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April 2011

1st (Fri) 8.8 C to 17.4 C / trace / 2.9 hours / S 4.8 knots
A cloudy but very mild morning, with the cloud thick enough to produce some rain during the middle of the morning, but this came to very little and would clear after 10 am having done little more than dampen the ground. Becoming brighter going into the afternoon with some hazy spells of sunshine developing, and this helped push temperatures up towards 17 C, very pleasant indeed. Variable amounts of cloud overnight and remaining very mild, with temperatures falling no lower than 11.3 C, more like summer than mid spring.

The plant life of the borough is continuing to respond to the warm and bright weather recently, with lovely fresh green growth now quite abundant, while some of the more mature trees have also began to stir with fattening buds in evidence (Horse Chestnut is already starting to leaf widely across the district, with those on the Westwood now quite well out). Along the roadside along Long Lane the Butterbur’s are now in flower, there somewhat colourless flower spikes quite abundant in some spots, while red-dead nettle’s grow & flower widely in the verges, along with the first flowering dandelions, and the last of the Celandine’s. This a wonderful time of year.

2nd (Sat) 11.3 C to 16.9 C / trace / 4.0 hours / SW 3.1 knots
A cloudy morning which between 10 am and midday was thick enough for some outbreaks of rain. However these outbreaks of rain, which were really quite summery in nature with large drops, were very brief and never really got going, meaning that amounts were minimal (less than 0.1 mm). Becoming brighter and more settled going into the afternoon with spells of pleasant mid spring sunshine developing and temperatures reaching a very pleasant 17 C. Clear spells overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall quite low with a minimum of 3 C. This producing a heavy dew by dawn.

The Tulip’s are now coming into flower widely in the garden, with yellows and light colours predominant, though some of the reds are also now just starting to flower too. The Daffodils are still going strong, though I have noticed that in some parts of the borough some have now already begun to conclude for yet another year.

3rd (Sun) 3.0 C to 14.7 C / 0.2 mm / 4.7 hours / SW 2.3 knots
A clear and sunny start to the morning, but by 9 am variable amounts of stratocumulus would begin to move in from the south west. The rest of the morning would nevertheless remain bright with sunny spells, though it was somewhat cooler than recently. Showers developing in the afternoon, most of which seemed to just miss us here, and between the showers there were still some sunny spells. Showers dying out after dusk and becoming clear overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall close to freezing with a grass frost in any frost hollows by dawn.

A Chiffchaff was singing in the garden this morning, the first heard here at Westwood House this year (see March 28th).

North Cliffe Wood
On what was a bright Mother’s day morning, Dad, Mum, Helen, Sophie, and I headed for this lovely little woodland near Market Weighton. Spring is now really motoring along nicely, thanks to all the recent warm and sunny weather, and fresh green growth was seen around the wood, including emerging leaves on the Silver Birch, Rowan, Honeysuckle, Hazel, & Larch (the little red flowers of which are now widespread at the end of its branches). In the bogs the spikes of the Iris’ are now coming up from the black peaty water, while along the still full ditches in the heart of the wood the first Marsh Marigolds are just starting to flower.

On the woodland floor flowers are appearing in greater amounts and diversity, with blooms this morning including fairly abundant Wood Sorrel, some patches of Primroses & Wood Anemone’s, Violets, the first few delicate flowers of Stichwort, and widespread Dog’s Mercury. The leaves of the Bluebells are now carpeting large parts of the woodland too, and bring with them the promise of a wonderful spectacle ahead at the end of the month (actually one lone Bluebell was seen in flower, but this was very much an exception). On the heath some gorse was in flower, with one giving off some beautiful scent, though again like last year the larger bushes towards the south of the heath were showing little signs of flowering strongly this year.

Bird wise the morning was dominated by singing Chiffchaff’s with almost every part of the wood hosting one of these enthusiastic singers, though the undoubted highlight for me this morning was the first singing Willow warblers & Blackcaps of the spring. The recording of Willow warbler’s is some ten days earlier than last year, and is actually the earlier date that I have recorded one of these sweet singing little summer visitors since I began keeping records in 2006. Other birds of note included Green Woodpecker and a Buzzard. Insects were also busy this morning, with many bee’s about, along with some butterflies (none of which were close enough to positively identify), and I also noted my first Hoverfly of the year. Meanwhile in the local fields the farmers were busy spraying and feeding the growing crops, with the Oilseed Rape now beginning its rapid growth phase, and in one field there was even the very slightest hint of a yellow haze as the flowers begin to open. A beautiful and interesting morning, with us concluding our walk just in time before a very heavy April shower blew in from the south west. No doubt the rain will be much appreciated by the plants and crops, and may well speed things up even faster over the next week.

4th (Mon) 2.8 C to 12.7 C / 2.5 mm / 3.7 hours / SW 6.2 knots
A chilly and sunny start, with a heavy dew covering the district (with even a bit of frost in any hollows). High cloud and latterly altostratus increasing through the morning, with rain moving in after midday. This lasting for a couple of hours before clearing after 3 pm, though it would remain cloudy for the rest of the day. Overcast overnight with further outbreaks of rain later in the night, and very mild with the temperature falling no lower than 9 C.

The Blackthorn blossom is now at its best in the Parks, with some shrubs absolutely covered in white flowers, though the early flowering cherries and Copper Beech have now concluded already. In the grassy areas and pasture the first Buttercup’s are now coming into flower, adding extra splashes of yellow to the roadsides which have thus far been the preserve of Celandine’s and early Dandelions. Meanwhile the Chiffchaff’s seem to be now settled in throughout the district, with a few heard this morning, including one in the garden.

5th (Tue) 7.5 C to 17.4 C / nil / 0.5 hours / SW 4.7 knots
A mild, breezy, and cloudy morning, the ground wet after last nights rain. Remaining cloudy for much of the day, though there were some hazy spells of sunshine in the afternoon, and feeling quite warm and indeed humid with temperatures climbing to 17 C and the dew point hanging around 13 C. Mostly cloudy overnight and very mild for the time of year, the thermometer falling no lower than 12 C.

The local Chiffchaff sang throughout the day today, often within the boundaries of the garden, while a single Blackcap was also heard during the morning. In the garden the double Kerria is now in full flower, the bush being covered in yellow blooms, while the blossom of the Crab Apple continues to come out, already giving the tree a rich pink canopy of colour. In the garden beds the Grape Hyacinth’s are now at their best, while the Tulip’s continue to come out, with about a third of them now in flower. Meanwhile some Daffodils are now going over, though by and large most are still going strong, bar the smaller Narcissi which have for most part concluded for the year. Amongst the garden trees the Hawthorn & Silver Birches are now covered in small, fresh green leaves, the Swedish Whitebeam is now starting to leaf, while the buds on the Beech & Sycamore’s are now obviously swelling.

6th (Wed) 11.7 C to 21.9 C / nil / 8.9 hours / SW 4.8 knots
A cloudy and very mild start to the day (the temperature at 6 am being 12 C), though by mid morning the cloud would thin and break with spells of hazy sunshine developing. Indeed the remainder of the day would see largely sunny skies, with just some thicker cirrus veiling the sun from time to time, and the sunshine combined with the SSW breeze would see temperatures soar, reaching nearly 22 C in early afternoon, remarkably warm for the first week of April (indeed today was nationally the warmest 6th of April since records began with a high of 23.5 C being recorded in Suffolk). Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight, with temperatures remaining well above average.

Two Mallard ducks were sleeping in the school playing fields this morning when I left at 6am, though when I returned at 7 am they had gone.

During the afternoon, under what was an unseasonably warm early April day (over 70 degrees), a number of butterflies were encouraged to take flight, with species seen including a few Small Tortoiseshell’s, a number of Peacock’s, a couple of Brimstone’s, and my first Holly Blue of the year. The Holly Blue was very accommodating and posed upon some Cottoneaster for some duration, this giving me time to take some of my best pictures of this difficult to photograph species. I also spotted the first Mining Bee’s of the year, with two excavated holes found beneath the Crab Apple tree. However the major highlight of the day would come in late afternoon, with the first SWALLOW of the year being spotted hunting in the skies above the town, it no doubt enjoying the summer like weather today.

In the evening I took advantage of the fairly clear skies (though there was extensive cirrus covering the night sky), and took some photographs of the thin waxing crescent moon with my 10 inch scope. Taking images of the crescent moon is always very difficult, and indeed most of the photographs were a disappointment, but the photograph on the right I felt was alright and what I learned tonight should help me in the future. After all I am still very learning when it comes to astronomy. Of course the long evenings now are far from ideal for astronomy, and even at 9 pm it is not fully dark, but it is wonderful to see how the constellations change over the months, with Leo now high in the south during the evening, while good old Orion is getting ever lower in the west. Jupiter is now long gone, and though Saturn is now in the evening sky it is still very much low in the SE at 9 pm, and is amongst the worst of the light pollution. If we get a good clear night I may get out and do some midnight observing, looking for the many galaxies which can be found in springtime, and I am particularly keen to look for a number of objects in Leo, including M65 & M66, both part of the Leo triplet.

7th (Thu) 11.1 C to 17.4 C / nil / 7.5 hours / NW 5.4 knots
A bright and warm start with sunny spells and variable amounts of stratocumulus being brought down from the NW on a brisk breeze. This cloud would increase for a time with the second half of the morning seeing largely grey, and indeed somewhat threatening skies, but this came to nothing and it would soon break up after midday. Indeed by 2 pm it had turned into another wonderful sunny spring day, and though not as warm as yesterday it was nevertheless a very pleasant 17 degrees centigrade. Remaining largely clear in the evening and overnight, with the temperature falling to 7 C.

A Willow warbler was singing in the Parkland plantation this morning, the first I’ve heard in the Beverley area (see North Cliffe wood on the 3rd), with a couple of Chiffchaff’s also heard, along with Bullfinches, and other common woodland species. The Willows at the south end of the plantation are now well in leaf, with it already being quite dark beneath the thick canopy, while elsewhere the Hazel’s & Birch’s continue to expand there new leaves. A small but beautiful clump of Primrose’s was found at the end of the Plantation (next to the railway line), and though I had come upon this clump a couple of years ago it seems to have expanded since and the flowers are currently very much at there best. Along Long Lane the Butterbur’s are now in full flower, with one area just north of Black House Stables being particularly favoured with about two to three dozen spikes rising above the spring grass.

Back at home in the garden, butterflies were again encouraged out this afternoon by warm sunshine, with species seen including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Holly Blue, and the first Small White of the year. A Swallow was also a-spied over the skies of Beverley, while in the garden itself a wonderful serenade was provided by a Blackcap singing deep within the Hawthorn and Yews.

8th (Fri) 7.0 C to 21.2 C / nil / 12.8 hours / SE 2.6 knots
A lovely sunny day, with just some broken patches of altocumulus prior to 10 am, but thereafter the remainder of the day would see wall to wall sunshine with not a single cloud in the sky, not even high cirrus. This again encouraged temperatures to climb to very unseasonal levels, with a maximum today of 21.2 C (70.4 F). Remaining clear during the evening and the first half of the night, but later cloud would begin to roll in off the North Sea, so that by dawn it had become generally cloudy and grey.

A small flock of about half a dozen Golden Plover were in the Parkland fields this morning, a few of which were in their full breeding plumage. Also spotted along some tyre tracks were a couple of Grey Partridge’s, while in the scrublands small flocks of chattering Linnet’s are now seen daily.

Back at home in the garden, on what was another very warm and sunny early April day, the trees, shrubs, and flowers continue to advance rapidly, with the Crab Apple nearly in full flower now. The neighbouring Sycamore’s are now coming into leaf, with the Lime & Swedish Whitebeam likewise doing so, and with the current warm weather they will no doubt soon catch up with the already in leaf Hawthorn, Silver Birch, & Horse Chestnut. Butterflies again were around in good numbers, with the first Large White of the year being spotted, with other species seen today including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and Holly Blue. The Swallow’s are now increasing in number following the first observation on Wednesday, with a number of sightings today, including two chasing each other above the garden at one point, chattering as they did so, a real sound of summer.

Stayed up late tonight to enjoy the clear skies this evening, and being Spring my principle targets were the many galaxies which can be viewed in the night sky at this time of year. However my first target was Saturn in Virgo, which just four days ago was at opposition, and despite being viewed through the branches of the garden Silver Birch it was a stunning sight, with the planet disc now noticeably larger than it was in winter, and the rings sharp and bright. After using the jewel of our Solar System to align my finder-scope, I then headed for my main target of the evening, the Leo Triplet in the hip of the Lion. The two Messier catalogued galaxies which form the southern part of the Triplet, M66 and M65 were clearly obvious, with M66 being the brighter of the two to my eyes. Both galaxies fitted within the view of my eyepiece and there appearance reminded me very much of M81 & M82, the ‘Bode’s Nebulae’. However the upper galaxy of the triplet, NGC 3628 was very faint indeed, and it was only with averted vision I could really make out this side-on galaxy, and even then it was incredibly un-distinct. From Leo’s hip I made my way to Cancer in the south east (I would have liked to remain in Leo, but unfortunately most of it was hidden behind the Beech tree), and here I enjoyed a wonderful view of the beautiful open cluster known as ‘Praesepe’. This is a very large open cluster, with only half of it fitting within my 32mm eyepiece, and it is filled with many small diamond like stars, with the cluster looking like a sprawled out or stretched version of the Pleiades. From here I headed back towards Leo, and using its head I found the faint galaxy of NGC 2903, which though faint was more visible than NGC 3628 earlier. Continuing to sweep eastwards I found myself in unfamiliar constellations, for my knowledge of the summer sky is very much lacking, and my first port of call was the very bright and orange coloured star of Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes. This is apparently a double, though pushing my magnification as high as I currently can (266x) I couldn’t detect a secondary star beside the principal one. However the reason for visiting this area of the night sky was in-fact to use Arcturus as a pointer towards M3, which lies halfway between Bootes & Canes Venatici. This beautiful globular cluster was a small ball of cotton wool through my eyepiece, and using averted vision I could actually see further stars surrounding the main core of stars, almost more than doubling the size of the cluster.  After enjoying the view of this object I moved to the similar looking globular cluster of M53 in Coma Berenices, which though less large and bright was nevertheless clearly obvious even at low powers. Continuing to sweep upwards I came to the southern most star of the constellation of Canes Venatici, the attractive double of Cor Caroli. The two stars are clearly dividable at even low powers, but in reality this is actually a visual double anyway and the two stars are not related. By now my laptop battery was starting to run low (I use the Stellarium software to help me navigate the night sky), and I choose one more target for the night, this being the galaxy of M94 in Canes Venatici. This was a clear fuzzy patch in the night sky, and if anything was the brightest galaxy I viewed all evening, my ten inch telescope excelling on these deep-sky objects.

9th (Sat) 5.0 C to 16.7 C / nil / 6.6 hours / SE 2.0 knots
A cloudy and grey morning with an extensive layer of high stratocumulus covering the district, and with barely any breeze it wasn’t going anywhere fast. However after 1 pm the cloud would clear away north-westwards, with a sharp end to the cloud layer, and the rest of the afternoon would see clear skies and wall to wall sunshine, with temperatures reaching a pleasant 17 C. Mostly clear in the evening and most of the night, this allowing temperatures to fall away quickly reaching a minimum of 3.2 C. However towards dawn fog would begin to form, which by first light was quite thick with visibility down to around 500 metres.

At least four individual Holly Blue’s were seen in the garden this afternoon, and they are undoubtedly enjoying the current very warm and dry weather.

Clear skies again tonight encouraged me to get out and do a bit of astronomy. However in reality conditions were actually quite poor, and indeed worsened over time with increasing amounts of high cirrus cloud veiling the stars. This made finding any faint fuzzies very difficult indeed, and the situation was made worse by light pollution shining back off the cloud. However Saturn looked very good tonight, with the rings and planet sharp through the telescope. Indeed even a few darker bands on the disc were just decernable, while at higher powers there was just a hint of the Cassini division during moments of more stable viewing. Many of the moons were also clearly obvious, with five seen tonight (Rhea & Dione to the east, Titan to the north, Tethys to the west, and much more distant Iapetus far to the north west). After finishing here I headed to Leo, which I looked at last night, and went in search for a number of faint objects just beneath the Lion, though the veil of high cloud made it very difficult. However using the relatively bright two galaxies of the Leo Triplet (see last night), I was able to find M105, and just beside that I could just make out NGC 3384. The view was very, very faint, and I think I’ll have to return to these objects another day to fully appreciate them. While in Leo I also had a look at the Double star of Algieba, which was relatively easily split into its two components. With conditions worsening I decided to leave the scope for a while and simply try and learn some of the current eastern constellations, with a particular emphasis on Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, & Draco. Unfortunately Hercules was particularly lost in the light pollution of the town, but returning to the scope I did decide to nevertheless try and find the Great Cluster in Hercules (M13). To do this with such poor visibility I first found the star zeta Bootes, beneath Arcturus, and then proceeded to sweep eastwards at the same altitude (29 degrees). After sweeping through 41 degrees of azimuth I came upon this large and bright globular cluster, which was very obvious despite the dreadful sky conditions in the area. I would imagine this is a stunning object under clearer skies.

10th (Sun) 3.2 C to 17.2 C / nil / 11.1 hours / SE 1.0 knots
A foggy start, with visibility down to about 500 metres, but this would quickly burn off with the rest of the day seeing clear skies and abundant sunshine yet again. Indeed apart from some areas of high, thin cirrus from time to time the sky would remain clear throughout the day, a sign of the dry and stable at the moment (indeed relative humidity was just 31% at 1 pm, while the dew point was -1 C). Skies remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight, with a slight mist covering rural areas by dawn.

The Crab Apple blossom is now spectacular, with the tree covered in pleasing pink blooms. Thankfully last years poor show seems to have been a one off, and we should have plenty of apples this year by the end of the summer.

11th (Mon) 5.3 C to 17.0 C / trace / 4.5 hours / NW 7.4 knots
Another sunny start, with just cirrus to be seen in the sky above, but as the morning progressed cloud would increase, and thicken with it becoming overcast by 11 am with a layer of altostratus. The cloud would continue to thicken going into the afternoon, with a short spell of moderate rain around 1 pm, but this soon cleared. The rain actually produced less than 0.2 mm, but nevertheless I expect many plants and crops welcomed it (just 9.7 mm’s has been received in the last 42 days). The cloud clearing by 4 pm with sunny spells and variable amounts of cloud for the remainder of the day, though it would also become quite breezy. Remaining breezy overnight and under mostly clear skies it became quite chilly with a low of 3.2 C.

12th (Tue) 3.2 C to 13.8 C / nil / 9.0 hours / NW 5.3 knots
A sunny but cold start, with a moderate to fresh north-westerly wind adding a real chill to the morning air. It would remain cool, breezy and largely sunny for the remainder of the day infact, with temperatures today reaching no higher than 13.8 C, and the wind gusting to 30 knots. However the breeze would ease by evening, with a mostly clear night following, this allowing temperatures to fall to around 3 C.

The Spanish Bluebell’s in the small woodland by the house are now starting to flower, while the first Beech leaves are now beginning to appear from there swollen buds.

13th (Wed) 3.0 C to 12.7 C / nil / 3.5 hours / SW 1.8 knots
A sunny but cool start, though there was much less of a chilling breeze today compared to yesterday. However after 9 am high cirrus and cirrostratus cloud would thicken, and by 10 am it had become cloudy with a layer of high altostratus covering the sky. It would remain cloudy for much of the day, though after 3 pm some brighter spells would start to develop, with even some sunny spells managing to break through from time to time. Cooler than recently, with a high of 12.7 C, though with less of a breeze than yesterday it actually felt quite pleasant. Clear spells at first overnight, but cloud would increase again after midnight with overcast skies by dawn.

The Tulip’s in the garden are now at there best, with a number of varieties and shades now to be seen throughout most of the garden beds. The flame Tulips are particularly good this year (they surrounding my Davis AWS and possibly making it one of the most beautifully located AWS’ anywhere in the land at the moment), with other types include whites, yellows, oranges, pinks, reds, and even some purples. Most Daffodils have now finished, though some are still in flower here and there, and the Forsythia’s have also concluded. However as these pass all new flowers appear (one of the joys of the season), with the broom now coming out with vivid yellow flowers, while elsewhere the small orange blooms of the Berberis’ begin to appear. The Double Kerria is also still going strong, it currently being covered in yellow pom-pom flowers.

14th (Thu) 3.9 C to 14.7 C / nil / 0.5 hours / SW 0.8 knots
A cloudy morning, with thick stratocumulus covering the region, and it would remain largely cloudy through the day. However there were some brighter periods in the middle of the day, with the sun even breaking through at times, abliet somewhat weak and hazily. Quite humid in the afternoon, and despite the lack of sunshine it actually felt quite warm, this no doubt aided by the lack of wind today. Remaining cloudy in the evening and overnight.

The Crab Apple blossom is attracting loads of bees at the moment, so much so that if one stands beneath it, all one can here is the buzz of these busy insects. The blossom also seems to be more fragrant than I can remember, with the still, warmish and humid conditions this afternoon seemingly emphasising the subtle perfume. Elsewhere I discovered the first egg of the spring, with a blue and brown spotted coloured egg (Blackbird) found near the Swedish Whitebeam.

15th (Fri) 6.8 C to 15.4 C / nil / 1.8 hours / W 1.2 knots
A bright and warm start to the day, with attractive altocumulus covering two thirds of the sky as the sun rose over Holderness to the east. However as the morning progressed the cloud would increase and thicken, and for most of the day it would remain cloudy and grey. Indeed the sky was quite threatening at times, but other than the odd drop from time to time it remained dry. Despite the cloud it was a warm feeling day, indeed it felt quite muggy in the afternoon, and this was in part due to the light winds again today. Remaining cloudy overnight, though towards dawn some breaks did begin to develop as the cloud cleared away south eastwards.

Went for an explore round the Westwood this morning, and though this area is blighted by dog walkers it was very pleasant indeed nevertheless, with spring now moving towards its climax (amazing considering it’s only mid-April). The Gorse areas were particularly lovely this morning, with the warm and humid morning air encouraging the release of sweet fragrance to fill ones nostrils, while amongst the shrubs and Burton Bushes the Wood Anemone’s continue to flower widely. The first Bluebells are now out, and over the next fortnight should reach there best, while the Oaks in this NW corner of the Westwood are now coming into leaf. It would seem the Oaks are well before the Ashes this year. Out in the open areas Skylark’s & Meadow Pipit’s were in good song, while in the more wooded areas warblers were likewise filling the area with sweet melodies.

16th (Sat) 8.5 C to 18.5 C / nil / 5.1 hours / NW 1.5 knots
After early cloud cleared the rest of the morning would see clear and sunny skies, with temperatures responding quickly and rising to over 18 C by midday. However the warm sunshine would encourage cloud to bubble up by lunch, and this would quickly spread out to form stratocumulus, meaning that the majority of the afternoon would see cloudy skies, with just the occasional brighter spell. The cloud would begin to break again however going into the evening, with some sunny spells to end the day, and the cloud would continue to break and clear overnight, this encouraging temperatures to fall to around 6 C with a heavy dew by dawn.

The Sycamore is now well in leaf, with the leaves near the top already providing a fairly thick canopy. Meanwhile the Beech continues to come out, and is now beginning to discard its ‘winter jackets’.

17th (Sun) 5.5 C to 17.4 C / nil / 12.7 hours / NW 1.6 knots
A clear start to the day with a heavy dew covering the lawn. Soon warming up under the mid-April sunshine, with temperatures climbing into the mid-teens by 10 am, and it would remain clear and sunny throughout the day with barely a cloud to be seen. However by dusk high and variable amounts of altocumulus would drift in from the south east, and it would remain largely cloudy overnight, though there were some clearer spells too from time to time, this allowing temperatures to fall with a heavy dew by dawn, and some light mist in rural areas.

Had a look at the sun though my 90mm F15 telescope this afternoon, the first time I have viewed the sun since last August. Sunspot activity has increased somewhat since my last observation, as back in August just one single spot was visible, while today quite a number were, including three sizeable areas of activity (see image).
The Crab Apple blossom is now falling in even the slightest bit of wind, covering the lawn beneath it with white petals. Meanwhile a male Swallow was spotted overhead this afternoon, the first I’ve seen in quite a few days.

18th (Mon) 5.5 C to 18.5 C / nil / 10.3 hours / SE 2.7 knots
A bright but misty start to the day, with variable amounts of altocumulus drifting over on a light east-south-east breeze. This would soon clear and the rest of the day would see largely clear and sunny skies, though there was a cloud avenue which developed around midday which hid the sun for about three quarters of an hour, despite the fact that 90% of the sky was clear. Warm in the afternoon under the ever strengthening mid to late spring sun, with temperatures reaching a very pleasant 18.5 C. Cloud increasing again by dusk, but nevertheless there were still plenty of clear spells overnight, this encouraging temperatures to fall to around 5 C, with mist and a heavy dew forming by dawn.

Went up to the Westwood again this morning, managing to avoid all the blasted dog walkers. The Horse Chestnut blossom is now just starting to come out along the avenues, while in the hedgerows the Blackthorn is now starting to conclude. The Bluebells in Burton Bushes have come out further over the weekend, while in the roadside verges one can now see Red Campion coming into bloom. Indeed the roadside verges now contain quite a good variety of flowers, with species widely in flower including Dead Nettles, Bugle, Ground Ivy, & Dandelions.

Near the round-about near Bishop Burton I also found some interesting white flowers, and though I haven’t been able to positively identify them I think they are probably Cuckooflowers, which apparently can be white sometimes. In the fields the Oilseed Rape is now about 30% out, and already one can detect the faint scent of these luminous flowers. However perhaps the biggest highlight of the morning came along the Newbald Road between Walkington and Beverley, as I briefly spotted and heard the first Whitethroat of the year in the hedgerow. Indeed warblers were heard in good numbers this morning, with Chiffchaff, Willow warbler, and Blackcap also being heard in the same area (the garden Blackcap and Chiffchaff incidentally continue to be heard daily).

19th (Tue) 5.0 C to 18.1 C / nil / 9.7 hours / NE 2.8 knots
A misty start with the sun rising red over the fields of Holderness to the east. However by 8 am any mist had burned off and cleared and the rest of the day would see plenty of sunshine, though it would be quite hazy at times, this especially the case around midday. Warm again, with temperatures a pleasant 18 C, though with more of a NE breeze today there was a slight chill in exposed areas. Remaining clear in the evening and overnight, with temperatures falling to around 6 C.

A Lesser Whitethroat was spotted in the scrub at Owl dip (between Old Hall & Model Farm), the first I’ve seen of this handsome species this year. Lesser Whitethroats are one of my favourite warblers, being much tidier and sleeker looking than Common Whitethroats, though they are often difficult to see due to there skulking natures. However this mornings individual was quite bold, and I was able to watch it for some time as it busily hoped about amongst the Hawthorn, Bramble, and Willow scrub. Nearby at Black House Stables an Oystercatcher was seen in the pasture field, while in cereal crops a small group of six Greylag Geese were spotted grazing. A Roe deer was also noted here too. In the towns gardens I noticed that some Lilac’s are now beginning to flower, a real sign of spring’s rapid advancement this year.

Back at home in the garden a trio of Swallow’s were buzzing above the skies for a time in the morning, there chattering calls joining the daily chorus of Blackbirds, Chaffinches, Wrens, Dunnocks, Thrushes, Robin’s, Chiffchaff’s, & Blackcaps. A drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker was also heard, as it has on many recent days, and it seems to have found a particularly resonant branch upon which to call this year.

20th (Wed) 6.0 C to 17.4 C / nil / 11.1 hours / NE 2.0 knots
A clear start, with a light mist in rural areas, and it would remain clear and sunny for most of the day, with wall to wall sunshine. However a gentle north east breeze kept temperatures pegged back somewhat, though nevertheless it felt very pleasant with a high of 17 C. After 6 pm cloud would move in off the sea, and through the evening this cloud would lower with it becoming foggy by midnight. Remaining foggy for the duration of the night, with moderate to thick fog by dawn.

The Bluebell clump between Poplar Farm & Model Farm is now about 75% out, and indeed along many roadside verges Bluebells can now be seen quite widely. There is a particular good display along Coppleflat Lane (Walkington to Bentley road), with the Bluebells being joined by Stitchwort in places, as well as other more common roadside flowers. The Oilseed Rape is now coming along nicely too, though is still a fortnight away from being at its best, while in other fields the cereal crops are looking very healthy and strong. During my morning cycle I also saw a few more Whitethroats this morning, including a Lesser Whitethroat again near Old Hall, while at the farmyard in Bentley a couple of Swallows were buzzing about.

21st (Thu) 5.2 C to 18.4 C / nil / 9.1 hours / NE 1.7 knots
A foggy start with visibility between 500 and 200 metres, as low cloud was brought in off the North Sea on a light north easterly breeze. This would persist well into the morning, but after 10 am it would begin to lift and clear rapidly, with clear blue skies and wall to wall sunshine by 11 am. Remaining clear and sunny for the remainder of the day, with temperatures very clement at 18 C. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight, though mist would form making the stars appeared somewhat veiled (indeed astronomy has been impractical on most nights recently as haze and mist has been a real problem, especially in the eastern and southern light polluted skies).

A Treecreeper was spotted in the garden today, while overhead quite a number of Swallow’s were seen, including both males and females, and it would seem they are now very much settled in and are here to stay for the rest of the summer.

22nd (Fri) 5.7 C to 19.4 C / nil / 12.5 hours / E 1.6 knots
A bright and sunny day with hazy sunshine throughout. Indeed the long spell of warm weather, and easterly winds has meant that most days are very hazy at the moment, and most days begin with a mist at the very least. Infact it was somewhat warmer today here (we having being kept cooler than inland areas thanks to sea breezes), with the temperature rising up towards 20 C, and the next day or two look like being very warm as the winds turn into the west. Remaining clear in the evening and overnight, though it would become misty again with the stars being veiled (hopefully a northerly air-stream will clear away all this haze soon so that I can get out and do some proper astronomy).

Both Whitethroat’s & Lesser Whitethroat’s were recorded along Shepherd’s Lane again this morning.

North Cliffe Wood
On what was a warm and mostly sunny late April morning, we paid a visit to North Cliffe Wood, hoping to see the first of the Bluebell blooms. Though the flowers are still not at there best, being maybe about a week to a fortnight away from that, they nevertheless are already providing a fine spectacle, with carpets of blue blooms covering the woodland floor. Amongst the Bluebells the nearly pure white flowers of Stitchwort are now to be seen widely, and in some areas form attractive clumps of there own. Indeed Stitchwort is one of my favourite flowers, and always seems to be very much overlooked by other visitors, but for me these straggly plants with their split petals are as much part of the spectacle as the Bluebell’s are. In other areas of the wood the Primroses are still flowering well, particularly in the hazel coppice (which today was as near to heaven as one could imagine), and also still going well is Wood Sorrel, I being able to finally get some good quality photos of these small woodland flowers today.

In the ditches Marsh Marigolds are in flower, though with the dry weather many of these areas of water are already drying out, and Iris’ are still emerging in some areas, though still appear to be weeks away from flowering. Elsewhere the pale pink blooms of Cuckoo-flower’s (or Lady’s Smock) are appearing here and there, while along the footpaths (and indeed along most roadside verges) the bright yellow flowers of Dandelions are providing a beautiful spectacle. For a much maligned weed they do provide some wonderful colour, and when they are mixed with Daisy’s they provide some of the most evocative sights of the season. Also noticed was the first bits of Cow Parsley of the year, a real sign of the advancing season.

Above the woodland floor the tree’s and shrub’s are all in leaf now, with lovely green growth throughout the wood, while many trees are also flowering, including the first Rowan’s & Oak’s. The tree’s also host the wonderful sights and especially sounds of a spring wood, with birds singing in great variety and plenitude. Of course the warblers are the stars of the show, with Willow warblers, Chiffchaff’s & Blackcap’s providing serenades throughout this small patch of precious woodland, though in the Willowherb scrub a couple of Whitethroat’s were also heard. In the Birch wood a Willow tit was recorded this morning, with North Cliffe being one of the last refuges for this now locally rare bird, while in the heart of the wood a Woodpecker was heard repeatedly drumming.

Overhead a few Swallow’s were seen, as was a Buzzard and a Curlew, the latter calling loudly at one point, truly one of the most evocative of all bird calls. Butterflies were also seen well this morning, with good numbers of Speckled Wood’s being seen, as was a very vivid Brimstone, and perhaps most interesting of all my first Orange Tip’s of the year. Unfortunately these handsome butterflies never seem to keep still and I have yet to get a good photo of this variable species of butterfly.
All in all a wonderful morning, surrounded by the sights, sounds, and perfumes of high spring, and I look forward to more visits in the weeks ahead.

23rd (Sat) 6.5 C to 25.0 C / nil / 9.8 hours / N 2.3 knots
A hazy morning with plenty of warm sunshine, and it would remain sunny for most of the day. With no sea breeze today this allowed temperatures to soar, and by early afternoon temperatures reached a high of 25.0 C (77 F), a new record high for April on my records dating back to 2004. However after 4 pm high cloud would begin to invade from the west, and for a time it looked quite stormy, though it came to nothing and it would remain dry (we do need some rainfall for just 9.7 mm’s has been recorded in the past 54 days). Remaining mostly cloudy overnight, and very warm and muggy too, with a low of just 10.4 C.

24th (Easter Sunday) 10.4 C to 19.0 C / nil / 3.7 hours / E 1.8 knots
A very warm but cloudy start, though despite the cloud it was relatively bright as the altocumulus layer was neither thick or without some occasional breaks. It would remain largely cloudy for much of the day, though sunny spells would come and go from time to time, but after 4 pm the cloud would clear away altogether with a sunny end to Easter day. Not as warm as yesterday, though nevertheless it was still warm for the time of year with a high of 19 C. Remaining clear in the evening and overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall lower than last night, with a minimum of 5.5 C.

An Oystercatcher flew over the house at around 7 am, heading northwards.

On a warm and bright Easter morning we headed up to the high Wolds, our first proper visit to these wonderfully peaceful chalk uplands since early March. Of course since then the countryside has really moved on, and now fresh green growth is everywhere, along with typical grassland and farmland flowers. In the fields the luminous yellow of Oilseed Rape is now widespread, while beside the roads and along the verges flowers such as Dandelions, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Dead Nettles, & Red Campion to name but a few provide plenty of colour and interest. In the daleside grasslands Cowslips can now be found widely (at least where sheep and cattle aren’t grazing), with other flowers seen this morning including Cuckoo-flower, Violets, Daisy’s, Celandines, & Buttercup’s. The Gorse is now flowering strongly, and when we stopped for a cup of tea, the sweet and evocative scent wafted past us, a truly heavenly perfume of sweet, warm, clement days up here on the grassed down-sides.

Meanwhile in the hedgerows the first Hawthorn blooms are beginning to open, and over the next few weeks every hedgerow throughout the county should become adorned in the white (and occasionally red) flowers of May-blossom, a real sign that spring has nearly reached its climax with summer being just around the corner. As we continued our stroll around this tranquil corner of the Wolds, one could hear in the distance, over in Frendaldale, the sound of displaying Curlew’s, while in the hawthorn scrub of Nettledale there were Willow warbler’s in great plenitude, along with the odd Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer, & Chaffinch.

However the major highlight of the morning was the brief spotting of a magnificent male REDSTART, which for about 10 seconds allowed me to marvel at its wonderfully bright plumage, with its reddish breast, black head, and vivid white eye stripe. I failed to find any of these scarce summer visitors last year during the breeding season, and hopefully this early sighting is a good sign for the summer ahead for this small bird which perhaps at most numbers no more than a dozen pairs in the East Riding. Flies are also around in large numbers this year, with St. Mark’s Flies being particularly numerous this year, with clouds of these black insects hovering around the woodland edges and amongst the gorse. Thankfully these flies are of little nuisance and I actually quite enjoy watching them fly around in there sedate manner. Near the wood I also spotted my first RED ADMIRAL butterfly of the year, with one seen sunning itself on a fallen log.

25th (Mon) 5.5 C to 18.3 C / nil / 12.3 hours / NE 5.8 knots
A clear, and sunny morning, which after a cool start soon warmed up with temperatures climbing into the mid-teens by 9 am. Very dry air this morning too, with the relative humidity just 59% at 9 am. Remaining mostly sunny throughout the day, though there were some patches of altocumulus which would come and go, and it would also become quite breezy in the afternoon, this making it feel somewhat cooler than of late. Clear at first in the evening but after 10 pm cloud would move in from the north-east, with this persisting for the remainder of the night.

There is already a very healthy population of Whitethroat’s now established in the Parks, with quite a number now seen or heard along Shepherd’s Lane. A pair was seen together near Old Hall this morning, with the female seen carrying nest material into one of the Hawthorn hedges.

Observed the sun this lunchtime, eight days since my last observation on the 17th. As can be seen in the drawing to the left, there are fewer sunspots than there were on the 17th, as the sun has almost completed one-third of its sidereal rotation, with the major activity viewed previously now being on the ‘opposite side’ of the disc, and should remain un-viewable till the first week of May at least.

26th (Tue) 8.5 C to 13.5 C / nil / 1.1 hours / NE 3.9 knots
A grey and cloudy morning, which with a brisk north easterly breeze made it feel really quite cold, especially compared to the unseasonal warmth we’ve had lately. It would remain largely cloudy for the remainder of the day, though in the afternoon it did brighten up for a time with some spells of hazy sunshine. Mostly cloudy in the evening and the first half of the night, but later the cloud would clear away with a fine dawn following.

The blossom on the Horse Chestnut’s is now widely out, with the candle stick flowers adorning the many trees around the borough, while Rowan trees are also coming into flower. On the Westwood the Buttercups are now noticeably increasing in numbers, and the low areas should soon be a beautiful sea of yellow flowers welcoming the arrival of May.

27th (Wed) 5.7 C to 14.0 C / nil / 11.0 hours / NE 3.8 knots
A bright morning with good spells of sunshine, though that north easterly breeze continues to make it feel quite cool. Remaining sunny for the remainder of the day, indeed any cloud disappearing by mid-afternoon, and it would remain clear through the evening and the first part of the night. However after midnight cloud would move in from the north east and it would remain cloudy through to dawn.

The Cow Parsley is now appearing along the country roadsides, while in the hedgerows the Hawthorn blossom is becoming ever more apparent, with it being in almost full flower here and there. In the fields the first delicate whiskers are appearing on the Barley, while over these same fields there were displaying Lapwing’s this morning. However the major highlight of the morning was the first Sedge Warbler of the year, with one heard singing along one of the larger ditches in the Parks.

Back at home in the garden the Crab Apple has now lost all its blossom, after what had been a magnificent display this year, though the Apple is now in full flower, and perhaps has more blooms than I can ever remember in a previous spring. Elsewhere the Clematis’ are now in flower, with the neighbours hedge covered in pink blooms along its length, while our garden arch is likewise adorned. In the garden beds the bright yellow flowers of the Broom are now at their peak, while the purple heads of the Alium’s are just starting to open, a real sign that summer is nearly here despite the fact it is still only April.

In the evening I took advantage of the clear skies, and had a look at a number of objects through my 10 inch Newtonian reflector. First off I looked at Saturn, which as ever was stunning, with the rings nice and sharp and a hint of a darker band on the planets disc. Four moons were also noted, with Titan, Rhea, & Tethys to the east, while Dione was spotted to the west. From here I moved north eastwards across the sky till I came upon the constellation of Lyra. Using the bright star of Vega I moved a short distant to the famous Epsilon Lyrae, the so called ‘double-double’, which through a telescope is a stunning sight as the two stars are themselves split into two individual stars at higher powers. I have long wanted to see this object, as until recently it has been hidden from view by the surrounding trees, but now it starts to come into view from about 10 pm onwards. With Epilson Lyrae A & B being separated by just 2.6 arc-seconds, and C & D by even less at 2.3 arc-seconds, they are a good test of the telescopes revolving ability, as well as collimation, and I was pleased to see that I could resolve both fairly easily. However given that in good conditions I should be able to resolve stars divided by just 0.5 arc-seconds I do perhaps still have some work to do on my telescopes collimation as I was very much pushing the limit with these two doubles. Despite that I thoroughly enjoyed the view, and I think what makes this double-double even more attractive is the way they are arranged, with one being aligned north to south, and the other east to west. After finishing here I moved to M13, and though again it was somewhat lost in the light pollution of the town it was a stunning sight, looking like a giant ‘spider-egg’ in the night sky, a fine way to end the evening.

28th (Thu) 3.5 C to 14.2 C / trace / 4.9 hours / NE 5.9 knots
A cloudy and cool morning, with a brisk north east breeze which continues to make it feel really quite cool. However in the afternoon the cloud would break up with sunny spells developing, and indeed by evening the sky had become largely clear with a fine end to the day. Clear at first overnight, but cloud would develop later, this even thick enough for a little bit of rain, though this wasn’t enough to even dampen the roads and was less than 0.1 mm, meaning that the drought continues (no recordable rain has been measured for 24 consecutive days now, and rainfall has totalled just 9.7 mm’s since the beginning of March).

The last of tree species to leaf, the Ash, is now doing so throughout the borough, some two weeks after the first Oak’s.

29th (Fri) 8.0 C to 14.7 C / nil / 5.3 hours / NE 3.6 knots
A bright and sunny start to the morning, but by mid morning cloud would increase somewhat from the north east, and for the rest of the morning it would remain grey. Slowly brightening up as the afternoon progressed, with some hazy sunshine after 3 pm and remaining bright through till dusk. Mostly clear overnight, bar a veil of cirrus and haze which hid many of the stars.

The Bluebell’s at Burton Bushes are now at there best, with a wonderful sea of blue blooms covering the woodland floor. Amongst them quite a few white ‘Bluebells’ can be seen in this area, a small hint to how ancient this little area of woodland is. Indeed it was heaven to stroll through the wood today, with such natural beauty to behold, which was accompanied by the serene song of Blackcap’s and other woodland birds in the now thick, green canopy above ones head.

30th (Sat) 7.1 C to 14.9 C / nil / 14.3 hours / E 3.9 knots
A sunny day throughout, with not a single cloud seen in the sky at any point during the days duration. However a brisk easterly wind kept temperatures pegged back to just 15 C, though out of the wind it was very pleasant indeed, as the sun is now becoming quite strong (UVI of 5 at noon). No change overnight with clear skies throughout, though the breeze did ease somewhat.

The Clematis around the rose arch is now at its best, with a wonderful profusion of pale pink blooms along much of its length. The neighbours too is looking spectacular now, with a whole hedge of blooms in great profusion.