Cuckoos and Winter Weather 2017-18

Daffodils - spring
Daffodils in full bloom

If you live almost anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, you don’t need me to tell you that it has been a dismal, gloomy winter. The technical reason, apparently, is a “heatwave” in the Arctic, which has pushed the Arctic Jet Stream further south than normal and resulted in an uninterrupted wave of depressions. Thankfully, the signs of spring are appearing, more of which below, but I thought I’d share with you a summary of the statistics about the weather that we have kept for 20 years.

One of the harbingers of spring must surely be increased bird activity. The sparrows and blue tits are seeking nesting places in our house walls, and the male blackbirds have started their dawn and dusk choruses. The cuckoo arrived on Saturday morning, although it has not been heard since, so it might have decided not to stay. The plants are coming out in fits and starts, although some of them are slow, because the weather has been colder than normal. Some of our early daffodils were bent over by sharp frosts in February and March.

Hoopoe 3
Hoopoes should be arriving soon
Another harbinger of spring

So, how does this winter stack up against previous winters in SW France? First, some definitions. My husband (aka the Statistics Freak because of his penchant for recording anything and everything) classifies November to February inclusive as winter. I’ll include March as well, which was anything but spring-like.

Second, a quick reminder of our weather assessment method: we assign each day a plus if it’s fine, a minus if it’s bad and a zero if it’s indifferent or we can’t decide. This is subjective, clearly, but over a period of years you can see patterns emerging.

During the period from 1st November 2017 to 28th February 2018, we recorded the following:

Pluses: 26 (22%)
Zeros: 36 (30%)
Minuses: 58 (48%)

In March, we had only 6 pluses, 12 zeros and 13 minuses.

Surprisingly, this was not the worst winter we’ve experienced here. That dubious accolade goes to the winter of 2012/13. November 2017 was actually one of the best Novembers we have had, which dragged up the figures a little.

However, it all changed from last December, which was the worst in 20 years. This January was equal worst with January 2013. February was the worst in 20 years. And it continued on into March, which shares second worst place with March 2006. We had frost on 45 nights (including six in March), which is not particularly high.

The charts, which show the proportion of pluses over 20 years, reveal that the months after Christmas are getting worse (the line is the trend).

You can see from the rainfall (in millimetres) just how gloomy it has been.

Rainfall 2017

Rainfall 2018 to date

Having said that, we did need rain, since many parts of France were suffering from drought up to the end of November. However, we also need sun, and it was in very short supply. We normally expect to eat lunch outside on at least a handful of occasions during the winter. This winter we were not able to do so once.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Not being able to get outside meant that I was unusually productive in my writing work. Yesterday, we enjoyed a lovely sunny day in the garden, catching up with some of the tasks we had meant to do over the winter.

I hope you’ve spent a happy and peaceful Easter.

You might also like:

Seven Signs of Spring in SW France
Watery Walk – La Vallée de la Bonnette
The Flood of the Century in SW France, 3-4 March 1930

Copyright © 2018 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. We have been able to eat outside four or five times since December. November was quite sunny .
    Last few days have been a mix of sun and cloud and around 19 degrees, though Easter Sunday hit 22!

    That said, I think we have a bit of a microclimate going on down here.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Luckily, November was one of the best, otherwise it would have been even more depressing. Easter Sunday was lovely here, too. Now grey and windy, but at least not cold. I envy you your microclimate!


  2. It’s been really miserable, starting on the 1st January. For me, it was compounded by being in Wales during the “Beast from the East” missing my return flght and waiting another week to get back to France, which seemed remarkably nice after the British weather! 🙂 I’ve seen a humming bird hawkmoth, so things seem to be cheering up. Nice post and amazing weather charts!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, poor you. It’s so frustrating when all you want to do is get home. We probably have had it better than the UK. Here, we’ve had only a couple of light dustings of snow. It’s the gloom that’s been so depressing. I haven’t seen one of those moths yet, but there are plenty of carpenter bees and butterflies.


  3. I love your simple weather figures, thank you. I heard, but didn’t see, a hoopoe last weekend and the first swallows were seen entering the barn yesterday, Easter Sunday. I’m so happy to see them back!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you. They are simplified for my own benefit as well! I haven’t heard a hoopoe yet, but we haven’t been out much, except for yesterday, when the weather was lovely. I look forward to hearing them soon. The swallows have arrived, people say, but we haven’t seen than yet. I do hope we get a decent spring and summer.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This “blog” is a true pleasure – in both human and professional terms. Please continue to write and include me in the mailing list. Best wishes to you and your family. Cheers: Sara Ellen (Raya) Ben-Eliahu (currently suffering through a Danish-style winter weather pattern north of Copenhagen).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind and very welcome comments. I will certainly continue to include you on the mailing list – I would not remove you unless you indicated that that is what you wanted.

      My husband’s children and grandchildren are in Sweden, and I understand their weather continues to be bad, as yours clearly is. We just have to make the best of the good days when they come, even if they are few and far between just now. Bonne soirée.


  5. There is a french saying about making sure you finish pruning in march. I finished yesterday! A day late but, oh, how glorious the sun was. Our son has been cycling down from Dieppe and is a day late in his ETA as the weather was so dreadful on Friday and Saturday. Fingers crossed he makes it tonight. He’s currently somewhere in the Creuse, I think! Enjoy the rest of Easter. And thanks for the statistics, even if the forecast for future winters is gloomy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am well behind on my pruning. Some of my shrubs will just have to stay unpruned this year, I think. I hope your son gets to you today. At least it’s not raining today, but it’s overcast and the wind is a bit keen here. Let’s hope future winters buck the trend!

      Liked by 1 person

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