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August 2009

1st - A plenitude of life can be witnessed in the garden at the moment, with young birds of many species being regularly seen, including a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. The flowering Buddleias are attracting butterflies, amongst them vivid Painted Ladies which are enjoying a bumper year. In late afternoon a further highlight was the spotting of a Buzzard overhead, the first I’ve ever seen over Beverley (despite the fact their quite common in the Wolds), and another observation of interest was a juvenile female Blackcap, which was seen feeding on the now ripening Yew berries.

2nd, Millingtondale Head & Nettledale - A fine mornings walk in the heart of the Wolds on what was an improving morning. However as pleasant as the walk was it didn’t start with the most ideal of under-foot conditions as the sheep had obviously spent the night along the foot path and had left quite a mess. Thankfully the walk improved upon reaching the top of Nettledale and indeed this area appears to have been left ungrazed this summer. As a consequence a great deal of thistles have been allowed to grow unchecked and these were attracting butterflies, most notably fresh and vivid Painted Ladies. These were obviously newly born British individuals, as those seen earlier in the year were pale and scruffy in comparison to the beauties seen today.

Another welcome butterfly observation today were a few Marbled Whites in the dale grasslands, only my second sightings of the summer. Birdwise highlights included a couple of Red Kites, a Buzzard, at least three dozen Goldfinches, leaf warblers, and gulls, the latter of these attracted to the recently harvested pea fields. Indeed a number of pea viners were seen in action around the Wolds this morning.

3rd - Common and Black Headed Gulls were seen in good numbers in some the local fields today, perhaps indicating their autumn return after the usual summer desertion.

5th, Flamborough Head - Went to have fish and chips at Flamborough today as a birthday treat. The weather was grey with outbreaks of rain and drizzle, and indeed at one point it became so murky that the foghorn was activated. At North Landing we watched fishermen bringing in Crabs, while birdwise we noted Gannets, Fulmars, and Kittiwakes, including juveniles of the latter. A very enjoyable morning.

6th - Thick fog to start the day with visibility around 150 metres. The juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker continues to be seen in the garden, as does the Blackcap, and I also spotted the young Bullfinch at one point.

7th - A Goldcrest was seen flittering around the Yews today, and a Willow warbler was also seen in the garden.

9th, Huggatedales - A beautiful morning in this tranquil area of the Wolds on a fine and warm summers day. The country lanes are now largely tired looking, though Willowherb and Bindweed are still adding some splashes of colour. In the dale grasslands butterflies were apparent with species seen including Whites, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell, Skippers, Meadow Browns, Painted Ladies, and Marbled Whites. Indeed the number of Marbles was the best I’ve seen this year, though there is no doubt that numbers are reduced again this year after a wet July and two previously damp summers. Further along the walk we came upon mown grass in the more open dales, and the smell of this new mown hay was a delight to breathe in. Indeed harvest is now starting to get back on track with much of the Barley now in, along with peas, and rapeseed, and though the wheat is still not ready I expect that within a fortnight or so it will be ready for the first combines. The seasons are truly a wonderful phenomena and too often we  take them for granted, but I for one consider them a gift.

Upon arrival back in Huggate we called in at the church for a quick visit and this is certainly amongst my favourite Wold churches. The exterior of the church is everything I associate with an affluent country parish, with a fine spire soaring high above the rolling cereal fields, and in many regards the exterior is not dissimilar from that of Birstwith, North Yorkshire, the village of my early childhood. However it is actually the interior of this church which I particularly enjoy, with well kept furniture, fine stone work, lovely stained glass, a decent organ, and plenty of historical features and items. A perfect blend of simplicity and functionality with recognition of the basic human need to create and see beautiful and skilled works of art and craft that, to me, represent mankind at its very best.

15th - Swift numbers now seem somewhat reduced over the skies of Beverley.

16th, Pigbeanwold and Dale - A good walk on a sunny and breezy morning. The signs, and indeed the feel, of the coming season are becoming ever stronger, with ripening fruits in the hedgerows and a general tiredness amongst all living things. At the top of the dale hirundines and Swifts were gathering, and as we sat amongst the long grass they awarded us with a fantastic display of their wonderful flying skills, sometimes barely an arms reach away from our heads. In the same area we also saw and heard good numbers of finches and Yellowhammers, and above the wood we spotted a Buzzard hunting.

17th - The breeze was quite strong this afternoon.

18th - Golden Plovers and Lapwings were seen in some of the roughly ploughed Parkland fields this morning.

19th - Very hot today with the temperature climbing to 26 C.

20th - A strong and gusty windy today.

21st - I spotted only one Swift today.

23rd - Becoming hot again today with the mercury rising to over 25 C. In the afternoon a Willow warbler was heard singing in the area, a lovely sound which instantly evokes the gentle days of late spring and early summer.

Huggate Dykes and Millingtonwold - An enjoyable walk on a sunny and breezy day. The farmers and contractors were very busy on the Wolds as the wheat harvest is now well under way, with combines seen running in a number of fields, and grain containers and lorries on the rural lanes. Much of the harvest is now complete in the lower regions of the county (including around Beverley) with much progress having been made in the past week. There’ll certainly be some tired folks and machinery about at the moment. Away from agricultural activities it was butterflies which provided most of the interest today, especially in the un-grazed dale grasslands, with species seen including Whites, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood, and Wall Browns, the latter of these having been absent during 2009 till today.

I think many butterflies are enjoying mixed fortunes at the moment, with grassland species seeing the worst of it. Blues, Ringlets, and Gatekeepers have been nearly absent and even Skippers, Meadow Browns, and Marbled Whites have seen below par numbers this year. In contrast the Painted Lady eruption has been unequalled since 2006 and Small Tortoiseshells and Speckled Woods are also doing well. It will be interesting to see how the remainder of the year affects butterfly numbers and indeed how this will impact on next summer. Birdwise there was little of note today, though a Buzzard was seen over Huggatewold, a number of young finches were seen (Goldfinches and Linnets mainly), and a few leaf warblers were heard. In the wood autumn tints are starting to appear amongst the Beech’s and Larch’s, and there is no doubt that summer is now enjoying its twilight days.

24th - The Willow warbler again heard in the area.

25th - Down in the Parklands late song was heard from both Chiffchaffs and Willow warblers today. In the local fields about a 100 plus Lapwings were also seen.

26th - An autumnal feeling day today with spells of rain and a blustery breeze.

28th - Another blustery day.

30th, Brattwood - A beautiful morning in this fine area on the edge of the Wolds. Most of the harvest is now in and indeed ploughing and drilling is already under way in preparation for next year. The natural harvest is also providing in abundance now, with Hawberries, Sloes, Elderberries, and Hips all in plenitude in the regions hedgerows, and there are still some blackberries too, though they are now beyond there best. The walk through the wood was most pleasant and indeed rather than being the jungle we had anticipated the path had been recently cleared, including the fallen tree which had provided an obstacle for the last few years. I imagine this will also help the spring primroses and violets as they were becoming increasingly overwhelmed by brambles and alike. Birdwise the main highlight this morning was the presence of two Red Kites and at least four Buzzards above our heads and it was interesting to see these two species of raptor soaring together.

31st - Spotted a late Swift today, and also observed quite a few House Martins too. These summer visitors usually pass over the area at this time of year as they leisurely begin there long journeys back to Africa.