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September 2011

1st (Thu) 11.4 C to 18.3 C / nil / 6.7 hours / SE 1.8 knots
An overcast and dull morning for the most part, but by noon it quickly began to brighten up, and indeed by 1 pm it was mostly sunny and pleasant. Remaining sunny (though somewhat hazy at times) throughout the afternoon and evening, with clear skies persisting for the first half of the night. However cloud would increase later, with mostly cloudy skies by dawn.

The harvest is now nearly complete around Beverley, with just a handful of wheat fields remaining un-harvested, with these likely to be collected in during the next few days. Meanwhile the nights are getting ever longer, and one now awakens in darkness. On the plus side this means one gets to enjoy the sunrise without having to get up ridiculously early, and this morning there was a brief red dawn as the sun rose through a small gap in the cloud layer out to the east, before disappearing behind the thick stratocumulus which seems to have set up home over the region over the last few days. The darker dawns also allow one to see more in the way of wildlife, with a fox seen in the Parks this morning, along with a Green Woodpecker near Parks Plantation.

In the evening I enjoyed my first bit of proper stargazing since the 27th of April, taking advantage of the fact that it is now dark enough for decent observations to be made from about 9 pm onwards. Conditions were reasonable, though there was a very slight veil of cirrus from time to time, and it was also surprisingly mild, a rare luxury when out observing with the telescope. I started my evening by enjoying some of the sights of the so called ‘Summer Triangle’ which is formed by the stars of Deneb, Vega, and Altair, with my first port of call being one of the brightest stars in the sky, Vega in the constellation of Lyra. From here I moved the short distance to view the famous ‘Double-Double’ which is epsilon Lyrae. This is one of my favourite objects at this time of year, as it now lies high in the southern sky during the evening and is relatively easy to view (Alt. 75.50 / Az. 180 at 21:03 BST). The four stars which make up the double-double were all easily divided, though to my eyes stars C & D are further apart than A & B, though only marginally. After enjoying this view I worked my way down through Lyra until I came upon M57, the Ring Nebula, which lies between the stars of Sulafat, and Sheliak. This is the first time I have viewed this planetary nebula, and I have to say the view was fantastic through my scope with a wealth of detail and features observed. Even at low powers the nebula is obviously ring shaped, looking like a distant smoke ring in the sky, and at higher magnifications it was a fantastic sight. I can only imagine what it would like through a UHC or OIII filter (these two filters being currently on my wish list), and I have to say that the Ring Nebula is certainly one of the most impressive objects that I have seen thus far through my new telescope.

From here I headed for Albireo at the head of the Swan (Cygnus), but on the way I stopped to have a look at M56, a pleasing globular cluster lying between Sulafat and Albireo. Meanwhile the double star of Albireo was itself a lovely sight, this being a very wide double with its two stars contrasting in both size and colour (A being larger and orange in colouration, while B is smaller and pale blue). My next target during the evening was Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd, and to find this I headed down to the small constellation of Sagitta (the arrow). From here I moved a short distance to the west, heading towards the so called Coat-hanger Cluster (which as the name suggests looks like an upside down coat-hanger), though it does a few other names including Brocchi’s Cluster or Collinder 399. The Comet currently lies about half way between Sagitta & the cluster (near the star 9 Vulpecula) and was clearly obvious as a fuzzy patch at low magnifications. Pushing the magnification up a little bit revealed somewhat more detail, though this comet is fairly faint (currently about mag. +8). Nevertheless this is the first comet I have viewed through my 10 inch telescope, and I hope it will be one of many more over the years.

By this time it was starting to get late, but I still had a few more targets to view, heading first for the globular cluster of M71 in the heart of Sagitta, and then up to M27, the Dumbbell Nebula. M27, like M57, was a fantastic sight (I seem to like these Planetary Nebula’s), and was very obvious as a small greyish cloud surrounded by the darkness of space. The Dumbbell shape was just about noticeable, though to my eyes it looked more like a squashed Cumulonimbus cloud. While in the area I also had a brief look at the small open cluster of NGC 6830, which was just about viewable as a close collection of small stars just above the star of 12 Vulpecula. Finally to finish the night, I swung the telescope around to the west, and looked at my favourite globular cluster in the night sky, M13, the Great Cluster in Hercules. This is always a superb sight through a medium to large instrument, and looks like a giant spider nest in the sky, with a host of tiny spiderlings surrounding the main core. Indeed with averted vision further tiny stars are resolved around the clusters core, and for me it is one of the most rewarding objects in the night sky.

2nd (Fri) 10.8 C to 22.1 C / nil / 4.5 hours / SW 1.1 knots
A cloudy morning for the most part with extensive mid level clouds (altostratus and altocumulus), though by midday it did begin to brighten up somewhat with some weak and hazy spells of sunshine managing to break through. Indeed as the afternoon wore on these sunny spells would become longer and stronger, and as a result it was much warmer today than recently with a high of 22.1 C being recorded. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, and remaining very mild with a low of just 12 C.

Picked more Blackberries this morning, and though there are still plenty available they are now much smaller and not quite as juicy as those back at the start of the season. Meanwhile back at home a few Swifts were seen passing overhead, and I assume these birds are migrants on their way south and not lingering local ones.

Picked Elderberries this afternoon (about 15 lbs worth) so we can make some elderberry wine this year. Now we have to strip them, wash them, and mash them. Meanwhile mum also made several jars of Crab Apple jelly today from those apples we picked a few days ago.

3rd (Sat) 12.0 C to 22.9 C / nil / 4.9 hours / SW 1.5 knots
Variable amounts of cloud at first (broken patches of mid-level clouds), with a slight low mist in rural areas, but after mid-morning most of these clouds would clear with hazy and warm sunshine for the remainder of the morning (though there was extensive cirrus, cirrostratus, & COTRA). Cloud increasing again in the afternoon, with mostly cloudy skies from about 2 pm onwards. A warm day, with temperatures climbing to 22.9 C. Remaining cloudy through the evening and overnight, and under the blanket of cloud it would be a very mild night with a low of just 14.5 C.

The cereal harvest is now complete in the Parks, with all the remaining wheat now safely in.

4th (Sun) 14.5 C to 18.7 C / 0.9 mm / 1.7 hours / SW 1.1 knots
A cloudy morning for the most part, the cloud thick enough for a bit of drizzle around 11 am, though the sun did break through once or twice as well. Some heavier rain would move in for a time in the afternoon, with a peak rainfall rate of 8.4 mm/h being recorded by the AWS gauge, but after 4 pm this would clear with some sunny spells managing to break through to end the day. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, with the breeze picking up somewhat by dawn.

North Cliffe Wood
On what was a showery morning, with sunny spells in between, Jenny, Michael, Dad, and I went to North Cliffe wood, primarily just for a walk, but also to collect more blackberries. The wood is now distinctly autumnal, with the first golden Birch leaves beginning to fall in the gentle to moderate breeze today, while the bracken is also starting to die back and turn coppery brown. More hazelnuts are falling too, many more now ripe, while the first acorns were also noted upon the woodland floor.

However it is the fungi and toadstools which are now seen in great abundance amongst the leaf litter and along the woodland rides which indicate the season, and I had a wonderful morning searching and photographing these wonderful organisms which seem to so often spring up overnight. Of course my fungi knowledge is very limited, and even with multiple books and resources it is still hard to confidently identify them, though I do feel that I am getting better and hopefully in time will become somewhat more confident in my observations. The seemingly ever present Tawny Grisette’s were seen abundantly this morning, these comb edged and tall fungi being fairly easy to identify, and I did find an old Stinkhorn which had been knocked over by either a clumsy animal, or an even clumsier person. I wasn’t able to find any other Stinkhorn’s this morning, though in two locations I did think I caught the unpleasant whiff of them, and maybe a future visit will prove more productive.

Meanwhile those reddish coloured fungi which I have yet to identify positively were seen widespread, especially in the birch woodland, while lots of fairly indistinct brownish ones were found. However the most notable fungi’s of the morning were lots of yellow coloured ones, which I think were Russula Ochroleuca (a fungi surely deserving a more memorable common name), while I also found a patch of Blusher’s (Amanita Rubescens), a new fungi for me (despite being fairly common). Blusher’s are in the same family as Fly Agaric (though they are not poisonous), and this perhaps indicates that it will not be long before the beautiful red and white toadstools will again grace the woodland floor. I am also hoping to see the handsome Parasol Mushroom’s again this year, as last year we missed them, but fungi timing is far from consistent or predictable and unless we visit weekly I am afraid some species will go un-recorded. Birdwise this morning was mostly quiet, though a Jay was heard, a species of bird which is always welcomingly recorded as it is rare east of the Wolds, while a Buzzard was also spotted along with a Great Spotted Woodpecker. An enjoyable mornings walk.

5th (Mon) 10.5 C to 17.0 C / 4.8 mm / 4.7 hours / SW 4.9 knots
A breezy but sunny morning for the most part, with variable amounts of fractocumulus or stratocumulus being driven along on the moderate SW breeze, though by the end of the morning cloud would increase with blustery showers by midday. The showers wouldn’t last long though and would clear by 2 pm, with the rest of the day seeing variable amounts of cloud and some sunny spells at times. Mostly cloudy overnight, and remaining fairly breezy, though the cloud would thicken later with some outbreaks of rain after 5 am.

Five Grey Partridge’s were seen this morning, with one adult and four juveniles.

6th (Tue) 11.9 C to 17.5 C / 0.2 mm / 3.7 hours / W 7.1 knots
An initially wet start, but this would soon clear. However it would remain cloudy for remainder of the morning, with a fresh to strong SW wind driving the cloud along, and one could well be forgiven for thinking that it was October rather than early September. The wind would become even gustier in the afternoon, this associated with a few blustery showers which moved through at this time, with a peak gust of 35 knots being recorded. However after 4 pm it would begin to quieten down somewhat, and the cloud would also break and clear with some sunshine to end the day. Variable amounts of cloud overnight, with a moderate breeze.

7th (Wed) 11.7 C to 17.6 C / 1.7 mm / 1.8 hours / SW 4.3 knots
An initially clear and sunny start to the day, with a fine autumn sunrise, but by 8 am cloud had increased and it would be cloudy for the remainder of the morning, with a short period of rain around midday. Becoming somewhat brighter in the afternoon, with the odd sunny spell, but there would also be a few blustery showers. Breezy again today, though not quite as gusty as yesterday. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight, with outbreaks of rain and drizzle after midnight.

I had a wonderful view of one of the most handsome foxes I have ever seen this morning, and I was able to watch it hunt and groom for about 10 minutes at a distance of less than 50 yards. It did actually catch something when hunting, presumably a rodent of some kind, and while it was busy doing this I crept a little closer to try and get a picture with my small compact camera. Unfortunately my camera has only a 3x zoom (plus 9x digital), and therefore I wasn’t able to catch any decent shots, but nevertheless I was just happy to watch this wild animal go about its business.

8th (Thu) 11.0 C to 19.3 C / 0.5 mm / 4.2 hours / W 2.8 knots
A damp and dull morning, with outbreaks of rain and drizzle. However by midday this dank weather would clear away rapidly, with a pleasant afternoon following with plenty of good sunny spells. However the breeze, which was light during the morning, would freshen again in the afternoon, though it wasn’t as gusty or as strong at it has been in the past few days. Cloud increasing again in the evening, with cloudy skies overnight, this making for a mild night with outbreaks of rain moving in later.

9th (Fri) 12.3 C to 22.9 C / nil / 1.0 hours / SW 1.5 knots
An initially wet start with a short period of moderate rain, but this would soon clear with it gradually becoming brighter as the morning progressed. However even in the afternoon sunshine would be in short supply, with generally cloudy but bright skies throughout, but despite the cloud it would become warm, with temperatures reaching a high of 22.9 C. Feeling muggy too, with dew points typically in the mid to high teens. Remaining mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight, this preventing temperatures falling any lower than 14 C.

At least fourteen Grey Partridge’s were in the fields this morning, most of them juveniles, though the odd handsome adult was spotted amongst them. A Fox was also spotted nearby.

10th (Sat) 14.1 C to 24.7 C / 3.5 mm / 3.1 hours / SW 2.7 knots
A cloudy morning, though despite the grey skies it was warm, and indeed humid feeling with dew points in the high teens at 9 am. Slowly becoming brighter though, with sunny spells developing in the afternoon, this helping to push temperatures up to 24.7 C, making this one of the warmest September days on my records, and it was made to feel that bit warmer by dew points of up to 19 C. Cloud increasing in the evening, with a short period of heavy rain around 8 pm (peak rate of 32.6 mm/h), but this would soon clear with variable amounts of cloud overnight.

11th (Sun) 13.1 C to 20.0 C / 2.1 mm / 5.7 hours / SW 4.0 knots
A sunny and settled morning, though cloud would increase as the morning progressed, and there was also a moderate SW breeze which would gust up to Beaufort Force Six at times. Remaining bright and breezy into the afternoon, though it would be mostly cloudy, and this cloud would increase as the afternoon wore on. Cloudy in the evening and overnight, with some outbreaks of rain after midnight.

Huggate Dykes, Frendaldale, & Pasturedale
On what was a bright but breezy morning (indeed on the exposed Wold tops it was really quite gusty), we headed up to the Huggate dykes area, and from there headed down Frendaldale, and then back up Pasturedale. Windy weather always means that finding birds and other wildlife can be difficult, as they tend to stay in the shelter, and tell-tell calls are masked by the roar of the wind. However Meadow Pipit’s were seen well this morning, a species which becomes surprisingly elusive in the summer months, though other than flocks of finches, and gulls attracted to ploughed fields, the morning was otherwise quiet. Very little mammalian life was seen either, though Hares as ever were abundant in Frendaldale, while on the return journey home a couple of Stoat’s were seen just outside Huggate.

Butterflies too were largely absent this morning, though a few White’s were seen battling the wind, and in the relatively sheltered dale of Pasturedale a few Red Admiral’s, Peacock’s, & Small Tortoiseshell’s were observed. Meanwhile wildflower’s can still be seen fairly widely, though the diversity of species is now much reduced, with Harebell’s, Ragwort, Thistles, Yarrow, Cat’s-ear, Chickweed, and the last of the Knapweed providing colour to the otherwise tired looking meadows. In the woods, and in the shelter of the hedgerows, Herb-robert seems to be everywhere at the moment, the delicate and pink cranes-bill flowers carpeting the brighter parts of the woodland floor. Out in the fields the harvest in now pretty much complete, with the very odd field here and there still to be collected in, and indeed a good number of farmers were busy ploughing, harrowing, and drilling throughout the region this morning, taking advantage of the fine weather today to prepare for the new farming year which is just a fortnight away.

12th (Mon) 12.6 C to 20.1 C / nil / 7.0 hours / SW 8.7 knots
An initially dull and overcast start, with some light drizzle on the freshening SW breeze, but by 8 am it would begin to brighten up with some sunny spells. Indeed the rest of the day would see plenty of good sunny spells. but the main feature of the day was infact a strong SW wind, which in the afternoon was very gusty (peaking at 38 knots). Remaining windy in the evening and overnight, though not quite as gusty, with variable amounts of broken cloud.

North Cave Wetlands
Went early to North Cave this morning, on what was an initially dull and damp morning, but which soon brightened up with some sunny spells developing. However a surprisingly warm but nevertheless fresh to strong SW breeze was the main feature of the morning, this grounding many of the birds. Our principal reason for visiting this morning was to catch up with a Black Tern which has been hanging around the reserve for the last week, and thankfully it was still there this morning, sitting with the a few Common Tern’s on the Tern Raft in the middle of Main Lake. This is a new species for my lifetime list, which now moves up to 196 species, while my 2010-2011 list now stands at 135 (compared to 122 last year).

There were a few other good species about this morning too, including two Green Sandpiper’s out on Dryham Ings, a Common Sandpiper on the edge of Main Lake, a probably feral Pink-footed Goose amongst the Greylags on Reedbed Lake, a feral Black Swan, and the feral Bar-headed Goose which we have seen in previous years both here at North Cave and at Watton NR. Wildfowl were generally about in good numbers, with most of the common species, including a noticeable increase in Shoveler numbers, and perhaps somewhat more Pochard’s. However wader numbers were disappointing this morning, with just a single Snipe seen on Reedbed Lake, while there were far fewer Lapwing’s today compared to our visits.

13th (Tue) 12.4 C to 18.0 C / trace / 8.1 hours / W 7.6 knots
A bright but blustery morning, with broken cloud and decent spells of sunshine. However in the afternoon the cloud would begin to increase, both in extent and size, and by 4 pm a couple of brief and blustery showers would pass through the area, dampening the ground and pounding rain against the western windows (this perhaps making it sound somewhat heavier than it truly was). Showers clearing by evening, with variable amounts of cloud for the remainder of the night.

A Grey Heron was seen flying low over the Parkland fields this morning, seemingly fighting the fresh to strong westerly wind. Surprisingly this is the first Heron I’ve recorded since May. Meanwhile a small flock of Grey Partridge’s were seen grazing in the stubble fields, a couple of young Roe deer were spotted, while two late singing Chiffchaff’s were heard (despite the wind).

14th (Wed) 11.4 C to 18.5 C / nil / 5.9 hours / W 3.5 knots
A bright and sunny start, but cloud would increase by mid-morning with it becoming cloudy for a time. However this cloud would break and clear by midday, with a pleasant afternoon following with plenty of good sunny spells. Mostly clear in the evening, with just some patches of broken mid-level clouds drifting across from time to time, and remaining largely clear overnight. Under clear skies it would also become quite cool, with a low of 6.2 C and a heavy dew by dawn.

The first ripe Conker’s are now falling from the Horse Chestnut’s, with the recent windy weather bringing quite a few down. The quality and size of the conkers is perhaps slightly below par, but some people had forecast worse after the dry spring, as well as continuing problems with moth infestations.

Did a little bit of astronomy tonight, but a bright 95% waning harvest moon made conditions poor for DSO observations. There was also a frustrating amount of high cloud, and even finding some constellations was difficult, even in the relatively dark eastern sky. However I did manage to see the Ring Nebula again, as well as doubles Mizar & Albireo.

15th (Thu) 6.2 C to 16.4 C / nil / 8.0 hours / SE 3.2 knots
A lovely sunny morning, though it did begin on somewhat of a chilly note, with a slight low mist in rural areas. Remaining sunny for much of the day, though some cloud would bubble up in the middle of the day, while later in the afternoon cirrus and cirrostratus would begin to veil the sun somewhat. Indeed the cirrostratus would produce a halo and circumzenithal arc, the latter of which was brightly coloured and looked like a miniature upside down rainbow (see picture). However in the evening and overnight cloud would increase, as the breeze moved into the SE bringing in cloud off the North Sea, so that by morning it was dull and overcast.

A late Swift was seen this morning over Beverley Westwood.

16th (Fri) 10.2 C to 16.0 C / 2.9 mm / nil / SE 3.4 knots
A dull and overcast morning, as low cloud was driven in on a moderate to fresh SE breeze. This cloud would become thicker towards the end of the morning with some outbreaks of moderate rain for a time, which in the blustery wind was made to sound heavier as it battered the eastern side of the house. Becoming drier again in the afternoon but nevertheless remaining overcast. Remaining cloudy in the evening, with another spell of rain for a time, but as the night wore on the cloud would begin to break up somewhat, with some clear spells towards the end of the night. This would allow a heavy dew by dawn, which combined with the evening rain made the ground very wet.

A Redshank was heard passing overhead this morning.

17th (Sat) 10.3 C to 17.5 C / trace / 6.8 hours / SW 2.5 knots
A bright morning with variable amounts of cloud, though towards the end of the morning this cloud would become thick enough for a few drops of rain. However this came to nothing and the rest of the afternoon would see good sunny spells, though there remained a threat of showers from time to time up until about 5 pm. Thereafter though any cloud would break up and clear, with mostly clear skies to end the day. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall to 6 C, with a light mist by dawn.

With clear skies this evening, as well as no moon until at least 10.30 pm, I spent a couple of hours star-gazing with my 10 inch reflector. My first target for the night was the Comet Garradd, but this proved elusive, primarily due to the fact that I had no up to date knowledge of its current position. Of course I know it lies somewhere between Sagitta & Hercules, but this is a vast area to search and I was forced to give up after about quarter of an hour of scanning. Somewhat fed up at this point, I decided to head for an object I always like looking at, the Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra. Even without UHC filters this is a wonderful object which I always find rewarding, and I spent 10 minutes or so admiring the view through my eyepiece. From here I swung down and across to M13, the Great Cluster in Hercules, another of my favourite objects, which tonight looked particularly good with a fair amount of structure and faint outer stars being resolved. Indeed at higher powers and during moments of good seeing this cosmic ‘spider egg’ was a joy to behold, with tiny points of orangey stars around the main core. Up until this point in the evening I was in familiar territory, with both M57 & M13 being well known to me, but for the remainder of the night I would be venturing into new ground, starting with M92. This globular cluster is located higher within the constellation of Hercules, and indeed bares a resemblance to M13, abliet on a smaller scale, and I found this another good object, with some structure towards the edge of the cluster just about picked out at higher magnification.

From here I swung across the sky again, with my target being M52. This open cluster was somewhat indistinct, and looking at the cluster with the large scope one wonders why Messier added it to his catalogue as it looks nothing like a comet. However through the finder scope, with its lower magnification, the cluster did indeed look like a fuzzy patch, and one has to remember that for the most part Messier would have used telescopes of a much more modest size compared to what we take for granted today. The next port of call was M39, though on the way I passed through the faint constellation of Lacerta, a new one for me, and then past the Cocoon Nebula. The Cocoon is not really a rewarding visual target, but the cluster which is associated with this faint emission nebula was nevertheless an attractive sight. Eventually I reached M39, another open cluster, which unlike M52 was much more obvious amongst the rich sea of stars of Cygnus. To my eyes this cluster resembles a Christmas tree in shape, with some lovely blue white stars shining forth against the blackness of space. This is one of the best open clusters I have yet seen, though this cluster would be over-shadowed by my last target of the evening, M11.

However before I arrived at M11, I would stop by a three more targets, the first of which was M29 near the star Sadr which marks the centre of Cygnus. This was another open cluster, which at higher powers revealed a wealth of small stars. From here it was a short distance to the globular cluster of M15, a tight collection of stars in the constellation of Pegasus, and then I moved further down to M2, another tight globular cluster which is found in the constellation of Aquarius. M2 was even tighter than M15, but nevertheless at high powers tiny stars could just about be resolved around the edge of this beautiful cluster. After finishing here I headed for my last target of the night, M11, the Wild Duck Cluster, which is located on the boundary of the constellations Aquila (the Eagle) and Scutum (the shield). This is a lovely open cluster, possibly amongst the most beautiful OC’s that I have yet seen, and the view through my eyepiece was filled with delicate blue-white points of light which were like diamond dust scattered across the sky. I could have stayed out for much longer enjoying these wonderful sights, as the weather was good and not very cold, but by this point in the evening my laptop battery was nearing its end, so I decided to head for my bed, but while putting the scope away I did notice Jupiter shining brilliantly in the SE. Indeed I was tempted to stay out a little longer to admire this superb planet, but the draw of a warm and welcoming bed was too much and hopefully I will catch up with this largest of all the planets later in the autumn. All in all a good night under the ever darker autumn skies.

18th (Sun) 6.0 C to 16.7 C / 3.4 mm / 7.5 hours / NW 2.2 knots
A clear and misty start, with a pleasant chill on the still autumn air. Remaining sunny for most of the morning, but by early afternoon cloud would quickly bubble up with showers drifting down from the north, some of which were quite heavy and accompanied by rumbles of thunder. Dying out by the end of the afternoon with sunny spells returning to end the day. Clear spells overnight.

North Cave Wetlands
Another early morning visit, primarily to catch up with the Arctic Tern I missed the other day, and to try out my new camera with its impressive zoom. The weather was beautifully autumnal this morning, with mist and fog patches down here in the Vale of York, with barely a breath of wind, and a delightful chill to the dawn air (4 C according to the car thermometer). Upon arrival at the Main Hide I was quick to open the shutters and search for the elusive Arctic Tern, and I quickly found it. At first I had actually overlooked it as a Common Tern, as I find these two species very difficult to separate, but when it took to the wing I quickly realised its true identity and I was able to watch (and photograph) the graceful bird as it flew around the area. This is the first Arctic Tern I have recorded in East Yorkshire, taking my county tally up to 171.

However there was plenty of further interest this morning, with three Green Sandpiper’s on Dryham Ings (this new habitat seems very much to their liking), at least three Dunlin on Reedbed Lake, six Wigeon on Far Lake, and good numbers of Snipe on Island Lake (Snipe are one of my favourite birds). Also one could hear Skylark’s passing overhead throughout the morning, while at one point five Grey Heron’s drifted across the Main Lake and then proceeded to turn around and head back to wherever they came from. Heron’s are impressive birds in flight, and five of them together was actually quite a dramatic spectacle, so much so that I simply watched and admired them rather than trying to photograph the scene (though in retrospect I wish I had now). All in all a good mornings birding on a beautiful autumn day.

Later in the morning we would head up to Brattwood near Nunburnholme, with the weather still gorgeous with a lovely autumn golden light. Indeed when we arrived at Nunburnholme it was still enveloped in fog, and it felt noticeably cooler, but as we climbed up the hill we would emerge into the sunshine. This sunshine would remain with us throughout the walk, and it would soon warm up too, so much so that I couldn’t resist reclining in the sun for a short period beside the old Hawthorn boundary hedge which extends through the pasture above Brattwood. From here one has a fine view out to the west, with the Humber to the south, the attractive hill top village of Holme-on-Spalding-Moor to the south-west, York and its spires to the west, and further beyond the high hills of the Pennines.

Meanwhile above me a Red Kite soared, a regular and common bird here, while a Jay flew up from the wood below and passed over my head on its way eastward. Jay’s are fairly common in this area of the county, but sadly around Beverley, and indeed most areas east of the Wolds, it is a rare bird and therefore this sighting was perhaps the avian highlight of the morning. Eventually we reluctantly moved on, heading into the wood which has now lost its summer lushness. Along the way we passed rich hedgerows covered in natures bounty, with lovely ripe Haws, Sloes, Elderberries, Crab Apples, and Blackberries, as well as less appetising Guelder Rose, and definitely unappetising Red Bryony. The wood is fairly quiet now, though a few late singing leaf warblers were heard, while amongst a roving band of tit’s & finches a Marsh Tit was picked out amongst them, a fairly scarce species in the county as a whole, but is nevertheless a reliable observation in this modest bit of woodland.

On the now largely un-interesting woodland floor just Herb Robert is providing colour, though there was a small amount of fungi to be found here and there too, none of which I could confidently identify. Eventually we came out of the wood and made our way back along the road, passing verges still fairly rich in wildflowers. Knapweed in particular is still going strong here, along with some Meadow Cranesbill, and also a fair amount of Toadflax, an attractive yellow flower which is most often found beside roads or on rough grassland. Eventually we completed our loop and returned to the car, but by now the strong sunshine had encouraged quite a few butterflies on to the wing, including Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, and Comma, the latter of which has been quite scarce this year, while quite a few dragonflies were also noted along the edge of the wood, most of which seemed to be Migrant Hawkers.

19th (Mon) 8.5 C to 17.1 C / 0.2 mm / 6.9 hours / SW 3.3 knots
A clear start with a pleasing autumn chill on the air, and it would remain mostly clear and sunny throughout the morning, though by midday cloud would begin to increase. This cloud would further increase in the afternoon, with mostly cloudy skies by mid-afternoon, and it would remain cloudy for the rest of the afternoon and evening. Little change overnight, though towards the dawn the cloud would become thick enough for some outbreaks of rain and drizzle.

Nidderdale Show, Pateley Bridge
Today we attended the annual agricultural show at Pateley Bridge, the third year in a row that we have been able to attend. The weather was very good by Nidderdale standards, with plenty of good and warm sunny spells in the morning, though in the afternoon cloud would spill over the hills somewhat, with a little bit of light drizzle at times. The show as ever was well attended, both public and exhibitor wise, with the quality of livestock on show of high standard and wide diversity. However I did feel there was somewhat less in the way of cattle this year, but nevertheless the field was strong and better than most run-of-the-mill country shows. One exhibitor had come from our neck of the woods, Millington Grange Estate, and he was showing some fine Limousins.

The Dairy field was good too this year, and my stockman’s eyes allowed me to pick out the eventual Champion and Reserve Champion from the rest of the field before judging, a minor personal triumph. The standard of horses on show was also tremendous, with some gorgeous equine flesh on show, and the turn out of both the horses and riders was immaculate. There were a few horses which caught my eye in particular, one being a very handsome dapple-grey (despite the fact that I don’t usually like greys), and another being one of the glossiest and finest Liver-Chestnut’s that I have ever set eyes on.

Horses are a particular passion of mine, despite the fact I don’t come from a particularly horsey family, and to me there are few creatures which are more aesthetically perfect than a horse in good shape and condition. There was plenty of other livestock on show, including of course a great abundance and variety of sheep what with this being primarily sheep country. Breeds on show included the local breeds such as Wenselydale, Swaledale, Teeswater, & Masham, while others included Suffolk, Leicester, Texel, Beltex, Mules, Jacob, Ryeland, Cheviot, Charollais, & a few rare breeds.

There were also goats, pigs, poultry, ducks, geese, pigeons, rabbits, and Dogs, as well as stands of local produce, some of which were very impressive indeed. However horses and cattle are my main field, with the rest of the show of only passing interest, though I do always like looking at the vintage tractors and machinery, as well as some of the newer equipment brought by the agricultural salesmen. Towards the end of our visit there was a display of falconry, with some beautiful Peregrines performing in the main ring, while the local hunt (which I think is the West of Yore hunt) also brought there hounds, showing of these skilled dogs to the crowd. Maybe one day these dogs will be allowed to hunt for real again, though to be honest I think that ship has sailed and the tradition of hunting with hounds is now confined to history.

20th (Tue) 11.0 C to 15.0 C / 0.5 mm / nil / SW 1.0 knots
A dull and dank morning, with outbreaks of rain and drizzle, but after midday it would begin to dry out somewhat, though it would nevertheless remain overcast throughout the afternoon. The cloudy skies made for quite a cool day, with a high of just 15 C. The cloud would thicken again for a time after dusk, with some light rain, but after midnight the cloud would begin to break up with some clear spells developing later.

A fair amount of leaves have fallen in the last week or so, especially around the usual early droppers such as Birch and Horse Chestnut. This gives a lovely evocative autumn smell to the area, especially on a damp and warm morning such as today’s. However colour is still not particularly widespread, except amongst the Horse Chestnut’s, though its hard to tell which Horse Chestnut’s are genuinely turning and which are suffering from moth infestation. Meanwhile conkers are to be found widely now, many of good size despite dire forecasts, while the Beech is dropping its nuts, much to the delight of the squirrels.

A few brief breaks in the generally overcast skies allowed a fantastic sunset this evening, with the sky burning bright red in the west-north-west. Autumn is generally the best time of year for both sunrises and sunsets, and hopefully tonight’s was just one of more to come in the weeks ahead.

21st (Wed) 8.8 C to 17.3 C / trace / 6.0 hours / SW 4.7 knots
A sunny and bright morning, with a heavy dew covering the district after a cool night. Remaining largely sunny throughout the morning, though after 11 am cloud would increase, so much so that by 1 pm it had become mostly cloudy, and there seemed to be even a threat of showers. However it would remain dry, a freshening SW wind perhaps keeping off any rain, and despite the cloud the afternoon would be bright, with still some short sunny spells from time to time. Remaining mostly cloudy and blustery in the evening, with the cloud actually becoming thick enough for the odd blustery shower after dusk, but after midnight the cloud would begin to break with the wind likewise easing. Indeed it would become largely clear by dawn, with another heavy dew by morning.

North Cliffe Wood
This afternoon we took Sophie for a walk at North Cliffe, on what was a blustery day with the wind being particularly strong along the western footpath and out on the heath. Despite the August rains the reserve is still very dry, indeed beneath some of the western Birches the grass is yellow and brittle, and all the ditches and marshes remain dry. However despite the dry conditions a fair amount of fungi is still on show, including the first Fly Agaric’s of the year. However the two which were found were not particularly great examples, and hopefully by the middle of next month more should appear. I also found what appeared to the first Parasol Mushroom of the year, but as it was still in its infant state I am not quite sure about my identification, though it was found where they usually appear in the NW corner of the heath (near the gate).

More Russula ochroleuca, or otherwise known as Common Yellow Russula, were found along the walk, and indeed along the southern path which runs along the birch wood a number or dark red russula’s were seen, though of which type they were I am not certain though I suspect they were atropurpurea’s. Also along the edge of the birch wood some of what I believe were Rufous Milk Caps were found, these being attractive large fungi with tidy gills, and an obvious central umbo, while Grisette’s were seen abundantly throughout most parts of the birch wood. Meanwhile acorns are now widely falling from the Oaks, and carpet the woodland floor in places. Many of the acorns seem to be of a very large size this year, and the crop seems much greater than it was last year, though the Oaks are also healthier looking than last year as many seemed to be suffering from an infestation of something or other in 2010. Blackberries can still be found widely in the wood too, though many are now over ripe which after all isn’t a surprise with Michaelmas just a week away (after this date you shouldn’t pick any as the Devil puts a curse on all brambles).

22nd (Thu) 9.3 C to 15.9 C / nil / 7.8 hours / W 3.2 knots
A mostly clear and cool start, with a heavy dew. Remaining largely clear and sunny throughout most of the morning, though like yesterday cloud would increase by midday with it becoming mostly cloudy for the first half of the afternoon. However this would break up again later, with it becoming mostly clear again by evening. Clear spells at first overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall to 7.5 C, but variable amounts of cloud would increase later, raising temperatures somewhat with it.

Jupiter currently lies high in the SW at dawn, and is brilliantly bright and dominates the ever darkening mornings. Meanwhile in the Parkland field this morning a Wheatear was spotted, its white rump clearly obvious, while in the winter cereal fields a group of about five Grey Partridge’s were observed. As I gathered wild fruit’s (haws, sloes, elderberries, crab apples, & rosehips)  a Green Woodpecker was heard near New Model Farm, and a couple of late singing Chiffchaff’s were also heard in the area this morning.

23rd (Fri) 7.5 C to 18.3 C / nil / 3.3 hours / SW 1.2 knots
A bright start with broken cloud, but after 8 am it would become generally cloudy as altostratus extended to cover the sky. The rest of the morning would remain largely cloudy, though towards midday some sunny spells did manage to break through again. The afternoon would follow on with a similar theme, with largely cloudy skies, though with some sunny spells too, and indeed during the latter half of the afternoon there would be more in the way of sunshine. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight.

The Beans have now been harvested in the Parkland area, with just the sprouts now left in this years harvest. Meanwhile next years cereal crops and OSR are already coming up, though some fields remain unploughed still.

24th (Sat) 9.3 C to 19.0 C / trace / 4.4 hours / SW 1.3 knots
A bright day with some sunny spells, mostly in the morning and the first half of the afternoon, though the sunshine was generally weak and hazy. Cloud increasing later in the afternoon with a mostly cloudy end to the day, and remaining mostly cloudy overnight, with a bit of drizzle later.

The International Space Station was seen passing over this morning at about 06:25 (BST), and was brighter than Jupiter as it passed over in the southern sky from west to east.

Typical autumn butterflies can be seen around the garden now, with the likes of Red Admiral’s & Comma’s feeding on the ivy flowers. Red Admiral’s are particularly abundant at the moment, with the ivy seemingly covered in them (along with wasps, hoverflies, & ladybirds) on a warm and bright day like today.

25th (Sun) 10.5 C to 18.7 C / 1.1 mm / 3.1 hours / SW 1.8 knots
A grey morning, the cloud thick enough for a bit of drizzle and rain at times. Remaining damp and grey for much of the afternoon, but after 3 pm it would clear away rapidly with sunshine to end the day, coming as somewhat of a surprise after the slate skies of earlier in the day. Remaining largely clear in the evening, but cloud would again increase later with a little bit of rain during the night. However this too would clear by dawn, with the cloud breaking shortly prior to sunrise.

Millingtondale (Pasturedale)
On what was a grey and damp morning with occasional outbreaks of rain, Dad and I made our way up to the head of Millingtondale. The morning would prove very quiet, with little of any real note, though at the top of the dale a lot of House Martin’s were seen hunting in the humid and warmish conditions which prevailed today. However other than these hirundines birds and wildlife were notable by there absence this morning, with just a few Hares seen here and there, and a Kestrel was seen being repeatedly mobbed by a Rook or Crow. The weather today also meant that only a very few butterflies were on the wing, and indeed along our walk we saw only one Red Admiral and one Small Tortoiseshell.

However some interest is still being provided by the last of the wildflowers, and at the wildflower bank near the top of Pasturedale a few interesting blooms were noted, included one small patch of Bloody Cranesbill, a few bits of Scabious, some Meadow Cranesbill, still a fair amount of Knapweed (both Lesser & Greater here), as well typical late bloomers like Bindweed, Hawkweed, and Herb Robert. The wildflower bank had been recently mowed though, with just a few areas cordoned off for whatever reason. Obviously this bank is being managed with wildflowers in mind, and some species perhaps need to be left rather than cut for them to continue to thrive at this small but beautiful wildflower bank which has been becoming better and better in recent summers.

26th (Mon) 12.2 C to 18.2 C / nil / 8.0 hours / W 1.6 knots
A bright start, with broken cloud, and indeed by mid morning this cloud cleared away leaving a mostly sunny morning. Remaining largely sunny for the remainder of the day, though some small patches of broken cloud would drift across from time to time, and there would also be variable amounts of high cloud which would veil the sun somewhat, though by and large it was a very pleasant autumn day. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall somewhat with a heavy dew by dawn.

27th (Tue) 8.0 C to 22.0 C / nil / 10.0 hours / SW 0.8 knots
A bright and sunny morning, with a heavy dew to start the day, with just some cirrus in the sky. Remaining mostly clear and sunny in the afternoon, and becoming warm for the time of year with a high of 22 C (72 F). Clear skies in the evening and overnight, though cirrus somewhat veiled the stars, with mist forming by dawn.

The unseasonably warm sun encouraged quite a few butterflies on the wing, with a Brimstone, a Holly Blue, and many Red Admiral’s seen fluttering around. Meanwhile Dad, Jenny, Michael and I went to pick sloes this morning near Middleton-on-the-Wolds, with this years crop being particularly abundant.

28th (Wed) 11.2 C to 24.5 C / nil / 11.1 hours / SE 0.7 knots
A beautiful start to the day, with clear skies and a low mist over the fields, and remaining sunny throughout the day with barely a cloud in the sky. The sunshine and southerly winds would encourage temperatures to rise well above the seasonal norm, with a maximum of 24.5 C being recorded, and all in all it was a very pleasant and summer like day. Remaining clear overnight with mist and fog forming.

About 11 to 12 Grey Partridge’s were beside Shepherd’s Lane this morning, while some Golden Plovers were heard out in the field (thick mist/low fog concealed there visual presence).

29th (Thu) 11.3 C to 26.1 C / nil / 11.0 hours / SE 0.5 knots
A lovely autumnal start to Michaelmas with a light fog and clear skies, and remaining clear throughout the remainder of the day with wall to wall sunshine. Very warm again  with a maximum of 26.1 C, making this the warmest September day since 2006. Clear overnight with mist and a heavy dew by dawn.

30th (Fri) 10.5 C to 26.8 C / nil / 11.0 hours / SE 0.4 knots
After a misty start it would be another sunny and very warm day, with the temperature climbing to 26.8 C, making this the joint warmest day I have ever recorded in September and only the second time the temperature has exceeded 80 degrees. Remaining clear overnight, with a heavy dew, though it didn’t become misty like recent nights.

Despite the fact that it is October tomorrow, the garden is still full of colour with plenty of flowers, including Michaelmas daisies, geranium’s, and nasturtium’s, while the abundant berry crop on a number of trees and shrubs are also providing attractive splashes of colour.

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