Harvestman Paroligolephus agrestis, 19 December 2018. Photo Robert Mill.

December 2018 at RBGE was much drier than usual, slightly sunnier, and milder than average although there were some short cold snaps with frost but no snow. Total sunshine was 58.6 hours (110% of the long-term average), the mean daily sunshine being 1.9 hours and the maximum on any one day 5.5 hours. Only 33.6 mm of rain fell, 54% of the long-term average. The maximum temperature was 12.5°C with several days having double-digit maxima, while on the 11th and 12th the maximum did not rise about freezing (0°C) and Christmas Eve was another very cold day. The lowest air minimum was -3.6°C (lowest grass minimum -7.6°C). The Garden wildlife total was unchanged at 1,077 — an increase of 142 over the year from 31 December 2017.

Birds Thirty-eight species of bird were recorded at RBGE during December.  The wintering Blackcap was recorded twice, on 4th and 9th. More unusual, though less so than formerly, was a wintering Chiffchaff seen on 28th. Also notable was a flock of 35 Waxwings on 28th, with between two and four being seen the following day, 29th, by different observers. Pink-footed Geese flew over on 6th, and Redwing were present on several dates throughout the month. A Buzzard was roosting on 19th and a Sparrowhawk was reported on 4th, while Curlew were recorded on 31st.  Once again, Kingfisher was present throughout the month, with at least one and sometimes two being seen on most days, although there seemed to be a short period mid-month when they were absent.  Nuthatches were also seen on several occasions. A Tawny Owl made its presence heard on 17th and may have been around on other days as well. For the second month in a row, Siskin was recorded (3rd, 8th and 28th). The complete list of 38 species recorded during December 2018 was: Blackbird, Blackcap, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Buzzard, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit, Curlew, Dunnock, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Kingfisher, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Nuthatch, Pink-footed Goose, Redwing, Robin, Siskin, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Tree Creeper, Waxwing, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Mammals and amphibians As well as the usual evidence of Badgers (e.g. 6th), both a Common Frog and a Smooth Newt were seen on 29th.

Insects and other invertebrates: Despite the month being milder than average for most of the time, there was little apparent invertebrate activity during December. No butterflies, moths, bees or other hymenopterans, Odonata or hoverflies were reported. Other fly sightings included bluebottle, Calliphora vicina (19th) as well as one or species that remain unidentified. No bugs or beetles were seen. The only arachnid recorded was the harvestman, Paroligolephus agrestis on 19th.