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December 2008

2nd - Snow during the morning with 2.5 cm’s at noon. The snow only slowly thawing and managing to persist till the 4th.

5th - A lone Brambling (female/juvenile) seen in the Hawthorn around noon.

7th - A Redwing seen feeding on the ground around the Hawthorn in mid morning.

9th - A Redwing again seen in the garden, with a single bird seen feeding on the lawn in the afternoon.

11th - Freezing rain last night caused a lot of ice this morning, making the roads and pavements like ice rinks. Unsurprisingly a number of accidents were reported in the region during the morning.

12th - A cold start with a low of -3.3 C. A female Blackcap seen in the Hawthorn at 10am.

13th - A wet day, heavy at times, with 25.5 mm’s (1.00”) recorded in the gauge. The rain became increasingly wintry later, with some wet snow for a time during the night.

14th, Wayhramwold & Pluckham wood - A good walk this morning in the Wayhramwold area, with a covering of wet snow from last night (in Beverley we had only rain, and the snow started from just under Huggate), as well as some snow which has persisted from earlier in the month. The snow revealed much animal activity, with the paw-prints of foxes, deer, hare, rabbit, squirrel, stoat, mice, and most notable Badgers in Wayhramdale. We had suspected Badger activity in this area and now we know for sure, a useful bit of local knowledge of this elusive animal. In the hedges and woods there were many Fieldfares seen and heard.

17th, North Cave Wetlands - A late afternoon visit, the winter sun setting over the still and cold water of the reserve and the vast fields of the Vale of York. What a beautiful time of year this can be. Quite chilly with some ice on sheltered areas of the lagoons in the north west of the reserve, and the recent cold weather seems to have driven the Great Crested Grebes to milder areas of the country. The main highlights were two Goldeneye’s, a male and a female, at least five Pink-footed Geese amongst the Greylags, 50+ Redshanks, a Curlew, and winter thrushes in the western hedges. Lots of Teal now, and wildfowl remain well represented, though no Wigeon seen today. Lots of Crows, Rooks, and Jackdaws feeding in the adjacent fields, and a good number of Tree Sparrows were along Dryham Lane.

18th - Two Redwings seen in the garden.

21st - In contrast to the recent chilly weather, today was very mild with a high of 12.1 C.

South Huggatewold - A long walk this morning on south Huggatewold (Pig-beans) with Jenny joining us on a breezy, though quite mild day. A couple of Red Kites seen above the dale and at the head of the dale there was a large flock of mixed finches, and Yellowhammer’s, with Chaffinches making up the majority of the flock. A few Bullfinches seen here as well, and further Bullfinches were seen near the farm on South Huggatewold. A flock of Linnets were also seen in the fields, and in the general area there was a lot of game about, with Red Legged Partridges in the valleys and Pheasants in the fields. A Stoat on the Huggate-Warter road was an additional observation.

25th - On a foggy Christmas morning, lots of gulls came to feed on the pig fat on the bird table, with Black headed Gulls dominating, though there were a few Common Gulls too. One of the black headed gulls was ringed with both a standard ring and also a ‘Darvic’ ring, which had RBM clearly written upon it.

28th, Great Dugdale - We walked the new circular walk at Great Dugdale (Warter) which has become possible since the Right to roam act of a few years ago, taking in an attractive area of the central Wolds around the village of Warter. A Red Kite seen over the wood in the centre of the dale, and in the area there was an abundance of game with Pheasants and Partridges everywhere. At the head of the dale there was a large mixed flock of finches and Yellowhammer’s, including a few Bullfinches, a bird which seems to be increasingly encountered in the Wolds at the moment. Other observations included a few Hares, and Lapwings were seen in the high fields. A good morning, with Jenny also joining us.

30th, Bempton Cliffs - Paid a brief visit to the cliffs this morning, where, as to be expected, it was very quiet with just a few Fulmars and Gulls about, as well as Jackdaw’s, Starling’s and Rock doves. However out on the sea a Red Throated Diver was seen, always a personal highlight, and a new species for my East Yorskhire list.

31st - Very cold today on this last day of calendar year, starting with a low of -4.6 C and rising no higher than -0.6 C. Only the second time on my records that the temperature has failed to rise above freezing.

North Cave Wetlands - A quiet afternoon around the reserve, on a cold (temperature around -3C) and murky day. Despite the temperature there wasn’t much ice on the lagoons, and again no Great Crested Grebes were seen, they probably having moved south to milder areas of the country during the cold spell at the beginning of the month. No birds of particular note though the Green Woodpecker was seen twice, and about a dozen Snipe were seen around the reserve. Not so many Redshanks as recently and really only wildfowl remain well represented with good numbers of Tufted duck, Teal, Shoveler, Pochard, and of course Mallard. Other observations included a few Gadwall, though not the numbers of autumn time, a pair of Goldeneye’s again, and a single female Wigeon. Only two geese seen, one a Greylag, and the other a feral domestic goose. Cormorants back though, with about five seen.

November 2008

1st - Heavy rain overnight with 14.5 mm’s recorded.

2nd - A Redwing seen in the garden today.

3rd - A pair of Redwing’s seen today.

5th, North Cave Wetlands - Another interesting afternoon visit, with some good sightings. Wildfowl again very well represented with thirteen species, with five types of geese, including twelve Pink feet, ten Barnacle’s, and the lone Bar head (plus of course the Greylags, & Canada’s). Wigeon numbers have increased to about five. A flock of Snipe, about twenty five strong, seen regularly flying around the reserve, and two Green Woodpeckers were seen well along the northern edge of the reserve. Winter thrushes in the north west hedges, and lots of Red legged Partridges were seen in the potato fields to the west. Passerines active in the hedges throughout the reserve, including quite a few Goldcrests. An excellent afternoon with forty eight species in total.

7th - At least four Redwing’s seen in the garden today, and Fieldfare’s seen and heard passing overhead.

9th, Millingtondale - A good walk with Jenny and Dad on this long circular walk in the heart of the Wolds. Towards the top of Millingtondale three to five Stonechats were seen in some scrubby hawthorns, and along the walk winter thrushes were seen, as were up to a dozen Bullfinches.

12th, North Cave Wetlands - Much quieter today, though we were a little earlier than lately, and there were quite a few people about too. A Pink footed Goose was seen amongst the other geese, as were a few Barnacles, and a lone Bar head. Lots of gulls in the Main Lagoon, mainly Black head’s, but also quite a few Mews (Common’s), and one or two Herring’s and Black back’s. Redshank numbers up to twenty plus.

20th - A young fox was seen along Long Lane this morning.

North Cave Wetlands - Quiet again this afternoon, though an immature male Goldeneye was spotted, as was a male Goosander, two fine species which I would always welcome. More Shovelers about and now looking quite striking in the low winter light. No Wigeon, and more notably no geese seen today.

21st - Two male Blackcap’s seen in the garden during the afternoon.

22nd - A single male Blackcap seen in the garden today, an unusual observation considering the lateness of the year and the snow showers today. Probably a group moving south. A frost overnight with a covering of snow.

23rd - A spell of snow this morning with 3 cm’s by 9 am. Melted by midnight as milder air moved in.

Millingtondale - A snowy walk around the tops of the dale, with Fieldfares in great evidence amongst the hedges and woods. A Treecreeper also seen, along with a Goldcrest. A good number of Red legged Partridges also heard out in the fields. A fine walk and nice to have a snowy walk again for the first time since at least March.

24th - A late hedgehog seen today.

26th - There was the welcome sight of lots of Goldfinches on my feeders today, a sight which has become less common lately, though there are good numbers of them around the area as I frequently hear them whenever I’m out and about.

28th - A decent frost overnight with a low of -3 C.

October 2008

1st - Three foxes seen playing in the fields this morning, totally oblivious to my presence for a few minutes. They no doubt caused some of the damage to the crop earlier in the year before the harvest. In the drilled fields a few Lapwing’s were seen.

2nd, North Cave Wetlands - Another quiet afternoon at our local reserve, though I think these afternoon visits are far from ideal compared to morning or evening visits. Nothing of any real note today, though hirundines were seen in good numbers, largely Martins. Teal numbers continuing to increase and amongst the numerous Greylag geese was a hybrid Bar headed Goose.

3rd - A Greylag goose flew over the house in late afternoon.

6th - A flock of Lapwing’s seen to the east around dusk.

9th, North Cave Wetlands - An afternoon visit, and again largely quiet. A Buzzard was seen to the north, and on the reserve proper a late Swallow was spotted, and also heard was a late leaf warbler. A Stock dove seen out in the fields, and on the edge of the lagoons there were quite a few Snipe about, though so far waders have been very poorly represented this autumn, at North Cave at least anyway. A total of 40 species counted today.

12th, Wharram Percy - Went on a lovely autumnal walk in the Wharram Percy area, on a grey and murky day. We walked along the railway line up to the village, stopping to look at the abandoned tunnel, and admiring the still functioning culverts and drains, whose brick structure is still in fine condition. We then made our way up the dale to the abandoned village, and then came around over the Wold top and back round to the car park. Not much wildlife about, much of it hidden by the fog, though a Buzzard was seen at the quarry, and a small herd of Exmoor ponies were seen down at the bottom of the valley. Lots of Red legged Partridges on the high fields also. A less welcome observation was the discovery of a dead Badger, though it’s interesting to know that Badgers can be found in this area.

14th, Flamborough & Bridlington - Went to the coast this afternoon, having fish and chips at North Landing. Despite rain, drizzle, and mist it was most pleasant, and the fog horn at Flamborough Head could be heard in the distance. We then drove back through Bridlington and on the south beach Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Dunlins, Redshanks, & Sanderlings were seen on the shoreline. An enjoyable afternoon.

16th - A few flocks of thrushes flew over today, heading inland, and probably newly arrived winter thrushes from Europe.

17th - Heard Redwing’s passing overhead today.

18th - Some late hirundines were seen today, heading southwards.

20th - A fantastic sunrise this morning with the rising sun lighting up the underside of invading altostratus and altocumulus.

21st - Lapwing’s out in the fields this morning.

22nd - A Redwing was seen in the garden today, the first of the autumn.

Castle Howard - Visited the arboretum at Castle Howard for the first time, which was most pleasant, though not particularly colourful yet, bar the acers, maples, and Beech’s. Some Redwings were seen on the walk, and many other typical woodland birds were seen and heard, including a Jay. In the car park a Treecreeper was spotted, as was a Nuthatch, a very pleasing observation of a bird I see very little of. I fine day out in a beautiful area of the world, on a most pleasant day.

27th - Some Mute Swan’s flew over the area at 7 am this morning.

28th, North Cave Wetlands - Went on a late afternoon trip to our local reserve, on a chilly and almost wintry day. Lots more about now as a result with wildfowl now the dominant group. Loads of Greylag geese, and the largest number of Canada geese I’ve seen in one place. Amongst them was a lone Bar headed goose, and a single Pink footed goose was also picked out feeding in the fields to the north of the reserve. Teal numbers vastly increased to at least fifty plus, and a pair of Wigeon were also seen. Shoveler numbers also appear greater, as do Mallards, & Tufted ducks. Gadwall, Pochard, & Mute Swans complete the wildfowl list. Redshanks have now made a welcome return and a flock of Golden Plovers were seen overhead. Snipe still widely apparent. The Green Woodpecker was seen three times and a single Siskin was seen in the north west corner of the reserve. However the most unusual observation was an unseasonal Little Egret which was beside the Main Lake. A great afternoons birding with forty nine species in all.

29th - Six Golden Plover’s flew over at 7 am, and two Fieldfares were briefly seen in the Beech this morning. The day had begun with a frost, with a low of -1.5 C, and during the day it rose no higher than 6.3 C.

30th - After another frosty start (-2 C), there were a couple of Redwing’s seen in the garden.

North Cave Wetlands - Went on a dawn trip this time on another cold day, with some heavy rain latterly. Not much change since the 28th with still loads of geese, though no Pink feet were seen today. However to the south towards the Humber a very large cloud of geese were seen heading ENE, possibly Pink feet from Whitton sands or Alkborough. Ducks still very well represented and the Green Woodpecker was again seen. Also observed was a Kingfisher on one of the branches right outside the southern hide. Red legged Partridges seen in the fields to the west, and a Kestrel was seen hunting early. An interesting morning with forty eight species noted.

31st - Fieldfares heard in the Parks this morning.

September 2008

2nd - Heavy and thundery shower in the evening.

5th - On what was a very wet day, indeed the wettest so far this year with 38.2 mm’s (1.50”), six Roe deer were seen in the fields during the morning, with three in the most southern fields, and the other three in the still un-harvested wheat fields at the top end of Shepherd’s Lane. Over half of the wheat remains un-cut in the Parks, what with the all this rain, though the barley fields have now been ploughed in. A Mute Swan was also seen flying over the Parks this morning.

6th - Thundery rain during the afternoon and evening.

7th, Dalby Forest - Went for a cycle with Jenny and Andy on a pleasant morning. Not much wildlife about but a Green Woodpecker was seen, and the heather is still flowering.

9th - Two Roe deer seen this morning, again in the un-harvested wheat. At home a Cormorant was seen flying overhead in the afternoon, heading northwards. Thundery rain during late evening.

10th - A Spotted Flycatcher was seen in the garden today, the first I’ve seen in the area since August 2005.

11th - Two Roe deer seen along Shepherd’s Lane. A Sand Martin was also seen hunting over the fields this morning.

12th - One field of the remaining wheat harvested, but still three remain uncut.

15th - Two dozen Greylag geese flew southwards over the fields this morning. All but one field of wheat is now in, with ploughing quickly getting underway too. I also collected Elderberries this morning for Elderberry jelly.

16th - A fox seen on Long Lane.

17th - A new boardwalk is being constructed over the winter pond at Owl dip, as last winter it became impossible to cross without waders or going round along the road. However at the moment there is no water whatsoever.

18th - A lovely autumnal morning in the fields with low fog patches and a red rising sun. A couple of Roe deer also seen.

19th - The current sunny weather is bringing out the butterflies, in what has been a very poor year for them. The ivy in the garden is attracting Small Tortoiseshell’s, Peacock’s, Speckled Wood’s, and in particular Red Admiral’s, & Comma’s. The ivy is also attracting lots of wasp’s & hoverflies.

20th, Dalby Forest - A lovely cycle this morning through the woods of the North Riding Forest Park, the turning Birch giving a golden glow to the sunnier glades. I also heard a skein of Pink footed Geese fly over the area, but I wasn’t able to see them.

21st, Brattwood - A jolly pleasant walk in this lovely part of the Wolds. The wood is very overgrown at the moment and getting through the undergrowth was quite a struggle. By the end of it we were covered in Burdocks. We also saw about a dozen Greylag geese fly-over, flying in a ‘V’ formation and heading south-east.

22nd, North Cave Wetlands - A quiet afternoon on a blustery and damp day at our local reserve. A good number of Snipe about, and a Barnacle Goose was amongst the 100 or so Greylags. Gadwall & Teal numbers on the up, with a few Teal now coming out of eclipse. Very few waders about, though there are still lots of Lapwings.

23rd - A Tawny Owl seen this morning.

24th - The wheat harvest finally complete.

26th - A Chiffchaff was heard calling for a time this morning in the garden.

28th - A skein of 60 to 80 Pink-footed Geese was seen passing overhead during the afternoon, flying at high altitude and heading southwards. Another, smaller skein followed five minutes later.

Bishop Wilton - A nice mornings walk with Dad and Jenny on this pleasant circular route. Along it we saw a Green Woodpecker, and a Chiffchaff was heard calling in the little wood at the head of the valley. Some colour in a few trees, particularly in the Horse Chestnuts at the top of the Horse-Shoe.

29th - Five Roe deer seen in the fields this morning.

30th - A Roe deer and a Fox were seen in close proximity to one another out in the fields this morning.

August 2008

4th - A Willow warbler was heard singing at the top of St. Giles Croft today.

7th - The young Great spotted Woodpecker is now regularly visiting the peanut feeder. A heavy and thundery shower in late afternoon.

8th - The recently harvested pea field near Old Hall Farm is attracting Black headed Gulls, with a few Common Gulls too, as well as a flock of Starling’s.

Bempton Cliffs - Most of the breeding birds have now left, with all the auks now out at sea. A single Puffin was seen, flying low over the sea. The Gannets are still present though, and the young are still a few weeks away from fledging, as some of them are just starting to lose their fluffy coats. Quite a few Kittiwakes still about, with most juveniles now on the wing, though a handful are still on their nests. The Fulmars are also still about, and along with the Gannets they enjoyed the breeze coming up the cliffs today and hovered within touching distance at times. They really are most graceful and handsome sea birds. In the fields above the cliffs a Corn Bunting was seen and heard, and again in the car park scrub leaf warblers were calling. A nice day out yet again to these impressive cliffs.

10th - A Willow warbler heard singing up in the Lime tree.

Nettledale - A good walk in Nettledale, one of my favourite areas of the Wolds, with the sound of leaf warblers, Whitethroat’s, and Yellowhammer’s in the abundant scrub. Two Roe deer were also seen, and amazingly I saw my first Marbled White of the year, remarkably late and proving what a dreadful butterfly year this has been thus far.

11th - Lapwing’s have joined the gull’s and starling’s on the harvested pea field. In Old Hall Hedge there were quite a few warbler’s seen or heard, with at least three Whitethroat’s, a Sedge Warbler, and a Willow warbler. Perhaps the start of autumn passage ? On Lincoln Way the Rowan’s are now covered in red fruits, as the signs of the coming season continue to appear. In the garden during the afternoon a male Bullfinch was seen on the bird bath.

12th - A group of eight Greylag geese were seen in a Barley stubble field this morning. In the evening there was a heavy and thundery shower, this following heavy rain during the morning. 19.1 mm’s (0.75”) was recorded in total today.

13th - An Oystercatcher joined the birds at the harvested pea field this morning.

North Cave Wetlands - Went on an afternoon visit to our local reserve, which remains on the quiet side. Loads of Greylag geese though, and lots of Lapwings too, though they were the sole representative of the wader family of birds. The Great Crested Grebes are doing well, with at least eight juveniles seen, and one pair have even begun a second family. Seconds broods are also in evidence amongst the Little Grebes, Coots, & Moorhens. In the wildflower field a young Whinchat was spotted, no doubt passing through on migration, and lots of butterflies were also attracted to the flowers with Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, Wall Browns, Whites, Peacocks, Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells, Blues, & Small Coppers. A good number of were also seen amongst the brambles on the other side of the reserve, where Comma’s & Speckled Woods were also found. In what has been a poor year for butterflies this was a rare and most welcome showing. Additionally the Blackberries are really good this year, big but still tasty, and we collected a few and took them home. A lovely afternoon.

17th - The Oilseed Rape collected in. I have noticed a reduction in the number of Swift’s overhead recently, and perhaps they have begun to move on.

18th - First ripe Elderberries beginning to appear in the hedgerows. In the pea fields this morning I saw a couple of Grey Partridge’s, a rare bird these days, and a pair of Black backed Gulls joined the other more regular gulls (Black headed Gull’s and Common’s). Amongst the Black headed Gulls most have now moulted into their winter plumage, and are now white headed. In the garden today I saw a male Bullfinch briefly.

19th - Got within 50 yards of a Roe deer this morning out in the fields, and I also came upon a young Stoat along Long Lane. In the garden a Willow warbler was seen in the Ash today, and I also observed a Goldcrest in one of the Yews, a most welcome sight as I have not seen one in the garden for months. I had been worried because Billy had caught one in the spring and I had begun to fear we had lost our resident population, but it looks like there still ok. Good news.

North Cave Wetlands - Went on an afternoon visit again, and some signs of life are now coming back as autumn grows nearer and nearer. Indeed increased numbers of Pochard were seen today, with at least a dozen, as well as twelve Snipe, and two Common Sandpipers. A Ruddy duck also made an appearance, and a new reserve species for me was seen in the form of a Little Egret. I have now recorded 108 species at this reserve. Still some Sand Martin’s around, though outnumbered by Swallows. A jolly fine afternoon, and again we collected some gorgeous blackberries in the western brambles.

21st - Saw a few Swifts about today, possibly migrants passing over or perhaps I was too hasty the other day for suggesting our local ones had moved on (see 17th). Also observed today in the garden were a family of House Sparrows, an uncommon bird in our garden except during early summer.

22nd - A large flock of Lapwing’s in the harvested pea field this morning, though there were no gulls seen.

24th, Deepdale (Calliswold) - A good walk with Jenny and Dad in Deepdale, always an interesting and productive area. The un-grazed hillsides were covered in Harebell’s, and quite a few species of butterfly were seen on the wing, though nothing of any real note. A male Redstart was seen, a regular observation in this dale during the summer now, and again the local Buzzard was seen over the wood. A young female Roe deer was also seen, noticeably panicking as it sought an escape over the fence and into the safety of the wood. Lots of finches were in the game crop, mostly Goldfinches, and there were also a few Yellowhammer’s still in song from atop the Hawthorn scrublands. A number of leaf warblers heard and seen too.

26th - The Grey squirrels have begun eating the beech nuts, along with the crab apples and now ripening Haws.

28th, North Cave Wetlands - Visited in the afternoon again, though it was much quieter today compared to last time. Pochard numbers have increased further though, with about two dozen now, though the resident wildfowl of the reserve are actually still in eclipse. A Kingfisher was seen in the far north west lagoon, where the vast majority of the juvenile Great Crested Grebes have congregated. In the western fields a genuine Stock dove was seen, and along the western hedges families of Goldfinches were flittering and twittering as we walked by. However the most interesting news of this trip are the new plans to extend this reserve still further from the plans put forward a few months ago. When completed the reserve will be at least three times its current size, with a mixture of lagoons, deeper pools, & wet grassland. The final completion date is 2020 however, though the current phase of works should be completed in the next few years. Exciting and interesting times.

31st - Low cloud and murk today, with fog at first.

Huggatewold & wood - A pleasant wolds walk as we visited Huggate dykes, a feature which is now accessible with the ‘Open Access’ scheme. There we saw a Red Kite spooked out by our arrival. In the nearby fields the farmers were busy trying to get in as much of the Wheat as possible during this short settled spell, in what has been another difficult harvest due to wet weather. The Pig beans were also being harvested today. In the woods a groups of six to eight Bullfinches were seen, and a Marsh tit was also spotted. The beech trees of the wood are starting to show a hint of colour as the march of autumn continues its move southward. A fine morning.

Monthly Review
As the year turned things began to get moving again and harvest got well under way. Indeed this years harvest is proving to be a drawn out affair, with spells of unsettled weather delaying harvesting repeatedly, so that even here, despite the fact we haven’t suffered as bad as some areas of the country, the wheat harvest remains far from complete at the months conclusion. Another problem was the lack of any real heat this year, and the monthly high for August was a very modest 73 F. Amongst the birds warbler migration became apparent during the month, with increased numbers in the hedgerows and woods, and where Barley and Pea fields had been harvested they attracted large numbers of Gulls, Starlings, Lapwings, and even a few Oystercatchers.

July 2008

1st - A warm and sunny start to the month with a high of 24.4 C.

3rd - Young Goldfinches seen in the garden today, a most welcome sight. Also seen was a Meadow Brown Butterfly hopefully the beginnings of a population in the garden. During the afternoon there were some thundery showers.

5th - Thundery showers in late afternoon.

6th - Thundery showers again in the afternoon.

9th - Rosebay Willowherb just beginning to flower in the hedgerows and roadsides. Gulls back in increased numbers to the local area, after their usual early summer scarcity.

10th - Seven Curlews flew over the Parks this morning.

11th - A wet day with 15.8 mm’s of rain. Cool as well with a high of just 15.6 C.

13th, North Cave Wetlands - A quiet day, though lots of young birds around at various stages of development. Most notable were a couple of young Common Terns. The ducks are now beginning to eclipse as the courting season has now finished, but the most interesting observation of the day was a single Corn Bunting.

18th - A decent thunderstorm overnight.

20th, Dalby Forest - Saw a pair of Jays along our cycle today, and we also heard a Turtle dove again.

21st - The Oilseed Rape has now been cut.

22nd - A Grey Heron flew over the Parks this morning.

23rd - A Grey Heron again seen this morning, though this time it was seen over the Westwood. The first field of Barley cut in the Parklands.

24th, North Cave Wetlands - Went on an evening trip to this lovely little reserve. Still on the quiet side though, but a couple of Common Sandpipers was a most welcome observation. A couple of Corn Buntings were also heard around the reserve.

25th - Hot today with a maximum of 25.1 C.

26th - A large gathering of Gulls in the skies above the garden this afternoon with at least a hundred or so circling on the thermals. It was hot again as well today with a high of 25.5 C.

27th - Very hot still, with a high of 26.1 C.

28th - A juvenile Great spotted Woodpecker was seen on the peanut feeder, confirming that there was a breeding pair in the area this year.

30th - The first of the Blackberries are now ripe at Keldmarsh.

31st - The Crab Apples are beginning to fall from the tree. A very wet evening and night, with some rumbles of thunder as well.

Monthly Review
A quiet month, but already by the months conclusion the coming of autumn had begun to be subtly hinted at with the appearance of Blackberries, which incidentally are particularly sweet, large, and abundant this year, no doubt helped by the mixture of heavy rains this month, as well as a good deal of sunshine too, especially during the last third of the month which brought the most summery spell of the year with temperatures into the mid twenty’s. However by and large this wasn’t a scorching July by any means and was distinctly average in fact.

June 2008

2nd - Elderflower coming out in the hedgerows and scrubland. At 9.45 am three Oystercatcher’s flew over the house. In the afternoon I observed some juvenile Long tailed tits in the garden.

3rd - A very wet day today with over an inch recorded.

5th - A Blackcap heard singing in the garden today, joined again by a Chiffchaff which has been heard in the area most days now for about a week. Out in the fields Linnet’s are now very apparent in their bright finery, those of the Parks amongst the brightest I’ve ever seen anywhere, and a Sedge Warbler continues to sing in the field drains along Long Lane.

6th - A Red Admiral butterfly seen in the garden, the first I’ve seen in the garden this year. A Pied Wagtail was feeding on the lawn as well today.

7th - The Bullfinches are seen, or at least heard, most days at the moment in the garden.

8th - Very warm and sunny today, with the temperature rising to 23.7 C.

Dalby Forest - Cycled around Dalby Forest again on a beautiful sunny day and temperatures above 70 degrees. Heard and saw two Turtle doves at one point, the first time I’ve ever seen these handsome doves in Yorkshire, and only for the second time in my whole life. Great stuff. Also along the cycle I saw a few Siskins, and a Jay, as well as the ever constant presence of the leaf warblers singing in the tree tops and scrub.

9th - Sunny and very warm again, rising to 24.5 C today.

10th - A Pied Wagtail again seen on the lawn today.

Bempton Cliffs & Flamborough - Went to Flamborough Head this morning, and checked in at Bempton Cliffs. Chicks now in evidence, most notably amongst the Kittiwakes, and the Gannets, but also a few were seen amongst the Guillemots. No Razorbill chicks were seen. In the cliff top fields a Corn Bunting was heard again, and both Skylarks, & Meadow Pipits were widely displaying. In the scrubby areas Whitethroats were seen, and a Sedge Warbler was also heard. After our visit to Bempton we had Fish and Chips at North Landing. A jolly pleasant day.

11th - The Pied Wagtail was seen hunting on the lawn a few times today.

12th - After the warmth of recent days it was unseasonably cool today with a high of just 13.4 C.

13th - Pea’s coming along really good at the moment, and the Wheat is now developing obvious ears. The Oilseed Rape is now largely finished, though in some fields poppy’s are now appearing. In the garden I found a Blackbird nest amongst the North Wall Ivy, the calling chicks regularly heard.

14th - A Goldfinch visited the feeders today, the first to do so in quite some time. For some reason they don’t seem to be visiting as regularly as they used too.

15th, Huggatedales - A lovely morning walk in the dales around Huggate. The countryside and crops are looking really good at the moment, and it’s a delight to be out and about. Hirundines and Swifts were hunting low over the un-grazed grassland of the dales, and we also heard a Curlew calling over one of the nearby fields, one of my favourite sounds.

17th - First fledgling Goldfinches seen, with a group of them in the Keldmarsh area. A few young Crows also observed. In the garden the second brood of Blackbird’s has begun to fledge, and young Blue & Great Tit’s have been seen on the feeders.

18th - Five Mute Swans flew over the fields today. The pea’s were also being sprayed this morning.

22nd, North Cave Wetlands - A pleasant mornings birding with the main highlight a family of four Kingfishers which we were able to observe without any disturbance and at a distance of little more than ten metres. In the same area of the reserve (the NW corner) we also watched a Stoat for a while, and we also came across a Cinnabar moth, a first for me. On the reserve proper the terns have arrived since our last visit and there was also a few pairs of Teal about. The pair of Pochards are also still present, and Shelduck chicks were again seen. Four male Ruddy ducks were a welcome observation too. Not many waders about though there were a few Oystercatchers to be seen. No Avocet chicks seen, which is worrying, and the total number of Avocets has reduced to single figures. A single Ringed Plover was spotted, and at least one of the Great Crested Grebe chicks seems to have survived, and is looking good. Young Greylag geese, Mallards, Lapwings, & Black headed Gulls were also seen. A good morning.

25th - The poppy’s in the field at the north end of Long Lane are now quite wonderful, with a sea of red in some areas.

26th - Heavy showers and spells of rain today, with 32.1 mm’s (1.26”) recorded.

29th, Deepdale (Calliswold) - Walked around Deepdale, one of the most pleasant and peaceful of the high wold dales. Poppy’s were out in abundance in one field, and in contrast the valley scrublands were white with elderflower. A Buzzard was seen at one point at the head of the dale, a usual certainty here, and a Redstart was also briefly seen, a species which seems to have settled in this small area of the Wolds. Also of note was a Roe deer, quite a large one in fact, which we spooked out of the woodland at the top of the dale.

Monthly Review
Things quietening down with the arrival of summer, the freshness of spring now but a distant memory. Fledglings continuing to appear, with increasing diversity, and the Elderflower, about the last of the hedgerow shrubs to flower, reached its glorious peak during the month. Red Admiral’s also made there first appearance this month too. Weather-wise the month was unsettled, and not particularly warm either, with the middle of the month quite cool at times. Just four days saw temperatures rise above 20 C, one less than there had been in May.

May 2008

1st - A beautifully singing Blackcap heard singing in the garden this morning.

North Cave Wetlands & North Cliffe Wood - Went birding at North Cave on a pleasant spring morning. Warblers in much evidence with Willow warbler, Blackcap, Reed warbler, Sedge warbler, Common Whitethroat, and a Lesser Whitethroat. Avocet numbers up to 27 now, and a couple of Lapwing chicks were seen, plus up to twelve Greylag goslings too. Great Crested Grebes seen displaying, and Sand Martins were buzzing around the Turret hide. A few Swifts were seen overhead, and a Buzzard loomed over the reserve at one point, scattering the gulls on the lagoons. Wildfowl numbers now well diminished, but six species are still represented. In total fifty species were seen around the reserve.

After our trip to North Cave we went up to North Cliffe wood, where the Bluebells are a week away from their best. Amongst the Bluebells are Primroses too, and other flowers included Wood Sorrel and a few I couldn’t identify. The gorse on the heath is now fully out and giving a gorgeous perfume which fills the air with the smell of early summer. The Azaleas are also just starting to flower here and there, and the Silver Birch is coming into leaf now. On the forest floor the Ferns are unfurling. Birds in the woods included a good number of warblers, including Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs, & Blackcaps, one of which was singing beautifully deep in the wood. A pair of Bullfinches was also observed. A fantastic morning in beautiful surroundings.

2nd - The screeching of Swift’s heard over Beverley this morning, the sound of summer. A Whitethroat was also heard on the wasteland of the former Clariant factory. In the garden a pair of Bullfinches were seen in the Crab Apple, munching on the blossom which is now quite glorious.

3rd - A type of Blue butterfly was observed in the garden today, the first ‘blue’ of the year.

4th, Dalby Forest - Another mornings cycle around the ‘Great Yorkshire Forest’, where leaf warblers were heard in abundance throughout the route. The Wild Garlic along the river at the bottom of the dale was particularly pungent as well, a very emotive smell that reminds one of many a happy day spent out in the woods at this glorious time of the year.

5th - A Sedge Warbler was in one of the field ditches this morning, and a few Whitethroat’s were also heard in the hedgerows and scrub. The horses at Black House Farm are back out in the fields.

6th - Quite a few Whitethroat’s seen and heard this morning in the Parks, there numbers seeming to increase year by year at the moment.

7th - The whiskers on the Barley just starting to appear. A Sedge Warbler again heard in one of the field ditches this morning. In the garden the beech is just starting to green.

Bempton Cliffs - Another visit to this seabird colony on a lovely sunny and warm day. The cliffs as busy and noisy as ever, and the distinctive smell of such a colony has now become quite strong. No eggs seen yet, and on the grassy cliff tops the Kittiwakes were still seen gathering grass for their nest repairs. Away from the seabirds a couple of Corn Buntings were seen and heard amongst the fields above the cliffs, and in the car park scrub a few Whitethroats were also about. A lovely mornings outing.

8th - Lilacs coming into flower around the town, and Cow Parsley is now appearing in abundance along all the local roads and lanes, and the odd bit of Hawthorn is also beginning to bloom.

9th - The temperature rose above 70 degrees for the first time this year.

10th - A female Long tailed duck was reported at Weel fishing ponds.

10th, Journey to Lochaber - Travelled up to Torlundy, a few miles to the north east of Fort William, with Jenny and Andy. Were staying in a lovely chalet, called Skylark, with has a great view of snow covered Ben Nevis which looms above Torlundy village. In the garden there are Azalea’s, with one bush coming into flower. Bird life around the cabin is really good too, with finches, tits, doves, thrushes, dunnocks, crows, including Jays and Hooded Crows, buzzards, chiffchaff’s and willow warblers, Robin’s, Swallows, and House and Sand Martin’s. Also heard in the vicinity are Curlews and a Cuckoo or two. It truly is a lovely spot and I look forward to the remainder of the holiday.
 On our journey to Torlundy the gorse on the Pennines and Southern Uplands were in full flower, and from Loch Lomond north so was the wild broom. Snow still covering many of the high peaks, and coming through Glencoe was a beautiful and magnificent experience, the beauty of which I was completely unprepared for. The high peaks and the hazy sunshine which radiated down upon the glen all added together to create a scene of which I shall never forget.

11th, Fort William and cycling along the river Lochy - The day dawned to the sound of morning rain and Cuckoo’s calling in the surrounding woodland. A fantastic start to my first morning in the Highlands for many a year. The rain soon cleared and after Jenny and Andy got up, we went down to Fort William. The town is a typical highland town, a bit grey and un-interesting, but nonetheless a convenient and welcoming place. It was very quiet at first, but after 11am it quickly became busier, as tourists came into to visit the many tourist themed shops which dominate the main street. We enjoyed a cup of tea at an outside cafĂ©, and then made our way back to our cabin after picking up some essentials for the week ahead. During the sunny and clement afternoon we went for a cycle down to the river and the Caledonian canal where the gorse filled the air with scent and added to the beauty of the scene, with the green and wooded dales, and the snow covered peaks all around. Stonechats seen in the rough fields, and Pipits and Skylarks sang in the sky’s above. A very enjoyable cycle and much longer than had been intended (17 miles in all), all the more to my liking.

12th, Leanachan Forest - Went for a cycle through Leanachan Forest, covering twenty miles and through beautiful forestry land, with the snow patched mountains a backdrop to our journey. Many Cuckoo’s heard throughout the forest, as well as leaf warblers, and in one clearing a Tree Pipit was seen displaying, a new species for me. A most enjoyable day of cycling through fantastic scenery.

13th, Ben Nevis - Climbed Ben Nevis today, a most enjoyable and rewarding climb, though it did become quite strenuous towards the end. We set off early so we had the climb fairly much to ourselves, and it was a beautiful morning with reasonable visibility. The temperature was also ideal for hiking, hovering in the low to mid teens. We reached the summit at 11 am, and the top was still covered in a deep layer of snow from the past winter. Indeed some impressive cornices over hung the north face, and one could have easily mistaken it for some Alpine plateau.

At the top a Raven was spotted passing over. The journey down was less pleasant, with increasing numbers of people heading up the mountain, and the constant jarring of limbs meant stiffness became increasingly a problem as we progressed downwards. However the sight of a few Wheatears hopping about the rocks and boulders made for a welcome and pleasing observation, as I had noted an unusual absence of this handsome little species on the ascent. When we reached the bottom our legs were like jelly and so we bathed them in the chill and clean waters of the river by the car park. A fantastic, if somewhat exhausting, day.

14th, The Isle of Skye - Went to Skye today, taking the short ferry journey from Mallaig. On the way to Mallaig we passed the viaduct that features in the Harry Potter films, and the memorial to Bonnie Prince Charlie, at Glenfinnan. On the ferry journey we saw Porpoise’s, along with a few Guillemots, & Razorbills. We toured around the south of the isle of Skye, where birdlife was quite impressive, with Eiders, Oystercatchers, Cormorants, Shags, Ringed Plovers, Shelducks, Rock Pipits, & Buzzards. We stopped at a most pleasant spot and had a small picnic, where there was a fantastic white beach, and there was a view of the Cullins, and some of the smaller isles in the distance. We then drove up to Broadford and had fish and chips before heading back home, this time going over the bridge to the Klye of Lochalsh. The journey through the glens back to Fort William was outstandingly beautiful and we passed the famous highland castle of Eilen Donan, where unsurprisingly there were many coaches in the car park. We also stopped at the memorial to the Commando’s, just a few miles to the north of the Fort William. A wonderful and more restful day.

15th, Nevis Ski Lift - As we remained somewhat crippled after our climb the other day, we had another fairly restful day, and took a ride of the Nevis Gondolas up to Aonach Mor. Unfortunately the mountains were shrouded in cloud, but I always like this sort of mountain hut places. We had a drink and a bite to eat in the little restaurant, and then we watched people setting off on the Downhill Mountain Bike route, a course which is famous internationally, and stages World Cup meetings. In the afternoon we popped into Fort William for a bit of shopping.

16th, Leanachan Forest - On this our last day in Lochaber, we cycled into Leanachan Forest again, on another fine and pleasant day. We have been largely lucky with the weather on our trip to what is supposed to be Britain’s wettest town. In the woods Cuckoo’s & warblers were again seen and heard in good numbers, and this leisurely cycle through these peaceful woods was a fine way to end our trip to this beautiful part of the western Highlands. I am most grateful to Andy and Jenny for allowing me to join them on this holiday, and hopefully we can do it again one day,

17th, Journey home - Travelled back home, leaving at half past four in the morning. Passing through Glencoe, which was enveloped by cloud, was again a fantastic sight, made the more dramatic by the gloomy early dawn twilight. Quite a few Red deer were seen out on the moorland as well. After a long journey, returning by the same route as we had come by, we arrived home just before noon.

17th - Arrived back from Lochaber to find the Hawthorn now in full bloom, both in the hedgerows and the tree in the garden. Silage/Haylage making also under way. The buttercup’s on Westwood Pastures are also now out and the Red Hawthorn is also just starting to flower. Horse Chestnut now in blossom too. Amazing what can happen in a week at this time of year.

18th, North Cave Wetlands - Went birding with Dad this morning on a lovely early summer day. Breeding amongst the birds of the reserve is now at various stages, but the all the early breeders now have young, including a pair of Great Crested Grebes. Avocet numbers are now at fifteen. Passage migrants are also still represented with a couple of Common Sandpipers, and also interesting was a pair of Pochards, and a lone Teal. A Barnacle Goose was seen amongst the Greylag geese, quite possibly the same one that was seen for a time last autumn. Warblers again well represented, especially in the western shrubs and scrubs, where a Red Kite was also seen soaring above the reserve. The Swifts put on a good display of their flying skills along Dryham Lane, sweeping past us at head height and so close you could hear there wings cutting through the air. Indeed bugs are now plentiful, and a few Speckled Woods were seen on the wing. Other interesting observations from around the reserve today included my first Little Ringed Plover of the year, along with a few Stock doves, and a Buzzard. In total 54 species were seen this morning.

19th - Barley now in full whisker, and local hedgerows are now at their glorious best.

21st, The Farne Islands - Travelled up to Northumberland this morning, leaving at around 6am, so that we could go out to see the seabird colonies on the small Farne Islands, which are just a few miles off the coast in the Bamburgh area. We travelled by boat from the small seaside community of Seahouses, the harbour of which hosted a number of handsome male Eider ducks which allowed some very close views as we sailed by them, as well as other typical harbour species such as Turnstones & Oystercatchers on the rocks, and Gulls eyeing up a quick meal from the passing tourists. The short boat journey of about half an hour was most enjoyable, and as we drew closer to the islands so the seabirds became increasingly apparent. All observed in the surrounding seas were Seals, and a number were seen basking on the rocks, obviously little perturbed by our presence.

All the usual auks were about, along with lots of Shags, Eiders, and three species of Tern (Common’s, Arctic’s, & Sandwich’s). The Arctic Terns had apparently become aggressive in the past few days and Dad and I enjoyed watching people being mobbed by this fearless little birds. We were ourselves attacked, though Dad, wearing a thinner hat than myself, was actually the victim of quite a painful assault. We had a few hours on the main island, and we able to approach nearly all of the species to remarkably close quarters, this allowing one to observe there behaviour and day to day activities. Indeed you had to be careful not to stand on many of the Eiders and Terns as a number of them nested right alongside the path, and in some instances on the path itself. A fantastic day out in a beautiful area of the British Isles.

22nd - Starling fledglings seen feeding on the lawn with the adults today, probably looking for leather jackets. A pair of Bullfinches were also heard.

25th, North Cave Wetlands & North Cliffe Wood - A quick visit to North Cave this morning, which was quite quiet really. However the first Avocet chicks are now about with at least two family groups, and the total number of Avocets is now back up to 28. The parents with chicks are now very aggressive and it was entertaining to watch them take on all who came to close to their young. A Shelduck family was also seen, with eight young in all, and the Black headed Gulls now have a few chicks. Other interesting observations around the reserve included a full plumaged Dunlin, and the lone Barnacle Goose was again seen.

After our brief visit to North Cave we went up to North Cliffe wood, where the Azaleas are now in flower, though the Bluebells are now well beyond their glorious best. Most trees are now in full leaf, including the Oaks. Along our walk through the wood we came across a family of Long tailed tits, and a number of Brimstone butterflies were seen, especially beside a field of Oilseed Rape along the west of the wood. A beautifully singing Blackcap was also heard in the wood. We then drove back home near Houghton Hall, and up to Arras, and the countryside is really looking quite beautiful now, with the hedgerows in full flower and grass lush and green. A fantastic morning.

27th - A Chiffchaff was singing in the garden today, a most welcome sound. Some thundery rain overnight.

29th - Both a Chiffchaff, and a Blackcap were heard singing in the garden today.

30th - A fledgling Blackbird seen in the garden.

Monthly Review
Spring began to turn into summer as this month progressed, with most plants, trees, and flowers now out or in flower, and most insects and birds having now made an appearance. Breeding amongst the birds also well under way with a few fledglings already seen. However the big headline of the month was the sighting of a Long tailed duck at Weel fishing ponds, a new species for the borough.

The weather during the month was largely settled, with less than half of the average rainfall, and it was frostless. It was quite cool during the middle of the month, but the beginning and end of the month saw some very pleasant days with temperatures into the high teens and into the twenty’s. Indeed on the 9th the temperature rose above 70 F.

April 2008

2nd - A Chiffchaff was heard at the top of Winchester Avenue this morning, the first I’ve heard in Beverley Borough this year. A Small Tortoiseshell butterfly was seen in the garden during the afternoon, also the first of the year.

3rd - The Peacock which lives at the abandoned nursery on Long Lane was calling this morning. At home and out in the fields, Chiffchaff’s were heard today, one of my favourite sounds of springtime. The Woodpecker was also heard drumming again today, on what was a bright and warm day with a high of 15.8 C.

4th - A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the grounds of the Grammar School this morning.

Bempton Cliffs - Our second visit of the year to our nearest seabird colony. All the usual birds now back with the Razorbills, Puffins, & Kittiwakes, joining those that were already in residence last time (Guillemots, Gannets, & Fulmars). A Shag was also seen flying low over the sea at one point. Unfortunately no spring passerines were about on the clifftop grasslands and scrub.

5th - The Oilseed Rape is now widely coming out in the local area.

6th - Heavy snow in the evening, giving a slushy covering of about an inch. The latest record of lying snow on my records.

8th, North Cave Wetlands - Went birding in the afternoon, where the main highlight was my first Swallow of the year. Also notable were two Pink footed Geese, at least three Grey Wagtails, and the Green Woodpecker, which was both seen and heard ‘yaffle-ing’. The Avocets are still present, though numbers have reduced to five, and the Ringed Plovers weren’t seen, probably as a result of the recent cold spell. Nevertheless 45 species were seen.

9th - A Martin flew over the house at lunchtime, the first of the year. Much milder today as well, after some quite cold days lately.

11th - Got within 50 yards of a Roe deer this morning on Shepherd’s Lane.

13th, Huggatewold & Millingtondale - Curlews heard on the Wolds above Huggate, one of my favourite sounds of the natural world. In the woods below Huggatewold we heard a day hooting Tawny Owl, and in the grazed valleys Meadow Pipits and Skylarks filled the air with the sound of their songs and calls. Red Legged Partridge’s also heard calling in the fields.

14th - Chiffchaff’s now singing widely in the area with a number heard this morning. In the fields the Skylark’s are filling the air with their song, and they were also joined by a few Meadow Pipit’s too. At the top of Shepherd’s Lane a flock of Swallow’s were on the telegraph wires, the first of the year. A Roe deer seen again.

15th - A newly fledged Collared dove seen in the garden today. In the afternoon there were some thundery showers, with some hail mixed in too.

16th - The Silver Birch is beginning to leaf, as is the Swedish Whitebeam, & Apple. The Berberis is now in flower.

17th - The Cowslips in my garden bed are now out in flower.

19th, Dalby Forest - Another cycle around this lovely corner of Yorkshire on a fine and beautiful spring day. Heard many Willow warblers in song, my first of the year, and Chiffchaffs were also heard widely in song. A joyous sound to the ears.

20th, Millingtondale - A mornings walk in Millingtondale, with Curlews heard again, as they were last week up above Huggate. A Willow warbler heard singing at the pond, the first i’ve heard in the Wolds this year, and a few Chiffchaff’s were heard in Nettledale, also the first of the year in the Wolds. In Nettledale much of the gorse has been recently burnt, and quite a bit of Hawthorn scrub has been cut out. No doubt when this regenerates it will be the healthier for it.

21st, Travelling down to Norfolk & an evening visit to Titchwell - Today we travelled down to Burnham Market, or more precisely Sussex Farm and the Pheasantry cottage. On the journey down we saw Swallows, especially around Boston, and the Oilseed Rape is now at that glowing stage when the sun shines upon it. In the Norfolk hedgerows, Hedge Parsley (or Alexanders) is abundant and indeed quite pungent, very much an acquired scent. After arriving at our cottage Dad and I popped down to Titchwell, where there was a good mix of winter and spring species to be seen, with still good numbers of Brent Geese, and a pair of Pintails, but also a few Avocets, and Little Egrets. Warblers also around in good numbers and diversity with Chiffchaffs, Willow warblers, Blackcaps, and also my first Sedge warbler of the year. Passage waders were seen in good numbers and diversity out on the lagoons, with a lone Ruff, and a number of Grey Plovers, Dunlin, Turnstones, Godwits, Curlews, and most noticeably a pair of Spotted Redshanks which were showing a hint of their breeding plumage. Three to four Marsh Harriers showed well, but we didn’t see them displaying unfortunately. Wildfowl well represented, including a single Wigeon. In the reeds a newly fledged Coot was also a pleasant and welcome sight. In total nearly fifty species were seen this evening.

22nd, Holkham Hall & area - Visited Holkham Hall this morning, where they were actually in the act of filming a movie called the ‘Barbarian Princess’. Mum and Dad actually witnessed some of the filming taking place. Of more interest to me was the presence of thousands of Fallow deer in the surrounding parkland, with some of them sporting some impressive antlers, at least compared to our local Roe deer anyway. On the lake there were many Egyptian Geese, including a few with young goslings, and other wildfowl seen in the lake area were a few Barnacle Geese, numerous Greylag Geese, Shelducks, Mallards, Tufted ducks, Gadwall, Pochard, & Little Grebes. In the woods were a few late Redwings and also heard and seen were a number of Woodpeckers.

After our visit to the Hall we went down to Holkham Gap, and walked down to the beach on what was a most pleasant and sunny day. It was quite breezy down on the shore though. In the area around the dunes Pipits & Skylarks were singing, and up in the woods a Chiffchaff was likewise heard. Egyptian Geese were on the marshes on the landward side of the woods, where there were also a few Greylags, and other smaller wildfowl. After concluding our visit to the Holkham area we returned home to our cottage for a few hours, and enjoyed the warm sunshine in the garden. Indeed it was so pleasant that I did a bit of birding around the area surrounding the property, which infact turned up some interesting observations, including a late Brambling in the Beech trees, and overhead a few Oystercatchers, Curlews, Buzzards, and Shelducks passed over. A few Stock doves were also seen in the local area. I also watched a Stoat chasing, catching, and killing some Rabbits, some within just a few yards from my watching point. They really are incredibly fierce little creatures. Of a more peaceful nature were Brimstone Butterflies in the garden, as well as a single Peacock. Flowers in the garden included a number of Primroses and a few Hyacinth’s. In the late afternoon we went for a drive along the beautiful north Norfolk coast, stopping at the most pleasant seaside village of Burnham Overy Staithe, one of my favourite places in the whole of the British Isles. Along the drive we also spotted a Jay just to the south of the Holkham estate. A lovely end to a most enjoyable day.

23rd, Houghton Hall and the coast - Went to Titchwell before breakfast, on a beautiful though a little cool morning. We were soon rewarded for our early start as a flock of Bearded tits were seen moving through the reeds, sometimes at quite close quarters. A Reed warbler was also seen, my first this year, and a number of Sedge Warblers were also heard and spotted. A Bittern was heard ‘booming’ a few times, and in the scrubby area of the reserve there was a beautifully singing Blackcap. On the shore there were Sanderlings & Oystercatchers, and out at sea two female Eiders were spotted on the waves. On the return to the visitor centre we saw a Siskin and a Brambling at the feeding station. A great start to the day.

After breakfast we drove to Houghton Hall, but after finding the house and gardens somewhat overpriced we decided to continue onto Snettisham, driving via the Sandringham area, where I spotted a few Grey Partridges in the fields. We didn’t actually go along to the Snettisham reserve proper, but we drove to the beach car park and had a quick look out over the Wash from the shingle bank. All the normal waders and shore line wildfowl were seen, but worsening weather meant we had to retreat to the shelter of the car. We then decided to move on along the coast, passing through Hunstanton, and then contining on to Wells, Blakeney and eventually Cley. At Blakeney there was a small wildfowl park with a mix of familiar and more exotic species, which included Scaups, Canvasbacks, Red crested Pochards, Carolina ducks, Mandarin ducks, Falcated ducks, Bar headed Geese, Lesser White fronted Geese, and Black Swans, amongst many others. At Cley we visited the new reserve centre but we didn’t actually go out onto the marshes. The new centre is very good though, and the old one is now an optical shop, linked to Cley Spy. On the drive back we visited the National Trust reserve at Morston Quay, a pleasant spot with a free to access watch tower, which was more than welcome due to the shelter it provided from the heavy rain which came on shortly after our arrival. From here we spotted flocks of Brent Geese out on the marshes. After concluding here we returned to our cottage, and ended another very enjoyable day.

24th, Titchwell at dawn & going home - Went down to Titchwell again before breakfast on another beautiful morning. Warblers were in the trees and reeds, and also out in the reeds were Bearded tit’s a species we have been very fortunate with on our visits. The Bittern was also heard ‘booming’ again. On the wildfowling marsh to the west a Whinchat was seen, along with Linnets, and Pipits. Out at sea two Great Crested Grebes were spotted. However the big highlights of this trip came as we went on the readbed path where we heard and briefly spotted a Turtle dove, my first ever. In the same area we also heard a Cetti’s Warbler, my second ever. This was a fantastic way to end our little holiday in this lovely part of the world, and hopefully we will return soon.

26th - On what was a very warm April day (up to 20.9 C), Swallow’s were flying around the house, and in mid afternoon I saw a Swift, the first of the year, and one of the earliest dates that I have recorded them here. Quite a few butterflies on the wing during the afternoon, and also some Mining Bee’s were active too. The Crab Apple coming into blossom.

27th - A decent thunderstorm in the evening, with heavy rain and some hail too.

Huggatewold & Dykes - A most pleasant walk in this heartland area of the Wolds, with Willow warbler’s and Chiffchaff’s heard in the area, such a pleasant springtime sound, and Curlews too were heard on the wold tops. A Lesser Whitethroat was seen in the hedgerow on the Huggate-York road, the first of the year, and Yellowhammer’s too were in good song along the hedgerows of the area. In the dales Linnet’s were on the hill side gorse (smelling sweetly now) and on the un-grazed grass covered hillsides Cowslip’s and Violet’s were in flower. A Roe deer was also seen.

28th - Thundery hail showers in the afternoon and evening.

29th - Cows back out on the Westwood.

30th - Saw a Water Vole this morning at Keldmarsh, and I was able to watch it some time as it went about its business. A rare animal these days. At Black House Farm there were quite a few Swallows about, and in the large hedgerow next to Old Hall Farm I heard a Whitethroat. Oak & Ash buds now swelling, and Ash has been in flower for a week or two now. The Horse Chestnut’s are just starting to flower too, and in favoured spots along the roadsides the Cow Parsley is just beginning to appear. Back at home the Woodpecker at the top of St. Giles Croft was heard drumming, as it has been on most days lately.

Monthly Review
Spring really got going this month, with the Warblers, Martins, Swallows, and even Swifts back by the conclusion of the month. Insect diversity continued to increase also, with the Mining Bee’s back again this year, and flowers and blossom are unceasingly appearing in local gardens and out in the fields. Another undoubted highlight was the confirmation of Water Voles in the Keldmarsh Drain.
The weather this April has been very changeable, with some quite cold periods, with even some snow, and rainfall was well above average. However there were plenty of fine days too which allowed one to fully enjoy this most wonderful of seasons, and by the end of the month temperatures even managed to climb above 20 C.

March 2008

1st - Winter thrushes in the fields this morning, perhaps the beginning of the usual increase in late winter as they prepare to head back to Europe.
Overnight was very windy, gusting to 52 mph, but no damage to report.

2nd, Brattwood & Givendale - A pleasant early spring walk in this lovely area on the edge of the Wolds. A few Primroses and Violets were out in flower in sunny spots in the low woods, but none were out yet in the high wood. Dog’s Mercury beginning to carpet the north end of the wood and Elder is now leafing. On the way back we stopped off at the little hamlet of Givendale to see the spring flowers in the churchyard which looked lovely in the spring sunshine. Aconite’s, and Snowdrop’s dominating, with a few Celandine’s here and there.

3rd - Leaves unfurling on the Crab Apple and budburst now apparent on the garden Hawthorn tree.

4th - A female Bullfinch was seen at the feeding station this morning, the first time one has ever visited the feeders. Also in the garden, and indeed around other local gardens, Forsythia is now flowering, and in our beds the Hyacinth’s are starting to bloom, releasing there sweet perfume.

5th, North Cave Wetlands - A pleasant mornings birding on a bright early spring day. The Ringed Plovers have now returned to the reserve, with at least three seen. Out in the western fields there were lots of finches, buntings, sparrows, starlings, doves, thrushes, & Lapwings, an impressive diversity of species all within one field. Amongst them were Fieldfare’s and Stock doves. The spring build up of Shelducks seems to have begun and most of the common wildfowl were to be seen. A pair of Snipe seen, and amongst the Redshanks there was one with a ring. A Curlew was also heard in the area. All in all a very good morning, with 49 species recorded.

9th - A few Honey Bee’s about today, on what was a sunny and mild day.

10th - Pressure fell to 964 mbar today, a new record low on my records. Indeed it was an unsettled day with periods of heavy rain and blustery winds.

11th - Frog’s on the move, with quite a few squashed one’s noted along Long Lane this morning, particularly around Keldmarsh.

12th - Flocks of winter thrushes still in the fields.

14th - A Comma butterfly was seen in the garden today, the first butterfly I’ve seen this year, drawn out by the sunny and mild weather.

15th - The Great spotted Woodpecker was drumming at the top of St. Giles Croft today, though the day was infact rather grey and dreich.

16th, Nunburnholmewold - A pleasant mornings walk on the edge of the Wolds. At the dewpond at the top of the wood frogspawn can now be seen, and Hares were observed in good numbers in the local fields.

17th - Leaves coming out on the towns Horse Chestnut’s now. In the garden a cock Pheasant was seen for a time.

18th, Caerlaverock - Travelled up to south west Scotland today to visit the WWT reserve at Caerlaverock, on the Solway Firth, near Dumfries. This proved to be a fantastic reserve, with plenty to see, fairly quiet, and still a bit rustic. Very well managed and the reserve and all the hides were very clean and well maintained. Many of the hides were of cavernous proportions, more akin to some sort of military structure, but despite that they somehow didn‘t look out of place, and melded into the landscape. However it was the birds we came to see, and the famous Barnacle Geese were indeed seen in good numbers. We were able to watch them feeding at a decent distance, and later on we watched them all take to the wing and move to the other side of the reserve, where they assembled into a gaggle of well over a thousand.

The spectacle there was further enhanced by a decent flock of Golden Plovers mixed in amongst them, and further species seen amongst the throng included a lone Dunlin, and a solitary Pink footed Goose. A small number of Whopper Swans were seen in another part of the reserve, many of them just a few metres away from the hide, and most of the other common wildfowl were seen around the reserve at various points. Quite a few waders were about too, with nine species represented, including Curlews, Godwits, Oystercatchers, & a single Ruff. Also seen around the reserve were a few Roe deer, and there were also quite a few Buzzards seen hunting in the general area, a bird of prey which is very abundant in this part of the world. After concluding our very enjoyable afternoon’s birding we headed to Dumfries  , where we stayed overnight.

19th, Leighton Moss - After staying the night in Dumfries we headed down to Leighton Moss in north Lancashire, a reserve we had visited once before and had impressed us with its range of habitats. Highlights of the day included a Little Egret, a species I wouldn’t have expected this far north in mid March, Water Rails were also heard out in the vast reedbeds, Woodpeckers were drumming in the woods, and three Red deer were seen around the reserve, once at quite close range. A Goldeneye was another welcome sighting, a species which has been quite scarce in East Yorkshire this winter with just the occasional sporadic sightings. Indeed Wildfowl were very well represented around the reserve, with twelve species recorded in total. 16 species of passerine recorded, including Redwings, and Goldcrests. Raptors too were seen well, with Sparrowhawks, Kestrels, & Buzzards. A total of fifty species were recorded around the reserve, and had we visited the Morecambe Bay part of the reserve no doubt the species count would had been even greater. A most interesting trip to this vast reserve on a pleasant and sunny early spring day.

From here we journeyed back home through the Dales, where heather burning was seen on some of the moor tops, especially between Skipton and Harrogate. Indeed visibility was very good today, and from above Harrogate you could see over the entire of the Vale, with the White Horse on Sutton bank, and the Wolds ridge clearly obvious in the distance. A beautiful journey home, added to by a fantastic evening sky as we passed through the vast fields of the Vale of York.

21st - Lapwing’s calling out in the fields this morning, and a few Skylark’s were in song too. Still some winter thrushes around too, largely around Black House Farm.

23rd - Snow last night and in the early morning giving a two inch covering on this Easter morning. Snow thawing by early afternoon though, as the post spring equinox sun soon melted it.

North Cave Wetlands - A mornings birding on a snowy Easter day at our local reserve. 2 to 3 inches of lying snow when we arrived, though with the post equinox sun much of it had thawed by the time we left around noon. The birds were very active this morning infact, and the Green Woodpecker showed itself well and was heard to ‘yaffle’ on a number of occasions. Indeed there was probably two but I wasn’t able to confirm this for sure. A Red Kite was also seen today, and on the waters edge there was a Grey Wagtail, two new species for my personal North Cave List. Other notes included a good number of Oystercatchers, these particularly active and noisy today, thirty or so Shelducks, Snipe, Ringed Plovers, and a female Goosander. A lovely and most productive morning, with 49 species seen in total.

26th - The dawn chorus was wonderful this morning as it really starts to get going. In the afternoon I found a broken thrush egg under the Hawthorn.

27th - A good number of Bee’s & Hoverflies on the wing today on a bright and pleasant day, though it was quite breezy. The Woodpecker was also heard drumming.

29th, Dalby Forest - Went on another cycle with Jenny and Andy. On the route I heard at least six Chiffchaffs, the first of the year for me. Also spotted a Jay, and the Grey Wagtail was again hanging around the visitor centre. A ringed Chaffinch was also picking up crumbs in the same area.

30th - A warm, sunny, and most pleasant day, with a Comma butterfly seen sunning itself on the Yews during the afternoon (see 14th March).

Watton Reserve & Carrs - The lagoons at this little reserve were almost deserted this morning, but despite that I did manage to record 40 species in the area around the reserve, and at Wilfholme. A male Goldeneye was in the River Hull at the Pumping Station, and also seen in the river and drains were Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, & Mallard, as well as a briefly seen Kingfisher. In the hedges and out on Watton carrs their were winter thrushes, Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Curlews, Skylarks, & Meadow Pipits, with one Pipit seen displaying, the first I’ve seen doing so this year. A nice quiet morning.

31st - The Skylark’s & Yellowhammer’s singing beautifully this morning out in the fields, on what was a gorgeous spring dawn with a slight mist and a touch of ground frost. A few Fieldfare’s also heard. At home a Mute Swan flew over the house, heading westwards at 8 am, and during the afternoon, which was warm and sunny, Peacock & Comma butterflies were seen on the wing.

North Cliffe Wood & North Cave Wetlands - Went for a most pleasant walk at North Cliffe Wood this afternoon, on a very mild and sunny day. Up to four Chiffchaffs were heard, the first I’ve heard in the East Riding this year, and a Fieldfare was also seen singing, an unusual sound to hear in England. The warm sun encouraged a few butterflies to come out, with Comma, Peacock, & Small Tortoiseshells seen, as well as a few day flying moths. We also met a gentleman whom was listening out for Woodlarks, a species which do very occasionally frequent the small area of heath on the south of the reserve. Hopefully in years to come they may even breed here.

After our walk around the wood we went down to briefly visit North Cave, where spring seems to be really motoring on now. Up to fifteen Avocet’s were seen, and the Sand Martins have also returned. Additionally four Ringed Plovers were noted, and the female Goosander is still there. A fine afternoon out in the field.

Monthly Review
Insects continued to appear this month, with the first butterflies seen on the wing, and plants are greening and flowering in ever increasing diversity. Winter thrushes still about but the dawn chorus is now well under way, and a thrush egg was found towards the end of the month. The weather likewise was changeable with milder and colder spells, with some snow around Easter. It was also a blustery month with a number of quite windy days, particularly in the first half, and the rainfall total finished well above the long term average.

February 2008

1st - Plovers heard calling in the parkland fields this morning.

3rd, North Cliffe Wood & North Cave Wetlands - Visited North Cliffe Wood for the first time this morning, located a few miles up the road from North Cave. Though there was not much about today, this area of Carr woodland, which also has a small area of heathland on its south western edge, shows great promise and a visit later in the spring will no doubt prove more productive. We also stopped off at North Cave briefly on the way back, where we were rewarded with a good sighting of the resident Green Woodpecker along the lane. A number of Siskin’s were also observed amongst the western Alder’s.

4th, Potteric Carr - Travelled to a new reserve today located to the south of Doncaster. An unusual reserve, created by industry and surrounded by a number of active railway lines which criss-cross the reserve, including the main east coast line. The reserve is a mixture of shallow lagoons, Carr, and woodland and boasts an impressive species list. However to be honest the reserve was very quiet on our visit, though this is granted a quiet time of the year, but despite this the trip was to prove memorable, as I and my father were treated to one of the best views of a Bittern you could ever
wish for. This usually shy bird was seen right in front of the hide, fishing amongst the reeds and oblivious of those of us watching not more than 10 yards away. A truly unforgettable experience.

5th - More birds beginning to sing with Chaffinches, Greenfinches, & Wrens all heard in the last week.

6th, Wheldrake Ings - Visited one of my favourite reserves though due to high water levels our trip was limited to the first two hides, as the remaining two were cut off by deep flood water of up to waist deep. Getting to the first two hadn’t been easy either and the path was flooded for large sections and without wellies progress would have been impossible. The extensive floods also meant the wildfowl were well dispersed and often quite distant , but nevertheless all the common species were seen. A most enjoyable outing on this most quiet and peaceful of reserves.

7th - Saw my first Wasp and first Honey Bee of the year during a mild and sunny afternoon with a maximum temperature of 12.6 C.

8th - A couple of Greylag geese flew over the house at 7 am. In the afternoon a Brambling was seen in the garden.

10th, Dalby Forest - Went for a cycle again with Jenny and Andy, on a lovely and sunny morning with frost in the dales, and warm sun up on the tops. At the visitor area a Grey Wagtail was seen searching for crumbs, as was a friendly Chaffinch, which I noticed had a ring. A hoverfly was also buzzing about, the first I’ve seen this year, and testament to the warmth of the sun today.

11th, Bempton Cliffs - Our first visit of the year to this wonderful seabird colony. The cliffs were already surprisingly busy with the Guillemot’s and Gannet’s already in their usual spots, and on the wing quite a few Fulmars were seen cruising on the sea breeze. Courting behaviour seen amongst the Guillemot’s and a few Gannet’s were seen carrying nesting material as they get ready for the coming spring.

12th - The daffodils at Minster Nurseries are staring to come out. At Black House Farm just down the road a Snipe was seen over the flooded fields. During the afternoon I saw my first White tailed Bumble Bee of the year, encouraged out no doubt by the warm sun today.

15th - A fox was in the wood by the house this morning. The Yew is now in blossom, with the breeze creating clouds of ‘smoke’ from the trees in the garden.

16th - A minimum of -4 C this morning, and pressure reached 1045 mbar at one point today as high pressure builds across the country.

17th - Another very frosty start with a low of -5.8 C this morning.

18th - Very frosty this morning, the temperature falling to -6.7 C last night. The ice at Owl dip along Shepherds Lane was thick enough to bare my weight. The sunrise was fantastic as well, the sky glowing orange in the east. The day was followed by a spectacular sunset too.

Watton Reserve - Visited this under watched reserve on a cold and murky morning. Much of the reserve was frozen after the recent cold weather, though there was a small area of open water in the northern most lagoon. As a result most of the wildfowl were concentrated in that area, and that included four Smews, three males, and a lone female. The smew were in fact courting, with the males displaying and pestering the poor female. An interesting and not often observed sight in this country away from south east England. Also around the reserve were a few Curlews, and three Hares were seen chasing each other about the area almost constantly.

19th - A very cold and grey day, starting with a low of -4 C and not rising any higher than -1.4 C, the lowest maximum on my records. Despite this a drumming Great spotted Woodpecker was heard at the north end of Long Lane this morning. More expected was the return of the Brambling to the garden today.

20th - Twig collecting observed by both Magpie’s & Collared dove’s today, this despite the still below average temperatures. Overnight there was a LUNAR ECLIPSE.

22nd - In stark contrast to the low temperatures of just three days ago, the temperature rose to an un-seasonal 14.2 C today. In the local area, despite the recent frosts, many of the Hawthorn hedges are now starting to leaf, with a hint of green, and Blackthorn is also beginning to blossom here and there. In the garden daffodils are now coming into bloom, and the Flowering currant is also leafing.

23rd - Saw another White tailed Bumble Bee today (see 12th February).

24th - A Little Egret was seen flying over Swinemoor. Later reported at High Eske.

Huggatewold Wood - Went to see the Snowdrops in this wooded dale, one of the Wolds best kept secrets. The flowers were at their best, though a few were just going over.

25th - The Copper Beech is beginning to blossom next door.

26th - A pair of Siskin’s seen in the garden.

Overnight there was an EARTHQUAKE, which was measured at 5.2 on the Richter scale and was centred near Market Rasen. It was infact the biggest earthquake in the United Kingdom for 25 years and was felt in many parts of the country. Some minor damage reported here and there, mostly in North Lincolnshire & South Yorkshire.

27th, Potteric Carr - A very quiet morning at this South Yorkshire reserve, though a few Siskin’s about, a few Bullfinches, a pair of Willow Tit’s, and Redwing’s in the woods. All the common wildfowl on the lagoons and large numbers of noisy Black headed Gulls, many now coming into breeding plumage.

28th - Went to the wood in the Parks this morning where the hazel is now in flower, and Hawthorn is now widely leafing. Bullfinches heard throughout the wood, and out in the fields the pleasant sound of singing Skylarks was filling the air. A few Yellowhammer’s also heard singing, the first I’ve heard this year. Lots of winter thrushes on the Black House Farm fields, with Redwing’s the dominant group. 300 to 500 Wood Pigeon’s were on the Oilseed Rape field, and a Roe deer was also seen. Outside the Minster the daffodils are now in flower, and the Copper Beech are also coming into blossom. At the top of St. Giles Croft a drumming Great spotted Woodpecker was heard. In the afternoon I gave the lawn its first mow of the year.

29th - The rookery at the north end of Long Lane is now full of noise and activity.

Monthly Review
A transitional month with winter finches remaining, but plenty of spring sightings, including early insects and some plants beginning to leaf and flower. The dawn chorus continuing to increase too.
The weather was very mixed with a mild start, a cold and very frosty middle of the month, and then a spring like conclusion. Drier than average. Westerly winds dominating, though a period of easterlies in mid month.