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December 2011

1st (Thu) 4.6 C to 7.5 C / nil / 2.0 hours / W 1.9 14 Kt.
A clear and chilly start, but altostratus would begin to invade by mid-morning, this veiling the sun as the day wore on, with mostly cloudy skies in the afternoon. Remaining cloudy into the evening, but overnight the cloud would clear with mostly clear skies through to dawn. This would allow temperatures to fall, with a slight hoar frost by the end of the night.

2nd (Fri) 0.9 C to 9.5 C / 0.6 mm / 3.1 hours / SW 5.7 23 Kt.
A clear and frosty start, with a touch of hoar frost around the local area. Remaining bright for most of the morning, though cloud would increase by 11 am, with it becoming quite grey for a time in the afternoon. Indeed it even looked quite threatening, but it came to nothing and the cloud would begin to break and clear by dusk. The evening would see mostly clear skies, but the freshening breeze would stop the temperature from falling much, and overnight cloud would increase anyway with a short period of rain for a time. Clearing by the end of the night, with clear skies by dawn.

First hoar frost of the winter, with cars covered in frost, as well as some roofs, and just a touch of it on the lawn too.

3rd (Sat) 1.7 C to 8.9 C / nil / 5.0 hours / W 6.9 32 Kt.
A clear and chilly start, made to feel that bit colder thanks to a moderate to fresh WNW breeze which would pick up as the morning wore on with gusts up to 32 knots. Remaining bright with sunny spells for much of the day, though there would be some cloudier periods too, especially in mid-afternoon. Clear spells at first in the evening, though the breeze again preventing temperatures from falling drastically, but cloud amounts would increase overnight as stratocumulus drifted in from the west.

4th (Sun) 4.0 C to 6.0 C / 0.2 mm / 0.3 hours / W 5.1 25 Kt.
A bright start, with variable amounts of stratocumulus, though feeling chilly in a brisk westerly breeze. However cloud would increase by 10 am, with it remaining generally grey, cloudy, and cold for the remainder of the day. The cloud would in fact become thick enough for some cold rain by dusk, but this didn’t come to much with the skies clearing after dark. Becoming cold overnight, though a breeze again prevented temperatures from falling below freezing, though towards dawn some snow pellet showers would pass over, this giving a very slight dusting on any cold surfaces. Our first taste of winter this year.

North Cliffe Wood
Today we set off across the Wolds to visit North Cliffe wood near Market Weighton, with my sister and nephew joining us. The weather was bright initially, but it would soon become grey and dull, though the most noticeable feature of the weather this morning was the cold and brisk westerly wind. After what has been such a mild autumn it seems that winter has perhaps finally arrived. The wood meanwhile was fairly quiet this morning, with the Birch woodland now standing bare and stark in its winter cloak, and only a few typical winter woodland tits and finches fluttering amongst the branches.

Amongst the finches were a few Bullfinches, always a pleasing sight, while amongst the hawthorn & gorse scrub on the heath a flock of mixed thrushes was seen searching for food, amongst them some Fieldfare’s. Fieldfare’s were also seen on the local fields in good numbers, as were a mixture of common winter farmland gulls (Black-heads, Mews, & Black-backs), and a lone Curlew. The Curlew called a few times while we enjoyed our walk, and their are perhaps few birds whose calls are more evocative than the simple ‘quooi’ of these handsome waders. Another bird which was heard but not necessarily seen this morning, included a Jay. One day I might actually manage to see one of these birds here at North Cliffe rather than just hearing them. A few raptors were about too, including a Sparrowhawk and a couple of Buzzards over the heath, while other predators seen this morning included a brief sighting of a Fox by my sister.

Meanwhile the plant-life of the wood is now very much entering winter mode, with most trees now bare and dormant, but some colour is still nevertheless present in the sheltered parts of the Oak woodland, the last golden leaves being complemented by the coppery hues of the dying bracken on the woodland floor. Fungi too is now becoming increasingly scarce, with the diversity of species which were to be found in autumn now a fading memory, but nevertheless some were found here and there, including types of Grisette, Russula, and what appeared to be Armillaria’s. All in all an interesting morning’s stroll around this tranquil woodland, as the countryside marches on from the glories of autumn towards the quiet and dormant days of winter. Perhaps the next time we visit their will be some snow on the ground.

5th (Mon) 1.0 C to 4.8 C / 0.8 mm / 4.3 hours / W 5.0 26 Kt.
A clear and cold morning, the day beginning with a very slight dusting of snow pellets on any cold surfaces. This would soon melt though in the sunshine, though nevertheless it was a cold day with a high of just 4.8 C. Sleet and wet snow showers arriving in mid-afternoon, this making it feel particularly raw outside, but they would clear after dusk, with mostly clear skies overnight. However yet again it wasn’t cold enough for our first air frost of the winter, with a moderate WNW breeze preventing temperatures from falling below freezing.

The first snow of this winter came just prior to dawn today, though it was more snow pellets rather than proper snow. Nevertheless after such a mild and frostless autumn it is just nice to see (and indeed feel) some proper wintry weather.

6th (Tue) 1.0 C to 5.7 C / 3.4 mm / 2.6 hours / SW 4.6 33 Kt.
Initially clear and cold, with frost covering all cold surfaces, but sleet showers would arrive at dawn, washing away all the ice and frost. The showers clearing by 8 am, with the rest of the morning see plenty of sunshine, though despite the sun it felt very raw today, with a cold WNW breeze. Cloud increasing from the west by midday however, with cloudy skies for most of the afternoon, and by dusk it would become thick enough for a short spell of rain. This soon clearing, but after a short quieter period showers would move in overnight, becoming  frequent for a time and quite heavy (peak rate of 3.6 mm/h). Also becoming increasingly windy, with gusts up to 33 knots.

Fieldfare’s heard in the area today, as well as some Redwing’s. Otherwise the garden is quite quiet bird-wise, though this may more to do with my current lack of bird feeders and food.

7th (Wed) 2.5 C to 6.9 C / 0.6 mm / 2.3 hours / W 8.2 38 Kt.
A blustery morning with a fresh to strong WNW breeze, with a mixture of sunshine and showers, some of which contained a bit of sleet at times. The wind would also become very squally during some of the showers, with a maximum gust of 38 knots being recorded. Quieter for a time, but another period of squally rain/sleet showers would follow in mid-afternoon. Clearing by dusk, with clear spells in the evening, and it would remain clear for much of the night, with the breeze also easing later. Cloud would increase as well though by the end of the night, with some outbreaks of rain by dawn.

8th (Thu) 2.8 C to 10.6 C / 4.1 mm / nil / W 9.6 45 Kt.
A grey and dull morning, with some outbreaks of rain at times. However it was the freshening wind which was the most noticeable feature of the morning, and this would become quite strong at times. Becoming quieter for a time but a very sharp squall would pass through around 3 pm, with winds gusting to 45 knots (force 9) and a peak rainfall rate of 45.8 mm/h. Thereafter the cloud would break, with decent clear spells in the evening and overnight, but it would remain at the very least breezy, particularly in the evening with gusts regularly up to gale force.

9th (Fri) 3.0 C to 5.6 C / 0.2 mm / 4.8 hours / W 3.3 24 Kt.
A clear and chilly start, with a moderate to fresh breeze. Remaining mostly clear and sunny for the vast majority of the day, though cloud would increase in the afternoon with a brief shower around 3 pm. Clearing by dusk though with clear skies through the evening and night, this allowing temperatures to fall away with the first air frost of this winter (-1.4 C). This is the latest ever first air frost on my records, beating the previous record of December 8th in 2003.

With the lovely clear and cold skies this evening, I decided to head out with my camera and attempt some night-time photography. Overall I was very pleased with the results, and I hope to photograph more night scenes over the coming winter. The camera also performed well, despite the low temperatures and frost, and I am particularly looking forward to taking some night scenes when or if we get some snow over the winter.

10th (Sat) -1.4 C to 5.6 C / 0.3 mm / 4.0 hours / SW 4.0 21 Kt.
A lovely clear and frosty start to the day, with the whole district covered in a heavy hoar frost, the first significant one of this winter. Remaining sunny and chilly throughout the morning, with the frost just about surviving all day in shady spots, though in the afternoon the sun would become increasingly veiled by variable amounts of high cloud. Clear spells in the evening, this allowing another ground frost, but cloud would increase & thicken overnight, bringing with it some rain and warmer temperatures. The breeze also picking up a bit by dawn.

A lovely frosty start to the day, with the whole area covered in a moderate to heavy hoar frost. This mornings low of -1.4 C is the first sub-zero minimum of this autumn/winter, and is the latest ever start to the air frost season on my records dating back to 2003.

11th (Sun) 0.7 C to 7.3 C / 2.7 mm / nil / SW 2.8 20 Kt.
A grey start, with the ground wet after recent rain. Much milder than yesterday morning though (4 C at 6 am), with a freshening SW breeze. Remaining dull throughout the morning, with the cloud becoming ever thicker with outbreaks of moderate rain during the afternoon. Dying out by the evening though, with the cloud breaking and clearing overnight. Indeed the clear skies would allow temperatures to fall to near freezing, with a light hoar frost by dawn.

ADAS High Mowthorpe
On a dull, raw, blustery, and eventually wet morning, we headed up to the ADAS farm at High Mowthorpe, which is just over the county border in North Yorkshire and near the village of Duggleby. The landscape of this area of the Northern Wolds is much bleaker and open than the central and western Wolds where I tend to do most of my birding and rambling, but nevertheless High Mowthorpe has plenty of interest, including a small reservoir, a rare piece of open water in what is otherwise a dry landscape. However the reservoir is currently quite low, and is about a third smaller than normal, and this lack of water was reflected in the few wildfowl seen there this morning, with just a couple of Mallards, four Greylag Geese, and six Teal. Around the waters edge a Pied Wagtail was spotted, while over the nearby wet fields a Buzzard was seen hunting.

Indeed through the morning Buzzard’s were seen frequently, with at least three in this relatively small area. Meanwhile the fields also hosted their fair share of bird and wildlife, including a dozen Grey Partridge’s, hundreds of Wood Pigeon (amongst which a few Stock doves were picked out), and typical winter farmland gulls (mostly Black-heads, Commons, & Great Black-backs). Hare’s were also seen well this morning, including one individual which was less than 25 yards from where we watched it, and we also stumbled upon a rather old looking Stoat. Indeed my father nearly accidentally stood on the little beast, and it gave a loud cry of alarm as it ran for its nearby den.

However the undoubted highlight of the morning for me was the flushing of a handsome Woodcock from one of the many areas of shelter-belt woodland up here, and I was able to get a good view of it (though sadly not long enough to photograph it). This is the first Woodcock I’ve seen in the Wolds this winter, and they have long been one of my favourite of all the wild game-birds, partly because of their elusiveness but also because of the many traditions and folk-lore which surround this secretive and skulking species of bird. So all in all it was a good morning despite the weather (or perhaps because of it), with plenty to see and enjoy.

12th (Mon) 0.5 C to 9.0 C / 9.2 mm / 5.4 hours / SW 5.1 33 Kt.
A clear start, with a light hoar frost covering the area, and it would remain clear for most of the day with abundant winter sunshine. However cloud would move in from the SW after 3 pm, and this would thicken through the remainder of the afternoon and evening with outbreaks of rain by 7 pm. Outbreaks of moderate to heavy rain continuing for much of the night, accompanied at times by a gusty SW breeze, but it would clear by the end of the night.

13th (Tue) 0.9 C to 6.1 C / nil / 5.8 hours / SW 8.6 31 Kt.
An initially cloudy start, but this would clear by 8 am with mostly clear skies by mid-morning. Remaining sunny and clear for the remainder of the day, and feeling cool in the brisk SW wind, and it would remain clear during the evening and overnight. However the breeze prevented temperatures from falling below freezing, though their would be a touch of grass frost by dawn.

14th (Wed) 1.7 C to 5.4 C / 5.1 mm / 3.9 hours / SW 3.8 28 Kt.
A cold, sunny and breezy morning, with a slight grass frost at first. Cloud increasing in the afternoon, with the cloud thick enough to produce some spots of rain by 3 pm, but this didn’t come to much and the cloud would clear by the evening. Clear spells overnight, this allowing a slight air frost, but cloud would increase again later with a period of sleet and wet snow arriving just prior to dawn.

Quite a few Redwing’s were seen and heard around the area throughout today. Meanwhile in the Parks a flock of about two dozen Lapwing’s were seen near Black House Stables (along with winter gulls), and a distant Curlew was also seen near Woodmansey when we went to get the Christmas tree.

15th (Thu) -0.6 C to 4.0 C / nil / 2.0 hours / SW 1.7 17 Kt.
Moderate to heavy sleet and wet snow at first this morning, this giving a slight accumulation of slush on most surfaces (most of which would melt by midday, though in some spots it would last throughout the day). Snow & sleet clearing by mid-morning, and thereafter slowly brightening up with some spells of sunshine by the afternoon. A chilly day, with a high of just 4 C. Clear spells in the evening and for much of the night, this allowing a touch of air frost, but cloud would increase by dawn, raising temperatures with it.

There was a slight accumulation of wet snow this morning, the first bit of lying snow this winter. In the garden a Redpoll was briefly observed amongst a flock of Goldfinches.

16th (Fri) -0.3 C to 3.5 C / 0.6 mm / nil / NW 5.2 18 Kt.
An overcast and cold start, with temperatures barely above freezing, and indeed temperatures would struggle to rise much throughout the day under the generally overcast skies with a high of just 3.5 C. Ice pellet showers would pass through shortly after dusk, but these would soon clear with variable amounts of broken cloud in the evening and overnight. Some clearer spells would develop at times too, this allowing a slight air frost with hoar frost by dawn.

17th (Sat) -0.3 C to 4.0 C / nil / 0.5 hours / W 6.0 21 Kt.
A frosty but largely cloudy start, and remaining cold and cloudy for the remainder of the morning with only a few brighter periods at times. However in the afternoon the cloud would begin to break up, with some wintry sunny spells developing, and the cloud would continue to break in the evening and overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall below freezing with a decent hoar frost by dawn.
A male Blackcap was seen in the garden today, while Tree Sparrows were also seen on the bird feeders.

While travelling over to North Cave this evening, we passed over High Hunsley where snow covered about 50% of the fields, especially in shady areas behinds trees or buildings.

North Cave Wetlands
I ventured across the Wolds just prior to dusk today to visit North Cave on what was a bright but cold winter's day. By the time I arrived at the reserve the sun was on the verge of setting, so I knew I wouldn't have long on the reserve before darkness descended, but I was pleased to see I had the reserve to myself (a rare luxury these days). The vast majority of the lagoons were covered in a thin layer ice, but where the breeze was stronger the water was still open, and it was in these areas that most of the birds were gathered.

Their was a particularly good number of typical winter wildfowl around this evening, including a good number of Wigeon (my favourite duck, bar Pintails), as well as Teal, Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted dusk, Mallard, and three Shelducks. On the edge of the lagoons were Lapwing, Redshank, & Snipe, while overhead a Curlew was heard at one point. However the most obvious species of bird this evening were Fieldfares, with the hedgerows seemingly alive with these large thrushes along the edge of the reserve, and Redwings were also well represented tonight.

However to be honest it was the beauty of the winter evening sky which was the highlight of this short trip (it was really too dark to see the birds properly anyway), and the twilight scene was emphasised even more by the ice on the lagoons, the crisp coldness of the air, and the falling frost. Indeed by the time I completed my circuit of the reserve it was truly dark, and I was restricted to identifying the birds by calls, but above me I saw Jupiter shining brightly in the south-eastern sky, while Venus was low in the south, a fine way to end my short jaunt to this award winning wetland site.

18th (Sun) -1.5 C to 3.0 C / nil / 5.4 hours / W 3.0 19 Kt.
A mostly clear and frosty start, and it would remain mostly clear and cold throughout the day, with temperatures reaching a high of just 3 C, with the frost surviving all day in the shade. Under clear skies during the evening the temperature would quickly fall again, reaching a low of -3.1 C overnight, but towards the end of the night cloud would begin to increase from the south-west, raising temperatures slowly with it.

Wharram Percy
On a cold and frosty morning we headed up to the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy, which is just across the county border in North Yorkshire. Actually Wharram Percy is barely more than a couple of miles away from last weeks walk at the ADAS farm at High Mowthorpe, though thankfully the weather was much more pleasant today with clear blue skies and beautiful hoar frost in the shady dales. The walk at Wharram Percy is one of my favourites, though it can be spoilt somewhat by the large number of visitors it sometimes attracts, though today we pretty much had the whole area to ourselves, an all too rare luxury.

The air was very clear today and visibility was excellent, and from the car park one could look across to Castle Howard in the north-west, with the snow dusted North Yorkshire Moors beyond & to the north of that magnificent house, while much more distantly to the west the snow blanketed Pennines could be seen clearly. Here too at Wharram Percy it appeared their had been a snow shower during the night, with a slight dusting of flakes seen upon the frozen ponds and puddles, but it was the hoar frost which primarily gave added wintry beauty to the countryside this morning, with delicate white crystals covering the ground.

Bird-wise the morning was very quiet, with no sign of the Peregrines from Wharram Quarry (or indeed Burdale Quarry), but a large Buzzard was spotted at one point, and a few Kestrels were seen hunting alongside the field edges. A flock of Bullfinches was a pleasing sight though, with probably about 8 moving through the Hawthorn scrub near the old railway line, while winter thrushes were abundant, especially Fieldfares with at least 200 hundred seen in the scrub just beyond the abandoned village.

19th (Mon) -3.1 C to 6.9 C / 1.4 mm / nil / W 6.4 28 Kt.
A cold and frosty start, with cloud increasing from the SW. Indeed by mid-morning it had become overcast with outbreaks of rain and drizzle, this making it quite icy for a time as the rain fell upon the cold ground. Rain clearing by midday, but nevertheless it would remain cloudy throughout the afternoon with little in the way of brightness. However in the evening the cloud would begin to break, with the rest of the night seeing variable amounts of cloud, though a moderate to fresh westerly breeze would make it a milder night than recently.

20th (Tue) 1.0 C to 5.5 C / 2.6 mm / 0.8 hours / W 2.9 21 Kt.
A bright and breezy morning, with thin altostratus veiling the sun. However as the morning went on this cloud would thicken, with cloudy skies by midday. Remaining cloudy through the afternoon, and indeed evening, with outbreaks of rain moving in overnight. Also becoming increasingly murky overnight with fog by dawn.

21st (Wed) 3.4 C to 11.1 C / trace / nil / W 6.0 34 Kt.
A damp and foggy morning, with visibility down to about 500 metres, and it would dull and murky throughout the morning, though by midday visibility had improved somewhat. Little change in the afternoon, with grey and overcast skies, but around dusk the cloud would begin to break with clear spells developing in the evening and overnight. However the breeze would also pick up, this becoming strong overnight with gusts up to gale force, and the temperature would actually rise, reaching an unseasonable high of 11.1 C.

22nd (Thu) 4.6 C to 12.1 C / nil / 2.0 hours / S 4.3 29 Kt.
A very mild, breezy, and bright morning, with some spells of sunshine at times. Remaining bright going into the afternoon, with temperatures reaching a high of 12.1 C (making this the warmest December day since 2007), but cloud would increase after 2 pm with mostly cloudy skies for the rest of the day. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, with some clear spells at times, but it would nevertheless remain mild with a low of just 7.6 C.

23rd (Fri) 7.6 C to 10.5 C / 11.4 mm / nil / W 6.0 28 Kt.
A grey and mild morning, with the cloud becoming ever thicker and bringing a spell of persistent moderate to heavy rain which would continue through most of the morning and afternoon (11.4 mm in total would be recorded). However in the evening the rain would clear, with the breeze picking up for a time, and overnight their would be variable amounts of cloud, this allowing temperatures to fall lower than the last couple of nights with a touch of grass frost.

24th (Sat) 1.8 C to 10.2 C / 0.4 mm / 1.3 hours / SW 5.1 24 Kt.
A largely clear start, bar extensive amounts of high cirrus, but as the morning wore on this high cloud would be replaced by increasing amounts of altostratus with any early sunshine becoming increasingly weak. Indeed by 10 am outbreaks of rain would move in, but this didn’t last long and it would dry and brighten up after midday. Variable amounts of cloud in the afternoon, but after dusk cloud would generally increase, with temperatures rising with the cloud.

25th (Sun) 4.2 C to 13.3 C / nil / 0.8 hours / SW 5.8 34 Kt.
A cloudy and mild start to Christmas Day (the temperature 10 C at 9 am), and remaining generally cloudy and mild throughout the day. However some sunny spells would manage to break through in the afternoon, and this would encourage temperatures to rise to over 13 C, making this the warmest December day since 2007. The breeze would freshen in the evening, with gusts of up to 34 knots, with the night seeing largely cloudy skies.

North Cave Wetlands
On a grey, breezy and mild Christmas morning, my Dad and I popped down to North Cave Wetlands, hoping to catch some interesting winter waterfowl at our favourite local wetland site prior to the festive family banquet back at home. At first the reserve seemed quiet with little of anything on Main Lake (bar common species of gulls, Teals, Pochards, and a single Redshank), but as we made our way around the reserve we would come across some Siskin's along the western edge of the reserve. At least half a dozen were seen, but their way well have been more, and though I looked hard I wasn't able to pick out any Lesser Redpolls amongst the flock (their were lots of Goldfinches and Long Tailed Tits in the area though).

On Far Lake good numbers of Wigeon & Gadwall were seen, but the highlight of the morning would come on Island Lake where a single male Goosander was seen swimming amongst the abundant Teal on the Lake (a single Shoveler was also seen here). Over on Village Lake the vast majority of the Greylag Geese had congregated, and amongst the noisy throng a single Pink-footed Goose was picked out, along with a hybrid goose of some sort. Meanwhile the southern hedgerows hosted large numbers of thrushes, with Redwings being particularly apparent, and towards the end of our short trip a pair of Bullfinches was spotted, a good way to end our Yuletide stroll.

26th (Mon) 10.0 C to 13.7 C / nil / 2.3 hours / SW 3.8 25 Kt.
A sunny and very mild start to St. Stephen’s Day (11 C at 9 am), and remaining mild and bright for the majority of the day with a very unseasonable high of 13.7 C, the highest maximum recorded in December since 2007 (see yesterday). Variable amounts of cloud overnight, with yet another very mild night for late December.

27th (Tue) 8.7 C to 10.4 C / 0.6 mm / 1.4 hours / SW 4.4 26 Kt.
A bright and mild morning again, with some good spells of weak winter sunshine. However cloud would increase in the afternoon, with cloudy skies for the remainder of the day. Remaining mostly cloudy in the evening, but some clearer spells would develop overnight, though by dawn more general cloud would again start to increase. Another mild day.

28th (Wed) 6.8 C to 8.4 C / 0.2 mm / 0.9 hours / W 8.1 40 Kt.
After a wet start with a short period of moderate rain, it would quickly brighten up with some short spells of sunshine around midday. However cloud would increase again in the afternoon, with a short spell of blustery rain, but this would clear by dusk, with variable amounts of cloud in the evening. However the breeze would become strong in the evening, with gust of up to 40 knots, and it would remain breezy throughout the night.

29th (Thu) 4.4 C to 7.9 C / 2.8 mm / 1.4 hours / W 9.2 38 Kt.
A bright and breezy morning for the most part, but cloud would quickly increase by the end of the morning, with a short period of blustery rain. Quieter for a time before a period of sharp and squally showers in mid-afternoon, with a peak rainfall rate of 26.8 mm/h and gusts up to 38 knots (it really was quite wild for a time with the rain beating against the western windows). Clearing after dusk, with mostly clear skies in the evening and overnight, with the breeze also slowly easing as the night progressed. Colder than recent nights with the slightest of ground frosts.

30th (Fri) 1.4 C to 10.4 C / 4.1 mm / 0.2 hours / W 2.6 15 Kt.
An initially clear and cold start, but cloud would quickly increase from the west by mid morning, with overcast skies by the end of the morning. The cloud continuing to thicken in the afternoon, with persistent moderate rain arriving after 3 pm, and this rain would continue well into the evening. Clearing overnight but nevertheless remaining largely cloudy with temperatures actually rising as the night progressed.

31st (Sat) 2.0 C to 11.8 C / trace / nil / SW 4.5 25 Kt.
A very mild and largely cloudy start, and remaining cloudy and mild throughout the day with temperatures climbing to 11.8 C. Little change in the evening and overnight, with very mild conditions for the New Year celebrations, though the cloud was thick enough for some light rain for a short time during the middle of the night.