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February 2011

1st (Tue) -1.0 C to 9.0 C / nil / 4.2 hours / SW 2.9 knots
A wet start with outbreaks of rain, which was quite heavy at times peaking at 5.2 mm/h. However by mid morning it had become drier, and by noon the cloud would begin to clear away, with a sharp end to the frontal system. The rest of the afternoon would see clear skies, and after the rain and cloud cleared the temperature would rise quite sharply, reaching a high of over 8 C around 2 pm. Remaining clear at first in the evening, but after 6 pm cloud would increase again (just in time to ruin my astronomical observing), and it would remain cloudy for much of the night, though there were some short clearer periods too from time to time. A milder night as a result of the cloud.

A skein of about 12 to 15 Greylag Geese passed overhead around 9.30 am, heading eastwards. In the afternoon I heard the first drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker of the year, a most welcome and pleasing sound.

2nd (Wed) 3.0 C to 10.3 C / 0.3 mm / nil / SW 7.0 knots
A cloudy morning, with a sheet of grey altostratus covering the district, and it would remain grey throughout the day, though despite the cloud it was a mild winter’s day with a high in excess of fifty degrees. However a freshening south-westerly breeze made it feel somewhat cooler than it was, and this breeze would become quite gusty by mid-evening, with gusts in excess of thirty knots. There was also a short spell of heavy rain & ice pellets around 8pm, but this soon cleared, and the rest of the night would see variable amounts of cloud. It would also remain breezy for much of the night, though after midnight the WSW breeze would begin to ease somewhat.

3rd (Thu) 2.6 C to 11.7 C / 3.0 mm / 3.0 hours / SW 7.8 knots
A cloudy and breezy morning, though as the morning progressed it did become steadily brighter. Indeed by midday most of the cloud cleared away to the north east, with plenty of sunshine for most of the afternoon, though after 3 pm the sunshine became increasingly hazy as cirrus invaded from the west, with altostratus following on a couple of hours later. The cloud would continue to thicken through the evening with outbreaks of rain by 9pm, and these would continue on and off through the night, though by dawn it had been replaced by lighter, blustery showers. The wind would also freshen overnight from the south-west, with gusts in excess of 30 knots (peaking at 33 knots), and additionally it became steadily milder as the night progressed, with the temperature climbing towards 50 degrees by dawn.

4th (Fri) 3.6 C to 13.9 C / 1.2 mm / 1.6 hours / SW 10.0 knots
A blustery morning with occasional light showers and sunny spells in between. Very mild as well, with the temperature already in excess of 11 C (52 F) by 9am, and eventually it would reach a high of 13.9 C, making this the warmest February did since 2008. Cloud increasing in the afternoon, with the wind becoming stronger with it, and in the first half of the afternoon there were some very strong gusts, peaking at 46 knots. Remaining cloudy and windy going into the evening, though after 9 pm the cloud would begin to break and clear, and after midnight the wind would also begin to ease. However cloud would again increase later, with some rain after 3 am, though for the most part this was largely light. A very mild night for the time of year with a low of just 9.2 C.

During the sunny spells between this mornings blustery showers, the Aconite’s looked beautiful and bright, the very mild conditions this morning encouraging them to open there flowers to their fullest extent. The Snowdrops are also about 50% out now, with some clumps in almost full flower, while others are still just sending up there flowering spikes. I also noticed this morning that the first of the early Crocus’ are just beginning to appear, and if it remains as mild as it is today I think they’ll be in flower within the week.


5th (Sat) 9.2 C to 10.3 C / 20.3 mm / nil / SW 1.8 knots
A grey morning, with occasional outbreaks of light rain at first, but after 10 am it became drier and somewhat brighter, though the sky would remain cloudy. Very mild again, especially so as the winds were much lighter today, with a high in excess of fifty degrees again. Cloud thickening in the second half of the afternoon with outbreaks of rain moving in around 4pm, which by evening would become persistent and quite heavy at times (peaking at 3.6 mm/h). The rain would continue throughout the night, and though rarely falling at more than 2 mm/h it was nevertheless persistent, so that by the end of the night over 20 mm’s of rain had been recorded, making this the wettest day for over four months. It was also another very mild night, with a low of just 7.5 C.

The recent mild conditions, as well as a good amount of rain, has encouraged the lawn to grow a little bit in the last week, especially in the north east corner of the lawn where the grass is now obviously a darker shade of green.

6th (Sun) 7.5 C to 12.8 C / 0.4 mm / 0.1 hours / SW 7.3 knots
A wet start with outbreaks of rain, but by mid morning it had become drier, though it would remain generally cloudy for the rest of the morning with thick stratocumulus covering the sky. The breeze would also freshen after the rain cleared, with gusts up to 30 knots by midday. After some brief brighter periods around noon, including some very brief sunny spells, the cloud would soon thicken again, with the afternoon concluding on a grey and overcast note. It was very mild today though, despite the cloud and wind, with a high of 12.8 C. Remaining overcast, breezy, and mild throughout the evening and night, with the cloud thick enough for some light, blustery rain at times.

Wheldrake Ings
Paid a visit to this wonderfully peaceful and under-visited reserve in the far-west of the East Riding, and unlike our last visit back in January 2010 we were actually able to get out on to the reserve, this despite the persistent rain last night. Indeed even the car park was accessible, while the river Derwent itself was comfortably a few feet below the river bank. Water levels on the reserve were about perfect I would say, with all the paths above the water level, while the water wasn’t too distant from the hides, which in dry years can be a problem, especially in the case of the first hide on the reserve (the so called ‘tower hide’). Looking at the grass, and the state of the paths, it looks like water levels have been much higher at some point this winter, probably in early January after the December snow’s melted. Meanwhile the weather this morning was far from wintry, and indeed was positively warm with the temperature around 12 C. Even the freshening south-westerly wind felt warm, and if it wasn’t for the largely grey skies and the still largely dormant countryside one could easily imagine it to be April rather than early-February. The recent mild weather has encouraged some of the pussy willows to start flowering though, with just a few flowers seen here and there, while in the gardens and churchyards of the area Snowdrops & Aconite’s are now widely seen.


However of course the main reason for visiting Wheldrake is for the birds, particularly the winter wildfowl which gather in their thousands upon the winter floods. Wigeon were undoubtedly the most numerous species seen today, with Teal a close second, while there combined calls filled the area with an evocative and pleasing sound typical of such places in winter. Other ducks seen included about 50 Pintail’s, a handsome species which is often seen well here, many Mallards, Gadwall, Tufted ducks, 20-30 Pochard‘s, a dozen or so Shoveler’s, 8-10 Shelduck’s, and one lone female (or juvenile) Goldeneye. Just two species of geese were represented with many Greylag’s, and an abundance of Canada Geese, especially in southern parts of the reserve. Other waterfowl seen this morning included a dozen Mute Swan’s (with one pair seen courting), a few Moorhen’s, many Coot’s, 20 or so Cormorant’s (with signs of nest building observed), and both Black Headed & Common Gulls.


Along the waters edge some waders were seen, especially Lapwings which must have been a few hundred strong, while amongst them the odd Golden Plover was picked out, and perhaps most noticeably a single Ruff. A Curlew was also heard briefly. In the shrubs and trees surrounding the reserve a flock of Redwing’s was seen feeding with the native Blackbird’s, while tits were heard singing, no doubt encouraged by the unseasonable warmth today. All in all a very enjoyable morning, as for the first time since March 2007 we were actually able to visit all the hides on the reserve. It’s a shame this location is so distant from home for it is truly one of my favourite nature reserves, as unlike so many such places it hasn’t yet been ruined by the construction of a visitor centre which have blighted so many sites in recent years.


7th (Mon) 8.6 C to 13.2 C / nil / 1.7 hours / W 6.8 knots
A cloudy and blustery morning, though by midday the cloud did begin to break, allowing some pleasant sunshine. However with the sunnier conditions the wind would also strengthen, and by mid afternoon was very gusty with frequent gusts of up to and over 40 knots (max. 44 knots). The breeze would begin to ease in the evening however, and as the skies became clear the temperature would likewise fall, allowing a frost by the end of the night.

Skylarks were heard in good song this morning in the high Park fields, seemingly enjoying the mild but windy conditions. They had begun singing again a few weeks ago, but there was an undoubted greater enthusiasm in there joyous song this morning.

8th (Tue) -0.5 C to 7.4 C / 0.7 mm / 8.0 hours / SW 1.6 knots
A clear start with a hoar frost on most surfaces to start the day, but as the sun rose in the sky the temperature would soon climb, and indeed there is starting to be a noticeable strengthening of the sun’s power as we move towards spring. The clear skies would persist for the remainder of the morning and the afternoon, with plenty of late winter sunshine to gladden the heart, though by the end of the afternoon some high cirrus and cirrostratus began to invade. This veil of high cloud would persist through the evening, and would thicken overnight, with some outbreaks of rain moving in from the south by dawn.

The warm sunshine today encouraged a few insects to take to the wing, including the first Honey Bee that I’ve seen in the garden this year. There are plenty of flowers now for them, and the bee I saw was enjoying the Aconite’s, Crocus’, and Snowdrops in the spring bed. The Winter Jasmine by the north wall is also well in flower now, and when the sun is strong like today it gives off a pleasing perfume. In the afternoon the birds were singing well, the area filled with the trills and songs of Goldfinches, Starling’s, Sparrow’s, Blackbird’s, Robin’s, & Song Thrushes. One particular Song Thrush sang its varied and joyous song for much of the day, and it was a delight to be out and about on such a wonderful, and dare I say, spring like day. The day would conclude on a beautiful note too, as invading cirro-form cloud was illuminated by the setting sun in the west (see picture).


9th (Wed) 1.0 C to 10.4 C / 2.0 mm / 1.0 hours / SW 4.0 knots
A wet start with outbreaks of rain, but by mid morning it had become drier, though it would remain overcast for the remainder of the morning. It also became quite murky around 9am, with visibility reduced to under 7 km for a short time. However by midday it did begin to brighten up, and in the afternoon some hazy, sunny spells managed to develop. Mild again, with a high above 50 degrees. Cloud increasing again in the evening, and as the night progressed it would become thick enough to produce some outbreaks of rain later.

A Chaffinch was heard warming up for the spring ahead this morning, singing the characteristic song at a sort of half speed, and lacking the usual enthusiastic flourish. Another spring sign seen this morning was the observation of the Magpie’s deconstructing there old nest so they can begin work on this years.

Meanwhile the buds on many shrubs and small tree’s have begun to respond to the lengthening days and milder weather, and indeed on some the leaves are already beginning to slowly unfurl (Elder, Forsythia, & Clematis).


10th (Thu) 6.1 C to 9.3 C / 0.8 mm / 0.9 hours / E 2.0 knots
A mild and wet start with outbreaks of rain, but by 8 am this had cleared away to the east, and as the morning progressed it would become steadily brighter. Indeed by the afternoon some sunny spells managed to break through, and for a time it actually became clear. However this wouldn’t last long, and as the breeze moved into the east cloud was brought back in off the sea with overcast skies throughout the evening, and indeed overnight. This cloud would thicken and lower as the night went on, and by dawn it had become quite murky with outbreaks of drizzle.

Some Golden Plovers were heard in the Parkland fields this morning.

11th (Fri) 4.7 C to 7.7 C / 9.8 mm / nil / SE 3.5 knots
A thoroughly grey, murky, and damp day, with outbreaks of drizzle coming in off the North Sea, especially in the morning. However it did become drier and indeed somewhat brighter for a time in the afternoon, but by evening the cloud base would again lower, with visibility actually falling below a kilometre for a time. However after midnight the wind would freshen from the SSE and persistent rain would follow shortly, this quite heavy at times (peaking at 3.8 mm/h). The rain would continue for the rest of the night, with the whole district very wet by dawn.

A flock (or charm) of over two dozen Goldfinches was feeding in the Birches & Ashes this afternoon.

12th (Sat) 4.7 C to 9.5 C / 0.3 mm / 2.7 hours / S 1.5 knots
A very wet morning with persistent moderate rain, and quite murky too with visibility generally poor, especially early on. The day would improve rapidly however after midday, with the cloud quickly breaking up and clearing, so that by 2 pm it had turned into a lovely spring like day, with even a bit of convection in evidence as some decent cumulus bubbled up for a short time. Any remaining cloud clearing by dusk, and under clear skies the temperature would fall quickly away during the evening, eventually reaching a low of 0.4 C with a grass frost forming. However cloud would again increase as the night wore on, with cirrostratus invading from 9 pm onwards, and this would thicken into altostratus after midnight. The breeze would also begin to freshen from the south later in the night, this raising temperatures with it.

The clear skies this evening gave me the opportunity for a bit of star-gazing for the first time this month. However the dampness from the morning rain, and the rapidly falling temperatures meant that moisture was a real problem, and I was only able to enjoy about an hours worth of observing before the secondary mirror misted up. However before this happened I was able to photograph the 55% to 60 % waxing gibbous moon (see pictures), and I also enjoyed looking at the Orion Nebulae. Again I couldn’t find stars E & F in the Trapezium, though the A to D stars were nice and sharp tonight. After checking my collimation on Castor, I took a quick look around Cassiopeia, which is now high in the NW sky during the middle of the evening. Moving on from there I came across the ‘Double Cluster’ of NGC 884 & NGC 869, and through my wide field eyepiece it was a joy to behold with the view filled with tiny stars.


13th (Sun) 0.4 C to 8.6 C / 2.2 mm / nil / S 4.1 knots
A cloudy start to the day, with a freshening southerly breeze. Outbreaks of largely light rain moving in after 10 am, but this would largely die out after 1 pm, and the rest of the afternoon would see cloudy and breezy conditions. Feeling colder than recently in the raw wind. Remaining cloudy overnight, with outbreaks of rain returning for a time, but this would clear by the end of the night with clear skies by dawn.

North Cave Wetlands
On what was a grey and blustery morning, with occasional outbreaks of light rain, we paid our first visit to this compact wetland reserve for the first time since the beginning of September. The reserve was relatively quiet, both bird wise and visitor wise, though a good variety of species were seen, with a particularly good number of wildfowl and waders, including numerous Teal, about a dozen Shelduck, & Gadwall, 30 or so Tufted duck, approximately 20 to 30 Pochard, three Shoveler, 20 Oystercatcher’s, and around 20 to 25 Redshank. A flock of around 50 Greylag Geese was also seen, with about 5 Mute Swan’s seen around the reserve. Towards the NW of the reserve a couple of Curlew’s were seen and heard passing over, while the alders along the water’s edge on the west of the reserve were home to around 30 chattering and busy Siskin’s, there characteristic calls attracting me to there presence in the tree tops. Other highlights this morning included a Green Woodpecker along the roadside path, a decent flock of Tree Sparrow’s, and some winter plumaged Reed Bunting’s, a species of bird which amazingly I haven’t actually recorded since September. Hopefully I’ll be able to bird-watch a bit more this coming spring.


14th (Mon) 3.3 C to 8.0 C / trace / 4.9 hours / SW 2.3 knots
A bright morning with plenty of sunny spells, though for a time in mid morning broken areas of stratus began to drift up from the south, probably dissipating fog from the Humber valley. Sunny spells continuing throughout the day, though like the other day some decent cumulus would bubble up in the afternoon as the ever strengthening sun encouraged some spring like convection. Clear spells in the evening and during the first half of the night, this allowing temperatures to fall below freezing for the first time in a week, though cloud would increase later with overcast skies and outbreaks of light rain moving in from the SE by dawn.

15th (Tue) -1.5 C to 7.0 C / 1.3 mm / nil / SE 4.5 knots
A grey and cloudy day by and large, though during the second half of the morning it did try and brighten up with some very brief and weak sunshine breaking through. However the cloud would thicken again in the afternoon, and as the breeze freshened from the SE some light outbreaks of rain would arrive shortly before dusk. These would continue in the evening, and would become somewhat heavier towards midnight, but as the night wore on it would eventually clear to the north east with clearer skies moving in by dawn.

Givendale
This morning Dad, Jenny, Michael, and I went up to Givendale to see the wonderful annual early spring spectacle of winter aconite’s and Snowdrop’s which surround the delightful little church of St. Ethelburga’s. Though the weather was grey and dull today, the display of golden and white flowers was nevertheless a fantastic sight, with both aconites and snowdrops now at there best, though undoubtedly a bit of sun would have improved the scene and encouraged the flowers to open up more.


Spring signs are now everywhere in the countryside, as on the journey to Givendale across the Wolds we saw not only the first ‘boxing’ hares of the year, but also the first displaying Lapwing. Many birds are now well in song too, with a particularly fine Chaffinch singing in the churchyard this morning. After enjoying the blooms at Givendale we made our way up to Thixendale, stopping of at the studio of Robert Fuller, the renowned wildlife artist. It was the first time we have visited this lovely little gallery of the artists work, and he himself was there. His house is in a wonderful spot looking over Thixendale, and I have to say I am a little envious of both his home and talent. After visiting here we set off for home, ending an enjoyable morning’s out on a grey mid-February day.


16th (Wed) 1.9 C to 9.4 C / nil / 7.3 hours / SE 1.4 knots
A clear and sunny day for the most part, and feeling warm in any sun traps. However cloud would increase later in the afternoon, and by the evening it had become largely cloudy, though there were still some clearer spells from time to time, this allowing a touch of grass frost. Becoming overcast after midnight, and remaining so for the rest of the night.

The birds continue to be stirred by the ever lightening mornings, with Yellowhammer’s being heard singing today for the first time this year. A ‘tswee-ing’ Greenfinch was also heard for the first time in 2011. Other bird song heard today included the thrushes, robin’s, tits, dunnock’s, Chaffinches, & Skylark’s. In the parks some Grey Partridge’s were heard calling, and in the dim early spring light I also spotted a fox and a couple of Roe deer. Back at home I noticed a bit of territorial behaviour amongst the Blackbird’s & Dunnock’s of the garden, with one particularly violent scrap between two male Blackbird’s.

However the big highlight of the day was the spotting of a single REDPOLL in the garden Silver Birch, a new species for my garden list, and the first time I’ve actually seen one of these handsome little finches for a few years. It stayed for about quarter of an hour, allowing me to get some pictures, though unfortunately with the light being behind the bird it was hard to photograph detail and colour.


17th (Thu) 1.7 C to 6.3 C / nil / nil / SE 1.7 knots
An overcast and somewhat misty day throughout, as light south easterly winds brought in stratus off the cold North Sea, with little change overnight.

Five Roe deer were seen feeding out in the far southern field this morning near the railway line, and they seemed unaware of my presence for quite some time, and allowed relatively close approach. Back home in the garden I noticed that the Yew trees are now just starting to flower, with ‘smoke’ being released when the flowers are tapped, while the buds on the Crab Apple outside the house have noticeably swelled in the last week. In the spring bed the aconite’s have almost finished flowering already, though the Snowdrops are still going strong, and so far the squirrels haven’t ruined the display of Crocus’, which are now widely out on the sunnier days. Meanwhile at lunch time, after I had been out maintaining the telescope, three Siskin’s were seen in the garden Silver Birch, this following on from the Redpoll seen yesterday in the very same tree. Two of the Siskin’s were male, and they allowed me to observe from nearby, this revealing there yellow and black plumage.

18th (Fri) 3.3 C to 4.8 C / 3.6 mm / nil / SE 5.4 knots
Another grey and overcast day with little else of note. Colder than recently with a high of just 4.8 C. The breeze freshening in the evening, and becoming quite gusty for a time (up to 25 knots), and by the end of the night persistent moderate rain began to move in from the SE.

19th (Sat) 2.4 C to 4.4 C / 6.6 mm / nil / SE 3.5 knots
A wet day with persistent moderate rain, especially in the morning when there were some quite heavy periods (2.6 mm/h). Beginning to die out after 2 pm, but it remain overcast and damp for the duration of the afternoon. Colder than recently, with a high of just 4.4 C, and with overcast skies it was third successive sunless day. Remaining overcast in the evening and overnight, with some mist in the first half of the night.

A female Siskin was seen in the garden this morning.

20th (Sun) 2.4 C to 4.0 C / nil / nil / SE 3.1 knots
Another grey, overcast, and cold day, with a raw south-east breeze. Little change overnight.

Wharram Percy
Travelled up to the far north-west of the Wolds region this morning, visiting the historic area around the abandoned village of Wharram Percy. The weather was grey, drizzly, and cold, made to feel all the more raw up on the Wold tops by a thin south east breeze. However in the sheltered dales it wasn’t too bad, though recent rains have made it very muddy in places, especially around the pond at Wharram Percy itself. Despite the wintry weather spring signs are nevertheless to be seen up here, with the catkins on the Pussy Willows coming out around the pond, and on sunny banks towards the bottom of the dale lords & ladies are now coming up. Above us a couple of Buzzard’s were seen a few times during the walk, out in the fields were Fieldfares, while in the hedgerows small flocks of tits, finches & sparrows were spotted. Near the village a couple of large Roe deer were flushed out of some hedgerow scrub by some clueless walkers, and in the fields the odd hare was spotted, though they were only seen singularly and no ‘boxing’ was noted (see 15th).


After finishing our walk we had a short drive out towards Howsham, passing through the large Birdsall estate with its pleasant grounds and impressive hall. Our reason for visiting Howsham was to see a property on the market, and though the house was very nice I am not actually that keen on the area. For sure the countryside is lovely around here, but for me at least it is to close to York and a bit ‘home counties’. Howsham itself is home to a very impressive Elizabethan hall, which for such a large building is impressively hidden in the local countryside and was completely unknown to me until today. From here we made our way home, passing through Stamford Bridge & Pocklington.


21st (Mon) 1.7 C to 4.0 C / 1.4 mm / nil / SE 1.5 knots
Another grey day with overcast skies, the sixth sunless day in the last week. The cloud becoming thicker and lower in the evening, with some outbreaks of rain & drizzle overnight, and becoming very murky by the end of the night with visibility below a kilometre for a time.
22nd (Tue) 2.5 C to 6.4 C / 1.2 mm / nil / SW 1.8 knots
A grey and murky day again, with visibility even falling below a kilometre for a time in the morning. The cloud also thick enough to produce some drizzle, though with south-westerly winds it was somewhat milder today with a high of 6.4 C. No change overnight, though towards the end of the night the outbreaks of rain and drizzle would become somewhat heavier. Sixth sunless day in a row.

23rd (Wed) 3.5 C to 10.0 C / 2.4 mm / nil / SW 2.6 knots
Yet another dull, grey and murky day, with some outbreaks of rain & drizzle at times, particularly in the morning. Becoming milder as the day wore on, reaching a high in mid evening of 10 C. Remaining very mild, overcast and damp overnight, with light outbreaks of rain.

24th (Thu) 6.0 C to 13.2 C / trace / 5.1 hours / SW 2.7 knots
A grey and wet start with intermittent light rain, but as the morning progressed it would become drier and brighter, and after 11 am sunny spells would develop. The rest of the afternoon would see plenty of sunshine, with mostly clear skies (apart from quite extensive cirrus) and combined with very mild temperatures (high of 13.2 C) it felt very pleasant indeed after so many grey, non-descript sort of days. Mostly clear in the evening, though overnight the mid and high level cloud would become more extensive and thicker, veiling the stars.

A few Siskin’s were seen in the garden today, including a brightly coloured male, while in the evening a Redshank was heard passing over while I was looking for ‘faint fuzzies’ with the telescope. Another observation in the evening were two hunting bats, a testament to the mildness of the weather today.

Spent an evening out with the telescope today on what was a very mild evening. Atmospheric stability seemed good when I star tested the collimation (Castor was a clear double even at low powers), though conditions weren’t ideal thanks to a thin layer of cirrus which ever so slightly veiled the stars and also reflected a lot of light pollution in the south-eastern & eastern sky. Still after so much overcast and damp weather I was just happy to be out, and with the mild and constant temperature, condensation on the secondary mirror wasn’t a problem (see 12th). I started the evening around 6 pm, looking at Jupiter for about 15 minutes before it set below the height of the house. In the short time I had to observe this giant of a planet the coloured belts were clearly obvious (despite heat shimmer from the house roof), while the Galilean moons were arranged evenly either side of the disc (Callisto & Europa to the east / Io & Ganymede to the west). After Jupiter I moved the telescope to the other side of the garden, setting up in the hope of studying the constellations of Cancer and Leo, though finding light pollution a problem in the eastern sky, I decided instead to chase targets in the southern sky, looking at the now familiar constellations of Orion, Gemini, Taurus, & Auriga. My first target was the Cone Nebulae (NGC 2264), and I was pleased to be able to locate it quite quickly, using xi Gemini & epsilon Monoceros as a guide. The cluster obviously showed no nebulosity when viewed with the naked eye, though nevertheless it was an attractive cluster of stars. A little further south I cam upon NGC 2244, another small cluster. After enjoying the view here I chased down a few Messier objects, turning firstly to Auriga and viewing two star clusters, M37 (NGC 2099), and M36 (NGC 1960). Both were stunning through my lower powered eyepieces, with the view filled with a mass of tiny white stars. While here I also looked for the fainter M38, but this remained elusive lost in the veil of cloud covering the sky. My next target was M1, the Crab Nebulae, and thanks to its position just above zeta Taurus it was easy to find. The nebulae itself is very small, appearing as just a greyish rugby ball shaped fuzzy in the darkness of space, but nevertheless I was delighted to see it, as after all this is one of the most historically significant objects in the night sky. My next target was M35, located near Propus at the foot of the Castor twin of Gemini. This was another attractive open cluster like M37 & M36, and I have to say that these clusters are wonderful objects to look at through my 10 inch telescope, especially at low powers of below 60x. By this point of the evening the veil of cirrus was becoming somewhat thicker, but I nevertheless enjoyed another half hour of observing as I turned the scope up to Cassiopeia & Perseus high in the sky above. Here I observed the always stunning Double Cluster of NGC’s 884 & 869, which fills the 35 mm eyepiece with hundreds of delicate white stars, and I also observed quite a number of other NGC’s in this rich corner of the night sky, including NGC’s 663, 957, and probably 659 & 654. However my target in this area was infact M103 (NGC 581) and again it was found relatively easily thanks to its close proximity to Ruchbah (delta Cassiopeia). This was a much tighter open cluster than the others that I had viewed this evening, requiring a somewhat higher power of 60x, and it was a fine way to end an enjoyable and productive evening of star-gazing.

25th (Fri) 5.9 C to 13.5 C / 17.0 mm / 0.7 hours / SW 3.5 knots
A bright start to the morning, with hazy sunshine coming through extensive mid and high level clouds, though after 10 am this cloud would quickly thicken with the rest of the day becoming generally cloudy. Very mild again though, the temperature rising to 13.5 C. Overnight the cloud would thicken with persistent rain moving in after midnight, which at times would be quite heavy (peak rate 7.2 mm/h, with an average rate of nearly 2 mm/h). In total 17 mm’s of rain would be recorded by the end of the observing day.

Siskin’s were seen again in the garden today, mixing with the Goldfinch and Greenfinch flock as they searched for food amongst the Ash keys.

26th (Sat) 6.8 C to 9.5 C / 0.8 mm / nil / NW 6.1 knots
A wet start with moderate rain, but after 9am this cleared away, though it would remain mostly cloudy for the remainder of the day with just the odd brighter spell from time to time. In the afternoon a few moderate showers would pass over around 3 pm too, but these were largely short affairs and soon passed. In the evening the cloud would clear away, and the rest of the night would see clear skies, this allowing temperatures to fall lower than they have lately (low of 1.6 C).

Four Siskin’s were seen amongst the Goldfinch flock today, with two males and two females. In the countryside the hazel catkins are now obvious hanging from the trees, while weeping Willows are just starting to ‘green’. In the garden many buds are now obvious, including on the Crab Apple, while the Forsythia’s are not that far from flowering, and may well be out within the week. The early spring flowers still look wonderful, with the Snowdrops, Crocus’, and Cyclamen’s adding welcome colour, though the winter Aconite’s have now nearly concluded. The Crocus show is perhaps the best its ever been this year, this thanks to the fact that the squirrels haven’t chosen to destroy these delicate flowers (yet). In the warm area outside the front of the house, the Narcissus’ are now starting to flower, where there also one or two daffodils not that far from flowering either.

27th (Sun) 1.6 C to 9.4 C / trace / 4.8 hours / N 6.3 knots
A clear and sunny start to the day, and much chillier than recent mornings with a slight grass frost on the lawn. Remaining largely sunny through the morning, though cumulus would begin to bubble up from 11 am onwards, which after midday would spread out to form stratocumulus. The rest of the afternoon as a result would be mostly cloudy, and it would remain cloudy throughout the evening and overnight.

Huggatewold & dykes
A wonderful walk on what was a gorgeous early spring day with plenty of sunshine which made it feel really quite warm indeed (in the shelter of the dales at least). Despite the above average rainfall so far this month the ground is actually not that bad up here, with only some small areas of mud, and it is now very noticeable how the crops and grass are growing, with cereal crops in particular now a much darker and solid green compared to just a week or so ago. Out in the fields plenty of hares were seen, and indeed along our walk we came upon a couple of scrapes amongst the golden and dead grass of last year which covered the un-grazed dale-sides.


Above us both Buzzards & Red Kites were noted, though the undoubted most welcome sound and sight of the morning was the return of the Curlew’s with at least a couple heard up here on these high Wolds. Skylark’s too were singing well this morning, while in the woods the Robin’s, tits, chaffinches, and Bullfinches were heard. A sign of the warm spring like weather recently was also found in the wood, with a raided Pheasant egg found along the footpath. However the main reason for our visit to this wood was the annual spectacle of hundreds of flowering Snowdrops carpeting the woodlands floor, and here on this north facing hillside the blooms of these delicate white flowers were at their best. The scene was particularly attractive thanks to the morning sunshine, and it was almost a completely perfect morning today, made to feel all the more pleasant after so much grey and overcast weather this month.


On the way back home after the above described walk, we briefly stopped off at Givendale, where it was quite busy with about six other visitors, though perhaps this wasn’t a surprise considering the beauty of the spring flowers and the pleasant weather today. The Snowdrop’s are now on their way out here, though the winter aconites are perhaps at there best, the sunshine encouraging them to open their flowers to the fullest extent. Down at the ponds Greylag & Canada Geese were grazing on the grass, while in the tree tops a Chaffinch was singing beautifully. Further down the hill, between Pocklington and Millington, I also noticed the first flowering Celandines of the year. All in all a beautiful, champagne quality morning.


28th (Mon) 3.0 C to 4.6 C / 1.5 mm / nil / NE 2.2 knots
A grey and raw day with occasional outbreaks of rain, which at times were quite sleety, and were accompanied by a cold north easterly breeze. Little change overnight, though the breeze became lighter and backed to the NNW.