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January 2011

1st (Sat) 3.3 C to 5.0 C / nil / nil / NW 4.3 knots
A cloudy and overcast day and all in all a pretty non-descript start to 2011. After dusk the cloud would break for a time, but this would be short lived and by 9pm it would be cloudy again. It would remain largely cloudy throughout the night, though there some clearer spells too from time to time, particularly towards dawn.

2nd (Sun) 0.6 C to 2.8 C / nil / 0.4 hours / NW 4.0 knots
A largely cloudy and cold day, with a chilling north westerly breeze, though there were some brighter periods from time to time, with even the odd short sunny spell. Little change overnight, though the breeze became light, and this allowed temperatures to fall close to freezing.

Spurn Point & Holderness
Travelled through deepest and darkest Holderness today to visit Spurn Point, on what was a cold and breezy day here on the coast, with occasional sleet showers and bright spells in between. This mixed weather made for some dramatic and beautiful wintry skies, with curtains of rain and sleet being illuminated by the weak January sunshine, which in turn contrasted with the dark grey, leaden clouds from which the precipitation fell. The sea too was quite dramatic, especially down at the point, as the tide was just beginning to turn and come back in, and this creates a fair bit of chop where the outward current meets the sea. The mixture of lights also gave the sea contrasting hues and it was delight to watch the ever changing scene, added in part by the coming and goings of the many boats and ships heading in and out of one of the busiest estuaries in Europe. The point itself was also full of plenty of interest, with the now abandoned old lighthouse looking impressive under the ever moving sky, and the yellow sea grasses swaying in the brisk north westerly wind. The wind was very cold, though on the seaward beach it was actually quite sheltered and relatively warm.

Bird wise not much was about, at least in terms of passerines (though I did think I heard a Stonechat amongst the scrub), though out on the western mudflats a good number of waders and some wildfowl were seen, including many Bar-tailed Godwits, quite a few Grey Plovers, the odd Turnstone, Redshank, Dunlin, & Knot, lots of Shelduck’s (especially to the north of spit), and in the nearby fields many Curlews. Indeed I haven’t seen as many of these handsome and graceful wading birds in one area since visiting Orkney. An enjoyable and bracing morning here on this unique and exposed spur of land in the far south east of our county, and on the return journey we did a short tour of rural Holderness. Quite a few snow patches are still to be seen alongside the roads here, a sign of just how deep the snow was around here a few weeks ago as this area is much more exposed to those snow showers which run down the North Sea during northerly and north westerly airstreams.

3rd (Mon) 0.0 C to 2.2 C / 0.7 mm / 0.8 hours / SW 2.8 knots
A grey and cold start to the day with the temperature hovering around freezing. However by late morning it did brighten up a bit, with even the odd sunny spell, and it would remain bright through the afternoon. Indeed by evening it became increasingly clear, this allowing temperatures to drop below freezing again after reaching a high during the day of little more than 2 C. However cloud would increase again after midnight, with a mixture of wet snow, sleet, and even a bit of freezing rain by dawn, this giving the slightest of dustings as the snow readily froze upon the cold ground.

After a succession of cloudy nights I took advantage of the clear conditions this evening. Seeing was infact excellent, with Jupiter and its moons shining brightly in the southeast sky, and though I couldn’t quite resolve it with my 900x60 refractor there was just a hint of planetary detail beyond just the usual NEB. Three of the moons were easy to observe, with Callisto out to the east, and Ganymede and Europa clear to the west (the latter of these most distant), while Io was just visible to the west but very close to the planet itself. However the highlight of the evening was my first observation of the Andromeda Galaxy, an object I’ve long wanted to see properly. Using the distinctive shape of the constellation Triangulum I made my way westwards, following the belt of Andromeda until through my binoculars I could just make out a faint fuzzy patch, and at last I realised I had found what is perhaps the finest spectacle in the night sky. Even through my 60mm spotting scope it was nothing more than a faint misty patch, with a somewhat brighter core, but it is not the visual beauty of this object which appeals, but it is instead the fact that you are looking at another galaxy beyond our own and I personally find that amazing. While out I also took the chance to look at the ever beautiful Pleiades, which was very high in the dark winter sky, as well as the Orion nebulae. Additionally when viewing Jupiter I also took in Uranus, as the two planets are so close that they appear in the same field of view through my 60mm scope.

4th (Tue) -1.7 C to 3.9 C / 4.5 mm / nil / SW 5.0 knots
A cold and wintry start to the day, with outbreaks of sleet, wet snow and freezing rain, heavy enough to give the ground a slight dusting of snow and ice which would survive until mid afternoon. Otherwise it was a grey and uninspiring sort of day, with temperatures again struggling. The wind freshening overnight from the south-south-west, this raising temperatures somewhat and also bringing periods of rain by the end of the night, this becoming quite heavy at times by dawn.

5th (Wed) 0.0 C to 3.9 C / 4.1 mm / nil / SW 3.8 knots
A wet start to the day with persistent moderate rain, with some heavier spells just around dawn (peaking at 3.4 mm/h). Becoming drier by 10am, but it would remain cloudy, and indeed the cloud would thicken again by mid afternoon with some further pulses of moderate to heavy rain. This clearing by dusk, and through the evening the cloud would begin to break with some clear spells developing overnight. This would allow temperatures to drop close to freezing, with a decent hoar frost by dawn.

Two males and a female Bullfinch were seen feeding on the ground below the feeding station a number of times today, with the female actually seen on the bird table on one instance. Though these handsome and bright birds are quite common in the garden, they rarely visit the bird feeders with just couple of previous observations of this in the past. It probably demonstrates the shortage of food for many wild birds now that we are in deepest winter, with the very cold December pushing many of them to the very limits of survival. Also visiting the feeding station at the moment are most common tits, the local Great Spotted Woodpeckers (with at least a single male and a female being observed), Robin’s, Dunnock’s, and the Tree Sparrows, which have continued to visit every day throughout the cold weather.

6th (Thu) 0.6 C to 3.3 C / nil / 0.2 hours / NW 1.5 knots
A bright and frosty start, with quite a bit of ice around on the roads and pavements. However from mid morning extensive areas of stratocumulus would drift down from the north west, and therefore the remainder of the day would see largely cloudy skies with just the odd brighter spell from time to time. Remaining mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight, though some breaks did develop from time to time, especially later, and this would allow temperatures to fall below freezing after midnight.

Viewed Saturn this morning prior to dawn, again the rings clearly obvious at even low powers and the planet again coping with 112x magnification. When viewing Jupiter at higher powers the image actually degrades through my 60mm f15 refractor and is much better at just 45x, while Saturn is the opposite with the view far better through the 8mm eyepiece. However hopefully I will soon be seeing the planets, and indeed the entire heavens, in much more detail as I have finally decided to acquire a much larger telescope, and this should hopefully arrive on Monday (10th).

The three Bullfinches were again seen at the feeding station today, while elsewhere in the garden the local finches were very busy in the trees, especially the Goldfinches, with about a dozen feeding away in the Ash and Silver Birch. Another pleasing sight today was a busy feeding Goldcrest, as these tiny birds are very vulnerable to cold weather.

7th (Fri) -2.2 C to 7.2 C / 9.0 mm / nil / SE 2.3 knots
A dull and cold start to the day, with the ground frozen after an overnight frost. The cloud would thicken as the morning progressed, with outbreaks of moderate rain moving in after 10 am, and this would continue on and off for the remainder of the day, though by mid-afternoon it became somewhat more drizzly and light. By dusk it also began to become increasingly murky, and this would continue to thicken through the evening with visibility falling below 1 km by 9 pm. Remaining overcast overnight, with further outbreaks of rain later (this clearing away the murk), and also becoming much milder, the temperature reaching 7.2 C by dawn, which is the highest temperature recorded in over 6 weeks.

In the first week of January just 1.4 hours of sunshine has been recorded, with four of those seven days seeing no sunshine whatsoever. Indeed if we look back further we can see that just 1.5 hours has been recorded since December 27th with an average daily sunshine total of just 0.1 hours in the last twelve days.

8th (Sat) 4.0 C to 7.2 C / 0.4 mm / 4.3 hours / SW 6.0 knots
A wet morning and much milder than it has been lately with temperatures hovering around 7 C at 9 am. The rain clearing by 10 am and the cloud breaking and clearing by midday, leaving a largely clear and sunny afternoon, very welcome after all the recent overcast weather. However with the clearer skies the breeze also picked up from the WNW and the temperature also fell, down to around 3 C by 2 pm. Remaining clear overnight, with a decent ground frost, though the moderate breeze prevented an air frost with a low of just 1.1 C.

Tonight I used the Opticron 13.5 mm plossl eyepiece in my 900x60 refractor, and the view of Jupiter was one of the best I have yet seen. Though magnification was still limited to 67x the actual quality of the eyepiece was so much better than the supplied ones, with the NEB a very clear band on the disk. Indeed further detail was on the very edge of being resolved, including the polar hoods and perhaps even the red spot. What was clear that the SEB is still absent for the time being, and I look forward to observing any possible changes on the solar systems largest planet through my new 10 inch telescope when it hopefully arrives on Monday. The moons tonight were all to the east of the planet, and Io and Europa were split by the tiniest of margins, and at times looked as one. Most distant was Ganymede, with Callisto almost bang in the middle between E & G. While observing the Jovian system I also noted Uranus again, which is just outside the field of view of my 900x60 scope when I am viewing Jupiter.

9th (Sun) 1.1 C to 5.0 C / nil / 6.3 hours / SW 3.4 knots
A breezy, cold, but largely clear and sunny morning, with just some patches of broken stratocumulus from time to time. Remaining sunny throughout the afternoon, with the breeze also easing by mid afternoon, and all in all a very pleasant and bright mid-winter’s day. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, with a decent frost, but cloud would begin to invade from the south west by dawn.

Just before dawn I had a quick look at Saturn through the opticron 13.5 mm plossl eyepiece and the view was superbly sharp, if perhaps a bit low on magnification. The rings were finely resolved, and though the Cassini division was merely hinted at, I could just make out space between the western limb of the planet and the rings (that is at least during lulls in the brisk breeze this morning). I also had a quick look at Venus, which looked like it was perhaps about 55% to 60% illuminated in its current gibbous phase.

10th (Mon) -0.6 C to 5.6 C / 4.0 mm / nil / S 4.3 knots
A largely cloudy start, with thickening altostratus invading from the south west, and by 10am this became thick enough for a period of rain. Becoming drier again by midday, though it would remain overcast and it would remain grey throughout the afternoon. Further outbreaks of rain would move in on a freshening southerly breeze in the evening, and these would continue for much of the night, though it would become drier again by 3am. A mild night what with the southern wind, with a low above 4 C.

The new telescope arrived today, and it really is beyond anything I have ever used before in terms of size and quality. I can’t wait to get out and use it, though the forecast for the week ahead is not particularly promising.

11th (Tue) 4.0 C to 6.1 C / 4.1 mm / 0.3 hours / NW 4.6 knots
A dull and overcast morning, with extensive and thick stratus, but by midday this began to clear away to the south, and it became somewhat clearer for a time. However this wouldn’t last long as extensive stratocumulus moved in, and this would persist through the remainder of the afternoon. Becoming clearer for a time after dusk but cloud soon began to increase from the west again, and this would thicken overnight with periods of rain moving in after midnight, some of which were quite heavy.

A period of about three hours of clear weather this evening allowed me to get out and use my new telescope, and though a fair amount of atmospheric instability was noticeable the views I was able to enjoy were truly superb and far and away beyond anything I have ever seen before through a telescope. The view of Jupiter was particularly impressive, with many cloud belts resolved and even some colour, with the Galilean moons also disks of light rather than bright star like points. Indeed one could even see colour variations in the moons as well as obvious size differences between them. The finder scope is also of very good quality, and it was no bother moving the short distance to the west of Jupiter to the planet of Uranus. In previous observations of this distant planet I have seen little more than a small star like point (with a hint of light blue), but tonight I was clearly able to see it as a disk of pale blue which hung in the darkness of space. Next I moved to the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and again the view of this giant neighbour of our own Milky Way looked superb through the eyepiece as an area of misty light, with an obviously brighter core, and also visible was the smaller M32 just to the east of M31. All in all the view was excellent, especially considering the relatively nearby waxing half moon which flooded the sky with light. I then headed towards Orion, and viewed the famous Orion nebulae (M42), and the view was beyond anything I had expected, with lanes of nebulosity clearly obvious with a darker core surrounding the four Trapezium stars in the centre. Nearby NGC 1977 just to the north east of M42 was also obvious through the eyepiece. It will be interesting to see if a UHC or OIII filter will improve the view even further. Also in Orion I had a look at the red giant Betelgeuse, which looked stunning in the eyepiece as a bright and very large red coloured star. However by this point of the evening the viewing was quickly deteriorating as a layer of cirrostratus invaded from the south west, though I was able to view the moon for a good half an hour extra. With the moon filter in the eyepiece the view was outstanding with lovely sharp and crisp detail to be seen across the lunar surface, and with the higher power eyepieces I was able to zoom in on particular areas of interest, with mountains ranges and many other features along the terminator looking close enough to touch. A fine way to end a very enjoyable evenings viewing of the night sky, and I look forward to future viewing sessions through this impressive scope.

12th (Wed) 0.6 C to 10.0 C / 2.5 mm / nil / SW 1.6 knots
A grey and damp start with outbreaks of rain, but by 9am it had become drier, though it would remain cloudy and would remain so for the duration of the morning. Little change going into the afternoon, with grey skies persisting, though the temperature would rise as the afternoon wore on, reaching a very mild (by recent standards) 8.6 C by late afternoon. The cloud thickening again in the evening to produce some outbreaks of rain, and these would continue through the night, and it would remain very mild too with the temperature actually continuing to rise, eventually reaching a high of 10 C shortly before dawn.

13th (Thu) 7.0 C to 13.0 C / trace / 0.7 hours / SW 3.3 knots
A grey and damp start to the day with occasional light outbreaks of rain, though most noticeable was how mild it was, almost spring like infact. Remaining cloudy for most of the morning but in the afternoon some sunny spells managed to develop, and these helped the temperature climb to 13.0 C, making this the warmest January day since 2008. However the cloud would increase again by the end of the afternoon and the rest of the evening and night would remain overcast, with even a bit of light rain from time to time. Remaining very mild overnight with a low of just 8.9 C, this being the second highest January minimum of my records.

The milder start to the day, as well as the ever lightening mornings as we move towards the spring equinox, encouraged a bit of bird song today, especially by those ever perennial early starters the Robin’s and Song Thrushes. Indeed despite the very cold winter thus far, there are nevertheless signs of the coming spring beginning to appear, including emerging bulbs in the garden beds. However bar the Aconite’s none are anywhere near flowering, but it is nice nevertheless to see the appearance of new life and the promise they bring of a new and fresh season ahead.

14th (Fri) 8.9 C to 10.9 C / trace / 1.0 hours / SW 4.9 knots
A cloudy but very mild start again, with cloudy skies dominating through till about 2 pm. However thereafter most of the cloud would clear away to the east, this allowing some sunshine to end the day. Remaining largely clear in the evening, though there was the odd light shower from time to time, though after midnight more general cloud would begin to move in and it would become overcast by dawn. Also becoming increasingly breezy by the end of the night.

Was able to use the 10 inch scope again this evening, though an unexpected shower at 7 pm on what had been up until that point a completely clear sky, meant my observing was curtailed rather abruptly. The last thing I want is rain getting on my brand new mirror. However prior to this I was able to make some pleasing observations, including the Jovian system and Orion nebulae, which again were stunning in this scope despite poor atmospheric conditions. The brightness of the waxing gibbous moon high in the evening sky also made conditions less than ideal for DSO, so instead this evening I decided to look for double stars, which are also another good way of testing the telescopes optics. The previous night I had easily resolved Polaris into its two constituent parts, which I did again this evening, but tonight I also added the genuine double Mizar in that great year round constellation of Ursa Major. While in this area I also had a look for M101, but unfortunately tonight it remained elusive. Through a telescope of this size (and properly collimated) stars themselves can look stunning, with Betelgeuse & Aldebaran for example looking stunning when sharply focused (as well as both being obvious red giants), and tonight I also looked at Capella which was a beautiful point of sharp white light against the back drop of space. Another task I was able to experiment with this evening was taking a photograph of the moon through this new telescope, with my first attempt being shown above. Hopefully I will be able to expand from this first shot and actually be able to name and identify many of the multiple features one can see on our barren yet fascinating neighbour.

15th (Sat) 5.0 C to 12.5 C / trace / 0.3 hours / SW 9.3 knots
Another grey start, with some outbreaks of rain from time to time. Blustery too, with the wind gusting to force 7 and it would remain breezy throughout the day, especially around late afternoon and in the evening when the wind peaked at 34 knots. Otherwise it was a largely cloudy day, though there were some brighter periods too with even some short spells of sunshine. Very mild again, with a high of over 12 C. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, and remaining both breezy and mild for its duration.

16th (Sun) 9.4 C to 12.8 C / 2.7 mm / 0.6 hours / SW 4.0 knots
A largely cloudy, breezy, and very mild morning, the temperature already 11 C by 9am and reaching a high of 12.8 C by early afternoon. Some brighter and sunnier periods around midday, but cloud would increase from the south west from 1pm onwards with rain moving in for a time. The rain clearing around dusk with the cloud likewise clearing southwards by 8pm, allowing a clearer spell of weather for a time, during which time the breeze would ease and become light. However cloud would increase again later, with overcast skies for most of the night.

Noticed some Woodpigeon’s courting today, a sign of how spring like the temperatures are at the moment, and I also noticed a pair of Magpie’s together, though as of yet I haven’t actually seen them collecting any twigs for there nest. A Redwing was another observation in the garden today, which is the first I’ve seen in a while (in the garden).

A pleasant walk in the Wolds, the first since the 12th of last month. It was almost spring like this morning, what with temperatures near 12 C (54 F), and bright skies, though there was a fresh south westerly breeze which in exposed spots was quite strong and gusty. I’ve always found that windy weather is the worst for seeing wildlife, and today was no exception with little of any particularly note, bar the odd pleasing small flock of tits in the woods, including quite a large flock of perhaps two dozen Long tails. Near Nunburnholme village a brightly coloured Green Woodpecker was seen flying across the grounds of the former nunnery (an area where they are often seen), while overhead a Kestrel was seen hovering on the blustery breeze. Perhaps the observation of most note was fresh budburst on some of the woodland Elder, and certainly now that we are in mid-January we should see more and more spring signs begin to appear, especially if this very mild spell continues, though I think the forecast is for colder conditions to return in this coming week. The view over the Vale from the top of Nunburnholmewold was very good today, with a light haze softening the distant hills and countryside below, with Holme-on-Spalding-Moor looking particularly dramatic above the flat, fertile fields of the Derwent valley.

17th (Mon) 4.0 C to 7.4 C / nil / 1.5 hours / W 2.0 knots
A grey and dull kind of morning, with everything very damp after yesterday afternoon’s rainfall. However it did brighten up by the afternoon, with some weak and hazy wintry sunshine at times. Variable amounts of mid and high level clouds in the evening and overnight, though towards the end of the night the cloud would clear away, this allowing temperatures to fall close to freezing, with a hoar frost by dawn.

In the spring bed in the garden the bright yellow flowers of the winter Aconite’s are now just starting to bloom, and though other early spring flowers are starting to appear they are far from flowering and it would seem the Aconite’s are well ahead of the others this year. This is in contrast to last year when the Snowdrops were the early starters and the Aconite’s didn’t appear until February.

18th (Tue) 0.4 C to 5.7 C / nil / 7.0 hours / NW 5.9 knots
A clear and sunny morning, with the ground white with hoar frost at first. Remaining clear and sunny into the afternoon, and all in all it was a pleasant January day with temperatures reaching a high of nearly 6 C. Clear skies in the evening and for most of the night, though towards dawn some areas of altocumulus would drift down from the north west. There was also a moderate breeze, and this prevented temperatures falling below freezing, though there was a ground frost.

Finally got to see Saturn through my 10 inch scope this morning and the view didn’t disappoint despite poor atmospheric stability (again !). Using magnifications of 133x and 160x (and for very brief periods 200x) the planet was a lovely yellow disk, with just a hint of greyish banding in the northern hemisphere, while the rings themselves were sharp and bright, with clear space visible between the planet and the rings. The Cassini division wasn’t visible though, and only one moon could be seen, this being Titan, though this observation alone was very exciting for me as it is the first time I’ve seen what is perhaps one of the most fascinating bodies in our entire solar system. Over the coming months the view of the ringed planet should become even better, culminating in early April when it reaches opposition at a magnitude of +0.35 (currently it is +0.75).

In the evening with skies still clear I again enjoyed looking at the heavens, taking in all the familiar objects of the evening sky at the moment, ie. Jupiter, its moons, our own moon, and the wonderful evening constellations of Orion, Taurus, & Gemini. The nearly full moon tonight was right between the twins of Gemini, and it filled the sky with light being as it was so high. This of course made it very poor conditions for looking at DSO’s, but nevertheless M31 and M32 were both stunning sights. Tonight at powers in excess of 200x I was also able to resolve some double stars which I couldn’t the other night, including Castor, Alnitak, & Meissa, and I was also able to split Mizar relatively easily again. Hopefully once I’ve learned to collimate the scope more accurately I will be able to enjoy splitting more difficult double stars in the future. I also had another go at finding stars E & F in the Trapezium of M42 but again even at powers of 266x they proved elusive. The other highlight tonight was seeing the little pale blue disk of Uranus, not for the beauty of the sight but for the fact that in just one day I had managed to see four planets, something I find wonderful, and hopefully in time I will add Mercury, Mars, & Neptune to the list, though for the time being they remain poorly placed for observation.

19th (Wed) 1.5 C to 7.0 C / nil / 3.3 hours / NW 3.3 knots
A bright morning with variable amounts of altocumulus coming and going, with decent sunny spells in the clearer periods. Somewhat more cloud in the afternoon, but nevertheless still fairly bright and less breezy than yesterday with a daytime high of 7 C, about average for the time of year. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, though some longer clear spells did allow temperatures to fall to exactly freezing with a hoar frost by dawn.

A flock of at least thirty Goldfinches were seen flying around the area this afternoon, occasionally settling atop the large Sycamores and chattering away as they do.

20th (Thu) 0.0 C to 5.7 C / nil / 4.4 hours / NW 1.5 knots
A chilly start with variable amounts of cloud and a hoar frost on the grass and untreated roads. However by mid morning more general cloud had moved in from the north west and it would remain cloudy till around midday. However in the afternoon the cloud would clear and it would become largely clear, with some lovely winter sunshine to end the day, and it would remain mostly clear through the evening and night. This allowed temperatures to fall lower than they have recently (-3.5 C), with quite a heavy air frost by the end of the night.

Seeing conditions were quite good tonight, what with the stable cold air and high pressure at the moment (above 1035 mbar), and I was able to watch Europa’s small disk of light disappear into the bright glare of Jupiter as the small icy moon passed in front of the vast gas giant. This occurred around 7.50 pm, and just before the planet disappeared below the height of the house, as Jupiter now sets ever earlier in the evening sky.

21st (Fri) -3.5 C to 5.2 C / trace / 3.4 hours / NW 3.0 knots
A largely clear morning, with just some patches of broken altocumulus drifting down from the north west. A heavy hoar frost at first as well. Cloud increasing around midday however, and the rest of the afternoon would see largely cloudy skies, though there was the odd break from time to time, especially towards dusk. Variable amounts of cloud for a time in the evening, with some decent clear spells allowing a touch of ground frost, but cloud would increase again later during the night, this thick enough to even produce some bits and pieces of rain. Also becoming milder overnight.

Saturn was very good this morning and looked superb at magnifications in excess of 100x. Even at 200x the atmosphere was stable enough for viewing, and hints of the Cassini division were just on the edge of being resolved. Bands on the planet itself were clearly seen, and considering that these observations were made at 7.30 am with a rapidly lightening sky made the quality of the sight all the more impressive. However these bright skies meant that seeing any other of Saturn’s moons other than Titan was very hard indeed, and so it proved with none other than the aforementioned satellite being observed.

22nd (Sat) 1.0 C to 7.8 C / nil / 0.1 hours / N 5.5 knots
A cloudy and grey day on the whole, though it was somewhat brighter for a time around the middle of the day. Quite mild too (7.8 C), surprisingly so considering there was a moderate northerly breeze in the afternoon. Remaining cloudy throughout the night and quite mild as a result.

Heard a Mistle Thrush singing in the area during the afternoon, the first I’ve knowingly heard this year.

23rd (Sun) 3.5 C to 8.0 C / nil / nil / N 5.5 knots
A cloudy day again, with just some short brighter periods prior to midday. Quite mild though, reaching 8 C, though there was a moderate northerly breeze. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight, though there was the odd break from time to time which revealed the moons and stars.

A gentle mid-January walk in one of the most beautiful corners of the county, on what was a grey and breezy day, though despite this it was fairly mild day too. As Mum joined us today we began our walk not from Nunburnholme but from the bottom of the Cattle Hill at the top of Brattwood, this was in order to avoid the steep hill which otherwise begins the walk from the usual starting point. Countryside wise the Wolds remain pretty quiet, with little of any significant activity, though we did spot at least four Red Kite’s this morning, as well as coming across a flock of tits in Brattwood itself. I didn’t spot any Marsh Tit’s, though I strongly suspect some would have been amongst this flock as this elusive species of tit is usually found in this narrow area of woodland. The woodland floor remains by and large dormant, though amongst the leaf litter I did find the odd bulb beginning to emerge from the cold winter soil, while again, like last week, just the odd bit of leaf burst amongst the higher branches of the Elder was noted. All in all an enjoyable winter’s stroll in this peaceful corner of the county.

24th (Mon) 3.5 C to 7.5 C / 0.4 mm / 1.4 hours / NW 6.8 knots
A mostly cloudy morning, though there were some breaks from time to time allowing some brightness, especially towards noon. Indeed after midday some longer breaks began to develop, this allowing some good spells of sunshine. Variable amounts of cloud at first in the evening, but as the breeze freshened from the west more cloud would move in, this even thick enough to produce some rain during the first half of the night. Drier after midnight but it would remain largely cloudy, and as a result it was a mild night with a low of just 4.5 C.

25th (Tue) 4.5 C to 9.1 C / 0.8 mm / 1.7 hours / NW 3.7 knots
A mild but largely cloudy morning, though by midday some breaks did begin to develop allowing some decent sunny spells in the first half of the afternoon. However it would become cloudy again from 3pm and it would remain cloudy for the remainder of the evening and overnight. Indeed the cloud would thicken later in the night, with some outbreaks of rain by dawn, accompanied by a moderate to fresh northerly breeze. The temperature falling with the rain and wind.

The local bird song at dawn is now becoming increasingly notable, especially on a mild morning such as today’s, with the thrushes & Robin’s in good song this morning around the town. Even a fine singing Blackbird was heard near the Minster, and though it was not yet in full song, it was obviously warming up for the glories of the dawn chorus from March onwards.

26th (Wed) 4.5 C to 6.0 C / 0.2 mm / 0.6 hours / E 3.6 knots
A thoroughly unpleasant start to the day, with outbreaks of rain or drizzle and a raw northerly breeze. Conditions would improve by the midday however, and in the afternoon there was even a bit of sunshine from time to time. However a cool eastern breeze would set in as well, this freshening during the evening and overnight. Variable amounts of cloud at first in the evening, but thereafter the rest of the night would see largely cloudy skies with persistent stratocumulus.
A few Snowdrops have now joined the Aconite’s in flower. Cut back the southern-most Yew in the garden this morning, and this has had the effect of giving me a wonderful view of the Minster from my window, which has for the past few years been obscured by the aforementioned tree.

27th (Thu) 1.0 C to 2.7 C / nil / 2.3 hours / E 1.5 knots
A cloudy and chilly morning, with a cool gentle to moderate breeze, though by noon it had become brighter with some decent sunny spells in the afternoon, which despite the breeze and relatively low high (2.7 C) it felt very pleasant to be out in. The eastern breeze also brought quite dry air today (DP -3 C / RH 69%), and as a consequence the ground was allowed to dry up a bit today, which made a change from the persistent damp that has been the case lately. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, with some longer clear spells later, this allowing temperatures to drop below freezing.

The Tawny Owl’s are heard most nights at the moment, there loud screech’s and alike filling the otherwise peaceful cloak of night. Likewise the Grey Partridge’s have been heard in the local fields around dawn, and it would seem the cold and snowy December has done them no significant harm.

28th (Fri) -1.3 C to 3.9 C / nil / 4.4 hours / NE 1.1 knots
A bright day by and large with plenty of sunny spells, though there were some cloudier periods too as variable amounts of broken stratocumulus were brought in off a gentle north-easterly breeze. Quite cold again, with a high of just 3.9 C, and overnight, with some longer clear spells developing, the temperature would drop to -3.7 C, with a moderate hoar frost covering the ground by the end of the night.

Five Redwing’s were seen in the garden Ash trees around lunchtime. In the pleasant, golden January sunshine today the Aconite’s were glowing beautifully in the spring bed, they now being fully out, with the odd Snowdrop also now in flower amongst them.

Under largely clear skies this evening I was able to get the 10 inch telescope out for about an hour and half, and the atmospheric conditions were very good tonight, certainly the best since mid-December. Jupiter was unfortunately quite low in the sky already by the time I begun observing (7 pm), though the view was nevertheless superb with several belts visible, as well as contrasting hues on the disc. Three moons were seen (Ganymede was behind Jupiter at the time), with Io, Europa, & Callisto all fairly much evenly spread to the west of the planet. After finishing here I looked at a few double stars, mainly to check the telescopes collimation and the atmospheric conditions, and I easily split Castor with clear dark space between them, as well as Mizar. After looking again fruitlessly for M101 (it seemingly lost in the light pollution from town), I had a look in the constellation of Auriga, as I knew there were some good objects to be found within this area. Indeed I quickly found M36, which even through the finder scope was obviously a little fuzzy patch amongst a sea of stars. However through the scope itself it was revealed to be full of stars, with the view through my 9mm eyepiece absolutely full of delicate points of light. I can now see why ‘globular clusters’ are so popular. A fine evenings observing on a cold and frosty night.

29th (Sat) -3.7 C to 4.0 C / trace / 3.8 hours / NW 1.6 knots
A frosty and bright start to the day, with the ground covered in a moderate hoar frost. Remaining bright throughout the morning, with some sunny spells, and indeed by midday it had  become largely clear with lovely winter sunshine bathing the borough, though nevertheless it was quite cool again with a high of just 4.0 C. Cloud increasing again in the afternoon however, and by 2 pm it had become overcast and would remain so for the remainder of the day, and indeed evening and night. The cloud would even be thick enough for some spots of rain during the night, though with the cloud it was a milder night with a low above freezing.

30th (Sun) 1.0 C to 4.3 C / nil / nil / W 0.9 knots
A grey and damp morning, with some outbreaks of light rain at first. Remaining dull and grey into the afternoon, and all in all it was a rather disappointing day with temperatures struggling to barely more than 4 C. The cloud would persist for much of the evening, though after 9 pm it began to break and clear, and by midnight it had become clear and would remain so for the rest of the night. This allowed temperatures to fall quite quickly, with a low of -3.4 C and a decent hoar frost by dawn.

Great Dugdale (Warter)
A winter’s walk in the heart of the central Wolds, on what was a grey and raw day, with even a bit of rain from time to time. At the top of the dale there was actually a dusting of snow, which may have fallen either last night or perhaps a few days ago, and the ground was actually quite hard underfoot throughout the walk with just the very top of the soil being thawed out. However by the end of the walk most of the light dusting of snow had thawed, and it was also becoming quite muddy, especially where the gamekeepers have been driving along in there little buggies. Countryside-wise the area remains firmly in the grip of winter, with little or no signs of spring up here, though there was some interest provided by the birds today with some large flocks of finches, sparrows, & Yellowhammer’s amongst and nearby the covert crops at the top of dale. Particularly good numbers of Chaffinches, Tree Sparrows, & Linnets were observed, with a very decent number of Yellowhammer’s also seen, as well as the odd Goldfinch, and a few tits.

A couple of Red Kite’s were seen well (they are usually very reliable in this area), while throughout the area there was a great number of Pheasant’s & Red legged Partridge’s, whom have thus far survived both gun & winter. Of further interest this morning was the glacially deposited stone which in near the top of the valley, with Dad and I taking a closer look at it this alien stone which is very different from the native rock of the region. There are only a few examples of such stones in the Wolds, with another notable one being found above Drewton near North Cave, and it is a fine example of just how different this land once was during the last ice age. Unfortunately I am not much of a geologist and I’m not sure what type of stone it is, though Dad thought is was granite, and this does seem likely as this hard and durable rock is found relatively nearby in higher regions of Yorkshire.

31st (Mon) -3.4 C to 3.9 C / 1.5 mm / 5.9 hours / SW 2.5 knots
A largely clear and sunny morning, with a decent frost to start the day making the ground nice and firm underfoot. Cloud increasing for a time after midday, with altostratus spreading in from the west, but this came to nothing and by 2 pm it had become largely clear and sunny again, bar some high Cirrus making the cool winter sunshine somewhat hazy. Remaining mostly clear, baring the thin veil of high cloud in the evening, this allowing temperatures to fall below freezing again, but as the evening wore on the veil of cloud would grow steadily thicker with the stars becoming obscured by midnight. The cloud continuing to thicken through the night, with outbreaks of sleet, and even some wet snow at first, but by dawn the temperature had risen somewhat turning the wintry precipitation into rain.

Had a look at Saturn just before dawn today, and under darker skies than I have viewed it previously (and at higher altitude) the view was certainly the best yet I have enjoyed, with a clear greyish coloured band on the disc, and the rings clear and sharp. Indeed during brief stable periods the Cassini division in the rings was just visible, while four of the five major moons were observed. Titan, as ever, was the most prominent, being somewhat distant to the west of the planet, while Rhea was much closer to the west. Enceladus was just to the east of the planet, while Dione was much further to the east (though not as far away as Titan to the west).

A flock of nine Greylag Geese passed over the garden at 7.30 am, heading south-westwards.