Beginning in the 1930s Daniel Smiley began recording phenology of bird migration, flower bloom time, and butterfly flight at his home in upstate New York. Though not trained as a biologist, his data underpins the research program of what is now the Mohonk Preserve, and represents the fruit of a productive Citizen Scientist career. Over ~85 years, the monitoring list at this biological field station has grown to include over 200 species. In conjunction with on-site daily weather records dating to 1896, this represents a powerful dataset for understanding phenology, climate change, and place-based ecology. The butterfly First Flight Date (FFD) dataset includes over 35 species, several of which are harbingers of unseasonably warm winter days as well as the onset of the spring season. This preliminary analysis showcases emergence response to one of those species, Mourning Cloaks (Nymphalis antiopa) by looking at FFD changes through time. This species is particularly sensitive to warming temperatures due to its life history trait as an adult winter hibernator.
The Mourning Cloak FFD dataset spans the years 1931-2017 and includes 79 records. While most years contain additional records of observations, only the first siting for each year was used for FFD analysis. The survey area consists of the 8000-acre Mohonk Preserve and the adjacent 20,000-acre Minnewaska State Park. Observations include records from 10 individual observers. During the reported time period average high temperature has increased over 2 degrees Fahrenheit, with the rate of warming increasing dramatically in recent decades. Mourning Cloak FFD has responded accordingly: linear regression results indicate a significant trend toward earlier emergence (slope = -0.18 +/- 0.06, p< 0.01). Similarly complete datasets are available for several dozen other species and await further exploration. Efforts are underway to digitize the full dataset and provide data in an open-access format to interested researchers. Recent advances to the proliferation of this dataset include a citizen-science driven phenology trail.