Winter; a season of frosty mornings, quiet, monochromatic landscapes, everything either holding its breath ahead of the burst of spring in a couple of months or frantically feeding up to survive day to day. However, having just watched a queen buff-tailed bumblebee foraging from vibrant yellow and strongly scented Mahonia flowers near the Barker and Stonehouse store at Teesside Park on 15th January, it feels as though this winter has yet to get started and the mild temperatures are messing with the normal way of things. I have spotted queen bees flying at the coast on Christmas Day in the past and can only hope that they are able to refuel sufficiently to enable them to return to their winter hibernation when the weather inevitably takes a cold turn.
They aren’t alone in signalling a change in the seasons with hazel catkins starting to release their pollen along the riverside paths near the Newport Bridge and and song thrushes singing as the sun rises at the Tees Barrage virtually every morning at the moment. Song thrushes are known to set up breeding territories very early in the season, late autumn and early winter being typical times when you may start to hear their glorious song. Just recently, I’ve noticed up to 3 song thrushes singing their distinctive repetitive phrases, one from the usual place behind the water sports centre and now two have struck up a bit of a singing battle from the trees around the Canal and River Trust pond by the boat compound on Navigation Way. However, at the time of writing, a cold snap is on its way so that may silence them for a time while foraging for food to survive takes priority.
Don’t forget to record any seasonal sightings on the Nature’s Calendar website and put the Tees on the phenological map. The Nature’s Calendar citizen science scheme enables everybody to plot the advance and retreat of the seasons in their own local area, providing an incredibly valuable set of data which clarifies how climate change is currently affecting our wildlife and helping to predict how things will progress in the future.