Happy New Year! – with our best wishes for both people and nature in The Living Coast.
Our current weather is now more like what we are accustomed to for the winter with a succession of low-pressure systems from the Atlantic bringing us rain that we need to top up the groundwater aquifers that supply our drinking water here (and so avoid drought restrictions come the summer!).
Looking back at last year, rainfall was a little below average whereas – as expected from climate change predictions – 2017 was another warm year according to the Met Office: the 5th warmest year in the UK since records began, with the nine warmest all having occurred since 2000. Meanwhile globally 2017 was one of the top three warmest years on record worldwide, together with 2016 and 2015.
Up in the night skies, the Quadrantid meteor shower can be viewed at its peak on the night of 3rd-4th January. Meanwhile, in the countryside farmers are providing supplementary feeding of hay to their livestock, many of whom will be kept indoors due to the reduced grass growth and wet conditions. Arable farmers will have their autumn-sown crops well-established by now.
Many plants and animals lie dormant or are in hibernation during mid-winter, however some wildlife can be quite active, especially at night when you can hear the melodic hoots of Tawny owls (“ke-wick hoo-hoo-oooo”) calling to each other in the darkness, and the harsh barks and screams of Foxes on their annual search for a mate.
Birds are perhaps the most obvious wildlife at this time of year however, sometimes in great numbers including waders on the river estuaries of the Adur and Ouse and the ‘murmurations’ of Starlings that gather to roost on Brighton’s piers. In gardens you can keep an eye out for unusual visitors such as Redwings and Fieldfares from Scandinavia, or even a Waxwing in cold conditions – and don’t forget to take part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch for an hour over the last weekend of the month (27-29th January).
In woodlands you might hear the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker against a tree to establish its breeding territory. Other birds are starting to sing to hold a territory too, such as the Song Thrush with its loud repeated notes, as well as Robins, Blackbirds and Great Tits.