So what gives with this weird weather? It’s been odd for the last four years or so – and where it’s becoming noticeable is with the geese. Today was the regular goose count – normality (for some ten years or so) for January and February has been around 8,000. Regular wintering population in the area. They don’t tend to start building up for another month or so, on their way back to the breeding area in Iceland. But last year, January ran to 20,000, dropping back to normal in February, and this year January was around 18,000 and today we checked in about 24,500… now January can be accounted for in that there was horrible weather in the Central Belt, so we probably hadtheir geese, from Vane Farm and Montrose Basin, and maybe even from further south, Morecambe Bay and even the Wash. But it hasn’t been so bad in the last week or so – so where have they all come from? They don’t seem to stick around during the day; the reserve staff were surprised to see so many. And it isn’t our counting – if anything we undercounted – I was on my own on the usual station, and dealing with a wide front of geese all at once, so if I missed some it wouldn’t have been surprising. (even us old hands get ‘augh, me head's on fire’ moments!)
So what’s with the weather?
The first flying thing I saw this morning, once it stopped being impenetrably dark, was a midge. It was not alone. This is February, for gods’ sake – we shouldn’t have midgies!!! The roe deer, and most of the ducks, are getting frisky – this is normal….but we should have been freezing our socks off even in our thermal underwear, not boiling gently because of the same! There is even a Little Egret on the reserve, and has been for the last month or so – notionally, a Mediterranean bird!
I’ve lived here since 1985. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the weather has changed in that time. Snow has shifted from January to March (ooh, I hope not - there is too much to do in March this year), February has got warmer, November windier, and the whole of the winter wetter and dreicher… I could go on.
We are doing something to the climate, whatever the nay-sayers claim. The Earth has, historically, warmed and cooled; this much is true, it’s all to do with wobbling around its axis, but the speed with which it changes seems to be increasing. We should, apparently, being an inter-glacial period, coming up from the depths of cold and the frost fairs of Olde London, when the Thames froze over, and this much I can accept, but should it be happening so fast we can see it year on year?
Wherever you look, someone is making capital out of ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ (and wouldn’t it sound more ominous as ‘global heating’? Warming sounds far too cosy, to me!) and all the various bells and whistles attached to these emotive phrases. One half says it’s dire and dreadful, and the other half says it’s natural and normal – sit back and enjoy the warmer summers! (And to hell if you’re flooded out!)
But do we really want bluetongue disease in our livestock when the winters stay too mild to kill the insect vectors, and to lose ptarmigan and snow buntings from Cairngorm? All of this seems pretty certain, as far as it goes at the moment. Next come malarial mosquitoes in Kent….
The thing is, we don’t understand exactly what’s going on, and how what we’re doing affects it, all we can say is we are doing something, and it may be too late to stop. But maybe, just maybe, we can slow it down until we know more. One of the arguments against reducing CO2 emissions is that by the time it’s a threat, technology will soon be able to sort the problem out. (Thank you for your insight, Mr GW Bush!) But in a race like this, which one will come first – the technology, or the irrevocable damage? Why can’t we help the developing countries, trying to make progress (and understandably narked when we, from our technologically superior (?) criticise their less-developed technology) by giving them the assistance they need to bypass the ‘bad old days’; is the ‘dog in the manger’ race to economic/monetary supremacy worth our future?
The Earth will survive. It does that, very well. It’s just that, like the dinosaurs, and the trilobites, and the giant dragonflies, we may find it won’t support us any more. And I, for one, don’t blame it.