Nature Notes December 2019

Total monthly rainfall: 131.5 millimetres.  Maximum daily rainfall: 27.5 millimetres (20th Dec). There were 15 days when cloud-cover was 100% for at least part of the day, and 23 days when we recorded measurable rainfall. All ponds were completely full and overflowing on December 20th, and there were puddles everywhere. Total annual rainfall was 859 millimetres, 429.5 of which fell in the last 3 months.


Maximum temperature on the warmest day was 12°C on the 6th, 8th, and 19th. On the coldest day it was 4°C on December 2nd. There was overnight frost on the 2nd to 5th, 10th to 12th, and the 30th, and we had fresh to strong winds on the 8th, 9th, 12th to 15th, 19th, 20th, and 24th to 26th – bringing down many branches and flattening saplings.

Our last common darter appeared on December 1st, when we also saw our last red admiral butterfly of the year. Moths seen included a mottled umber on a woodland fence-post (5th), and over 70 winter moths drowning in drainage ditches and woodland ponds between 23rd and 25th. We rescued a few with a stick. Our last buff-tailed bumblebee appeared on December 8th.

Every year we record the occasional adult ladybird, but on December 5th, for the first time ever, we noticed what looked like groups of tiny ladybirds on 12 woodland fence-posts along the northern edge of our wood. They were all yellow, and at first-sight looked as if they were 14-spot ladybirds. Internet research mainly from the wildlife trusts, and a greatly magnified photograph suggest they may have 22-spots, and we estimated there could be about 400 of them altogether. They decreased in number over time, possibly due to predation by crows or magpies, as evidenced by bird droppings on and around fence posts. By the month’s end there were about 200 remaining on six fence posts. If any expert has another identification or explanation we would be pleased to receive it, and continue the story next month.

Most remaining wildflowers ceased flowering during the month, beginning with feverfew on the 7th. This was followed by the oxeye daisy (12th), sow-thistle (14th ), herb Robert (15th), and red deadnettle (17th). This left only the white deadnettle and dandelion still blooming on December 31st.

We continued to see our usual wild birds and also over 100 herring gulls in the field behind our wood on the 8th, plus 32 Canada geese at our lake on the 19th.

With so many early winter records, it is interesting to note one distinctly autumnal feature. Every year we have one hedgerow oak that retains autumn colouring on a substantial number of leaves. It appears to be about 70 years old, and, because of its pointed leaf-lobes rather than the slightly rounded ones typical of other oaks, we have decided it is a red oak, which originates from North America.