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January 2012

1st (Sun) 8.3 C to 10.3 C / 2.4 mm / nil / SW 3.5 21 Kt.
A grey, overcast, and mild morning, with the cloud becoming thick enough for some light outbreaks of rain by midday. The rain becoming heavier and more persistent for a time in the afternoon (peak rate of 5.2 mm/h), but it would begin to clear away by dusk. Remaining largely cloudy in the evening and overnight, but the cloud would begin to break up later during the night, this allowing temperatures to fall lower than recently.

2nd (Mon) 2.0 C to 11.0 C / 7.6 mm / 4.7 hours / S 6.5 38 Kt.
An initially cloudy start but the cloud would quickly clear after dawn with mostly clear skies by 9 am. Remaining bright with sunny spells for much of the day, and indeed it would remain clear into the evening, but cloud would increase overnight, accompanied by a freshening breeze and rising temperatures.

Jupiter and the waxing gibbous moon lay close together in the evening sky this evening, forming an attractive pair high in the southern sky.

3rd (Tue) 2.5 C to 9.1 C / 0.4 mm / 0.3 hours / W 10.3 43 Kt.
A wet and blustery start to the day, with a particularly heavy spell of rain and squally winds just prior to 9 am (peak rainfall rate of 41.8 mm/h and gusts to 34 knots), though thereafter the day would begin to improve. However further blustery showers would follow, with the wind becoming very strong and gusty again in the afternoon and evening, with a maximum gust of 43 knots being recorded. Showers clearing by evening with clear spells in the evening and overnight, though the fresh breeze would prevent temperatures from falling particularly low.

4th (Wed) 3.5 C to 10.5 C / 1.5 mm / nil / W 10.8 60 Kt.
A largely clear and breezy start, but cloud would quickly increase with mostly cloudy skies by mid-morning. It would remain generally grey throughout the day, the cloud thick enough for some spots of rain at times, and the breeze would remain at the very least fresh throughout the morning and afternoon. Indeed in the evening and even more so overnight the wind would become the major feature of the weather, with gale force winds buffeting the house and roaring through the wood. The winds would peak around 1 am, when the wind would gust to 60 knots or Beaufort force 11 Violent Storm (easily a new station record for my relatively sheltered location). Their was also a short spell of rain overnight, which was quite heavy for a time with a peak rate of 13.4 mm/h. Overall a wild night and certainly the most powerful gale to hit these parts since January 2007.

The Quadrantid Meteor Shower reached a peak just prior to dawn this morning, and while I was out I managed to see at least half a dozen, including two good ones which streaked across the sky as they fell towards the eastern horizon.

5th (Thu) 5.4 C to 7.5 C / nil / 3.1 hours / W 9.3 35 Kt.
A cloudy and windy start to the day, though by mid morning the cloud would begin to break and the breeze would ease somewhat. Thereafter the remainder of the day would see a mixture of sunny spells and variable amounts of cloud, though as the day wore on the cloud would decrease with mostly clear skies by dusk. Remaining largely clear in the evening and overnight, though a moderate breeze would prevent temperatures from falling to much. However their was nevertheless a slight touch of grass frost by dawn.

6th (Fri) 1.6 C to 9.5 C / 0.2 mm / 3.8 hours / W 4.5 24 Kt.
A clear and cold start with a slight grass frost, and remaining sunny and mostly clear throughout the morning and into the first part of the afternoon. However cloud would quickly increase after 1 pm, with cloudy skies for the remainder of the afternoon, and indeed through the evening and night. Temperatures also rising with the cloud, with the day high of 9.5 C coming around midnight, and the cloud would also be thick enough for some rain for a time during the night.

7th (Sat) 1.9 C to 8.8 C / nil / 2.5 hours / W 6.1 28 Kt.
A bright and mild start with broken cloud, and remaining sunny and clement throughout the morning, though the breeze would freshen for a time. However like yesterday cloud would increase after midday, with cloudy skies for the remainder of the afternoon, and into the evening. However overnight the cloud would begin to break, with clear spells developing later.

8th (Sun) 5.0 C to 9.4 C / 0.2 mm / 1.5 hours / W 3.2 21 Kt.
A bright start but cloud would increase as the morning progressed with largely grey skies by midday. Remaining dull and grey throughout the afternoon, though despite the overcast skies it was a mild day with temperatures reaching a high of 9.4 C. The cloud also became thick enough for a short spell of rain around 3pm, but this didn’t come to much and soon cleared. Remaining cloudy in the evening and most of the night, though some breaks would develop from time to time.

Looked at Mars & Saturn this morning and despite the fact that my 10 inch Newtonian is in need of a collimation the view of both objects was surprisingly good. This was the first time I have viewed Mars through my scope, and the disc was far larger and brighter than I had been expecting. Indeed to view any detail on the planet I was forced to use the moon filter, and with this I was able to distinguish some darker features near the centre of the planet as well as noting the polar cap during moments of good viewing (133x magnification). Saturn meanwhile was as beautiful as ever, with the rings now more open than this time last year, with the result that the Cassini Division was far more apparent than during previous observations. A few of the moons were spotted too, with Titan easily the dominant of them.

Givendale
On a mild and mostly cloudy January morning, my Dad and I headed up towards Givendale near Pocklington. This area of the western Wolds (the area between Londesborough and up towards Acklam) is to my eyes at least the most beautiful and scenic area of the Wolds, with a pleasant mixture of woodlands, pasture, and fields with views across the Vale of York and the distant Pennines far to the west on the other side of Yorkshire. However less pleasant this morning were the underfoot conditions, with lots of mud in and above Grimthorpe Wood, this largely caused by the number of springs which rise up in this area (including Ridings Beck which flows down to the Pocklington Canal).


We started our walk beside the attractive little church of St. Ethelburga's and headed southward down the valley of Given Dale itself. Other than a few Black headed and Common Gulls in the fields and Fieldfares in the hedgerows their were very few birds or anything else of note around this area of the walk. Crossing Ridings Beck via the bridge we continued southwards and headed up the hill towards Millington, but instead of continuing on to the village we instead headed westwards down the road and down onto Broad Ings, the flat and mostly arable area east of Pocklington.


After again crossing and following Ridings Beck for a short distance along the Pocklington road, we then headed back northwards crossing the fields to climb back up onto the Wolds via Grimthorpe Wood. This wood is a mixed plantation and hosts a reasonable variety of birds, with highlights this morning including Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, and Goldcrests. After climbing up above the wood we contined northwards across the side of the hill, enjoying the views out to the west despite the grey skies and thick mud. Along this stretch of the walk we spotted two Buzzards, and at least three Red Kites, two endemic species in this area of the Wolds, this despite the fact that this area hosts some of the best game-shooting in the county (and indeed country), a testament to the fact that country-sports and birds of prey can thrive successfully side by side.


Eventually we arrived at Hodgson Wood, where the sound of a yaffling Green Woodpecker was heard, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were again seen here. A Jay was also heard in this Ash wood, these western Wold woods being the best area in the East Riding to pick up these locally uncommon birds. After passing by Hodgson wood we headed east up the hill and back towards Givendale, passing along the way a large Badger set hidden away in a quiet spot (the location of which I will not reveal here). Other notable observations this morning included an abundance of game-birds, the mild winter thus far no doubt leading to lower mortality than usual, while Hares are now becoming more apparent out on the winter cereal fields, with a few also seen 'boxing' this morning.

9th (Mon) 5.8 C to 10.9 C / nil / 3.3 hours / W 2.4 18 Kt.
A cloudy and grey start to the morning with little in the way of brightness, but by midday it began to brighten up with a beautiful (and very mild) winters afternoon following. Indeed with temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit and with even some cumulus development one could be forgiven for thinking it was April rather than January. Clear spells in the evening and for much of the night, this allowing a touch of grass frost for a time, but cloud would increase later.

10th (Tue) 1.4 C to 9.9 C / trace / 1.0 hours / SW 2.9 18 Kt.
A cloudy and grey morning for the most part, but latterly some sunny spells would develop. Indeed around midday and into the afternoon it would become largely clear for a time, with welcome winter sunshine bathing the farm, but this wouldn’t last long and cloud soon increased again with mostly cloudy skies for the remainder of daylight hours. Little change in the evening and overnight, the cloud thick enough for a little bit of rain for a time, and it would also be a very mild night for the time of year with a low of just 6.7 C.

The current mild weather has really got nature moving on, with quite a few Snowdrops now in full flower in front of the house. Meanwhile in my spring bed the odd one is now appearing, while Winter Aconites are also just starting to appear above the earth. Perhaps more surprising to see this early are a few Crocus’, with a couple of blue ones now coming out on the edge of my spring bed. Meanwhile the warm sunshine encouraged a few insects to take to the wing today, including blue-bottles and even a Bumble-bee.


11th (Wed) 6.7 C to 11.8 C / 0.2 mm / 0.9 hours / SW 5.5 39 Kt.
A bright but largely cloudy morning with variable amounts of cloud drifting in from the west. Some longer breaks would develop for a time in the afternoon, with some pleasant spells of unseasonably warm winter sunshine (indeed it was warm enough to comfortably sit outside in the walled garden), but cloud would increase again later. Remaining mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight, with a short spell of rain around 8pm, but the main feature of the night would be a freshening WSW breeze, which would become quite strong and gusty by the end of the night. Another very mild night too with a low of just 8.5 C.

More unseasonably warm winter sunshine encouraged me out into the garden again today, where I was able to enjoy the early spring flowers which are now appearing (see yesterday). Indeed a couple more Crocus’ have now appeared, including a yellow one, while on the other side of the garden I noticed that a few flowers on the Double Kerria are now open. This seems very early, as this bush doesn’t usually reach its peak until late March/early April. In the same area the flowering Mahonia was giving of a pleasant amount of scent. Meanwhile more insects were seen again today, including flies, quite a few Hoverflies (on the north wall Ivy), at least one Bumble-bee, and a Wasp.

12th (Thu) 8.5 C to 10.5 C / 0.4 mm / 2.5 hours / W 5.7 31 Kt.
A windy and cloudy start to the day, with the wind gusting up to 39 knots, but by 9 am the cloud would begin to break and clear away south-eastwards with some good spells of sunshine following. However cloud would increase again by the end of the morning, with a short moderate shower prior to midday, but this would soon clear away with mostly clear and sunny skies returning by the afternoon. Remaining largely clear in the evening and overnight, with a much colder night following compared to recently with a ground frost by dawn and a low of 1.8 C.

Went out to look at Jupiter this evening, and I was rewarded with perhaps the best views I have ever had of this massive planet through my 10 inch Newtonian reflector. Indeed conditions were excellent for a time this evening, and this allowed me push magnification up to x266, the highest possible that I can currently achieve with my range of eyepieces, and yet I was able to resolve a wealth of detail with my current single speed focuser. The most notable feature was a large and dark ‘barge’ on the edge of the NEB, while bands a plenty were resolved crossing the disk. However one problem with such high magnifications is that the objects move very fast, and as my scope is currently mounted on a Dobsonian it does mean that one has to keep pushing the scope to keep up, somewhat ruining the experience. Hopefully one day I will be able to acquire a EQ6 mount for my reflector, and I have to say I do miss the ability to track an object via an equatorial mount.

After viewing Jupiter and its moons I decided to have a look at the Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and I was soon rewarded with a fine view of this large and relatively close spiral galaxy which will one day collide with our own Milky Way. Of course visually it looks nothing like the glorious photos you see in books and magazines, and instead looks more like a long grey smudge with a noticeably brighter core, but it is a fine sight nevertheless. The neighbouring satellite galaxy of M32 was also easy to spot beside its much larger companion, with my wide field x32 eyepiece excelling as this sort of low powered work.

13th (Fri) 1.8 C to 6.4 C / nil / 2.8 hours / W 1.5 14 Kt.
A largely clear and cold start, with a ground frost, but by mid morning cloud had increased with extensive altostratus covering most of the sky. It would remain bright nevertheless, and by midday the sky had largely cleared again with good spells of sunshine in the afternoon, though cloud amounts would increase again after mid-afternoon. Cloudy for a time in the evening, but after 7pm the cloud would clear with mostly clear skies for the rest of the night. These clear skies and a lack of any breeze allowed temperatures to fall sharply, with a decent hoar frost and a low of -3.6 C.

Had a look at both Saturn and Mars again this morning, though a veil of high cloud meant that conditions weren’t as good as last night. Mars was particularly difficult to see well this morning, primarily due to its low altitude in the pre-dawn sky and the subsequent increase in instability and general murk which results from its low elevation. However during moments of good seeing I could clearly see the polar ice cap, though any darker features on the planet weren’t resolved this morning. Mars was also close to the star HIP56618 this morning, indeed so much so that it looked like Mars had a sizeable moon beside it of similar magnitude as those of the Galilean satellites around Jupiter.
Saturn meanwhile was a jewel as ever, this despite the ever lightening dawn sky, and I was able to push magnification to around x150, this clearly showing the Cassini division in the rings, as well as showing a few of the moons, most noticeably Titan. A darker, greyish-blue band was also resolved on the planets northern hemisphere, while there was just a hint of further features just beyond the point of being resolved.

14th (Sat) -3.6 C to 3.7 C / nil / 5.7 hours / S 0.2 8 Kt.
A clear and very frosty start to the day with temperatures around -4 C, and remaining clear and cold throughout the day with the frost persisting all day out of the sun. Under clear skies temperatures would again plummet in the evening and overnight (reaching a low of -5.5 C), and with relatively high humidity this would lead to a very heavy hoar frost. However after 5am cloud would increase from the SE with mostly cloudy skies by dawn, though temperatures would remain well below freezing (total frost duration for the day was 18 hours (0900-0900).

15th (Sun) -5.5 C to 2.4 C / nil / 0.1 hours / S 0.0 4 Kt.
A mostly cloudy but very frosty start, so white in fact it looked like snow had fallen during the night with even the trees and hedgerows covered in a beautiful hoar frost. However the cloudier conditions and higher humidity meant that the frost would melt by midday today (unlike yesterday), though the high today of just 2.4 C is the lowest maximum recorded here on the farm since the 3rd of January 2011. In the evening and overnight the cloud would begin to break up, with temperatures again quickly falling below freezing with a low of -3.7 C.

Deepdale & Cot Nab
I don't know about you but I love cold and frosty weather in winter, so when I awoke to see the local countryside transformed into a fantastical frosted landscape after an overnight low of -6 C I couldn't wait to get out and about. After finishing all my morning jobs we decided to head up into the Wolds, though upon arriving at Kirby Underdale (our original walk of choice) we found the church car park was full, and we were forced to change our plans and instead decided to do one of my favourite short walks at nearby Deep dale. This steep sided and deep dale (hence the name) is amongst the highest in the Wolds, indeed the very top of it starts just below Garrowby Hill (the highest point in the Wolds), and it continues south down towards Givendale. In summer this is a particularly beautiful area for a stroll, with Wildflowers, Butterflies, and the occasional Redstart & Quail, but in winter too it has a stark beauty, even more so with heavy hoar frost covering the north-facing dalesides as was the case this morning.


This is also a good area for Birds of Prey, with Buzzards being common, as well as the occasional Red Kite, and even more occasional Marsh Harrier (most likely in spring). Indeed a trio of Buzzards were seen this morning around the area, calling above the wood while they circled on the gentle chill southerly breeze. Later a very pale form individual was seen above Calliswold, and indeed the brief view I had through my bins did suggest the possibility of Rough-legged Buzzard. However in all likelihood I expect it was just a Common Buzzard, and my view wasn't good enough to confirm the chief diagnostic features to make me sure of RLB, but nevertheless it did have the 'jizz' of these scarce winter visitors, and Calliswold is no more than 2 1/2 miles away from where a juvenile RLB was seen in November.


Given the cold weather the countryside was largely quiet, with only a few Hares seen out on the fields this week, though overhead a flock of about a dozen Golden Plovers was heard and observed, as was a single Lapwing. A beautiful male Bullfinch was espied in the wood, its pink plumage positively glowing in the cold blue hued light of mid-winter, while other common finches searched the woods and hawthorn scrub for food. Bramblings are sometimes seen here in winter, attracted by the Beech trees, but I searched in vain for any amongst the plentiful Chaffinches. Further along the walk we came to Manna Green (near Cot Nab), where I found plenty of small 'Puff-balls‘ covering the hillside. It was on this same hill-side I found a wealth of Waxcaps & Mottlegills in autumn, and I may well have discovered an interesting little spot for future mycology. Meanwhile the gorse on the south-facing hillsides are now flowering well, and indeed if one breathed deeply enough you could just about detect the coconut like odour of these prickly shrubs. For me the smell of gorse is one of the most evocative and pleasing of all flowering scents, bringing with it thoughts and memories of sweet spring days past, as well as dreams of those which are still yet to come.


16th (Mon) -3.7 C to 4.8 C / nil / 5.3 hours / S 0.6 G8 Kt.
A clear, misty and frosty morning, with the ground now hard as rock after successive frosts and an overnight low of nearly -4 C. Remaining mostly clear and sunny throughout the day, and though it was a little warmer today the frost nevertheless survived all day in shady areas. Under clear skies during the evening the temperature would again quickly fall away, below freezing by 6pm, and it would remain mostly clear throughout the night with an overnight low of -3.2 C.

17th (Tue) -3.2 C to 6.9 C / 1.4 mm / 1.5 hours / S 2.5 20 Kt.
Another clear and frosty start to the day, with the local area covered in beautiful hoar frost, this again surviving all day in any shady areas, and it would remain bright all day, though varying amounts of cirrus would diffuse the weak winter sunshine. Remaining largely clear in the evening and at first overnight, with temperatures falling to -1.6 C, but cloud would increase later with some rain arriving from the SSW by the end of the night, raising temperatures with it.


18th (Wed) -1.6 C to 10.4 C / nil / nil / SW 3.4 25 Kt.
A wet start with a period of moderate rain, but by 8 am the rain would clear away, though it would remain dull and murky throughout the morning. Becoming slowly brighter however during the afternoon, with the cloud beginning to break around dusk, with some hazy clear spells in the evening (clear enough to see the brighter stars & Jupiter anyway). However the cloud would thicken up again somewhat overnight, and as a result it was a milder than night recently with not even a grass frost.

A Grey Heron flew low over the house just prior to 9 am, and I expect this was the same bird seen on Sunday morning.

19th (Thu) 3.1 C to 7.7 C / trace / 3.3 hours / W 8.3 33 Kt.
A grey morning for the most part with a short period of rain around 10 am, but thereafter the cloud would begin to break with some good spells of sunshine by midday. Remaining sunny through most of the afternoon, though a moderate westerly breeze would make it feel quite cool, and around dusk a few blustery showers would blow in from the WNW, though these wouldn’t come to much and soon cleared away. Clear spells in the evening and at first overnight, allowing a touch of grass frost, but cloud would increase later.

Under clear skies I had a good night of astronomy, though a moderate westerly breeze did create some instability at higher magnifications. After letting the scope cool down (it had been inside while it underwent some maintenance and collimation), I turned to the Orion’s belt and enjoyed the fantastic sight that is the Orion Nebula (M42/M43), and at this point I decided to check whether my collimation was OK and had a look for the E & F stars within the Trapezium. So far I haven’t able to resolve these two fainter stars which lie beside the much brighter A to D stars, but during moments of good seeing tonight I was finally able to resolve the E star at least, though the F star again proved elusive beside the bright C star. After enjoying this view I moved westwards up to Jupiter, which is now starting to get rapidly lower in the western sky by mid-evening. Indeed I was only able to enjoy the view for a short time before it disappeared below the house, but the view was good (despite heat turbulence rising from the house) and the main belts were resolved with a much darker ‘barge’ noted along the edge of the NEB. The Galilean moons were all west of the planet this evening, with Io & Europa divided by a few arc-seconds, while further out lay Ganymede & Callisto. At this point cloud rolled in from the west, obscuring the southern sky, but the skies to the north-east remained largely clear and I decided to look for some of the interesting galaxies and planetary nebula which lie within the large constellation of Ursa Major. However this would to be the most frustrating part of the evening as I failed to find my targets of M97 (the Owl Nebula), M108 & M109 (both galaxies), all seemingly lost in the light pollution of Beverley.

After fruitlessly searching for these objects the cloud to the south began to clear, and I swept across the eastern sky heading for Auriga. On the way I decided to have a look at the double star of Castor in Gemini, which was easily split at relatively low powers, and to me this double star always looks like a set of car lights far in the distance. My targets in Auriga were the trio of open clusters which lie in this area (M36, M37, & M38), and I had no problem finding any of them. M37 was particularly good at low powers, with the view full of small stars surrounded by the blackness of space. From here I headed down into Gemini till I came to another open cluster (M35) near the foot of Castor. Beside it I was also able to make out the much smaller open cluster of NGC2158 as a very faint patch of fuzziness beside the much larger cluster that is M35. Continuing through Gemini I headed for the planetary nebula of NGC2392 (the Eskimo Nebula), which is also part of the Caldwell catalogue created by Sir Patrick Moore. To my surprise this was relatively easy to find, with a faint halo surrounding a bright core, and I was able to push the magnification quite a bit on this object. To me it resembled a smaller version of Ring Nebula, though I think a UHC filter would help me to squeeze out some further detail.

By now it was starting to get quite late, but I still had a few more targets I wanted to see, including M1, the Crab Nebula. This is barely more than a rugby ball shaped smudge of grey fuzz through my scope, but nevertheless I always like to see it, for after all it is one of the most interesting and historic objects in the night sky. By now I arrived back at Orion where I had started my evening, and I tuned the scope up to the double star of Meissa, easily resolving the two stars at moderate magnification. From here I moved to my final target of the evening which was the nebula of M78 near the bright star of Alnitak (the eastern most of the stars which make up Orion’s Belt). This faint nebula was easily found with my 10 inch scope, and was a patch of diffused light with a slightly brighter upper core. Further detail seemed on the edge of being resolved, including a hint of yellowish colour, but I think a UHC or OIII filter would have helped to pull out some of the finer detail.

20th (Fri) 2.3 C to 11.0 C / 2.2 mm / nil / W 5.1 35 Kt.
A dull and grey day throughout, with some outbreaks of mostly light rain at times, especially in the afternoon and evening. Becoming drier overnight, but the wind would begin to freshen from the SW and the temperature would also rise, reaching a maximum of 11.0 C around 3am. Remaining blustery for the remainder of the night, with some gusts in excess of gale force.

21st (Sat) 3.6 C to 9.4 C / trace / 2.0 hours / W 10.1 38 Kt.
A bright but blustery start, but by 10am light showers would develop, accompanied by some quite strong gusts of wind at times. These light blustery showers would continue into the first part of the afternoon, but by 2pm would die out, with mostly clear skies by dusk and throughout the evening, and first half of the night. However cloud would increase again later with a few further light blustery showers by dusk.

22nd (Sun) 5.0 C to 10.0 C / nil / 5.1 hours / W 8.0 44 Kt.
A mostly sunny but windy morning, though there were some brief light showers at first. The wind was strongest between 10am and 1pm, with a maximum gust of 44 knots being recorded. Remaining mostly sunny and windy into the afternoon, though the breeze would slowly ease as the afternoon progressed. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, with winds becoming largely light. This allowed temperatures to fall to 2.3 C, with a slight ground frost by dawn.

Great Dugdale, Warter
Today our walk had to be fairly brief so we could get home in time for an extended family feast, so we headed up towards Warter which is just a short drive away. Our choice of walk was around the valley of Great Dugdale, an always interesting area thanks to the effort of the estate gamekeepers and land managers whom maintain the vast majority of this area for the benefit of gamebirds. All the covert crops and feed put out for the Pheasants, & Partridges undoubtedly benefits the wild birds too, and this estate always hosts a healthy and diverse concentration of finches, tits and sparrows.


Amongst the plentiful Pheasants and Red-legged Partridges a couple of Grey Partridges were spotted today, this estate being one of a few locally whom are taking action to prevent the demise of these handsome and native gamebirds. Overhead, despite the strong and gusty wind this morning, a couple of Red Kites were seen above Great Dugdale, a regular sighting here, while Wood Pigeons were very abundant and formed great flocks whenever they were spooked. In the hawthorn scrub winter thrushes were noted, while at one point a hunting Stoat was seen briefly, no doubt exploiting the great numbers of Rabbits which are to be found in this sheltered valley. Out on the fields quite a few Hares were picked out, most of them keeping low to shelter from the aforementioned wind, and it seems they have lost the appetite for 'boxing' since the weather turned far more seasonal after the very mild start to the month.


23rd (Mon) 2.3 C to 7.3 C / 2.9 mm / 6.0 hours / W 3.8 23 Kt.
A clear and chilly start with a touch of grass frost, and it would remain mostly clear for the remainder of the day, with plenty of welcome winter sunshine. Remaining clear in the evening and at first overnight, with temperatures dropping close to freezing, but cloud would increase later with rain moving in prior to dawn.

The Aurora, or Northern Lights were seen in NE England last night.

24th (Tue) 0.8 C to 8.0 C / 4.2 mm / nil / SE 1.0 12 Kt.
A wet, cold and murky morning with persistent moderate rain, with the rain continuing well into the afternoon, though it would became steadily lighter and more intermittent by mid-afternoon. Further outbreaks of light rain in the evening, but it would become drier overnight, though remaining nevertheless overcast and quite murky with poor visibility. Temperatures also rising through the day and night, reaching a high of 8 C by the end of the night.

25th (Wed) 2.0 C to 10.4 C / 2.0 mm / 0.5 hours / S 3.8 24 Kt.
A cloudy but mild day for the most part, though there were some occasional breaks which allowed some welcome sunshine. Remaining largely cloudy in the evening and overnight, with the breeze freshening and cloud thickening after midnight, bringing with it some periods of moderate to heavy rain later (peak rate of 7.8 mm/h).

The bulbs in the garden are now coming along nicely, with the daffodils already a few inches tall, while tulips and hyacinths are still under an inch or so. Budburst is also apparent on Honeysuckle and some Elder, while the Double Kerria is covered with flower buds (those which were flowering at the start of the month have subsequently withered away after the mid-month frosts). In the spring bed the Winter Aconites are now widely in flower, joined by the odd Snowdrop and Crocus.

26th (Thu) 5.4 C to 7.4 C / 0.3 mm / 2.5 hours / S 4.0 20 Kt.
A wet start with light rain, but by mid-morning this had cleared away with it becoming slowly brighter as the morning progressed. Indeed by 11 am it had become largely sunny, and it would remain mostly sunny and bright in the afternoon, apart from a couple of light showers which drifted across the area. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, though again their were a few light showers at times.

27th (Fri) 1.1 C to 7.1 C / 0.2 mm / 1.2 hours / NW 1.6 19 Kt.
A sunny start with just some broken cloud, but as the morning progressed cloud would increase from the north, with mostly cloudy skies by midday. Remaining largely cloudy through the afternoon, and indeed evening, though their were some breaks from time to time too. The cloud becoming a little thicker overnight, with a few light showers, but these would clear away later with skies becoming mostly clear by the end of the night, allowing a touch of frost by dawn.

28th (Sat) 0.4 C to 7.0 C / trace / 2.7 hours / NW 1.5 11 Kt.
A chilly and bright morning, with a slight hoar frost and icy patches at first, and remaining bright into the afternoon with variable amounts of cloud. Clear for a time in the evening and at first overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall below freezing, but cloud would increase later.

29th (Sun) -0.7 C to 5.0 C / trace / 0.2 hours / SE 1.0 14 Kt.
A largely cloudy and cold morning, the cloud thick enough to produce some spots of rain at times, and though it would become a little brighter for a time around midday, the majority of the day would remain grey and dull with temperatures reaching a high of just 5 C. Little change overnight, with cloudy skies pretty much throughout, this cloud thick enough to produce some light sleet and/or snow grains at times.

Kirby Underdale
On a chilly and grey morning we headed up to the beautiful area of the Wolds around Kirby Underdale, starting our walk from beside the church. Our first highlight of the morning would come in the Alders east of the delightful church which sits picturesquely in the landscape, with about 50 Siskins feeding on the seeds high in the trees. I looked for any Redpolls amongst them but failed to spot any, though this search did reveal a Treecreeper. Along the bank beside the beck which flows through the churchyard most of the Snowdrops are now out, while in the area some Winter Aconites were also noted.


Heading north from the village we headed up Opendale, a wonderfully peaceful and life filled dale, though the large number of springs in this area does mean that it is very boggy in places at this time of year. However it is all this mud and water which makes it such a good area for wildlife, with the delightfully secluded pond beneath Opendale Plantation hosting about two dozen Teal, there ringing calls filling the dale as we climbed up onto the moor above. Open water is rare in this neck of the woods so the sighting of Teal in the Wolds is a very good sighting indeed, and the pond also hosted Mallards.


Making our way across the Moor, an area where sheep graze beside the unfenced road, we started to head down the hill, slowly meandering down onto the East Ings. The journey down the hill was very pleasant after the long climb earlier, and from the Wold side we had a beautiful view across the Vales of York and Pickering where a low mist and fog hung across the landscape. Meanwhile a Buzzard was seen hovering above Acklam Wold, while the fields hosted good numbers of Hares. We also stumbled upon an active Badger set, though the exact location of it I won't reveal here. Eventually we made it down to Salamanca Beck, a very large stream by Wold standards, and headed back to Kirby Underdale through the fields, ending an enjoyable walk in this beautiful corner of Yorkshire.


30th (Mon) 1.0 C to 3.4 C / 0.6 mm / nil / E 1.6 14 Kt.
A pretty grim, grey and cold day, with occasional outbreaks of sleet &/or snow grains/pellets, some of these showers being a bit heavier during the afternoon. Little change overnight with overcast skies and further occasional wintry showers. However the cloud did prevent temperatures from falling below freezing.

31st (Tue) 1.0 C to 3.3 C / nil / 0.3 hours / E 3.0 14 Kt.
A grey and cold start again, with thick cloud coming in off the sea on a gentle but steady easterly breeze. Little change in the afternoon, though the cloud would break up a little at times, this allowing some brief brighter spells. Remaining largely cloudy in the evening and overnight with just a few cloud breaks (long enough to allow a ground frost).

North Cave Wetlands
We had a free morning today, so we decided to make the best of it and headed down to nearby North Cave Wetlands (that is after a bit of debate over whether we should have gone to Watton instead). The weather was dry but unappealing, with grey skies and a thin easterly breeze, though thanks to this cloud temperatures remained above freezing last night with the result that the lagoons on the reserve remained ice free. The morning started well, with the bird feeders along the eastern path hosting good numbers of tits, finches, and sparrows. The birds here are very used to people, and I was able to take some good photos at quite close range, including some particularly confiding Long Tailed Tits. In the same area up in the trees tops a little flock of Siskins was spotted, while a charm of two dozen Goldfinches also hosted a few Linnets, a bird which can become pretty inconspicous in the winter months.


However the main action today would be provided by the birds of prey, with a Buzzard being the first to make an appearance. The Buzzard flew right over the Island Lake, and from our view point in the Turret Hide we had a fantastic view of this bird as it unsettled the gulls and Teals whom were feeding on the lagoon. About half an hour later a Marsh Harrier turned up, with it repeatedly quartering the area, and we had one of the best prolonged views I have ever had of these increasingly common and widespread raptors. Indeed one is almost blase about these birds nowadays, but to watch one at such close quarters and for such a prolonged time was a memorable one. The final raptor to appear this morning was a Peregrine Falcon, with this sharp winged bird of prey seen briefly over the reserve before it headed off towards the south.


Further highlights this morning would include the usual abundant wildfowl, especially Teal, though the number of Wigeon seems to have diminshed recently with only about half a dozen seen around the reserve this morning, though in contrast Shelduck numbers are now on the increase. Meanwhile waders were represented by Lapwings, Redshanks, Snipe (at least three), and a lone Dunlin on Island Lake, and there was also a lot of gulls around, most of which were a mixture of Black-heads, Commons and immature larger gulls. I did take time to scan through all these gulls for less common species (Mediterranean Gull has been reported here recently), though to be honest I am pretty useless when it comes to gulls and probably wouldn't notice a rarity if it came and sat on my head.


I also noticed some signs of spring this morning (despite the weather), with the male catkins on the Sallows (or Pussy Willow) beginning to appear, as are lamb-tails on many of the Hazels. Also of interest was the large amount of orange coloured lichen currently covering many of the trees in south-western corner of the reserve, and upon closer inspection it was a beautiful organism, with delicate fungi like cups.

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