The autumn arrival of redwings and fieldfares was obvious enough (as usual), but for the last two months or so, it has only been flocks of less than 100 fieldfares and a mere handful of redwings in evidence.Is this weather related? These birds certainly do move around if frost and ice prevent them from feeding on pasture, but it is really the availability of the berry crop that dictates their movements. I have to admit that this winter's crop of berries hasn't struck me as being particularly big, so perhaps the majority of the birds are elsewhere in the country. It may also be that many 'stayed behind' on the continent this winter.The fact that signs of spring come earlier now also adds to the 'mild winter' effect. Great tits began singing their 'squeaky wheel' songs in mid-January and both song and mistle thrushes have been in half voice. I worry that these birds waste their time and energy with such behaviour as they shouldn't begin breeding activity in earnest until March really. There are also records of blackbirds, for example, having first broods in the winter, which of course inevitably end in disaster.Hopefully, these bouts of song on mild, bright days are just the birds 'tuning up' and practising for spring or starting to claim their territories. Perhaps they are just enjoying the sun.Frogs certainly start spawning much earlier in the year now. They are creatures whose behaviour is very much governed by the weather with rises and falls in temperatures acting as natural 'triggers' for their actions. They have no way of knowing the date and are really completely at the mercy of what the weather does. The fact that so many things in nature are weather dependent is one of the major concerns about global warming. Even the smallest of increases in temperature could have a huge impact on wildlife and the countryside.

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