Watching out for spring

The Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust asks for readers' help as it launches its 2008 Spring Watch

WE can hardly believe it has been two years since we started our first Spring Watch survey. We very much hope you'll join us again this year in recording information about the arrival of spring in our two counties, and in turn help us discover how our own spring signs compare with those of the rest of the country.Phenology is the study of cyclic events of nature (usually the life cycles of plants and animals) in response to seasonal and climatic changes to the environment. Over time, the patterns and clues that form from the regular recording of this cyclical information can help scientists identify some of the major issues facing wildlife including the likely results of climate change in the future, the ability of some species to adapt to habitat change, animal migration patterns and much more.To help us build a picture of what is happening in Hertfordshire, for the last two years we've been asking our members to help us with a national Spring Watch survey. By choosing to record sightings of the same species being surveyed by the national BBC Spring Watch and the UK Phenology Network, we are able to compare and contrast our findings with those from the rest of the country. Each year we compare results from Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust members with previous years. These results have been compared with the first and average national results and together they highlight how much temperature affects the timing of spring events. Spring 2006 was much colder than spring 2005 and as a result all events were later.Spring 2007 was extremely mild with the warmest April on record according to the Met Office and this has certainly had an impact on both our results in Hertfordshire and Middlesex and those from BBC Spring Watch. Every first sighting from both HMWT and BBC Spring Watch was earlier than last year. One of the most notable of these was the arrival in early April of hawthorn. In 2007 we had sightings in Hertfordshire as early as March and this was mirrored across the UK with first flowers being seen a month earlier than in 2006. As the hawthorn is also known as the May tree, perhaps we should consider re-naming it! Nationally, records usually come in first from the South West followed by a clear progression of sightings travelling north and north east as temperatures increase. However as things warmed up across the whole country our results started to match the national average - for example the UK average date for the red tailed bumblebee was April 4 and our average date was April 3.What you can do: This year we'd like to get as much information in from across the county and we hope Hertfordshire Life readers will join in too! All we need you to do is to let us know the first time you see any of our Spring Watch species. To help us record the information, we'd like to know where you see them (garden, urban, nature reserve or rural) and what date (day and month).When to send it in: It's up to you! We would like to collate all questionnaires by the end of August 2008. It is not essential for all eight species to be completed, just as many as you'd like, but the more information we can gather, the fuller our picture will be. Get friends and family involved too - print one from our website or call us and we will send them one. Thanks for taking part!

For a copy of a Spring Watch 2008 form visit or call 01727 858901

For more information visit read the UK Phenology Network's full report visit