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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.