magpies warbling and swooping earlier!

Are Australian magpies warbling and swooping earlier than ever before? Probably.

Is the invasive Asian house gecko making its way south from Darwin? Possibly.

Is Nemo, the clown fish, partying off the coast of Sydney all year round instead of returning to tropical waters in winter? Scientists think so.

More than 60,000 observations made by Australian citizen scientists are feeding answers to these questions and hundreds more into a database run by ClimateWatch, which is run by the Smithsonian Institution’s Earthwatch Institute.

Since 2009, 13,000 citizen scientists have registered to make observations on ClimateWatch’s app and website. Their records of 185 species of plants and animals are starting to flower and bear fruit, albeit unripened.

ClimateWatch’s program manager Linden Ashcroft said the species were chosen for their susceptibility to changes in rain and temperature. They may flower or start breeding earlier, change migrating patterns or move to different habitats to seek the right temperatures and conditions for their species. They are also common and easy to identify.

“People notice this stuff in their day-to-day life,” Dr Ashcroft said. “They think, ‘That tree flowered earlier’ or, ‘That bird I haven’t seen it before’, but now they are realising how important that information is,” she said.

The Age, 9 Aug 2014