North American polar vortex disturbs Scandinavian bears’ hibernation


This video from Alaska is called Katmai National Park Bears: Brown Bear Hibernation.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Polar vortex over US brings abnormally mild weather to Scandinavia

Weather system disrupts flora and fauna in Nordic countries, with bears reportedly emerging from hibernation

Jessica Aldred

Friday 10 January 2014 17.11 GMT

The freezing polar vortex that has gripped the US has extended an abnormally mild winter in Scandinavia and disrupted the seasonal patterns of flora and fauna.

The weather system that brought snow, ice and record low temperatures to many parts of the United States this week left Iceland, Greenland and Scandinavia much warmer than normal.

On the back of a generally mild winter, there have been reports of bears emerging early from hibernation in Finland, changes in the behaviour of migratory birds off the coast of Sweden and plants appearing earlier than normal in Norway.

Scandinavia and Russia’s cold weather during the winter comes from a high-pressure system that keeps warmer, more humid air and low-pressure systems with wind and rain from coming up from the Atlantic Ocean.

The weakening of the jetstream that holds this in place has allowed cold air to spill further south into much of the United States and Canada, while bringing above-average temperatures to parts of Europe.

The knock-on effects of the vortex follow one of the mildest Decembers in a century in Nordic countries. Ketil Isaksen, a scientist at the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, said the country had been 4.2C above the mean temperature for December with parts of Oslo and south-eastern Norway experiencing the third warmest December on record. “It was very unusual to see no snow in large areas where it is normal in December. Only in the mountains and certain parts of Norway could you find snow.”

Much of the precipitation in lowland and populated areas had fallen as rain instead of snow, he said. “In general it was a very wet December. Large parts of Norway had up to three times as much rain as normal and the country as a whole had 180% more than average.”

Finland too has seen heavy rain, with flooding in western coastal areas and the majority of Finland’s lakes containing record volumes of water. Temperatures exceeded their normal seasonal average by 4-5C nationwide, with Helsinki and southern Finland recording the mildest second half of December in 30 years.

Temperatures in parts of Sweden have fluctuated greatly, at Nikkaluokta falling from 4.7C on 3 December to -40.8C on 9 December, then rising two days later to 7.7C. Many locations measured their warmest December temperatures on record. “In the north, winter has arrived, but in the south it’s autumn according to the meteorological definition,” the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute said.

The rainy weather in Finland has reportedly disrupted the winter slumbers of many bears, bringing them out of hibernation early. Heavy rains and high waters may have invaded some dens, forcing the animals to seek new shelter.

Prof Jon Swenson of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, leader of the Scandinavian bear project, said he was worried about the indirect effects of the warmer weather. “If you go down into southern Europe, it’s warmer, and there are some bears that don’t hibernate.

“It doesn’t seem to be harmful not to hibernate,” he said. “What we are afraid of is that it means there will be more thawing periods … this really stresses the berry-producing plants. This can cause some mortality, and can have a very adverse effect on berry production. And that’s what the bears survive on in the autumn, and what they use to get them through the winter. So the results of this mild weather won’t be seen for some time.”

Last week, the local Norwegian newspaper Sunnmørsposten published reader photographs of daffodils emerging as early as 14 December as well as crocuses, daisies, dandelions and honeysuckle.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Norway chief executive, Nina Jensen, said she was “cautious about drawing conclusions from one mild winter into specific changes in nature”, but there were signals that changes were happening.

“We are definitely seeing plants like bluebells flowering that wouldn’t come out until spring, and birds singing that wouldn’t normally be at this time of year. There are quite obvious changes in the growth season, plant growth and migratory bird routes and timing. The flip side of this warmer winter is that we will also have an increasing threat of harmful introduced organisms, such as the wild boar or ticks that thrive in warmer temperatures.”

Pål Hermansen, a wildlife photographer based in Oslo, said: “It’s the smaller things where you see it most, especially butterflies and other insects. The combination of ‘proper winters’ with lots of snow, alternating with winters like this one, makes everything very unstable. In the 30 years I’ve been working we’ve seen butterfly populations reduce by 80-90%. We’re now seeing mosquitos and ticks during the winter, which is unheard of. Ticks are spreading much further north than they ever were before.”

Stephen Menzie, an ornithologist working at Falsterbo Bird Observatory – a migration point in south-west Sweden – said it was “certainly true” that milder weather this year had played a part in delaying the southbound migration of many species.

“We had one day in November when we ringed over 800 birds, compared to the same period last year when we struggled to catch double figures on most days.”

Additional reporting by Ben McPherson in Oslo

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Dutch butterfly count


This video is called Scandinavian Butterflies Part 1.

And here is Part 2.

On 2, 3, and 4 August, butterflies were counted everywhere in gardens in the Netherlands.

177,670 butterflies (and moths) of 36 species were counted.

The top 10 were:

1. Peacock (38319 x)
2. Silver Y moth (30961 x)
3. Small white (15956 x)
4. Small tortoiseshell (11625 x)
5. Large white (11529 x)
6. Brimstone (8544 x)
7. Red admiral(8139 x)
8. Large skipper (6398 x)
9. Painted lady (6207 x)
10. Mint moth (5212 x)

See also here.

Many great tits, pigeons migrating


This video from France says about itself:

A couple of Wood Pigeons made a nest in my flower box in Paris, trashing my geraniums. When I noticed the nest, I let them be. One egg was laid and then another. I named the parents Patience and Constant, because they were! They took turns sitting on the eggs 24/7 until the first egg hatched on Bastille Day 2008, exactly 18 days after it was laid. After several more days it was clear that the second egg had died. I named the surviving baby Hope.

After the hatching, Patience and Constant continued to sit on the nest, keeping the squab warm, and feeding it with pigeon “milk” which they manufactured from their own food. This pigeon baby food is regurgitated from the throat into the squabs beak.

At 12 days old, Hope was left alone for the first time and I found her at 4:00 am, drenched in a torrential downpour. I made a bed for her and brought her in for a few hours, putting her back in the nest before her parents returned! The next night it rained again and I put up an umbrella to keep her dry.

In the week that followed she began to stretch her wings, balance on the edge of the window box, and look outward to the world beyond. At 20 days old, Hope flew for the first time. She came back to rest in the nest in the flower box on three occasions. After that she stayed out with her flock. Today she is healthy, plump, beautiful, and free.

The Dutch ornithologists of SOVON report record numbers of woodpigeons migrating from Scandinavia through the eastern Netherlands to south-western Europe this year. In the month October alone, 2,7 million pigeons were counted, a record number.

SOVON also reports record numbers of great tits coming to the Netherlands from northern and eastern Europe this year. Nearly 80,000 this year. Bird migration researchers think these were probably mainly not from Scandinavia, but from Baltic countries. Probably, the birds migrate because of a lack this year of beech nuts and other food in eastern Europe.

November 2012. A new strain of avian pox is taking its toll on garden birds in Britain, according to new research. Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), University of Oxford, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and RSPB report on the impact avian pox is having on great tit populations: here.

Effects of human disturbance on nest placement of the Woodpigeon in Morocco: here.

Migrating birds die at sea


This video is called No food, no offspring. Climate change has reached migratory birds in the North Sea.

From the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain:

Migrating birds lost at sea

Last modified: 26 October 2012

An appalling combination of fog and winds around England’s coast this week have created terrible conditions for migrating birds, with some fishermen reporting to the RSPB the deaths of many exhausted and disorientated ‘garden’ birds plunging into the sea around their vessels.

England’s east coast, from Northumberland to Kent, has seen the arrival of many birds, including redwings, fieldfares, bramblings and blackbirds, perhaps numbering in their millions this week. The RSPB believes these birds may be the lucky survivors which have managed to cross the North Sea, but the Society concedes many others may have perished before making landfall.

The sky was thick with garden birds. I estimate I saw 500 birds die and that was just in our 300-yard sphere

One such site to experience a ‘fall’ of stranded migrant birds is the RSPB’s Bempton Cliffs reserve in North Yorkshire. Ian Kendall is the reserves manager. Commenting on the sight, he said: “There are birds in their thousands, on the cliffs, in the surrounding fields, hedgerows and along the length of the Yorkshire Coast.

“The birds left Scandinavia in glorious sunshine but as they crossed the North Sea, they flew into fog and rain, so they stopped off at the first bit of land they have come across. The place has been dripping with birds.”

Disorientated

Along England’s south coast, the RSPB has received several reports of thousands of disorientated and exhausted birds drowning in the sea. One respondent, a professional boat skipper, said: “While fishing about 10 miles south of Portsmouth, we witnessed thousands of garden birds disorientated, land on the sea and most drowning. Species included goldcrests, robins, thrushes and blackbirds. The sky was thick with garden birds. I estimate I saw 500 birds die and that was just in our 300-yard sphere. On the way home we just saw dead songbirds in the water: it was a harrowing sight.”

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s conservation director. He said: “The scale of these reports are truly shocking, and it has the potential to adversely affect the status of species which may be declining for other reasons.”

Those exhausted birds which have made it to the UK will be looking for food and may be visiting gardens, especially as the weather is expected to turn with the UK forecast to receive the first icy blasts of winter.

Topping up bird feeders

Ian Hayward is an adviser with the RSPB’s wildlife enquiries team. He said: “The first cold snap will encourage many birds to visit gardens increasingly, in a quest for food. Now is the time to start topping up bird tables and feeders. These birds need all the help they can get, so gardeners and farmers can also help birds by not cutting hedgerows laden with much-needed berries.”

Blackbird migration: here.