It's the 75th anniversary of data collection here in Wytham Woods and I'm pleased to say that the first egg has been laid in my round! This long-term study has been crucial to understanding patterns in ecology and evolution, and a nice demonstration of that is the finding of this first egg on March 30th. Climate change has led to warmer temperatures earlier in the spring, meaning earlier emergence of leaves and earlier caterpillars. This means that if breeding birds continued to raise their young at the same time of year, they would miss the peak of caterpillars when compared to the peak of their chicks' energetic needs – a condition known as trophic mismatch. This means that the birds have also had to shift their breeding season earlier. This can be seen clearly across the 75 years of data collection in Wytham, where when the study started in 1947, egg-laying was almost a month later!
Nice afternoon at Farmoor reservoir seeing plenty of species, including the rare Oxon great northern diver visitor that has been here for a few weeks now. It's also great to see some courtship dances among the great-crested grebes, which I think is always one of the very best behaviours to watch!
I was very happy to see this beautiful male wheatear during an evening trip to Port Meadow today! These birds are reasonably rare visitors to Oxfordshire, having come from central Africa where they over-winter, and passing through to breed either on the west coasts of the UK or further afield.
It's been a great day for feeling like spring has sprung in Oxford. I trudged around a few of the wildlife hotspots inside the city, with no particular hopes to see anything specific. This started in Port Meadow, where the river runs along the west and the canal to the east. At this time of year, the meadow is still flooded, attracting many gulls, waterfowl and some waders to roost overnight. This includes sometimes very large flocks of golden plover, one of which I saw isolated today perfectly camouflaged against the yellow grass! The air was thick with skylark song, which I expect will start laying their first eggs in a month-or-so's time. I then crossed north Oxford through to Marston meadows, where the first chiffchaff song of the year made me sure that spring has sprung!
A blog of my ideas, photography and research of the natural world.