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May 2010

1st (Saturday) 6.0 C to 13.6 C / 0.8 mm / 1.3 hours
A largely sunny and fair morning, with a gentle westerly breeze. However cloud soon increased and it would remain largely cloudy for the remainder of the day, though there was some brighter spells around 2 pm. The cloud thick enough at times for a few spots of rain, though nothing significant. Cooler than recently. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with some clear spells at times.

The Crab Apple blossom is now fully out, and the garden is currently full of colour with Wallflowers, Tulips, Grape Hyacinths, Bluebells, the remaining Daffodils, Broom, Berberis, and Kerria. Along the country roads the Cowslips are widely in flower, and combined with displays of abundant Dandelions and Daisies it looks really quite wonderful.

2nd (Sunday) 5.0 C to 9.7 C / 1.5 mm / 0.4 hours
A largely cloudy day with some occasional showers, most of which were quite light, though there was the odd heavier one at times. Quite chilly today, with a moderate to fresh cold north-easterly wind, which became quite gusty in the afternoon. Variable amounts of cloud overnight, with some showers at times, particularly latterly.

North Cliffe Wood
Visited my favourite local woodland, and as usual it didn’t disappoint with a variety of observations and sights today. The weather was largely cloudy, though there was a brief brighter period for a time, and there was a cool north east breeze. However in the shelter of the wood it felt very pleasant, especially when the sun did come out, and nevertheless even the foulest weather couldn’t have ruined a morning spent in this lovely woodland which is now fully decked out in the sights and sounds which mark the climax of spring. Of course the main highlight was the now blooming Bluebells, which though not quite at their best yet, they nevertheless are already producing that wonderful blue haze to the woodland floor that couldn’t help but stir the most cynical of hearts. Amongst the bluebells, Primroses were if flower, especially in the area of the hazel coppice, and in the wet ditches Marsh Marigolds likewise bloomed, there vivid yellow flowers glowing above the dark waters of the woods many pools. In other parts of the wood other wild flowers were noted, including Greater Stitchwort and Wood Sorel, while out on the heath the Gorse was flowering well, though unfortunately the lack of strong warm sunshine today meant the perfume was very mild at best.

The Hebridean Sheep are also back on the heath, with about a dozen or so now out grazing on the rough pasture, and above the heath the Skylarks were in good song. The wood itself is now full of bird song, particularly in the case of members of the Warbler family, with Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs, and Blackcaps very strongly represented, along with the odd Whitethroat here and there. In some parts of the wood all four could be heard at the same time, with the wonderful fluty sonnet of the Blackcap, the gently descending notes of Willow warblers, the scratchy song of the Whitethroat, and the all familiar and repetitive call of the Chiffchaff all combining to produce a wonderful natural symphony of sound. Of course they were further backed by Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Tits, and Thrushes, while in the heart of the wood a ‘Yaffle’ was heard calling from a place unknown. We tried to track it down but we had no luck and it remained hidden and out of sight. This wood is very dear to me and it is an oasis of tranquillity where one can wonder for hours beneath the now emerging canopy of fresh green birch leaves and amongst the stirring Oaks, where one can a-spy the seasonal delights of emerging flowers, and hear the natural chorus of seasonal and resident birds and yet met no one, a rare occurrence in this ever more crowded isle of ours.

3rd (Bank Holiday Monday) 3.5 C to 10.6 C / 0.2 mm / 3.8 hours
A showery morning, with short, sharp, and blustery showers being blown in off the sea on a fresh north-north-east breeze. Some decent sunny spells in between though, though the breeze made it feel quite chilly. Drier after mid-day, though there was still the odd shower from time to time, some of which had some pellets mixed in at times, a testament to the chill that was certainly on the air today, with the weather more like March than May. Showers clearing overnight with variable amounts of cloud, though there some decent clear spells too with a very slight touch of grass frost recorded.

With the bank holiday today it was wonderfully quiet this morning, with the Westwood largely devoid of its usual plague of dog walkers. Indeed I was soon awarded with my early rise with the discovery of a lone female Wheatear on the high Westwood, just to the north west of Black Mill. It posed very well on a lovely bit of blooming Gorse, before moving on to a nearby Rowan beside one of the golfing fairways. In the same area Skylarks were abundant this morning, with at least two dozen seen or heard, and the odd Meadow Pipit was also a-spied. From here I made my way towards Burton bushes, passing through the wonderful areas of gorse and hawthorn scrub, where Linnets and Goldfinches were seen and heard well, as well as a few Mistle Thrushes. In some of the north facing and darker areas some Wood Anemones were still in flower, and though the sun was not that strong this morning, there was nevertheless a slight perfume of gorse hanging in the air.

Continuing from here I was hit by a passing blustery shower, which as it cleared produced a vivid and bright double Rainbow. Indeed some decent, though small Cumulonimbus’ were around this morning, and as they drifted in off the sea on a blustery north east wind one could imagine that a few months ago they would have bringing snow showers. Eventually I arrived Burton bushes, where the Bluebells were in full flower around the woodland edges. The carpet of blue was at its best, though further into the wood there are many more flowers yet to come into full flower and this wonderful springtime scene should continue for another few weeks to come. This was a wonderful climax to a lovely and peaceful morning up on the Westwood, and as I descended down towards the town, I was accompanied by Swallows buzzing low over the pasture, the sound of lambs up on the Hurn, and Cattle grazing sedately below Newbiggin Pits.

4th (Tuesday) 2.1 C to 14.2 C / nil / 5.9 hours
A bright morning and early afternoon, with some decent sunny spells, and though it was somewhat warmer today the niggling north wind that has affected the weekend persisted for another day, adding a real chill to the air. However cloud increased after 2 pm, and it soon became largely cloudy. Remaining largely cloudy thereafter, though during the evening and night there was the odd break here and there. A milder night than last night though.

5th (Wednesday) 7.3 C to 15.4 C / nil / 4.3 hours
A bright but fairly cloudy day, becoming increasingly cloudy by the afternoon with just the odd brighter period. Milder again, though not really feeling particularly warm with the persistent north east breeze continuing to blow for another day. Overcast overnight and as a result quite a mild night.

Went on my weekly trip to Swinemoor this morning, passing down first the Beck and then heading along the Grovehill bank of the river, before continuing on along the east bank to Hull Bridge. More Sedge and Reed Warblers have now arrived, and indeed the Sedge Warblers were more apparent than they were last week with at least three seen this morning. Compared to the largely plain brown Reed’s they are a far more striking bird, with a vivid supercilium and heavily streaked plumage, and a number were seen well this morning, singing as they do far more conspicuously than the more skulking Reeds. While going along the river I also spotted a Kingfisher, which was hunting from the back of a boat, though once it saw me it darted away, the vivid azure streak on its back glowing. Out on the moor itself there seemed to be fewer Lapwings and Redshanks than last week, though in compensation I saw my first ‘drumming’ Snipe of the year, with one bird seen repeatedly diving and swooping over the area, and making its peculiar vibrating sound. The pair of Wigeon were again out by one of the seasonal pools, and a lone Oystercatcher was likewise located, and by the river I a-spied my first goslings of the year, with six bright yellow Greylag/Feral Geese youngsters seen. On the Beck a family of six to seven Mallards was likewise observed, while overhead Swifts and Swallows fed on insects. In many of the towns gardens the Lilacs are now beginning to flower, and the whole area is generally a pretty picture now with abundant colour and fresh green everywhere.

6th (Thursday, Election Day) 8.5 C to 13.2 C / trace / 2.7 hours
A grey and dull morning, with thick stratus cloud being blown in off the sea on a east-north-east breeze, this cloud thick enough for some light drizzle at times. However becoming drier and indeed brighter after mid-day, with some good sunny spells developing by mid afternoon. Feeling pleasant enough in the sun, though the cool moderate east-north-east breeze added a slight chill to the air. Cloud remaining broken and variable in the evening and overnight

7th (Friday) 6.0 C to 13.3 C / 3.0 mm / 1.7 hours
A fresh morning with a moderate to fresh east-north-east breeze, with plenty of sunny spells but also some cloudier periods, the cloud occasionally thick enough to produce some spots of rain. However any rain soon dying out and becoming largely dry for the remainder of the morning and afternoon, though it did remain largely cloudy throughout the day. Temperatures disappointing again, the cool onshore breeze not helping things either. Cloud thickening in the evening with moderate spells of rain moving in around dusk (8 pm), and this continued for much of the night, though it did become lighter and more intermittent after midnight.

Though the weather has become cooler lately the countryside continues to move along apace, with the first Barley whiskers beginning to appear on some of the crops. The Oilseed Rape is now at its climax of colour, the vivid yellow particularly bright this morning when contrasted against the dark shower clouds rolling in off the North Sea. Birds too are continuing to advance, with a Lapwing chick spotted this morning in the field of spring cereals, while back at home a couple of Blackbird fledglings were seen in the garden. The activities of the Robins strongly indicate that they too are on nest, as is also the case for many birds, including Dunnock, Song Thrush, Collared dove, and Woodpigeon. At the moment a single White Dove visits most mornings, and we have called him ‘Blanco’. Out in the fields again the local Whitethroats are now heard in almost every hedgerow, and this morning the Cuckoo was again seen and heard, calling from some telegraph cables near Old Hall Farm. A Sedge Warbler was also heard this morning in one of the drainage ditches, the first I’ve recorded in the Parks this year.

8th (Saturday) 7.0 C to 11.6 C / nil / 0.3 hours
A grey and cold morning, with occasional outbreaks of rain coming in off the sea on a moderate to fresh north-north-east breeze. This persistent north east breeze has been quite persistent throughout the month of May so far, and has meant that weather wise at least this month has so far been a disappointment, especially when compared to the lovely weather during much of April. It has been caused by a stubborn area of high pressure in the North Atlantic, and looks like persisting for some time yet. The early outbreaks of rain dying out after 9 am, but remaining cloudy for the remainder of the day, though there were some brighter intervals from time to time. Blustery today, indeed some quite strong gusts around mid-day, though it did ease by the evening. Remaining cloudy in the evening and overnight.

9th (Sunday) 2.3 C to 11.7 C / 0.3 mm / 5.7 hours
The day started bright but cloud soon increased with light drizzle coming in off the sea from mid morning onwards. This becoming heavier by the middle of the day, and combined with a moderate north-north-east breeze it felt pretty chilly and not particularly seasonal at all. However the drizzle did begin to clear during the afternoon, and indeed after 3 pm it became increasingly clear with spells of sunshine to end the day. Remaining clear for much of the night, this allowing the thermometer to fall away quite quickly with a grass frost, but cloud increased later.

10th (Monday) 0.9 C to 8.9 C / trace / 2.1 hours
A grey and cold morning with outbreaks of drizzle coming in off the sea again like yesterday. The drizzle clearing by mid morning, but it remain grey and chilly for much of the remainder of the day. However by evening the cloud did clear, allowing a sunny end to the day, and it would remain clear for the remainder of the night, and this allowed temperatures to fall away really quite sharply, especially for the time of year, and by dawn had fallen to below freezing, the latest air frost on my records (dating back to 2004).

11th (Tuesday) -1.5 C to 11.7 C / 0.5 mm / 6.0 hours
A frosty and clear start to the day, with a hoar frost over much of the district at dawn, a notably late frost and hopefully it will cause a minimum of damage to crops and wild plants. The clear skies persisting for much of the morning, but cloud did begin to increase after 10 am, with much of the remainder of the day being a mix of sunny and cloudy spells. However it did cloud over more generally after 4 pm with the odd spot of rain at first, with some heavier spells later in the evening. Not coming to much though and clearing overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall away again, and though not as cold as last night it was nevertheless chilly enough for a slight grass frost by dawn.

12th (Wednesday) 0.5 C to 12.2 C / nil / 8.1 hours
After another clear and chilly start it would remain largely bright for the remainder of the day, with just the odd cloudier period from time to time. Indeed around noon it did become largely cloudy for some time, but this began to break again by mid afternoon with some decent sunny spells for the remainder of the afternoon, and indeed the evening.  Any remaining cloud clearing overnight, and combined with light winds it became unseasonably cold  with the thermometer falling to a low of -2.1 C, the lowest temperature since the 8th of March. Until this month I had yet to record an air frost in May, and yet there has been two so far this month, and it is to be hoped that they have caused a minimum of damage to the local crops, plants, and beasts.

9th May (Travelling to Lochaber and Arrival at Lone Pine Lodge, Torlundy)
Set off from home at half past eight in the morning on a pleasant and bright spring morning, making good progress on the largely quiet Sunday roads so that by mid-day we had already arrived in Scotland. The journey over the Pennines was very pleasant, with Curlews, Lapwings, and Oystercatchers seen in abundance, while out in the fields we saw Lambs in varying degrees of progress, from relatively mature to fairly recently born. Daffodils were still in full flower up here, and on some of the western flanks a few snow patches were seen, obviously where snow had drifted off the peaks during strong north easterly winds in January and February. Daffodils were likewise out in the Glasgow area, though these were admittedly in decline, and the problem is that once you get to Scotland Tulips and other flowers seem to become increasingly scarce and so there is nothing to take over from these spring blooms.

After Glasgow we continued on towards Stirling, where the Castle stood proudly above the ancient battle field of Bannockburn, and from here we entered the Highlands, passing through the Trossachs and alike, before finally reaching one of my favourite parts of the journey, Rannoch Moor and Glencoe. Here we a spied a couple of Red Deer out on the moor, while on the grass and rocks we saw Wheatear and Pipits in good numbers. There was a surprising number of tourists about in the area, though I suppose it was a Sunday and many folks were on day trips from the lowlands.

From here it is but a short distance to our final destination of Torlundy, a few miles to the north of the typically drab Highland town of Fort William, or as the Gaels say ‘An Gerasdan’. Though I find it a difficult language to pronounce I do nevertheless find this old Celtic tongue quite fascinating, and having now visited for three years, as well as watching the many interesting programs that are on BBC ALBA I think I am at least beginning to learn how you pronounce some of it at least. For example I now know that Croit means Croft, Eaglais means Church, Failte means welcome, Cheerie means Goodbye, Slig means shell, Sgurr means a jagged peak, and allt means stream, and I do know a few others, but I would imagine that it may take a lifetime for me to learn this often bewildering language.

We arrived at Lone Pine Lodge, our home for the next three nights, at about half past four, after a journey of eight hours. The view as usual was stunning, with the snow capped mountains rising up from the forested valley floor, and the weather was quite pleasant with some decent sunny spells. Indeed in the sun it was warm with those cold easterly winds which have been plaguing us back at home losing their chill and bite as they crossed the mountain peaks. In the evening I wondered up the hill behind the house, where the evening sun encouraged the Gorse to release its sweet perfume, and the view from up here was beautiful with the high mountains around and Loch Leven stretching away to the south and the Isle of Mull just visible in the far distance. In the surrounding trees I saw a few Siskins, while once I returned home I spotted an Osprey soaring over the Great Glen, and when I viewed it through the scope I had a fine view of its black and white plumage. A fantastic and unexpected sighting, and a fine way to start my annual spring trip to the Highlands.

10th May (Climbing Ben Nevis from Torlundy)
Rose at 5.30 am and set off by 6.30 am on my second ascent of Ben Nevis in two years. Instead of climbing from Glen Nevis again we decided to start at Torlundy. This made the route much longer but we hoped it would be less hard on the knees as well as being more interesting as this route took us right under the north face of Ben Nevis, with its high, sheer black cliffs. However first things first we had to start at the car park near Torlundy, and climb through the spruce, larch and Birch woodlands of the area.

Within minutes of starting we encountered the first highlight of the day, which was a wonderfully singing Wood Warbler, a new bird for my personal list. The area was additionally filled with the sound of abundant Willow warblers, and our climb through the wood was very pleasant, with newly greened larches and much Wood Sorel on the woodland floor. Eventually after half an hour we climbed out of the plantation and we came to the river which flows down from the valley beneath the north face, which we followed for most of its course. As we progressed along the river the terrain slowly changed, from birch scrubland, to heather moorland, where there was an abundance of Pipits, and finally came upon bare rock, with little of notable plant life. Indeed by the time we came to this area, which is where a small mountain rescue hut was located, there was a frost on the ground with some areas of ice by the streams, and in the air very light snow pellets fell from the cloud above.

13th (Thursday) -2.1 C to 13.4 C / nil / 8.9 hours
A clear and frosty start, with a decent hoar frost across the local area, indeed the temperature of -2.1 C is the lowest temperature I have recorded during May, and it is remarkably late, locally at least, for such low temperature as after all we are just five weeks away from the summer solstice. However the day would quickly warm up, and under largely clear and sunny skies it was very pleasant, especially since that nagging northerly breeze has now gone. More cloud in the afternoon, and indeed it would become largely cloudy by late afternoon, and would remain so for most of the remainder of the day. Variable amounts of cloud overnight, but becoming largely clear later, though not becoming as cold as recent nights.

The countryside has moved on a little since I last saw it four days ago, with the recent chilly and indeed frosty weather not really encouraging growth. However the roadside Cow Parsley is now coming out, and in the Barley fields the developing whiskers are becoming ever more apparent. Flowering Dead Nettles are also quite abundant now, while in the garden the Spanish Bluebells are now at their best. In the afternoon a vivid Brimstone butterfly was noted in the garden.

14th (Friday) 3.8 C to 15.9 C / nil / 7.5 hours
A sunny and pleasant morning, not as cold as recent mornings, and all in all very pleasant as south westerly winds begin to replace the northerlies which have thus far dominated this month. Cloud bubbling up from late morning onwards though, this soon spreading out to form Stratocumulus meaning that the remainder of the day was fairly cloudy, though there were some decent sunny breaks from time to time. Quite warm in the afternoon, the temperature rising to nearly 16 C, the warmest day so far this May. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, though becoming largely clear by the end of the night.

The Swifts seemed to be enjoying the return of milder conditions this morning, as many were seen and heard ‘screeching’ over both the town and the garden, a real sound of summer. Indeed some passed really quite low over the area, and I was able to observe these sleek and agile summer visitors at relatively close quarters. However the big highlight of the day was a single Green Woodpecker in the big Ash tree to the south of the house, a new record for my garden list, with it heard ‘yaffling’ a number of times from high in the tree. Through my binoculars I was able to observe this handsome and surprisingly large bird, and it had a notable red cap and black cheek patch. Certainly one of the best views I have ever had of this tricky bird to observe, and is possibly the first time I have actually seen one in a tree rather than on the ground. There is no doubt that this previously locally scarce species is colonising the area, with there being a number of records this spring. I wonder if the colder winter this year has had anything to do with this distribution change, or perhaps it is just part of larger phenomena with increased breeding success in their more traditional strongholds meaning they are expanding from their previous range. No matter what the reason is I am glad to welcome them to the area, and I wish them every success in colonising the district, and I can only hope they bring with them other locally scarce species such as Nuthatch, and Hawfinch.

15th (Saturday) 6.0 C to 15.8 C / nil / 6.7 hours
A gorgeous start to the day with clear blue skies and feeling quite mild, especially compared to recent mornings. However like yesterday Cumulus clouds would bubble up from 10 am onwards, with these soon flattening out to form large areas of Stratocumulus, which would mean that by afternoon it became largely cloudy, though there were some breaks from time to time which allowed some decent sunny spells too. The cloud breaking up by the end of the afternoon, allowing a pleasant end to the day, and there would be variable amounts of cloud through the evening and for most of the night. However cloud increased later and it would be lightly overcast by the end of the night.

The garden was looking quite the picture today, especially on what was such a sunny and pleasant day. The fresh green growth is now on almost every tree, with the mature Sycamores now in leaf, and even the Ashes and Oaks now joining in with renewed growth. Of course many have now been in leaf for some time, and the Horse Chestnuts are now in full flower, while the Crab Apple in the garden has now finished blossoming. The Crab Apple blossom was quite a disappointment this year though, with the show a mere shadow of its previous best, and I think a combined assault by hard winter frosts, and a number of Bullfinches was probably to blame.

The Beech tree is now pretty much in full leaf, with the rate of beech leaf casings raining down upon the garden having now eased, and this mighty tree is now a pleasing shade of lime green, with the leaves still soft enough to eat should the need arise. In the garden beds any remaining late daffodils have now finished, and indeed some of the Tulips are now likewise concluding for yet another year. However the Spanish Bluebells are undoubtedly now at their best, as are the Wallflowers and Wild Geranium’s. Elsewhere in the garden the Berberis is still in good flower, while the Clematis around the old Rose arch is now flowering, with the magnificent display along the hedge to the west of the house now beginning to come towards its climax with an abundance of pastel pink flowers along its length. This is a wonderful time of year.

16th (Sunday) 4.4 C to 14.8 C / 1.5 mm / 3.2 hours
A grey start but not coming to anything, and indeed by mid morning sunny spells would begin to break through. These not lasting though and by the end of the morning it had become largely cloudy again, and it would continue to be generally grey throughout the afternoon. Quite cool today as well, with a gentle north westerly breeze pegging temperatures back a bit. Showers developing in the evening, one or two quite heavy (peaking at 20.2 mm/h), but these cleared away after dusk and it would be dry overnight with variable amounts of cloud.

Walked in heart of the High Wolds this morning on a largely cloudy and cool late spring day, though there some pleasant sunny spells at times too, indeed it felt quite warm when the sun did come out. Starting our walk from the village we made our way down the farm track, where there was a beautiful singing Willow warbler in the small wood, and from there headed onwards towards Northfield Farm, passing through a beautiful display of blossoming trees on either side of the track. The beauty of the scene was furth   er enhanced by patches of vivid Oilseed Rape in the local fields, though undoubtedly the crop up here is a week or two behind those down around Beverley, with some areas of the crop still to come out yet. I think the slow spring this year is as much to do with the lack of rain since the beginning of April (just 26.9 mm’s in Beverley), and indeed these high chalky free draining fields are now very dry with the ground hard and no sign of moisture. The recent dry and brisk northerly winds will have also sucked out much of any moisture in the land and hopefully the weather will become both wetter and warmer in the next fortnight or so. The dry and cool weather is also meaning that the grass in the dales is not as lush as one would expect, though a good number of Cowslips were seen on the dry slopes, while Buttercups were coming out in the more verdant grass at the bottom of the dale.

No butterflies were seen this morning, the cool and breezy conditions being far from ideal, but a good number of Skylarks, Pipits, Yellowhammers, and leaf warblers made up for this somewhat, with their beautiful songs adding to glorious beauty of the English landscape in high spring. A couple of Buzzards were also spotted today, with one being vigorously pestered by a pair of Crows, and we also witnessed quite a fierce battle between two Skylarks as we enjoyed our cup of tea. It was here that I noted that the newly emerged and tender Sycamore leaves seemed to have suffered some frost damage, especially below a height of about ten feet, and undoubtedly those recent air frosts may yet cause some problems later in the year for some plants and crops. However the white flowering Dead Nettles don’t seemed to have minded and they were flowering strongly beside the hedgerows, and in the hedgerows themselves I heard a Whitethroat nest at one point, a very welcome sound of a species which seems to have recovered most of the ground it lost after the devastating drought in sub-Saharan Africa during the 80’s. The May blossom is still not out yet, though the buds are now very obvious and it will just take a bit of warm rain and sunshine to encourage them to open. An interesting mornings walk in the heart of this quiet and forgotten corner of our fair Isle.

17th (Monday) 5.9 C to 16.0 C / 0.6 mm / 3.7 hours
A pleasant start to the day with broken Sc and Ac, and some decent sunny spells. However like most recent days cloud bubbled up after mid morning and it became increasingly cloudy. By midday many of the clouds had become deep enough to produce a few sharp but brief showers, and the remainder of the afternoon would be mix of sunny spells and brief showers. Dying out by the end of the afternoon though with the evening being quite pleasant with some late sunshine. Clear spells overnight with mist and latterly light to moderate fog forming.

Heard the Cuckoo in the Parks this morning, the first time I have noted it since the 7th, and it seemed to be calling from the Millennium Orchard area. The countryside is looking gorgeous at the moment, with the Oilseed Rape at its best, the cereal crops coming on strongly (with whiskers on the Barley), and the hedgerows a pleasing shade of fresh green. In the hedgerows the Hawthorn is starting to flower, and combined with the calling Cuckoo I am almost ready to declare that summer is now upon us, even if the weather is not quite in agreement yet. Another highlight of the morning was the spotting of a male and female pair of Yellow Wagtails in the field beside Black House Stables, only the second record I have for the area.

18th (Tuesday) 4.9 C to 18.5 C / nil / 10.8 hours
A foggy start to the day with visibility reduced to under 500 metres at times, but it soon cleared and became sunny and warm by mid morning. Like most recent days cloud bubbled up by the end of the morning, but it did not become as extensive as it has on most recent afternoons and instead this afternoon was warm with plenty of long sunny spells, with the temperature climbing up to 18.5 C (65.3 F), making this the warmest day of May thus far. The forecast for the next week is looking very promising and I expect we could see temperatures in to the low 70’s by the end of the week. The cloud clearing in the evening and becoming largely clear overnight, bar the odd area of broken Altocumulus, and some high Cirrus.

The Green Woodpecker was in the area again this morning, with its ‘yaffling’ call heard around 5.30 am. In the Parks there seemed to be a lot of Whitethroats about, with at least half a dozen heard or seen along Long Lane, while in the Old Hall area the Yellowhammer’s were in good song. Perhaps these two birds were enjoying the early morning fog, which in this area was much thicker than in Beverley with visibility reduced to less than 200 metres.

19th (Wednesday) 5.6 C to 20.5 C / nil / 7.9 hours
A lovely sunny morning with barely a cloud in the sky, with the sun soon warming the land up after a cool start. However increasing amounts of mid level stratiform after 11 am made the sunshine increasingly diffuse for the remainder of the day, though there were still plenty of breaks in the Altocumulus layer which allowed the UV index to reach 7 for the first time this year, and also saw the temperature climb to 20.5 C. Remaining largely cloudy overnight with the temperature remaining fairly high with a low in excess of 50 degrees.

The Cuckoo was again calling in the Parklands this morning, while back at home a female Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen visiting the feeding station. The Woodpecker was undoubtedly collecting food and carrying it away, strongly suggesting that they are again nesting in the area and I am hopeful of seeing some young within a few weeks.

20th (Thursday) 11.5 C to 22.2 C / nil / 2.3 hours
A warm morning after a very mild night, with a fair amount of cloud (Stratocumulus & Altocumulus), though there were some good breaks too with strong sunshine (yesterday the UV index reached 7). Indeed the rest of the day would remain bright despite the large amount of mid level cloud and it became very warm by mid afternoon with the mercury rising to 22.2 C (72 F), the first day this year to reach seventy degrees Fahrenheit. The sun did manage to break through at times, especially by the end of the afternoon and it would become increasingly clear by evening with clear spells overnight. A mild night though with the temperature remaining above 50 F.

The newly fledged Blackbird seems to have now been abandoned by its parents whom have undoubtedly begun a second brood, and it is seen most days looking for scraps of food beneath the feeding station. The Starlings are likewise visiting the bird station frequently at the moment, along with the other species such as Great tits, Blue tits, Coal tits, Collared dove, Woodpigeon, and the Great Spotted Woodpecker whom I all suspect are being kept busy with the feeding and caring of the next generation. The beautifully singing Blackcap was again heard in the garden today, as it has been often since April.

21st (Friday) 10.3 C to 23.0 C / nil / 11.0 hours
A pleasant and sunny morning, with the temperature quickly rising after dawn under the clear blue skies. Very little breeze either at first, and this combined with relatively high humidity (Dew Point of 14 C at 9am) meant it felt really quite warm, more like high July than May. Indeed by the afternoon the temperature reached a high of 23.0 C (73.4 F), making this the warmest day since the 8th of September last year, and more surprisingly the warmest May day recorded here in Beverley since 2004. Thin high cloud increasing in the afternoon, making the sunshine somewhat veiled for the rest of the day, but this would begin to clear in the evening and it would become largely clear overnight.

The Buttercups on the Westwood are now nearing their best, and combined with the abundant Horse Chestnut blooms along the avenues it makes for a beautiful scene, especially on a summery and sunny morning such as today’s. Along the road verges the Cow Parsley is likewise becoming very apparent, with the Hogweed just a week or two behind its more slender look-a-like. Back on the Westwood the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were in good form this morning, while along Long Lane a Whitethroat was seen performing a song-flight, and a good variation of finches were seen, including Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, and Linnet. When I arrived a home a newly fledged Woodpigeon was seen on the wall, the first I’ve seen this year.

22nd (Saturday) 8.4 C to 24.5 C / nil / 15.0 hours
Another clear and sunny start to the day with the sun soon warming the land up after a cool start. Remaining clear and sunny throughout the day with barely a cloud in the sky, bar the odd patch of very thin high Cirrus. Becoming very warm as well, indeed perhaps hot considering the time of year, with a high of 24.5 C (76.1 F), the warmest ever May day on my records. Despite largely clear skies it would remain very warm overnight, with a minimum of just 14.4 C, which made for an unpleasant sleeping night.

The garden looked absolutely wonderful today on what was a beautiful early summers day with temperatures in the mid seventy degrees and wall to wall sunshine. The Hawthorn tree is now in full flower, and as ever is a magnificent sight with its profusion of white flowers on every branch and twig. The Clematis likewise is now at its wonderful best, with the hedge next door looking resplendent with its abundant pink blooms. The Swifts, the bird which perhaps is the quintessential sight and sound of warm summer days in Beverley, enjoyed the conditions very much today with a good number seen and heard swooping overhead in the skies above, while in the garden itself a newly fledged Starling was spotted amongst some adults, the first young Starling I’ve spotted this year.

23rd (Sunday) 14.4 C to 26.9 C / nil / 11.7 hours
A hot and sunny day again, with the temperature already in excess of 20 C by 9 am, and it would eventually reach a high of 26.9 C (80.4 F), an exceptionally high temperature this early in the year, and smashing yesterdays record high for May. This heat combined with high dew points (16 C + in mid afternoon) allowed some decent convection from 2 pm onwards, but it didn’t produce anything more than some good Cumulus congestus. Becoming clear again by evening and remaining so for most of the night, bar the odd bit  of broken Stratocumulus, and very warm again with a low of just 13.9 C.

Bempton Cliffs
Visited the high cliffs at Bempton this morning, taking advantage of the wonderful early summer weather at the moment before it slowly breaks down in the week ahead. We arrived shortly after 7 am, mainly to avoid the inevitable crowds later in the day, though undoubtedly there is also greater activity amongst the birds during these earlier and cooler hours. That’s not to say it was cool this morning though, indeed the temperature was already 17 C when we arrived at 7 am, and by the time we left at 10 am had climbed to 21 C. It’s a rare pleasure to ensure this annual spectacle under such a warm sun and there was even a lack of a chill breeze coming off the sea. Visibility from the cliff tops was pretty good too, with Filey Brigg looking relatively close, and Scarborough Castle visible to the north.

The cliff tops are now developing their annual flower show, with the always abundant Red Campion probably about a week away from being at its best. In the fields at least three Corn Buntings were seen or heard, a species which seems to becoming more regular in this area, and other species of birds seen or heard in this area included Linnets, Pipits, Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Tree Sparrows, Sedge Warblers, and perhaps most interestingly a single reeling Grasshopper Warbler, only the second time I have heard one of these relatively scarce and skulking birds. A Curlew was also heard at one point his morning, and while walking along the cliff tops my father and I found a broken Guillemot egg shell, probably pinched by a Herring Gull or alike.

On the cliffs itself the typical sights and sounds were all to be seen, and indeed under the strong sun today many birds were seen gaping in an effort to keep cool, particularly the Kittiwakes and Gannets. These two species of bird were seen in their usual profusion, with seemingly more Gannets than ever, and I noticed that most Kittiwakes are now on eggs. Guillemots and Razorbills were also well represented, though as many, indeed perhaps if not more, were seen out at sea rather on the cliffs. I didn’t manage to spot if any Auks had any eggs yet, but considering our discovery along the cliff tops I think it is safe to suppose that they were there hidden from our view. Not many Puffins were spotted, indeed I only saw one on the cliffs themselves, but about a dozen or so were seen at various times flying over the sea. Finally the Fulmars were found in there usual nesting spots, and I always enjoy seeing these beautiful and graceful sea birds, and I can think of no other bird which flies as effortlessly  as these ‘northern Albatrosses’. Eventually after enjoying this wonderful natural spectacle we headed for home, just as the crowds were beginning to arrive, though before we left I had some fine views of a displaying Whitethroat in the car park.

Back at home in the garden, as man, beast, and fowl together sweltered under an unseasonably hot sun, a newly fledged Robin was spotted, the first I’ve seen this year, and an Orange Tip Butterfly was also seen flittering through the garden.

24th (Monday) 13.9 C to 20.6 C / nil / 8.1 hours
Another pleasant and sunny day, though not as hot as recently as a gentle to north west breeze kept temperatures pegged back compared to recent highs. There were some cloudier periods too. Cloud would further increase during the night, and indeed it would become overcast by dawn as the wind moved into the north-east.

In the local hedgerows the Hawthorn blossom is now largely fully out, a true sign that summer is now with us, and it is just sheer pleasure every morning at the moment to cycle along these quiet peaceful roads with the Cow Parsley lining all the lanes, and birds of many varieties and types filling the air with their calls and songs. Further signs of the arrival of summer were noted this morning with the very first Elderflower florets beginning to appear, and within a fortnight, weather permitting, these should be fully out. In the fields the Wheat is looking very strong, a lovely dark green and relishing the dry and hot weather at the moment, while the Barley is now fully whiskered and likewise looking healthy. The Oilseed Rape is still flowering well, though the earliest blooms have now concluded for yet another year and the seed pods are now beginning to develop. Thankfully the frosts earlier in the month seem to have done a minimum of damage. Up on the Westwood the Buttercups are now fully out and the cattle are enjoying the lovely fresh green grass. In the garden the Swedish Whitebeam is now in flower and the Hawthorn is looking absolutely wonderful with the masses of white blooms strikingly white under the early summer sunshine.

25th (Tuesday) 10.3 C to 12.7 C / nil / 0.3 hours
A grey and much cooler start than has been typical on recent mornings and it would remain largely cloudy all day, with just the odd brighter spell in mid and late afternoon. A gentle north-north-east breeze kept temperatures pegged back, rising to just 12.7 C (54.9 F), over fourteen degrees Celsius cooler than just two days ago. Cloud largely clearing overnight, this allowing the temperature to fall away to 4 C.

Six to seven young Starlings were spotted today on the lawn, constantly pestering their parents for food.

26th (Wednesday) 4.2 C to 13.9 C / 1.3 mm / 2.1 hours
A bright but cool start with weak, hazy sunshine behind a veil of thin Altostratus, though this cloud becoming thicker as the day progressed with it eventually becoming overcast by mid afternoon. Cool again with a high of just 13.9 C. The cloud becoming thick enough for a short period of rain around midnight but this soon cleared and the cloud began to break and clear by the end of the night.

An Oystercatcher was spotted in the fields this morning, mixing in with the half dozen Lapwings, which are still seen occasionally displaying over the local area. In the evening a Hedgehog was spotted in the garden.

27th (Thursday) 6.2 C to 15.4 C / 0.7 mm / 7.3 hours
A lovely sunny and fresh start to the day, and remaining largely bright throughout the day, though there was plenty of cloud around in the afternoon with showers threatening but this didn’t really come to anything. Clear spells overnight, though there were some showers around mid-night, and the breeze also freshened from the north west by dawn.

The local hedgerows are simply wonderful at the moment, decked with May-blossom and lined by abundant Cow Parsley. They were especially beautiful this morning, with the lovely early morning sunshine and a delightful crisp and freshness to the air after rain overnight. Rainfall so far this month has been largely light and sparing, indeed the total for the month is just 10 mm’s, and this is following on from a largely dry April, so I expect the rain last night was greatly welcomed by most beasts, fowl, and plants.

28th (Friday) 6.1 C to 16.6 C / trace / 8.6 hours
Another fresh and sunny morning, with a moderate to fresh north west breeze. Remaining largely bright for the remainder of the day with plenty of sunny spells, with the cool morning breeze easing by the afternoon to leave a pleasant and clement end to the day. Remaining largely clear overnight, though cloud would begin to invade from the south west later, bringing with it some light outbreaks of rain by dawn.

29th (Saturday) 4.7 C to 14.5 C / 1.3 mm / 0.3 hours
A cloudy start with light outbreaks of rain, barely enough to even dampen the ground. Remaining largely cloudy throughout the day with further outbreaks of rain, but never any more than light (peak just 0.2 mm/h) and it even managed to remain dry all day beneath the trees. There were some drier periods too, with the sun even managing to break through at times, but in general it was a cloudy and damp day. Outbreaks of rain continuing into the evening but it would become drier overnight, with the cloud beginning to break later. The breeze freshening by the end of the night as well.

30th (Sunday) 10.5 C to 15.8 C / 0.7 mm / 4.9 hours
A blustery and showery day, some of these containing hail, but there were plenty of good sunny spells as well, particularly in the morning. The wind made it feel quite cool though, but in any sheltered spots it was pleasant enough, with temperatures in the mid teens. Showers dying out by the evening, but it remained very blustery and it would remain breezy throughout the night with some quite strong gusts.

Millington Hill
A windy walk in this lovely corner of the western Wolds, starting from Millington Church and heading up the hill to Coldwold on the opposite side of the valley. The wind was very strong at the top of the valley, certainly up to force six or seven, but despite the wind it was a pleasant and sunny morning with broken Cumulus which by the end of the walk began to threaten showers. Of course high winds always makes it more difficult to observe wildlife, largely because it is very hard to hear them, but nevertheless some interesting observations were made with a good number of Hares seen in the high fields, a couple of Red Kites soaring over the area on the breeze, and a lone Stoat was also spotted at one point, the first I’ve seen in quite a while actually if my memory serves me rightly.

However despite the less than ideal conditions for seeing the regions beasts and fowls, the wind did nothing to inhibit the beauty of the countryside at the moment, with abundant May-blossom in the local hedgerows, with Cow Parsley, Hogsweed, Buttercups, and Red Campion flowering in impressive profusion alongside them. In the fields the cereals are looking healthy and strong, with Barley looking particularly good at the moment with a sea of whiskers blowing hypnotically in the fresh to strong breeze. It’s always amazing how quickly the crop grows every year and in a months time it will already by a lovely golden colour with harvest not far behind. Also seen in the fields this morning were the first Poppy’s beginning to appear, there vivid red flowers adding splashes of colour. Here in the high Wolds the Oilseed Rape is still in full flower (around Beverley it is certainly beyond its best), and the first areas of grass have been cut for Silage.

31st (Monday) 10.5 C to 17.5 C / nil / 10.0 hours
A bright and breezy morning, and remaining bright for most of the day with lots of decent sunny spells. The breeze also eased by the afternoon, and combined with temperatures in the high teens it felt very pleasant. Indeed the UV Index rose to 8, the first time this year it has done so. Cloud increasing overnight, becoming overcast later, and as a result it was a mild night with some mist by dawn.