Woodland Trust

Nature's CalendarNature Detectives

Look out for dog rose flowers this month.

What is phenology?

Phenology is the study of the times of recurring natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate.

It is recording when you heard the first cuckoo or saw the blackthorn blossom. This can then be compared with other records.

Records from the past

In Japan and China the time of blossoming of cherry and peach trees is associated with ancient festivals and some of these dates can be traced back to the eighth century.

The first individual records that have been found so far in the UK date back to 1684.

Robert Marsham was Britain's first phenologist and recorded his 'Indications of Spring' between 1736 and his death in 1798.

Phenology in the present

In 1875 British phenology took a major leap forward when the Royal Meteorological Society established a national recorder network. Annual reports were published up until 1948.

Aware of the vital importance of continuous records, Tim Sparks, research biologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Cambridge, started a pilot scheme in 1998 to revive a phenology network in the UK that would be both compatible with historic records and current international schemes.

In autumn 2000 the Woodland Trust forces joined with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology to promote phenology to a far wider and larger audience. Almost 50,000 people across the UK are now involved with the Nature's Calendar survey.