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Climate Tits!

December 11, 2020
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By Paul Homewood

 

h/t Ian Magness

This appeared in the Telegraph the other day. It followed a similar story in the “Independent?” last month, and another from the Telegraph a couple of years ago:

 

 

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A rapidly warming climate will spell disaster for swathes of life on earth, including many bird species.

A new study reveals some birds which are dependent on specific abundant food sources at certain times of year may not be able to adapt fast enough to the change to seasonal patterns the climate crisis is bringing.

The research, by scientists at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and Oxford University, focused on great tits’ dietary habits.

They found that warmer winters and subsequent early springs cause trees to leaf earlier, which in turn prompts the larvae that feed on the plants to hatch earlier, and this can present a problem to the birds.

Great tits are among many species which depend on an abundance of larvae available when their chicks are newly hatched and growing.

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-birds-great-tits-extinct-b1720406.html 

 

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Warmer springs are leaving birds hungry because they hatch after the caterpillar population has peaked, experts have warned.

The Universities of Exeter, Edinburgh and Sheffield found that the emergence of chicks is ‘increasingly mismatched’ with their main food source of oak caterpillars which are only active for a few weeks.

After that, they typically fall from the trees and pupate, transforming into moths by November.

Researchers found that Great tits were on average two days later than the caterpillar peak, Blue tits were on average three days later, while Pied flycatchers hatched 13 days too late.

“Forests have a short peak in caterpillar abundance, and some forest birds time their breeding so this coincides with the time when their chicks are hungriest,” said Dr Malcolm Burgess, of the University of Exeter and the RSPB.

“With spring coming earlier due to climate change, leaves and caterpillars emerge earlier and birds need to breed earlier to avoid being mismatched. We found that the earlier the spring, the less able birds are to do this.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2018/04/23/warming-climate-leaves-birds-hatching-late-caterpillar-harvest/

The key month for determining whether trees leaf early and how early insects appear seems to be March. (After all, I know of no way trees and butterflies can predict in March what the weather will be like in April or May!)

 

This is borne out by the Woodland Trust’s Spring Analysis this year:

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https://naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

 

Note that insects appeared 23.2 days early in 2019, against 16.4 days this year and 1.4 days late in 2018. This tallies with the temperature record:

 

 

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/maps-and-data/uk-temperature-rainfall-and-sunshine-time-series

 

You will notice of course that the warmest Marches were in 1938 and 1957, rather putting the kibosh on the global warming argument!

But what really does stand out is the huge year-on-year variation, which can be as much as 6C. If insects and birds can manage to survive this weather variability, I am sure they won’t have any problem dealing with a degree of change over 30 years.

The reality is that weather has a much bigger impact on butterflies, including rain, snow, storms, and not just in the month they first appear as caterpillars. For instance, a mild March may bring insects out early, but a cold, wet April can cause much harm.

What none of these supposed nature experts seem to understand is that nature is far more resilient than they give it credit for.

Insects quickly adapt to changing weather conditions, and can readily move from one flower to another as they bloom during the season. Similarly, most birds feed from a multiple of different sources, which they can adapt to as circumstances change from week to week.

Above all, nature has its own self-balancing mechanism. In this case, if fewer caterpillars are eaten this year by birds, there will be more butterflies and consequently more caterpillars next year, thus allowing bird populations to thrive in turn next year. In turn, more birds means fewer caterpillars next, beginning the whole cycle again.

 

But you don’t have to take my word for this. The Woodland Trust themselves tell us that Great Tits and Blue Tits have been thriving in Britain since 1970:

 

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https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/blue-tit/#:~:text=Blue%20tits%20are%20found%20in%20deciduous%20and%20mixed,an%20estimated%20population%20of%20around%203.4%20million%20pairs.

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https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/great-tit/#:~:text=Great%20tits%20are%20found%20across%20the%20UK%2C%20in,%2F%20Alamy%20Stock%20Photo%20Signs%20and%20spotting%20tips

32 Comments
  1. GeoffB permalink
    December 11, 2020 6:36 pm

    Nudge, Nudge!

    • James Neill permalink
      December 11, 2020 7:59 pm

      Wink! Wink!

  2. Broadlands permalink
    December 11, 2020 6:42 pm

    “You will notice of course that the warmest Marches were in 1938 and 1957, rather putting the kibosh on the global warming argument!”

    Yes, March 1938…
    Reading through Charles Lindbergh’s Wartime Journals, 1970, pages 11-12, he wrote this just outside London on Sunday April 3rd, 1938, 82 years ago… “Wonderful weather since we landed last month. Was beginning to become enthusiastic about the weather in England until Anne read in the morning’s Observer that it was the warmest March for 150 years.”

  3. will permalink
    December 11, 2020 6:48 pm

    I believe you are correct Paul, a cold wet early summer has a devastating effect on most caterpillars, insects that generally thrive in warmer conditions, for those of us that have visited the tropics know only too well! The abundance of food for the caterpillars is very important. More building leads to less wild sites, this is far more important than a very small amount of warming. (climate change)

  4. Curious George permalink
    December 11, 2020 7:10 pm

    They believe that a warm spring affects different species – trees, insects, birds – differently. That’s how God created them. Forget evolution – it is not real. Only 37 genders are real.

    • yonason permalink
      December 14, 2020 1:50 pm

      Anyone familiar with nature knows that once it warms, the bugs start breeding, and don’t stop until it gets cold. Oh, there’ll be plenty of bugs for those tits to eat.

  5. LeedsChris permalink
    December 11, 2020 7:14 pm

    You can tell what nonsense this is by common sense. Global warming or not there is at least a two – four week variation in arrival of ‘spring’ across England and birds, insects etc seem to manage well enough already whether they live in Cornwall or Northumberland. Not to mention that my observation is that some butterflies (the Comma, as one example) and a number of solitary bees do fly early in the year and it is a late spring that is very damaging for them, not an early spring…..

  6. Mack permalink
    December 11, 2020 7:45 pm

    An excellent analysis Paul. I had a wry smile at your mention of the Woodland Trust, an organisation that seems to have been hijacked by the usual suspects and the PC brigade. I remember a few years back them lamenting that global warming would lead to the demise of our native bluebells. Having spent the last decade restoring and managing a long neglected ancient woodland, I have had year on year bumper crops of bluebells during the ‘hottest years evah’! The key to their abundance has been sunlight, selective thinning and re-planting and good drainage. At the same time local bird and wildlife has flourished. There are always seasonal variations in weather events but, if woodlands are managed properly, marginal increases in temperature over lengthy timescales have negligible impact. An adjacent WT woodland hasn’t fared so well. As you say, nature is very resilient but good management also helps. Interestingly, Nigel Farage recently posted a good video on You Tube of the Woodland Trust’s ongoing desecration of a woodland in Kent, all in the name of health and safety. Worth a watch.

    • December 11, 2020 10:09 pm

      Thank you for doing some proper conservation. One of the worst things about the climate catastrophe obsession is that people think curbing CO2 emissions will actually save biodiversity. It won’t. (It’s notable for instance that there are many more bird species at the equator than at our latitudes, and the number of species reaches 0 at about 80N).

      • Mack permalink
        December 11, 2020 11:32 pm

        Thanks for your very kind comments Jit. I’ve always been very passionate about the environment and have taken enormous pleasure from my efforts to improve the habitat for all of the creatures, insects, fish, flora, and fauna under my control. On this side of the ‘climate’ divide we are often painted as ‘scorched earthers’. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of us here rejoice in what Mother Nature has provided and want to safeguard her treasures for future generations. Plastering the nation with wind factories, solar projects, biomass plants, polluting anaerobic digesters and estuary killing tidal schemes just doesn’t make ecological or economic sense. Particularly when we have proven, efficient alternatives that already provide the cheap, safe, reliable and low environmental impact energy sources that modern societies require to function. The green dream is, alas, not green at all.

  7. Graeme No.3 permalink
    December 11, 2020 8:05 pm

    Climate researcher numbers will suffer next year because the grants they rely on are appearing too early due to climate change.
    A new study reveals some researchers who are dependent on specific abundant grants at certain times of year may not be able to adapt fast enough to the change to seasonal patterns the climate crisis is bringing.
    The researchers want academics to take part in their New Year Grant Hunt and inform them grants are seen appearing at unusual times. etc.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      December 11, 2020 8:26 pm

      I’m sure the climate researchers will adapt pretty quickly. As will the birds and the bees!

  8. Harry Passfield permalink
    December 11, 2020 8:17 pm

    Y’know, I was wondering about this. There was me, putting out food for my garden birds and if I put it out too early – or too late – they ignored it. Then again, the sparrow hawks and other predators with which Attenborough wants to re-wild my countryside might have had something to do with it.
    These people are 24 C onanists.

  9. Mike Jackson permalink
    December 11, 2020 8:24 pm

    Has it not occurred to anyone that the climate (temperature, day length, whatever) that sparks off growth in the plant is also what sparks off the Spring life cycle of the dependent insect?

    Or is that just too naive of me?

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      December 11, 2020 9:35 pm

      I think it’s also worth adding that great tits are equally dependent on mammals with opposable thumbs and the ability to fill a bird feeder with sunflower seeds.

      The record so far — on the feeder and “in the queue” in the nearby plum tree — is 13. Which gave my daughter her opportunity for the classic line ‘Cor! Look at the ……..” I’ll leave the rest to your imagination!

  10. December 11, 2020 9:19 pm

    The RSPB put a 100 m tall wind turbine on the grounds of their own HQ. Utter hypocrites.

  11. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 11, 2020 9:27 pm

    Look what we have here:

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289832164_Effect_of_Food_Availability_on_Incubation_Period_in_the_Pied_Flycatcher_Ficedula_hypoleuca

    .–In this study, females that received ex-
    tra food shortened their incubation period. In a pre-
    vious experiment with Blue Tits, females experimen-
    tally supplied with food during incubation had a sig-
    nificantly shorter incubation period. Also, in a similar
    experiment with Wheatears, females that received ex-
    tra food shortened the incubation period (Moreno
    1989). A shorter incubation period may enhance the
    fitness of both parents, because it means a smaller
    probability of predation of eggs and an advance of
    the hatching date (Ricklefs 1969, Martin 1987, Moreno
    and Carlson 1989, Weathers and Sullivan 1989).
    Early hatching is increases the survival prospects
    of young in several species (Perrins 1965, Kluyver et
    al. 1977, Kikkawa 1980, Dhondt and Olaerts 1981,
    Hochachka 1990, Lundberg and Alatalo 1992). The
    shorter incubation period advances hatching date and,
    thus, may affect recruitment of fledglings (Lundberg
    and Alatalo 1992

    This study was done in Spain, admittedly in the Sierras – but surely with a basically rather warmer winter than ours?

  12. December 11, 2020 11:59 pm

    Well, with any luck, they will all die out in the coming years …. I am, of course, talking about the so-called ‘reporters’ who constantly dig up this bollox to try and prove their mistaken claims about the damage done by climate change.

    When their funding is cut and need for their cause has evaporated – thanks to a future (yet to be announced) administration which will scientifically demolish all the unproven and wasteful claims of the green fascists, they will wither and be forced to follow a career worthy of the finances which, thus far, has supported them.

  13. JCalvertN(UK) permalink
    December 12, 2020 3:45 am

    “Climate plays an important part in determining the average number of a species, and periodical seasons of extreme cold or drought seem to be the most effective of all checks. I estimated (chiefly from the greatly reduced numbers of nests in the spring) that the winter of 1854-5 destroyed four-fifths of the birds in my own grounds; and this is a tremendous destruction, when we remember that ten per cent. is an extraordinarily severe mortality from epidemics with man.” Charles Darwin “The Origin of Species”

    • Crowcatcher permalink
      December 12, 2020 8:50 am

      I made the mistake of watching the first episode of Autumnwatch last year in which arch tit Packham harped on about how a 1C rise in temperature would devastate the mountain hare and ptarmigan population in the Cairngorms completely forgetting what the harsh winters of 1947, 1963, 1981 and 2005 did to devastate nearly all European wildlife species.
      BUT it was a BBC programme and it doesn’t employ anybody but “tits” these days.

  14. Gerry, England permalink
    December 12, 2020 11:08 am

    Interesting to see some honesty from the Woodland Trust as when I encounter their local reps at various shows they don’t like me telling them I wouldn’t join as long as they continue to be global warming activists. As a forester we also don’t like them because they refuse to mention squirrel control because their funding base is in urban areas and they worry that they would lose money. From our point of view, WT explaining about squirrel damage would help us to show why we spend so much energy killing them, and deer.

    We have a changing climate and we know that the jetstream pattern has changed. The warmists claim it is CO2 driven and due to all the warmth at the poles but can’t prove that. The more likely cause is solar minimum as we sit on the cusp of Cycle 25 having had the lowest cycle on record. The rapid change in wind direction and the temperature change that brings is the real threat having had frosts in early May this year following the warm March. Wild temperature change in a very short period of time if far more damaging than what the report is talking about.

    • Gamecock permalink
      December 12, 2020 11:46 am

      “We have a changing climate”

      No, you don’t.

  15. Gamecock permalink
    December 12, 2020 11:51 am

    ‘A new study reveals some birds which are dependent on specific abundant food sources at certain times of year may not be able to adapt fast enough to the change to seasonal patterns the climate crisis is bringing.’

    So there will be a die off. We abhor death. Nature doesn’t. Wild animal populations go up and down, sometimes radically. It is NORMAL. Stable populations are NOT normal.

    ‘A rapidly warming climate will spell disaster for swathes of life on earth, including many bird species.’

    No climate on earth has changed in a hundred years.

    • yonason permalink
      December 14, 2020 1:47 pm

      Sadly, the only critters NOT endangered are the climate fanatics.

  16. December 12, 2020 12:07 pm

    Thank you.
    I will add this to my list.

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/06/21/climate-change-impacts1/

    Speaking of great tits I am reminded of my ex wife

  17. James Neill permalink
    December 12, 2020 12:18 pm

    This comment is very much tongue-in-cheek. My wife saw and read part of this column and remarked with a gleam in her eye:-

    “Climate tits, will they all be wearing fur lined bras as it’s winter?”

  18. paul weldon permalink
    December 12, 2020 12:21 pm

    A few thoughts:
    How many young make it to adulthood is only one part of what governs bird species population. In winter those birds that are residents will face the toughest test – if too many have survived to this stage the competition for food will be greater. The biggest killer is cold – I remember the 1962/3 winter and the amount of dead birds lying around the countryside was heart-breaking. A warmer winter is an advantage to bird survival, not a negative.
    Apart from the 2 species of titmice in the report which are residents, the Pied Flycatcher was included which is a spring arrival. Looking at the figures given for adaption, the residents fared much better. In another table, bird first appearances was given. Again, these must be summer visitors, and again, their adaption to the UK temperatures were not as good. So March temperatures in the UK would not be the only parameter to consider in adaption. Is climate change only in the UK?
    Paul, the main consumer of caterpillars are from within the insect world – ichneumon flies. They lay their eggs within the caterpillars and when the larvae hatch they eat the caterpillars alive. When they are too abundant the host population deceases, followed by the reverse in the next season. It is also important to note that different species of butterflies over-winter at different stages in their development. Some as adults, some as pupae but also as eggs or caterpillars. Again, prolonged cold winters can have a negative effect on butterfly species, and is reflected differently depending on how they over-winter.
    What the reports missed was that although at some stages in the butterfly development species are very plant-specific. But in general, not so at the adult stage. As you say, there are always some flowers around for pollen.

  19. Joe Public permalink
    December 12, 2020 1:40 pm

    With prescient timing, Aunty reports another consequence of climate change*.

    Today: “Blakeney Point little terns have best season in 26 years

    “A colony of one of the country’s rarest seabirds has had its most successful season for more than 25 years, the National Trust has said.”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-55286518

    *Sorry, I lied. Climate changing is never mentioned when the news is good.

  20. George Jenatsch permalink
    December 12, 2020 2:18 pm

    Great article.

  21. yonason permalink
    December 14, 2020 1:52 pm

    As with snow, perhaps we’ll soon hear the climate loons start telling us “Children won’t know what butterflies are anymore.”

    • yonason permalink
      December 14, 2020 1:52 pm

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