Many think they know it: the winter bath. After the holidays, this drizzly marathon along gray January and vicious February, bitter headwind, torrential rain or fierce frost. It may take until mid-April before you get a first glimpse of spring. Finally spring ! Light! Life!
The winter bath (“tired, gloomy, apathetic”, describe psychologists symptoms) can be haunting like a virus, in reality spring has already begun. And it starts earlier and earlier, “thanks” to climate change. The latter may not be good news, but cold facts point to an earlier spring.
There was good news last fall for those who already feel gloomy when the first leaves fall. The leaves fell very late. Fall 2021 was sixth on the list of warmest since 1901. Because the freeze didn’t take long, leaf discoloration started later and leaves stayed on the trees longer, the researchers concluded. Natural calendar in GrowApp.today from Wageningen University.
For black eyes, a little light therapy, Mother Nature’s medicine. The shortest day is December 21, but the first sunset is already December 12. From December 30, the sun will rise earlier for the first time. On December 21, the sun rose at 8:46 a.m. and set at 4:30 p.m. Now, a month later, the sun rises 12 minutes earlier and sets 40 minutes later. It was therefore light for almost an hour longer than in “the dark days before Christmas”.
If you smell a winter dip, you should go south. Because the sun is farther from the north than from the south, a day of 7 hours and 30 minutes in Groningen takes fifteen minutes longer in Maastricht.
The fact that he also warmed up is already in the record books. With 14.7 degrees in Ell, Limburg, December 30 was the hottest ever measured. start this year reported de Vlinderstichting already has peacock eyes, lemon butterflies and little foxes, species that normally announce the new spring only with a flutter in March.
Welcome to the “new normal”, which is also evolving according to the KNMI. The meteorological institute determines it “normal” by the average of three decades. Arnold van Vliet, biologist at Wageningen University and engine of Natuurkalender.nl: “Today 10.5 degrees is a ‘normal’ annual average, at the beginning of the last century it was 8.9 degrees. The notion of “normal” must therefore always be adjusted upwards.
On January 1, Van Vliet was surprised to see a colony of bees in full activity, awakened by the limit of 12 degrees with the sun. Beekeepers have reported active bees and wasp queens. The hedgehogs came out. Kingfishers, wrens, small rodents and wild boars will benefit from warmer winters, Van Vliet expects.
Also note: Christmas with mosquitoes. to muggenradar.nl, another Van Vliet research project, in early January, 674 people reported mosquitoes, of which 346 had been bitten. Not “normal” for January. Most of the cases came from cities in the west of the country, where the molestus variant of the common house mosquito is thought to live in water in crawl spaces and basements.
Even more summer at Christmas: hay fever. In other words, the pollen in the air, the pollen of the first blooms. Due to higher temperatures, hazelnut and alder released high concentrations around the turn of the year.
Alder is an exotic species from the Caucasus, often planted along roads. It flowers earlier than “our” black alder, but even earlier in warm winters. The hazel bloomed in mid-February from 1940 to 1968, now more than six weeks earlier. This early flowering can be fueled by short frosts, the so-called ‘winter cold.
Climate change is not just a feast for the birds. The newly appeared Forest Atlas of Weather and Climate mentions the great egrets that take advantage of increases in temperature. The great tits are the victims of this: at higher temperatures, they reproduce earlier and earlier, but the caterpillars of the small winter butterflies are not yet available for their young. Result: mortality and brood failure.
Outside to research van Sovon showed that the average onset of first clutch for 45 bird species between 1985 and 2005 increased from May 11 to May 4. White-fronted geese and tundra geese already leave for their northern breeding grounds in February during mild winters, when they were earlier in March. Thirty species of birds are moving away earlier and earlier. Wood pigeon, wood lark and finch, among others, leave later. Winter is already a little shorter.
Snowdrops now flower on average three weeks earlier than fifty years ago, according to the Bosatlas. Spring’s testimonials hadn’t gone out of the air on social media. Look at this, December 26: a mother duck with eleven young in the The Hague Court Pond!
A tawny owl had already laid its first egg in mid-December and Thomas van der Es, forester in the Biesbosch, tweeted on January 1: “The strangely mild winter weather made the woodpeckers drum and the great thrushes sing on the Strijbeekse Heide this morning.”
The happy acorn thrives in sunny nature, but aren’t there also signs that point to winter? Yes, there has been some slippage on squirt lanes in the northeast. And certainly, around Christmas, a winter guest settled par excellence in Noordwijk: the pestiferous bird. In brownish-pink wax plumage, the tip of its tail dipped in a pot of bright yellow paint. From Siberia or Scandinavia to that berry bush in the backyard of a terraced house, watched by hordes of birdwatchers and photographers.
After a few days, the bird had flown away. A week later a wax bird appeared at the Dordtse Biesbosch. In both cases, there was only one, possibly the same female. A waxwing does not make a winter.
Many swallows make the summer, and they allow it to arrive earlier and earlier. Where Barn Swallows were first sighted in late March/early April in the 1970s, they became increasingly common by mid-March.
“On average, birds, butterflies, insects and dragonflies move with climate change ten times slower than they should from a temperature point of view,” says Arnold van Vliet. “It varies by species, but the average increase in temperature is twice as fast as their geographic distribution has changed. In other words, they don’t react quickly enough to rising temperatures.
This is the other side of the coin in all meteorological records: at the end of the winter trough, the spring depression awaits. Good or bad news: it’s “a taste of what awaits us”, says Van Vliet. That’s why he calls on ecologists, conservationists and policy makers to pay attention to how species react. The developments show that nature here needs variation and space to allow the great movement from south to north.
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