The Guardian seems to have decided that climate change is the most significant problem for insect life, despite its own articles suggesting that other factors represent much greater problems. I observed in a comment on “What’s The Buzz”i that the headline to a Guardian articleii recently warned us that “Climate crisis could lead to rise of smaller bees” despite the article itself saying that:

One in six species of bees have gone regionally extinct somewhere in the world.

The main drivers of extinction are thought to be habitat loss and pesticide use.

Discussion followed from my comment, with JIT pointing out (I paraphrase) that the bald claim in the headline was overly simplistic. Important though his intervention was, I am perplexed at the determination of some to push the climate agenda in the face of much bigger issues. Climate change may or may not be a problem for insects such as bees. But if one-sixth of bee species are known to have become regionally extinct due to habitat loss and pesticide use, that’s a real problem, and it should concern us. Why do we not have anguished Guardian headlines about that?

Similarly, in “Glow-Worm Waning”iii I drew attention to a Guardian articleiv which sought to blame climate change for a collapse in UK glow-worm numbers. I established, to my own satisfaction at least, that the claim was over-done, and that many other factors are behind the decline. Indeed, I found that the Guardian itself wrote that:

Habitat loss, light pollution, and pesticide use were regarded as the most serious threats [to firefly population and species persistence].

And yet, as always, it’s climate change that carries the can.

Moths declining faster in British woods than farmland or cities

When I read the above headline to yet another Guardian articlev about the problems of insect life I was fairly confident that a climate change angle would be introduced, regardless of the reality that would be revealed by reading the entire article. The sub-heading tells us that “Insect’s forest populations have halved over past half-century despite increased woodland habitat”, which is intriguing, to say the least. And so I read on. And this is what I found:

Moths are a well-studied indicator of wider insect declines that recent research has often linked to presticide [sic] use by industrial farming, habitat loss and urban light pollution – none of which directly affect woodlands.

So far, so good. A clear acknowledgement that insect declines have been linked to pesticide use, habitat loss and urban light pollution, as we saw above in connection with glow-worms. But:

Moths have declined faster in British woods over the last half-century than on farmland or in cities, despite woodlands having increased and moths being shielded from chemical and light pollution by the trees.

Well, that’s a mystery. Woodlands have increased, moths are thus shielded in these areas from chemical and light pollution, and yet their numbers are down in these areas by a greater amount than in those areas where they lack such protection from those destructive problems. What gives? Climate change, of course!

The loss of moths from woodland could be partly because of climate change…

Those last words form an embedded link to the Guardian article at endnote iv here, so that’s hardly conclusive. In fairness, the sentence I cut short above went on to offer other possible explanations, but then dismissed them for what seem like sound reasons:

…or less woodland management such as coppicing, leading to more shading or increased deer density causing more intensive grazing. However, the team of scientists found moths whose caterpillars fed on shade-intolerant plants or shrubs and woodland flowers grazed by deer did not decline any more than species relying on unaffected grasses, trees and lichens.

So, it’s a mystery. I decided to look at the papervi on which the Guardian article was based, and I think this is probably the critical paragraph:

Finally, climate change is known to have contributed to the national decline in moths (Martay et al., 2017) and it is likely that this has driven at least part of the decline observed in woodlands. However, this cannot explain why the declines have been worse in broadleaf woodland compared to other habitats. Indeed, we might expect the shade provided by woodlands to help buffer against the effects of climate change (De Frenne et al.,2013). However, the interaction between climate, habitat and moth abundance trends remains to be tested.

And the final point in the abstract makes it clear that no definite cause has been identified:

…the primary cause of the decline of moths in woodlands remains unclear.

In fairness, the Guardian headline didn’t blame climate change, but part of the article did, even though the two penultimate paragraphs did posit possible alternative explanations:

…other possible causes of woodland moth decline could include the spread of invasive shrubs such as rhododendron or laurel and habitat fragmentation, with woodland moths still affected by agricultural intensification beyond the woods.

He said: “Although the amount of woodland in the UK hasn’t declined since the 1960s there might be more fragmentation due to the loss of hedgerows and trees outside woodlands so that could be something for future studies to look at.”

Climate change to blame, or not? Who knows? The situation seems to be as clear as mud, but in the absence of any sure knowledge, what the hell? Let’s give it a substantial mention.

Swallows and martins head back to the UK but a changing climate threatens their future

It’s not just insects, of course. According to the Guardian articlevii bearing the above headline, it’s also swallows and martins. And yet, given that the Guardian has been telling us for agesviii that spring is arriving earlier and earlier in the UK (and that this is causing wildlife all sorts of problems), something about the headline and the sub-heading (“Migrating birds were delayed by poor weather on their 6,000-mile journey from southern Africa, shortening their breeding season”)failed to make much sense to me. Surely that poor weather was because spring arrived later in crucial parts of the northern hemisphere? And indeed, that is exactly what the Guardian reports:

But this spring, the swallows didn’t arrive back at the workshop until 10 April – the latest they have ever returned in nearly 40 years. Numbers are down, too. At the turn of the millennium, at least 20 pairs nested here; nowadays, there are just five.

Swallows were late back to my village, too. In the 16 springs we have lived here, the average return date has been 8 April – but this year I didn’t see one over my garden until the 25th. How different from that gloriously fine lockdown spring of 2020, when the first swallow appeared a full three weeks earlier than this year.

At Portland Bird Observatory in Dorset, where many of our swallows make their first landfall in the UK, Martin Cade, a warden, confirms that this has been a very slow year for spring migrants. “The first half of April was rubbish,” he tells me. “There were virtually no birds – and a lot of very grumpy birders.” Some may have been passing overhead thanks to fine weather, but nevertheless numbers of birds were far lower than usual.

There’s more:

Cade estimates that, this year, the main arrival of migrants has been roughly 10 days later than usual, peaking in late April, rather than the middle of the month. The latest nationwide figures from BirdTrack, organised by the British Trust for Ornithology, confirm this, showing that swallows, sand martins and house martins are all arriving between one and two weeks later than expected this spring.

In the Scottish Highlands, house martins usually arrive by mid-April, with swallows a week or so afterwards. But the conservationist and nature writer Sir John Lister-Kaye tells me that, this spring, neither have yet returned to their breeding sites

There are two reasons for the lateness of the swallows and martins. Unlike many other migrants, which fatten themselves up before they depart, these species feed as they travel, replenishing lost energy by catching flying insects. For that reason, they are especially vulnerable to bad weather en route. And the weather in southern Europe this spring – notably in southern Spain, which these birds cross after leaving Africa – has been very unsettled, with heavy rainfall, strong winds and even falls of snow across parts of Andalucía.

The second reason is that, here in Britain, although the weather has been mainly dry, there have been persistent easterly and north-easterly winds, which also slow down the birds’ progress as they head north.

Checking my notes, I see that I spotted house martins while on holiday in Glencoe on 12th April 2010. If they’ve just arrived in Scotland at the very end of April 2022, then that seems to be rather inconvenient in terms of the ongoing narrative that spring is arriving earlier, thanks to climate change, and that it’s causing chaos for bird-life. Now we find it arriving later this year (as it did last year too) and I suppose we have to wonder if that’s due to climate change too? Or is it just weather?

Don’t be silly. Whatever happens, it’s climate change:

Yet I am concerned that rapid changes in the world’s climate – including more frequent and extreme weather events – pose a real threat to these birds’ long-term future. Disturbingly, this year some swallows even attempted to overwinter in Cornwall, suggesting that the climate crisis is already having a major impact on their behaviour.

Conclusion

In some quarters there seems to be a quasi-religious belief that however strong the evidence for non-climate-related explanations for the decline of any particular species, it can safely be set aside or its significance minimised and all ills blamed on climate change. All I can do is keep testing and analysing the strength of the evidence, and share my findings here.

Endnotes

i https://cliscep.com/2021/10/22/whats-the-buzz/

ii https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/21/climate-crisis-smaller-bees-bumblebees-study

iii https://cliscep.com/2022/01/11/glow-worm-waning/

iv https://www.theguardian.com/news/2022/jan/11/climate-change-insect-world-global-heating-species

v https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/29/moths-declining-faster-in-british-woods-than-farmland-or-cities

vi https://resjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/icad.12578

vii https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/30/swallows-martins-birds-head-back-to-uk-changing-climate-threatens-future

viii https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/13/early-spring-changing-behaviour-flora-fauna-climate-change

82 Comments

  1. Regarding the swallows and martins, one should keep in mind that spring arrives when the days achieve the required length — the last time I checked, climate change had not impacted the Earth’s tilt. However, what the weather is like in spring is quite another matter. I tend to holiday in Scotland at this time of year and it struck me this year that the weather was every bit as unpredictable as ever.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I’ve always assumed there was a “model” in which one would input, say, Thomson’s Gazelle” or “Dung Beetle”, pressed Enter and, lo and behold, out came “less Thomson’s Gazelles” or “less Dung Beetles”. For added excitement a random response would be, “Extinct”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There was a program that simulated the populations of foxes and rabbits on the ZX Spectrum. I seem to remember it going into stable limit cycles.

    Regarding the woodland moth issue, I thought I should weigh in with something authoritative, but the fact is I don’t know the answer.

    Top of the list for me would be the end of coppicing (as is mentioned), which leads to a reduced amount of light reaching the woodland floor. It has certainly caused trouble for violet-feeding fritillaries. This does not just starve the larval host plant of light (they may persist in the seed bank) but it also removes a lot of nectar opportunities from the adults (the ones that actually have mouthparts, that is – some adult moths don’t feed at all, including, counter-intuitively, some of the largest). You may argue that coppicing ended a long time ago. This is true and would be a blow to the theory.

    Second in line we have island biogeography. Woodlands in the UK are now very fragmented. The extinction rate of species in small woodlands is high, and the colonisation rate is commensurately small. After habitat is fragmented, it will take an unknown length of time to reach a new equilibrium.

    Then we have development and the increasing amount of light in the environment, which presumably would not affect local flights within woodland, but would affect migration. (Though this applies to the other habitats too.)

    I do not rate the prospects of a degree of warming causing any trouble very highly. Here is the text about the Clifton nonpareil at UKmoths.org:

    Wingspan 75-95 mm.

    This is the Victorian collector’s classic all-time favourite, the ‘Blue Underwing’. In the British Isles it was formerly resident in certain parts of Kent and Norfolk during the middle part of the 20th century, but it became extinct as a breeding species and for many years was only recorded as an occasional immigrant.

    In recent years it has been increasing again and is now considered to be recolonising and once again is a breeding species in some southern counties.

    The large greyish caterpillar feeds mainly on aspen (Populus tremulosa).

    An interesting storyline for the climate alarmed, I’m sure you’ll agree.

    Finally on this, we must realise that we are not dealing with “real” numbers here. The Rothamsted Insect Survey’s moth trap network has locations coming into and going out of use all the time, depending on the local volunteers. Somehow this data has to be spliced together to make a robust time series. I’m sure the authors have done their utmost, but there will always be a question mark hanging over the sausage itself.

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  4. It’s worse than we thought and moths are just the canary in the coalmine. The Guardian is facing extinction. Though present as an invasive species in Australia and North America, sightings have become rare in its natural habitat north of Kings Cross station. Key Guardian climate content is threatened by a decline in the number of environmental correspondents, facing catastrophic conditions brought on by readers being distracted by war, pestilence, inflation and other trivialities. The disappearance of this key species in the ecological food chain may lead Guardian readers to revert to their traditional interest in the politics of global peace and social justice, with grave consequences for a generation of climate activists.

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  5. Geoff my town must still constitute a Guardian refuge. I told the tale some time ago. My true blue town (where Labour placards are rarer than hen’s teeth) has a Waitrose where you might expect loyal Borisites to selectively gather. Spend more than a certain sum and John Lewis gives you a daily paper. Commonly and completely unexpectedly I would find my Waitrose would have no remaining Guardians, they having been selectively chosen earlier in the day. I am informed that this behaviour continues and thus previously hidden Guardianistas still thrive here. Perhaps it’s time for a preservation order.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I was out for a walk up Blake Fell today, in the western lakes, seeking to avoid the bank holiday crowds. While I was out, I heard my first cuckoo of the year. They might have arrived here before today, but I doubt it, as I’ve been out walking a lot over the last few days, and haven’t heard a cuckoo call before today. Is it early, late, or normal? According to the RSPB, perhaps it’s late:

    https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/cuckoo/

    “Adults arrive in late March or April and depart in July or August, with young birds leaving a month or so later.”

    According to this website, it’s late, but not so late as the RSPB website might suggest:

    https://www.birdspot.co.uk/first-cuckoo

    They say that cuckoos are arriving early due to climate change, so it’s a bit inconvenient that seem to be late this year:

    “The cuckoo migrates north from Africa and the date of its arrival, although traditionally the 14th April, varies in different parts of the country.

    The first sighting is often in the far South West, in the Isle of Scilly and then gradually moves northwards. In recent years the cuckoo has tended to arrive on average five days earlier than usual, likely due to climate change.”

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  7. Mark – that head post pic is amazing for the detail it reveals, what a marvel life on planet earth is.

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  8. dfhunter, I can’t take any credit, and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t know what type of moth it is. Occasionally I use one of my own photos to accompany an article (e.g. the devastation going on at Shetland in For Peat’s Sake, or Harlech Castle in the Sands of Time, more recently) but generally I just select something that I hope is appropriate from a copyright-free resource to which I have access.

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  9. Can someone tell me how many species became extinct during the Neolithic deforestation or the 18th and 19th century enclosures in England?

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  10. Mark,

    As it happens, I was on the Isle of Skye this last week and a cuckoo could be heard from our property on most days. Also, on the way home, we stopped off at Pitlochry and watched a swallow swooping over the river Tummel. No science, just pleasant memories.

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  11. Bill, a very good question. Nobody likes to think of species going extinct, especially if it’s the fault of humankind. But context, as always, is lacking. I suspect that 99.9999 per cent of all species that have ever existed on the planet are now extinct, and in the billions of years to come, new diversity will be extraordinary. One of the problems with alarmists is that they view this planet through a very short term lens.

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  12. This very morning I heard my very first cuckoo in this part of deepest, darkest Norfolk (cannot claim it to be the FIRST however). Perhaps it was the first and mates were not around, it “sang” for a long time. If it prayed on our local blackbird chorus, I shall be upset. This year the blackbird dawn chorus (and well into the day) is truly magnificent. My granddaughter says she doesn’t hear it – perhaps it’s her ear-buds.

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  13. No wonder that Australian child is terrified. I think I might be if a gigantic hairy moth had settled down on my hair. I remember my sister, when a girl, being deathly afraid of getting moths in her hair, and they were tiny ones.

    Below is a scary paddling race between Green teachers and a paddle welding polybear.

    Good grief, this site is full of horrors.

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  14. Mark,

    I think you will find that Charles P. Pierce of Esquire Magazine has got your number. In a piece charmingly titled “We Can Now Be Confident That Future Generations Will Spit at the Mention of Our Names”, he reports upon a paper in Nature claiming that models suggest climate change will kill us all due to viruses spreading from other species. He concludes with this revelation:

    “One of the most dangerous, and most frustrating, elements of our inability to respond to the climate crisis is our deliberate attempt to obscure the obvious fact that all the consequences of the crisis are connected to each other through the overall crisis. Think of all the cheap political points scored by denialists who scoff at the “church of climate change” and by people who jive around about how “some people blame everything on the climate crisis.” Everything actually is involved in the existential threat. Everyone is, too.”

    Charles is obviously not a fan of Climate Change Only Connect, otherwise he would know that the very notion of there being a ‘deliberate attempt to obscure the obvious fact that all the consequences of the crisis are connected to each other through the overall crisis’ is just plain silly. In fact, the internet is bending under the weight of these ‘obvious’ facts.

    I just wonder where these journalists get their ideas from sometimes.

    https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/a39849365/climate-change-pandemics-viruses-migrating-species/

    Liked by 2 people

  15. John, rather than dwell on your depressing last comment, may I instead express my envy of you having just returned from Skye. One of my favourite places. So far this year my trips north of the border have extended no further north than Glen Lyon.

    Happily, today I saw (as opposed to simply hearing) a cuckoo, and I also saw my first swallows of the year.

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  16. Mark,

    Just to clarify: When I referred earlier to the internet “bending under the weight of these ‘obvious’ facts”, I should, of course, have said “these ‘obvious’ connections” – because it is a connection that is being made every time. Mr Pierce sees such connections as obvious because he is fully sold on the idea of there being an overall cause (and one that is very much at the root of an existential crisis). With such an underlying causation, nothing can be ignored.

    The problem, however, is not whether or not there is an ‘overall’ cause but whether the causation is sufficient and necessary in any given case. All too often, close inspection reveals that the necessity and the sufficiency are both a matter of probabilities, and the competing factors and associated uncertainties make the connection anything but obvious. Take, for example, the speculations regarding future, zoonotic pandemics. The paper that Pierce referred to was making predictions based upon a model, and words like ‘might’, ‘if’, ‘risk’ and ‘possible’ featured in the account. These are the sort of words I ‘jive’ about, and if Pierce had any genuine respect for the science, he would be doing the jitterbug along with the rest of us.

    Also, the only time we ‘deniers’ talk of “the church of climate change” is when we see ‘might’, ‘if’ and ‘possible’ morph into ‘will’, ‘when’ and ‘definitely’.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. John my reading of this is that in parts of the wood, favoured perhaps by being more exposed to spring sunshine, the tits lay eggs up to 3 weeks earlier than in the 1940s, in other parts egg laying is more delayed. I suspect that the early mass of egg laying varies from year to year but this information has been obscured from us, by highlighting this particular season.

    Anyway, what’s the problem? Surely everyone knows and accepts that the climate has warmed? What we don’t accept is that man-made carbon dioxide plays the major role in this change. The Oxfordshire wood offers an interesting measurement of the magnitude of the change.

    Like

  18. Further thought about the Great Tits reveals the changes in the Oxfordshire wood are more significant than just affecting the egg laying timings of those birds. The birds would not lay their eggs earlier unless they anticipate an earlier abundance of caterpillars upon which they can feed their hatchlings. Earlier caterpillars imply an earlier appearance of tree leaves. Thus the whole ecosystem moves in-sync. Perhaps later in the year sparrowhawks will lay their eggs earlier, feeding their chicks upon Great Tits and their earlier appearing chicks.

    Because Great Tits are not a migratory species, this long term study cannot address the problem of how migratory species will adapt to climate change. Will insect-eating birds migrate northwards as a result of increased temperatures in their winter residences only to find their summer homes not so far advanced and insect populations still too low to feed the incoming insectivores.

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  19. Alan,

    “The Oxfordshire wood offers an interesting measurement of the magnitude of the change.”

    Indeed it does. But the point I am making is that the magnitude will be due to many causal factors and will also be subject to statistical uncertainty. The headline of the cited article boldly states without qualification: “Climate change: Spring egg-laying shifts by three weeks”. Note, no other possible factors are mentioned and no quantification of the uncertainties is provided. And yet, we are then told, “In some parts of this wood, egg-laying has shifted by three weeks.” So apparently the effect doesn’t even extend over the whole of the area studied. The reasons for this may be as explained by yourself, or they may not. As stated in the link given below:

    “Many factors affect egg laying, such as fitness, day length, food abundance and environmental temperature. If one of these variables changes, the seasonality of egg laying may shift as well.”

    Clearly there is a spatial pattern to the effect within the Oxfordshire wood, but which of the above factors are at play, and to what extent? Wouldn’t it have been sensible to have conditioned for the spatial patterns so that a climatic signal could be discerned from the noise? It doesn’t look as though they have done this. In fact, for all I know, there was a normal distribution from which they are just quoting the upper range to exaggerate the magnitude! This is the whole point I am making: Headlines are bold and clear but the detail is always messy. No one is denying that there will be an impact, but I wouldn’t expect its quantification to be straightforward.

    https://sciencing.com/time-wild-birds-lay-eggs-5194461.html

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  20. John. Are you perhaps searching for complexity where it may not exist? Your reference regarding the timing of bird egg laying mentions fitness, day length, food abundance and environmental temperature. Unless the study site has moved like Birnam Wood, day length will not have changed. Food abundance (=caterpillars) will be controlled by caterpillar food supply (= the timing of tree leafing) so also will be controlled by any favourable climate change, especially by temperature. Interestingly the study started in 1947, so the study was most unlikely to be set up to investigate climate change.

    This only leaves parent fitness as a possible variable. There is perhaps some evidence for this. There was a study comparing Great Tits from the Netherlands and Britain. They found British Great Tits had slightly altered beaks that allowed the birds to access bird-feeders more efficiently. Britain apparently spends as much on bird feed as the rest of Europe combined. (Isn’t Wikki wonderful). But I cannot believe that the fitness of over a thousand birds in the wood changed sufficiently and in concert to alter the date at which the first clutches were laid. I’m sure that there is data on altered timings for tree leafing and for caterpillar abundance (the news item showed researchers sweeping for caterpillars), so links could be made between egg laying and food supply.

    I see absolutely no reason why this 75 year study should not be illustrating the magnitude of climate warming. What I am reasonably sure of is that this warming didn’t occur monotonically. Springs in England are notoriously variable and Spring 2022 has already been fickle. Early spring was exceptionally warm, then it turned cool again, now we have warmth. If the early Spring warmth set tree leafing foreword, this would advance timing of caterpillar appearance and then Great Tit egg-laying. Not only would 2022 be the 75th year of the study, but also an exceptional year involving an earlier than usual warm Spring. Good ol’BBC, always willing to push global warming to the limit. This time with some evidence but overblown as usual.

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  21. Alan,

    >”Are you perhaps searching for complexity where it may not exist?”

    Not really. I’m just questioning the simplicity of the claim that, as a result of studying Great Tits in this particular Oxfordshire wood, we can say that climate change is 100% responsible for a three week shift in their egg-laying season. It can’t be that simple if the effect varies from one part of the wood to another. I’m sure that if the causal diagram for egg-laying were to be drawn up, it would feature climate change as a driving cause but there would be enough detail to explain the discrepancies. Whatever the case, I don’t think it is good enough to state that there are spatial patterns in the effect without attempting to explain them.

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  22. John and Alan,

    I’ve been out and about today, and have just returned to read your discussion about the implications of the findings from the Wytham Woods project. I was, of course, aware of the news, since I’ve been in the car with the radio on, and the BBC has deemed this to be a top news story, featuring on the Radio 4 news every hour.

    The cynic in me noted that the studies commenced in 1947 – which was of course the year of the great freeze, with spring massively delayed. I am afraid that I am now so mistrustful of the BBC that my first thought was that of course spring is earlier today than it was in 1947, which was very much an outlier year.

    Then I told myself not to be so cynical, and go and see for myself what the study findings are, rather than hearing about them through a BBC filter. Unfortunately, I find that the story on the BBC website doesn’t provide a link to the study. Never mind, the great thing about the internet is that these things are rarely difficult to find, and here it is:

    http://wythamtits.com/

    The first thing to note is that my worries about 1947 being the start year may be misplaced, but then so are claims about it being a 75 year project. Actually, the bulk of the project seems to have commenced in the early 1960s:

    “The Wytham Tit Project was set up in 1947 by John Gibb and David Lack, inspired by pioneering work by Kluijver in the Netherlands, in order to study the breeding biology of the great tit. Lack initially put up 100 nest boxes in Marley Wood, one section of Wytham Woods; the study was later expanded around 1960 to cover the entire 385-hectare woodland using over 1000 fixed location nest boxes. Over the last 61 years, we have monitored all the breeding attempts in these boxes and individually-marked all parents and offspring (spanning over 40 generations), making this one of the longest running ecological studies of marked wild individual animals in the world.”

    To find out more, the interested visitor then needs to look here:

    http://wythamtits.com/research

    It’s well worth a look, IMO. Having looked at it, I have no idea where the BBC gets its headline claim of spring egg-laying being 3 weeks earlier. I think the crucial paragraph in the research findings is this:

    “Using our tit breeding records spanning the last 6 decades, we have shown that the tits are now laying about 2 weeks earlier than they did in the 1960, inline with climate change (read more here). However, our recent research has revealed that this shift in the timing in response to climate change varies considerably across the woodland with the slowest nesting sites only having advanced egg laying by 7.5 days, whilst the fastest sites advanced by 25.6 days. This variation is linked to the health of nearby oak trees – birds breeding in areas with healthy oaks have advanced their laying by 5.4 days more than those breeding in areas with unhealthy oaks…”.

    It offers another link (the “read more here” note) to this:

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13857-great-tits-enjoying-the-warmer-weather-so-far/

    “Since 1961, ecologists have been tracking the population of great tits that breed in Wytham Woods, near Oxford, UK. “It’s only in the past 30 to 35 years that you see this increase in temperature in early spring to which the birds have responded,” says study leader Ben Sheldon of the University of Oxford.

    The birds now lay their eggs 2 weeks earlier than they did in the 1970s, tracking a 2-week shift in the emergence of their favoured food – the caterpillars of the winter moth.”

    Which is a bit different from the BBC’s claim.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. And I might as well leave this here:

    “Flying insect numbers have plunged by 60% since 2004, GB survey finds
    Scientists behind survey of car number plates said drop was ‘terrifying’, as life on Earth depends on insects”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/05/flying-insect-numbers-have-plunged-by-60-since-2004-gb-survey-finds

    “The number of flying insects in Great Britain has plunged by almost 60% since 2004, according to a survey that counted splats on car registration plates. The scientists behind the survey said the drop was “terrifying”, as life on Earth depends on insects.

    The results from many thousands of journeys by members of the public in the summer of 2021 were compared with results from 2004. The fall was highest in England, at 65%, with Wales recording 55% fewer insects and Scotland 28%.

    With only two large surveys so far, the researchers said it was possible that those years were unusually good ones, or bad ones, for insects, potentially skewing the data, and so it was vital to repeat the analysis every year to build up a long-term trend. But the new results are consistent with other assessments of insect decline, including a car windscreen survey in rural Denmark that ran every year from 1997 to 2017 and found an 80% decline in abundance.

    Participants in the British survey downloaded an app, Bugs Matter, which enabled them to record their journeys and the number of bugs squashed on their registration plates. The next survey will run from June to August.”

    Public participation in science is great, but I’m far from convinced that this way of doing things will offer up meaningful results. What gets the blame for the decline? The usual suspects, including – of course – climate change:

    “The information gathered by the survey did not address why the decline was significantly lower in Scotland. But Shardlow said the factors known to harm insects, including habitat fragmentation, climate change, pesticides and light pollution, were less intense in Scotland.”

    Like

  24. And then there’s this:

    “‘Canaries in the coalmine’: loss of birds signals changing planet
    Billions of birds are disappearing because of humanity’s impact on Earth, global review finds”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/05/canaries-in-the-coalmine-loss-of-birds-signals-changing-planet

    Inevitably, climate change is listed along with a whole load of other factors, as being behind the decline, but it rates little more than a passing mention, and lots of other factors seem to be far more important:

    “Bird populations are also affected by all the damage caused by human activity, from the destruction of wild habitat, the climate crisis, and pesticides and other pollution, to over-hunting and impacts of alien species and disease. This makes them the best living indicators of global change, the scientists said….

    …Birds are affected by all the impacts of human activity. For example, 2.7m are estimated to die every year in Canada alone from eating pesticides, while domestic cats may kill 2.4bn a year in the US. The most threatened families of birds are those which are larger and take longer to reproduce, including parrots, albatrosses, cranes and stocky birds like the Australian brushturkey. All countries host at least one globally threatened bird species and 10 nations have more than 75, the review found….

    …But the review concluded: “The growing footprint of the human population represents the ultimate driver of most threats to avian biodiversity. A lack of progress in conserving [birds] usually reflects a lack of resources or political will, rather than a lack of knowledge of what needs to be done.”

    Prof Stuart Pimm, at Duke University, US, said the review was excellent and authoritative, even with the sparse availability of data in some regions. “What is certain is that about two-thirds of all bird species live in tropical forests, and human actions are shrinking those habitats,” said Pimm….”.

    Like

  25. Mark,

    Thanks for digging out the paper — I was too lazy to do so myself. It’s interesting that the health of the oaks has such a massive influence. Is this something that has been subject to change over time, I wonder. Still, it’s odd that a two week shift turned into three by the time the beeb had finished with it 😕

    Like

  26. John – “Still, it’s odd that a two week shift turned into three by the time the beeb had finished with it “.

    Indeed. Where are the several members of the BBC Climate Misinformation team when you need them?

    Like

  27. Mark my thanks also for identifying the summary paper that can be used to access the primary papers upon which the summary is based. Interesting that the study involves all the tit species and that the great majority of the nest boxes were only put in from 1960. This reference has allowed me to concoct Wytham woods climate change 2.0.

    The important sentence is “great tits nesting in territories containing lots of oak trees begin laying earlier and are more successful breeders.”. As the paper suggests it appears that great tits are able to assess the health of neighbouring oak trees. Successful birds are able to determine the best located nest boxes and occupy them early. Less successful pairs must search for suitably located sites, so already are behind those already occupying the better placed nest boxes. This might explain the variation in the timings of egg laying and hatching. Less successful pairs must continue searching before beginning to construct a nest and could be more than a week behind.

    In order to assess the possible influence of climate warming upon Wytham
    Wood using egg-laying timings one would need to compare like with like, I.e. the very same nest boxes and hope that 1) increasing the number of nest boxes has not had a major effect, and 2) neighbouring trees remain as healthy as they were in the past.

    I remain unrepentant. I think the change in the date of egg laying is a reasonable estimate of the effect of climate warming at Wytham Wood. But like many studies of similar ilk, actual temperature changes are never given, or even estimated.

    Researching and thinking about this subject has suggested to me why we don’t have Great Tits in our garden. When I lived next to UEA we were often delighted by the contortions our visiting tits displayed. Since we moved we no longer see them, and now I know why – there are no oak trees in our vicinity. What a shame.

    Like

  28. Another misleading headline?

    “Muck in to help nesting birds during UK heatwave, says RSPB
    People urged to leave out mud pies and dishes of fresh water for migrating birds as temperatures rise”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/05/mud-water-to-help-nesting-migrating-birds-during-uk-heatwave-rspb-aoe

    “The RSPB is urging the public to get their hands dirty this weekend and create mud pies to help endangered birds such as house martins, swifts and swallows get enough sludge to build their nests.

    A nine-day mini-heatwave is hitting the UK, which coincides with the return of migratory birds here to breed. Many of these birds have flown thousands of miles on their journey. But conservationists are concerned that the ground is getting so hard it could stop them from being able to make their nests.”

    I’ve just checked the online BBC weather forecast for where I live in Cumbria, and over the next 14 days, the highest forecast temperature is 18C, which I don’t exactly rate as a heatwave (as an aside, those temperatures are reached, supposedly, towards the end of the week after next, not during the next 9 days as the article suggests. As a further aside, the forecast for more than the next day or two is in my experience hopelessly unreliable anyway). According to the forecast, we are looking at quite a lot of rain and high temperatures of around 12C next week. Heatwave?

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  29. Remarkably balanced, for a pleasant change, by Guardian standards:

    “How worried should we really be about ‘insectageddon’?
    Jane Hill
    Although most researchers are worried about insect decline, we should be wary of the hyperbole of impending doom”

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/may/08/worried-about-insectageddon-insect-decline

    “… Analysis of nearly 50 years of insect data reveals long-term declines in moths but not aphids, and that there is evidence of shorter-term periods of recovery – a decidedly more optimistic picture than you might imagine.

    It illustrates the complexity of the landscape when reporting on the wellbeing of insect populations. Understanding why some species are losers but others are winners is key for developing action plans to help all nature thrive.

    Another problem is that the types of datasets that are analysed, such as the number of species at a site or types of species present, and the measurements that are taken may not always tell the same story. Deciding which historical baselines to compare changes against is also important, given that short-term reporting may not reflect long-term trends, especially in insects whose populations can respond very quickly to their environment. This high variability of insect populations means we need gold-standard data to distinguish between long-term trends and normal year-to-year variation.

    Let’s be clear: most researchers are concerned about insect declines, but most will also caution against the increasingly common hyperbole of impending doom. Instead, we should be focusing our efforts to ensure the actions we are taking to combat the climate crisis are also benefiting biodiversity. Given the current focus on tree planting and increasing woodlands in the UK, it is concerning that moth declines are worst in woodlands, for instance….”.

    Like

  30. In a comment above on 5th May about the Wytham Woods Project, I said (inter alia):

    “The cynic in me noted that the studies commenced in 1947 – which was of course the year of the great freeze, with spring massively delayed.”

    I then went on to say that my fears appear to have been misplaced. But – not so fast! Today I received my email delivery of the Oxford Alumni bulletin, “Quad news”, and it included a link to an article about the Wytham Woods project:

    https://www.alumni.ox.ac.uk/article/oxford-celebrates-75-years-of-great-tit-research-at-wytham-woods

    It contains this gem:

    “Professor Ben Sheldon, Luc Hoffmann Chair in Field Ornithology and Director of the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology in the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, notes that in 2022 the first eggs to be observed were laid on 28 March, just one day short of a month earlier than in 1947 – an observed effect of climate change leading to earlier springs, he says.”

    It’s a pity he didn’t also note that the spring of 1947 was an astonishingly cold outlier, such that pretty much every spring (barring a handful, perhaps) for a century either side of it are likely to have seen bird nesting activity weeks earlier than in that year when all activity was almost certainly hugely delayed.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_1946%E2%80%9347_in_the_United_Kingdom

    It’s a pity that academic rigour at my alma mater doesn’t including pointing out such obvious facts when making claims like “an observed effect of climate change leading to earlier springs”.

    As Alan K has pointed out springs may be occurring a little earlier than half a century ago (though I’ve seen little evidence where I live), but claims of them being one day short of a month earlier than in the bitterly cold and delayed spring of 1947 are desperately lacking in vital context.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Wow – not a mention of climate change:

    “Rare UK seabirds put at risk by ‘alarming loophole’, say campaigners
    Ministers accused of ‘giving up’ on birds as they explore exemptions from duty to protect the animals”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/13/rare-uk-seabirds-put-at-risk-by-alarming-loophole-say-campaigners

    “Seabird numbers in the UK and have fallen almost 25% in less than four decades – a loss of more than 2 million seabirds compared with 1986. Things are at their worst in Scotland where population numbers have almost halved in this time.

    Reasons for seabird decline include the fishing industry hoovering up the sandeels and other small fish they like to eat, invasive species being introduced to the islands on which they breed, and birds being caught accidentally by fishing trawlers.”

    Like

  32. Late to the party as usual… looking through an old bird and mammal report for something else, I found a relevent nugget of info – see below the Wytham quote.

    On the 27th April, 1947, the year’s first great tit egg in Oxford University’s Wytham Woods was counted. It was the start of a deep and ongoing relationship between the bird population and generations of researchers.

    Seventy-five years later, 2022, the year’s first great tit egg was counted on the 28th March – almost exactly a month earlier than its 75-year predecessor.

    https://www.biology.ox.ac.uk/article/wytham-woods-great-tit-study-celebrates-75-years-part-2

    Jeepers, that sounds scary professor!

    The nesting season was prolonged. A great tit at Sprowston [north of Norwich] had five eggs by Feb. 21st and a full clutch of nine a week later.

    The year was 1960. https://norfolknaturalists.org.uk/wp/publications/bird-and-mammal-report/ [select the one for 1960.]

    What I was actually looking for was the arrival date of swifts – because I have been watching the sky and listening out in vain for them the last week or two. Then this afternoon I heard a shrill cry and ran outside. The swifts were back – two of them at least. Everything was all right in the world after all.

    Like

  33. Jit, interesting finds. Spring came early in 1960, eh? But very late in 1963, as in 1947.

    I saw swifts here for the first time this year a few days ago. Looking out of the window and high in the sky, I can see them now.

    I am not long back from a walk along the river Cocker, where I spent a happy few minutes watching a family of treecreepers. This really is a wonderful time of year.

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Mark – “and birds being caught accidentally by fishing trawlers.”

    reminded me about “Deadliest Catch” television series which follows crab fishermen aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea during the Alaskan king crab season.

    it always amazed me that whatever the weather & time of day or night, the gulls were always present, having learned a easy meal can be had (with risks it seems).

    Liked by 1 person

  35. “Monarch butterflies bounce back in Mexico wintering grounds
    Experts say 35% rise in acreage covered by migratory insects my reflect adaptation to changing climate”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/24/monarch-butterflies-mexico-population-rise

    “Mexican experts have said that 35% more monarch butterflies arrived this year to spend the winter in mountaintop forests, compared with the previous season.

    Experts say the rise may reflect the butterflies’ ability to adapt to more extreme bouts of heat or drought by varying the date when they leave Mexico.

    The government commission for natural protected areas said the butterflies’ population covered 2.84 hectares (7 acres) this year, compared with 2.1 hectares last year.

    The annual butterfly count does not calculate the individual number of butterflies, but rather the number of acres they cover when they clump together on tree boughs….

    …Gloria Tavera, the regional director of Mexico’s commission for national protected areas, said on Monday that logging in the butterflies’ wintering ground rose by about 4.5% this year, to 13.9 hectares.

    However, fewer trees were lost to fire, drought or plant diseases and pests. So overall tree loss in the 2021-22 season was 18.8 hectares, down from 20.2 hectares in the 2020-21 season….”

    Good news! I’m amazed the Guardian reported it, though the dangerously positive report was rectified in the final paragraph:

    “Drought, severe weather and loss of habitat – especially of the milkweed where the monarchs lay their eggs – as well as pesticide and herbicide use, and climate change, all pose threats to the species’ migration. Illegal logging and loss of tree cover due to disease, drought and storms also continues to plague the reserves.”

    Liked by 1 person

  36. “The butterflies we may never see again in Britain”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-61580712

    “A report by Butterfly Conservation warns that 24 of 58 species may soon disappear from our shores.

    Five more species are threatened with dying out than when the charity last compiled a Red List, 11 years ago.

    Humans are driving the loss of butterflies by destroying wildlife rich habitats, says Head of Science for Butterfly Conservation Dr Richard Fox.

    “They’ve literally been destroyed, been ploughed up, covered in fertilisers and used to grow crops or for housing,” he told BBC News.”

    Not climate change then?

    Not so quick:

    “Large Heath
    This is one of the butterflies affected by climate change, says Butterfly Conservation. All four of the UK’s butterfly species that prefer to live in northerly areas, with cooler and damper climates, are endangered.

    Scotch Argus
    The effects of climate change are also visible with the decline of this species. In 2011, scientists didn’t consider it under threat. Now it’s listed as vulnerable.”

    Meanwhile:

    “Unexpected influx of striped hawkmoths hits southern England
    Favourable winds that swept in the superstar of the moth world have also brought painted ladies”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/may/26/unexpected-influx-striped-hawkmoths-hits-southern-england

    “The favourable winds that swept in this welcome visitor have also brought painted ladies, the powerful migratory species that will fly – usually via several generations – from sub-Saharan Africa to northern Europe every summer.

    Both species can breed successfully in Britain – moth fans will be scouring rosebay willowherb (and many other garden plants) for striped hawkmoth caterpillars in a few week’s time – but are unlikely to survive winter.

    For many years, the painted lady was assumed to have hit a cul-de-sac in Britain because its offspring were never spotted leaving at summer’s end. Then radar revealed that the British-born ladies soar high into the air column to utilise winds to speed southwards to warmer climes where they can reproduce once again.”

    So much still to learn.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Meteorological (as opposed to astronomical) summer in the northern hemisphere commences on 1st June, so tomorrow will be the first day of summer here. By the same token, today is the last day of spring. And, looking back, it’s been a delayed and cold spring here. Natural variance, of course, but it does give the lie to the claim that spring is arriving earlier every year. Not this year, nor last, where I live.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. This is a sad story, and I briefly had hopes that the Guardian would report on this problem without introducing inappropriate references to climate change. They nearly managed it, but the oblique references still appeared at the end of the article:

    “Britain’s largest butterfly at risk as fungal pathogens kill food source
    Drastic die-back of milk parsley on Norfolk Broads threatens future of swallowtail”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jun/22/britains-largest-butterfly-at-risk-as-fungal-pathogens-kill-food-source

    “Britain’s largest butterfly may be at risk from fungal pathogens that have caused a drastic die-back of the rare plant on which its caterpillars feed.

    The swallowtail is only found breeding at 16 sites in Britain, all on the Norfolk Broads, where milk parsley grows. But last summer more than 90% of the milk parsley plants at one of its breeding sites wilted and died, preventing the plant from setting seed. If milk parsley disappears, the unique subspecies of the swallowtail found in Britain will become extinct.

    The “milk parsley droop”, which may be caused by a known fungal pathogen combining in a novel way with another pathogen, was spotted on Wheatfen nature reserve near Norwich. Nature reserve managers across the Broads are now on high alert for signs of the disease spreading this year, with the wilt typically taking hold in July and August.”

    Nothing to do with climate change, so far as we can tell. But then:

    “The trigger for the unprecedented die-back last year is unknown but it may be due to a second fungal pathogen working with the first. Another potential cause could be saltwater inundations from flooding weakening the milk parsley plants…

    …“This is yet another difficulty facing this pair of species, the milk parsley and the swallowtail butterfly, among the many other problems, including sea-level rise and saltwater getting into rivers,” said Collins. “The swallowtail is so confined to these sites which are all being well managed but they’ve got nowhere they can retreat to. To survive these sorts of diseases, the butterfly will need to find other locations but other potential sites are currently scattered and small.

    “There could be a situation where we will need to translocate populations of the butterfly to other places where they will not suffer from sea-level rise and the incoming saltwater.””

    And sea-level rise here is how much exactly? How many centimetres?

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  39. Might suggest that eutrophication of The Broads by sewage disposal would have a greater impact than the minuscule amount of sea-level rise.
    Very odd that one of the most widely distributed butterfly species, with literally dozens of subspecies, has such a limited distribution in the U.K. Why is our British subspecies so dependent upon a single plant species? Perhaps our resident entomologist might comment?
    I still can recall, as a schoolboy in East London, being enchanted to see one in my parents’ garden. I suspect it had been blown in from Europe.

    Like

  40. This has been commented on elsewhere here at Cliscep this year, and at Paul Homewood’s place:

    https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2022/06/27/bee-eaters-in-norfolk-worrying-sign-of-climate-change/

    Yet for some reason the Guardian has seen fit to resurrect this nonsense today:

    “Weatherwatch: arrival of bee-eaters is a worrying sign of climate crisis
    UK birders may be delighted but rising temperatures have shifted the brightly coloured bird’s range north by 1,000km”

    https://www.theguardian.com/news/2022/jul/21/weatherwatch-arrival-of-bee-eaters-is-a-worrying-sign-of-climate-crisis

    Worth reading Paul’s piece on it and the comments posted against it, for a comprehensive de-bunk.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Oh and now the BBC are having another go at it:

    “Bee-eater chicks in Norfolk quarry ‘indicate climate change'”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-62266113

    “Rare bee-eater chicks which have hatched in a UK quarry are a “vivid reminder” of climate change, conservationists said.

    Eight bee-eaters arrived in the quarry, near Trimingham in Norfolk, in early June.

    They normally nest in southern Europe and northern Africa, but there has been an increase in nesting further north in the past 20 years, the RSPB said.

    It added this showed “the changes being wrought by our overheating planet”….”.

    No it certainly does not.

    Like

  42. Just as with the good news about the Great Barrier Reef, good news about butterflies has to be given a negative spin:

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/aug/19/scotland-butterflies-species-flourishing-hotter-summers-climate-crisis

    “Sun-loving butterflies are flourishing in Scotland’s hotter summers with significant increases across a number of species including red admiral, orange-tip and ringlet, according to a report.

    However, the report’s authors say this trend is likely to be short-lived without measures to reduce the effects of the climate crisis.

    The Scottish Biodiversity Indicator, published by NatureScot on Friday, examines the long-term trend for butterflies since 1979. The report finds that, from 1979 to 2021, there has been a 43% increase across all species.”

    Inevitably, however:

    “While variations in population are also affected by habitat changes, pesticides and pollution, the changing climate and weather are the most likely drivers of change.”

    And:

    “But despite this short-term increase, the report also highlights how sensitive butterflies are to environmental change. More frequent droughts and wildfires, for example, would kill adult butterflies as well as the plants their caterpillars feed on.”

    But as I commented on 26th May, the Guardian was then reporting that the greatest threats to butterfly populations came from human activities such as using pesticides and destroying habitats.

    None of which matters, nor does good news about thriving butterfly populations. No, climate change will do for them, and don’t you forget it.

    Like

  43. But despite this short-term increase, the report also highlights how sensitive butterflies are to environmental change.

    As I read this I had some disturbing thoughts. I felt I detected real terror. But not of ‘environmental change’. Of ‘this short-term increase’ of butterfly populations. I heard something like this:

    But despite this short-term increase, the report also highlights how sensitive our budgets are to confirmation or otherwise of environmental disaster.

    NatureScot is badly letting the side down. They know the deniers will be all over this. They will be forced to pay the price. All for some pesky butterflies who haven’t been complying with the narrative. One can only feel for them.

    Liked by 2 people

  44. However, the report’s authors say this trend is likely to be short-lived without measures to reduce the effects of the climate crisis.

    Sure. A place that is mostly too cold and wet for butterflies could hardly not benefit from a degree or two of warming. A good year in Scotland is definitely a year that is warmer and sunnier than the average. However, that seems to be a forbidden opinion now. Because global warming can only make things worse. We cannot admit that anything anywhere can benefit at all, because it dilutes the message. But an attitude like that tells the neutral that the holder is spinning a line, not laying out the facts.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. “Huge recovery for butterfly once extinct in the UK”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-62674800

    “An endangered butterfly that was once extinct in the UK has had its best summer in 150 years.

    The large blue butterfly is one of Europe’s most endangered insects but thousands have been recorded this summer in south-west England.

    It is the result of a long-term conservation project, led by the Royal Entomological Society.

    Scientists said the success story shows how species at risk of extinction can be saved.

    Many other rare species also benefitted from the conservation work across around 40 sites in Somerset and in the Cotswolds.

    The large blue was declared extinct in the UK in 1979. Four years later caterpillars were brought from Sweden in an attempt to reintroduce the species in England.

    Research ecologist David Simcox, one of the duo who reintroduced the butterfly in 1983, said it was “incredibly satisfying” to see them now thriving….”

    … this summer conservationists counted 750,000 large blue butterfly eggs.

    From those, they estimated that around 20,000 butterflies flew, making the south-west of England the largest known colony in Europe….”

    Fairly comprehensive evidence that restoration of habitat has been a boon:

    “The project saw conservationists focus on restoring a type of wild meadowland where the large blue likes to live.” And not just these butterflies:

    “Other rare insects that benefitted from the restoration project were the rugged oil beetle, rock-rose pot beetle, shrill carder bumblebee, downland villa and spotted beeflies.”

    Which one might think would lead to the conclusion (which is the conclusion reached by many studies) that habitat loss is a real problem for butterflies, much more so than climate change. After all, we’ve had climate change screamed at us in this year of (in some parts of the country) heat and drought, yet thanks to habitat restoration, these butterflies have thrived. And so we can expect an end to the endless banging on about climate change in this context, I assume? Silly me:

    “Extreme weather and climate change also pose a danger, particularly because large blues rely on flowering plants and ant nests.”

    Liked by 3 people

  46. Mark,

    I read the article and drew exactly the same conclusions. All good news is bad because it may not last.

    Like

  47. Good news must be being misunderstood. It cannot possibly be correct because it doesn’t fit the narrative concocted by literally thousands of climate specialists world wide. How can a few butterflies stand against such evidence? What is the balance of probabilities?

    Liked by 2 people

  48. “Huge recovery for butterfly once extinct in the UK”
    Had to remind myself what is an extinct species?
    “adjective – no longer in existence; that has ended or died out: an extinct species of fish. (of an animal or plant species) having no living representative; having died out.”

    but – “The large blue was declared extinct in the UK in 1979. Four years later caterpillars were brought from Sweden in an attempt to reintroduce the species in England.”

    never mind it won’t last – “Extreme weather and climate change also pose a danger, particularly because large blues rely on flowering plants and ant nests.”

    Like

  49. “Bee-eater flock leaves Norfolk after breeding chicks”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-62736520

    Not a mention of climate change this time. Is the BBC realising that just as its “climate disinformation specialists” patrol the internet looking for claims to “debunk” (which they often do very dubiously) we sceptics are watching the BBC for its false claims? We had a bit of a discussion here about the BBC/Guardian climate change claims about bee-eaters, if I remember correctly, and Paul Homewood did an excellent take-down of the nonsense they wrote at the time.

    Like

  50. “Conservation: Explosion in frog numbers after mass pond digging”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63206140

    Switzerland has reversed the decline of more than half of endangered frogs, toads and newts in one region, research finds.

    After conservationists dug hundreds of new ponds in the canton of Aargau, amphibian numbers significantly increased.

    The European tree frog population in particular “exploded”, scientists say.

    Scientists hope this method could be used globally as pond building is simple and effective.

    Globally amphibian populations are in significant decline due to factors including habitat loss, urbanisation, road infrastructure, disease and invasive species.

    In 1999 Aargau decided that a mass conservation effort was needed to combat the loss of amphibians. The collapse of the European tree frog was of particular concern.

    There is a very serious point here. As a species, we humans are causing all sorts of problems for ecology. We are damaging the planet and destroying habitats at a rate of knots. I strongly suspect that much in the way of damage to species numbers that is regularly attributed to climate change should more properly be attributed to damaged/destroyed habitats instead. This example demonstrates the wonderful effect that reinstating habitats can achieve.

    Second serious point – renewables are damaging the environment and destroying habitats all over the planet.

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  51. But notice how habitat loss and climate change are one and the same thing to some people, who ought to know better:

    “Partnership announced to boost nature’s recovery”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-63201066

    A new partnership to help nature’s recovery and improve sustainable stewardship has been formed by Natural England and the University of Exeter.

    The partnership said its activities, initially over three years, would focus on understanding environmental change.

    It was hoped the work would restore landscapes and improve them for people and wildlife, it added.

    The organisations had already worked on more than 60 joint research projects over the last 10 years, they said.

    Professor Lisa Roberts, vice chancellor of the University of Exeter, said it was “the critical decade in which we must tackle the environment and climate emergency”.

    She added: “The University of Exeter has brought together more than 1,400 researchers working on the environment and climate, and, through this partnership, we will use our research power to protect nature and landscapes…

    Like

  52. Mark, it’s not surprising that when you increase the habitat available for amphibians, they increase in number. A similar effort would bear fruit in the UK. The landscape in the south was formerly littered with ponds dug as watering holes for cattle. Unattended, ponds scrub up and dry out in a decade – now that farming has mostly switched to cereals, the landscape is littered with little clumps of scrub over a dip in the ground where a pond formerly was. Surviving ponds are very much islands in an ocean of arable fields – although these days more people have ponds in their back gardens.

    Like

  53. “Britain’s grasslands and dormice under threat from mild autumn
    October’s summery temperatures are ‘confusing’ plants and throwing off fragile ecosystems”

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/oct/29/britain-grasslands-dormice-threat-mild-autumn-fragile-ecosystem

    Britain’s rare chalk grasslands and dormice are under threat from the mild weather this autumn, and some plants are “confused” and have flowered multiple times, experts have said.

    Read on, and you discover this:

    In their Teifi Marshes nature reserve in North Pembrokeshire, Wales, the manager, Nathan Walton, has recorded a significant decline in the dormouse population.

    He says: “Dormice numbers found in boxes surveyed have declined over the past decade. It is still uncertain if this is due to climate change with milder winters and less opportunity for a deep hibernation or, more positively, whether the habitat is good enough for them to find other opportunities for nesting without the need for the boxes. Further work with footprint tunnels and thermal cameras is being undertaken to gain a better idea of distribution and numbers.”

    In other words, dormice numbers are thought to be declining, but they don’t know for sure, and if they are in decline, they don’t know for sure why that might be. The paragraph even seems to carry with it the suggestion that the dormice have left the nesting boxes because “climate change” aka milder weather makes it easier for them to survive in the wild without the need for human intervention, which would presumably be a good thing.

    More shamefully twisted headlines from the Guardian, with a much more nuanced story beneath the headline being the reality.

    Like

  54. Mark, why not be more positive? Praise the guardian for a balanced story, then poke fun at their obviously biased headline. I acknowledge that your post does contain the story that could be praised, but you don’t and instead focus upon the stupid headline. If you wished to influence the Guardian mocking them would be more effective than outright criticism.

    I also believe dormouse numbers are significantly down everywhere across the U.K., not just in Pembrokeshire, and have been declining for decades.

    Like

  55. Alan, you and I don’t disagree much, but when we do it’s usually around my criticisms of the BBC or the Guardian. Let’s take another look at that Guardian headline and article. The headline unequivocally claims that dormice are under threat from a mild autumn, then the article which follows offers not one shred of evidence in support of that claim. The headline is either wrong, or the Guardian journalist who wrote the article failed to supply the information that would justify the headline. In seeking to blame everything bad on the weather (aka climate change) the Guardian is losing the plot, and is becoming a parody of itself.

    There seems to be little doubt that the dormice population has declined dramatically in the UK over the last 20 years, but what is the reason? As so often, habitat loss would seem to be the main culprit. Try this:

    “Dormice numbers have ‘halved’ since 2000”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/50487347

    The number of hazel dormice in the UK have halved and now they’re at risk of becoming endangered….their numbers have fallen by 51% since 2000, according to the National Dormouse Monitoring Programme….

    …Dormouse officer at the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Ian White, said “The decline in dormouse numbers is due to the loss and fragmentation (break up) of their natural woodland and hedgerow habitats, as well as climate change.”

    Methods like coppicing, where trees and shrubs are cut back to stimulate growth, have led to the loss of habitats for dormice to live.

    By cutting vegetation back, it exposes dormice to extreme climate conditions, making it difficult for them to survive and breed in the winter.

    These sleepy creatures need safe places to lounge around and snooze in, such as tree holes, shrubby areas that grow under the trees in woods, and hedgerows.

    So there is still some hope, if changes are made to the way woodlands are managed, such as providing shrubby areas for wildlife to nest and feed.

    Although the BBC use a quote which (probably inevitably) throws in the words “as well as a climate” as the usual makeweight, it’s fairly evident that habitat loss is the reason. And the Guardian’s claim that a mild autumn is a problem for dormice sits rather uneasily with the claim that “cutting vegetation back… exposes dormice to extreme climate conditions, making it difficult for them to survive and breed in the winter.”

    The woodland Trust mentions climate change as a potential problem, but only mild winters, not mild autumns, and again it’s clear that habitat loss is the main threat:

    https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/mammals/hazel-dormouse/

    The dormouse population is in serious danger, with numbers estimated to have fallen by 52% since 1995. The loss of ancient woodland and hedgerows across the UK is thought to be a major reason for this decline, as dormice will not leave the safety of trees to cross large, open spaces. This means populations become isolated, lose genetic diversity and are therefore more vulnerable to extinction.

    Climate change is another big threat to the hazel dormouse. As the winters become milder, they disrupt the species’ hibernation cycle, meaning dormice wake early when sufficient food isn’t available.

    A reduction in traditional forestry methods, such as coppicing, has also impacted the species’ numbers. These methods created ideal habitats for dormice, but are being implemented much less frequently nowadays.

    The Woodland Trust is working to help conserve this species by managing existing woodland in a dormouse-friendly way, as well as providing nest boxes for the species to use.

    Like

  56. …Dormouse officer at the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, Ian White, said “The decline in dormouse numbers is due to the loss and fragmentation (break up) of their natural woodland and hedgerow habitats, as well as climate change.”

    Methods like coppicing, where trees and shrubs are cut back to stimulate growth, have led to the loss of habitats for dormice to live.

    By cutting vegetation back, it exposes dormice to extreme climate conditions, making it difficult for them to survive and breed in the winter.

    Just about all hazel woodland was coppiced before WW1 because hazel rods formed a significant part of the rural economy. Can we then assume that the populations of dormice rose to unnaturally high levels between 1915 and 1995?

    Liked by 1 person

  57. I hope they are not cherrypicking one species.
    “There are two species of dormouse in Britain, the common or hazel dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius and the introduced edible dormouse Glis glis”
    Also dormice are in less than 25% of the UK

    Like

  58. not sure what a dormouse looks like, but I have a fieldmouse that tries to get to my bird feeder.
    was happy to let it feed until ratty turned up.

    Like

  59. Climate change or habitat loss?

    “Endangered moth sees resurgence in Blandford Forest”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-63454731

    An endangered moth has seen a resurgence in part of Dorset following a project to restore its habitat.

    The barberry carpet moth is one of the UK’s rarest invertebrate species with only 12 known populations.

    The replanting of native barberry in Blandford Forest has resulted in an increase in the number of larvae found there, from 14 in 2018 to 50 this year.

    The Forestry England and Butterfly Conservation project has been carried out with the help of volunteers.

    Caterpillars of the barberry carpet moth depend on common barberry – Berberis vulgaris – for survival but it was cleared from hedgerows during the 19th century because it was thought to be a host for wheat rusk fungus.

    Now modern wheat strains are resistant to the disease and the project to replant the slow-growing native species aims to improve the moth’s existing habitat and create more areas for it to thrive….

    Refreshingly, the words “climate change” appear nowhere in the article.

    Like

  60. Ha Ha Mark – are you ex Manx ?
    can’t get away with any fake stuff on this site.

    Like

  61. dfhunter – no, I’ve visited the IoM only once, but my wife spent many holidays there before we met, and she seems to know a lot about it!

    Like

  62. Here’s another example of the loss of “good” things being due to climate change and the increase of “bad” things being due to climate change. It’s never the other way round, the narrative always seems to be the same:

    “Climate crisis brings growing numbers of unusual jellyfish to UK seas
    Marine Conservation Society reports sightings of species normally found in warmer waters”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/03/climate-crisis-brings-growing-numbers-of-unusual-jellyfish-to-uk-seas

    Britain’s seas are becoming populated with large groups of unusual jellyfish owing to climate breakdown, a survey by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has found.

    In its first marine sightings report, which builds on 20 years of citizen science, the society has found an increased abundance of jellyfish types, including those normally found in warmer climes. Thousands of volunteers take part in the MCS report, telling the conservation group which species of jellyfish and turtles they have seen.

    Between 1 October 2021 and 30 September 2022, there were a total of 1,315 jellyfish sightings reported to the MCS. Eight jellyfish species are normally seen around the UK and Ireland but this year 11 were spotted, with more uncommon visitors now visiting these waters

    Bioluminescent crystal jellyfish made up 3% of total sightings: these animals are nearly completely transparent, but give off an amazing green-blue light under certain circumstances because of the fluorescent protein produced by their bodies. They are usually found in the Pacific Ocean and rarely visit UK waters. One per cent of the sightings were sea gooseberries. Both were the highest percentages reported to date. The new arrivals suggests that warmer temperatures may be affecting jellyfish diversity in the UK.

    The whole article seems to be highly speculative to me. Any comments? Jit?

    Like

  63. Mark – highly speculative to me as well, when you read the full article.

    Liked the post pic & caption – “Among species whose numbers were on the rise was the portuguese man o’ war, a jellyfish-like creature that can deliver a fatal sting. Photograph: Cornwall Wildlife Trust/PA”

    this quote caught my eye “Bioluminescent crystal jellyfish made up 3% of total sightings:…They are usually found in the Pacific Ocean and rarely visit UK waters”

    rarely!!! must be good swimmers those 3%

    Like

  64. Strange and illogical that it might be but I found a Portuguese Man o’ war at Payton in the late1950s. It was that I was into marine biology, and thought a bloated old bag might surface.

    Like

  65. The idea that jellyfish are affected by climate change was also, it seemed to me, undermined by this from within the article:

    Unlike many other marine creatures, jellyfish are very suited to living in difficult environment conditions.

    Pilsbury added: “Jellyfish are highly resilient and adaptable to changes in environmental conditions. This sometimes results in large jellyfish blooms of hundreds, or even thousands, of individuals. These can disrupt marine ecosystems and be extremely damaging to human activities….”

    Like

  66. Mark, I will read the story (and the report if I can find it) and may write a short blog about it.

    Like

  67. This story suggests that habitat is far more important than climate:

    “Tiny moth turns up near Selkirk 42 years after last UK sighting”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-63587195

    A rare micro-moth has turned up more than 40 years after it was last seen in the UK – at the very same remote wetland in the Scottish Borders.

    The Apotomis Infida, or Rannoch Marble, is commonly found in Scandinavia and North America.

    But only three previous sightings have ever been made on the British Isles.

    Retired GP and keen amateur lepidopterist Malcolm Lindsay caught the rare moth in an overnight trap at the Ettrick Marshes, near Selkirk…

    …The only other two sightings ever made in the UK came in 1979 and 1980, by renowned lepidopterist Dr Keith Bland, at the Ettrick Marshes.

    Dr Lindsay explained: “I wasn’t aware of the previous two discoveries at the Ettrick Marshes, but it turns out I haven’t discovered the Apotomis Infida, but rediscovered it some 40 years later.

    “This confirms that the marshes are one of the most important wetland sites for wildlife in the south of Scotland – it is possibly the only habitat in the UK where this moth can be found.

    “During this year I have been doing more regular moth recording at the Ettrick Marshes and finding very good results – moths are a great indicator of healthy biodiversity and the marshes are an important place.”

    A lot has happened at the 53-hectare Ettrick Marshes since the previous sightings in 1979 and 1980, with a rewilding project being completed in 2000 and, since ownership was taken over last year by Ettrick and Yarrow Community Development Company, boardwalks, pathways and bird-hides have been restored.

    It is thought that the prevalence of willow across much of the wetlands is responsible for attracting and maintaining the population of Apotomis Infida…

    Like

  68. “‘The ghost that haunts Monteverde’: how the climate crisis killed the golden toad”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/nov/21/golden-toad-haunts-monteverde-how-species-foretold-climate-crisis-aoe

    That’s an attention-grabbing headline, if ever there was one. But read on, and the story is much more complicated than the simple assertion that it was climate change wot dun it:

    …Climate heating and deforestation continue to push clouds in the area higher upland – creating the conditions in which amphibians are more vulnerable to a potentially lethal exotic chytrid fungus that has wiped out dozens of species globally….

    …Although the searches for the iconic toad were unsuccessful, Ritland reports that they found several frog species that disappeared from the area around the same time. “The fact that those species are coming back suggests that Monteverde’s conservation efforts are paying off,” he says.

    Since the golden toad lived underground and vanished suddenly without warning, gathering appropriate specimens for tests to determine the details of the collapse has been near-impossible. Accordingly, not everyone is convinced that the climate crisis alone was the cause of the toad’s demise.

    Some academics have singled out the impact of the chytrid fungus, which was first detected on the Korean peninsula, and which can produce a fatal skin disease.

    However, a 2019 paper combining experiments, field data and historical climate records reported that “widespread species declines, including possible extinctions, have been driven by an interaction between increasing temperatures and infectious disease”.

    Pounds is convinced that while the fungus, periodic warming pattern El Niño and possibly the loss of forest well beyond the preserve’s boundary all played a part in the golden toad’s demise, global heating dealt the crucial blow.

    “The disease is the bullet that kills, but climate change pulls the trigger,” he says.

    Deforestation and disease, recovery by other species when conservation efforts are put in place, but climate change gets the blame. Well, maybe, but then again maybe not.

    Like

  69. Mark, the likelihood is that the fungus was brought there by conservationists with poor biosecurity measures. If memory serves the drought caused lots of amphibians (including the very rare golden toad) to concentrate in one place, which made the outbreak worse. I mentioned the tale in passing in Denierland, and keep meaning to write a post about it here, but have not found the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  70. Let’s face it the Earth is indeed gently warming (still coming out from an ice-age) and some species will have been trapped by becoming adapted to specialist environments that are slowly or rapidly disappearing. This is not man’s fault. It happened at the end of the previous ice age when H. sapiens was not around.

    I acknowledge that we are also responsible for a tidal wave of extinctions as we change environments independently of climate, but now to largely blame us for altering the climate sufficiently to cause mass extinctions seems counter-intuitive and wrong. But the occasional species (especially of amphibian) I would suspect to succumb to small amounts of temperature change. Whether the Golden Toad was one such species I know not, but it would not surprise me.

    Liked by 1 person

  71. Alan, you may be right, and I did equivocate in my comment. My gripe is that even when there are alternative explanations, climate change still gets the blame.

    Thank you Jit for the reminder. For those who are lucky enough to own a copy of Jit’s excellent book, see page 180.

    Liked by 1 person

  72. Mark, my comment was not really directed at you. On reading your article it reminded me that a majority of climate change critics that I met probably went to far and rigorously dismissed anything and everything (especially if it were negative) attributed to climate change as the cause. They were mirror images of climate scaremongers. I would hope that all here would remain in happy balance.

    Liked by 2 people

  73. Another story suggesting that habitat preservation/reinstatement is far more important than climate change when it comes to declining/improving populations of species in any particular area:

    “Spoonbills rebound as UK farmers bolster tree cover and wetlands
    Once common in England and Wales, the species was hunted to local extinction about 300 years ago”

    With their striking long beaks and elegant white plumage, the spoonbill looks like it belongs somewhere far more exotic than the windswept saltmarshes of the UK.

    But the large wading bird is enjoying a boom in numbers as landowners across the country improve wetland habitats and tree cover.

    Once common across England and Wales, the spoonbill was hunted to local extinction about 300 years ago. They were killed for their beautiful feathers and their meat was a delicacy enjoyed at medieval banquets.

    But in 2010, a colony was discovered on the saltmarshes in north Norfolk, thought to have made the journey over from the Netherlands and France.

    Wandering over the marshes to feast on shrimp and small fish, they sometimes spent time and nested on the patch of Andrew Bloomfield, who manages the national nature reserve at the Holkham estate.

    Thrilled with the beautiful visitors, he worked with Natural England and the RSPB among others to ensure they came back each year. They now want to double the size of the spoonbill’s nesting area, creating ditches and islands with trees to try to future-proof the colony. Other birds including several species of egret will also benefit from the extension. This year, they boasted a record 77 young from 43 pairs of spoonbills.

    Now the birds have spread across the UK, and breeding pairs and colonies can be found in eight locations, from the south coast to just outside Leeds. The colonies this year included four sites in Norfolk, one in Yorkshire, one in Cumbria, one in Essex and one in Suffolk.

    Last week, Bloomfield hosted a group of conservationists to see if the population could be boosted further and to raise awareness of the birds’ habitat requirements so more landowners could attract them.

    Good news, though inevitably the Guardian tries to insert a climate change angle:

    Bloomfield said the country was experiencing an increase “without question”, adding: “Our colony is very successful, it’s been in existence since 2010 and the success rate of youngsters each year has increased, that’s enabled them to spread to other places as well.

    “All the wetland work that has been done in the UK will play a part in safeguarding a lot of birds that are moving across from the continent because of global warming.

    “We even get spoonbills wintering sometimes in the UK, which would have been unheard of 50 to 100 years ago, as the weather is much milder than it used to be. Nature conservation has to take into account the new species we are attracting due to climate change.”

    Well, spoonbills are migratory birds, certainly, but are some of them really choosing to over-winter in the UK because of climate change? The RSPB website might suggest otherwise:

    https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/spoonbill/

    Spoonbills are tall white waterbirds with long spatulate black bills and long black legs. In flight they fly with necks and legs extended, in the water they feed with elegant sideward sweeps of their bill. In the breeding season adults show some yellow on their breast and bill tip. The species is of European conservation concern and a very rare breeding bird in the UK. They are listed are listed on Schedule 1 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act. Most birds migrate south in the winter, but numerous individuals remain and winter in Western Europe.

    Liked by 1 person

  74. “UK may ban sandeel fishing in move to save threatened seabirds
    Exclusive: government hopes ban in UK waters will protect birds, including puffins, that feed on small fish”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/dec/16/uk-may-ban-sandeel-fishing-in-move-to-save-threatened-seabirds

    Sandeel fishing in UK waters could be banned next year under “gamechanging” government plans to protect puffin and kittiwake numbers, the Guardian can reveal.

    The sandeel is a small fish that is critical to marine food webs in the UK, and is an important part of many seabird diets. For example, the number of kittiwakes – which are particularly sandeel-dependent – has fallen by half in the UK since the 1960s, with diminishing availability of prey during the breeding season thought to be mainly responsible.

    The tiny fish are harvested, mainly by non-UK fishing boats, to be made into feed for farmed salmon and livestock. While the largest threat to their population numbers is heating seas under climate breakdown, industrial fishing pressures them further.

    Disappointing to see the knee-jerk invocation of climate change, but refreshing at last to see some understanding that there are direct factors affecting ecology in a very immediate way, that are far more pressing than worries about climate change.

    Liked by 1 person

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