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April 2012

1st (Sun) 0.0 C to 14.2 C / nil / 9.0 hours / W 3.0 21 Kt.
A clear and cold start with a dry ground frost, but under largely clear and sunny spring skies it would soon warm up, with temperatures climbing to a pleasant 14 C (however it did feel much cooler in the breeze). Skies remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight, this allowing a touch of grass frost by dawn.

North Cliffe Wood
This morning we payed a long overdue visit to this little patch of precious woodland between Market Weighton & North Cave. The recent sunny and unseasonably warm spring weather has advanced the season nicely since our last visit in early March, with much more in the way of new life now apparent throughout the wood. Indeed the local countryside is looking increasingly resplendent, with hedges white with Blackthorn blossom, Bluebells appearing in the woodlands around Beverley, seas of yellow provided by Oilseed Rape in the rolling fields of the Wolds, and villages brightened by the sunny faces of Daffodils. Hotham in particular looked very fine upon this Palm Sunday morning, as did the villages of Newbald, Walkington & North Cave.

However it was North Cliffe Wood which would provide the majority of the interest this morning, with I being particularly interested to see how great the diversity & plenitude of wildflowers would be on show on this the first day of April. I have a particular love of wildflowers, especially woodland (and downland) ones, and on a sunny and warm day such as today I was in heaven as I scanned the woodland floor for a range of blooms. The Primroses in the coppiced part of the woodland were particularly good this morning, with lovely clumps beneath the rapidly leafing Hazels, while amongst them the much more diminutive flowers of Wild Strawberry & Violets were noted and enjoyed.

Wood Sorrel meanwhile was widespread throughout the woodland, though for the most part the attractive white flowers kept their heads down (making photography a bit of a swine), while that iconic white flowered bloom of the spring woodland realm, the Wood Anemone, was sadly no where to be seen. This came as a bit of a surprise, especially given the fact that the Windflowers (another name for Wood Anemone) are now widely in flower on Beverley Westwood. It is also surprising given the fact that many of the Bluebells in the woodland are now already out, these early pioneering Bluebells bringing with them the promise of the beautiful annual spectacle which will see our woodland floors covered in a beautiful blue haze during the second half of April and into May (exact timings of course depending on the vagaries of the weather).

The recent weather has also seen further birds reappear in our local woodlands as they return from their winter quarters, with at least five (though possibly as many as seven) Chiffchaffs heard this morning, as well as a couple of singing Blackcaps. These beautiful songsters, whom are often referred to as the 'Northern Nightingale', are always a pleasing sound upon ones ear and its nice to hear them once more grace our woodlands and thickets. However I had hoped to pick up my first Willow Warbler of the year this morning, but sadly I drew a blank, but some compensation was provided by half a dozen Marsh Tits near the pool in the Birch wood, three Treecreepers (including a pair), a couple of drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Stock doves calling, and three Buzzards (one actually over the wood and the other two over the 'Cliffe' escarpment which lies between the wood & the Wolds to the east). Later I would also learn that the moth I photographed in the picture above was actually a fairly rare species for this area. I took the picture of this Orange Underwing Moth on the heath, and at the time I had no appreciation of what a good find this would be, but apparently there has been a mini eruption of this species nationwide with many turning up in unexpected locations.

2nd (Mon) 1.5 C to 11.4 C / 0.4 mm / 2.4 hours / NE 1.0 13 Kt.
A bright start to the day with sunny spells and broken cloud, but as the morning progressed the cloud would increase with largely cloudy skies by midday. The cloud continuing to thicken in the afternoon, with some light outbreaks of rain from about 2pm onwards, but this didn’t really come to much and merely dampened the ground. Remaining cloudy in the evening and overnight, with some further light rain at times during the night.

3rd (Tue) 5.8 C to 9.9 C / 28.6 mm / nil / NE 6.0 35 Kt.
A cloudy morning, with some light outbreaks of rain at first, but by mid morning it would become drier, though nevertheless it would remain cloudy for the duration of the morning. The cloud would thicken again in the afternoon, with outbreaks of light to moderate rain soon moving in, this continuing for most of the afternoon and evening. However overnight this rain would become much heavier and persistent, with the weather after midnight becoming increasingly inclement as heavy rain (and latterly sleet) bashed against the house, accompanied by a strong and gusty NE wind which saw gusts in excess of gale force. By the end of the climatological day (9am) over an inch of rain had been recorded, making this the 2nd wettest April day on my records and the wettest day since August.

The Chiffchaffs continue to be heard daily at the moment, both at home and down at Keldmarsh. A Blackcap was also heard again this morning.

4th (Wed) 1.8 C to 6.1 C / 1.7 mm / 0.7 hours / NE 4.6 29 Kt.
A thoroughly wet and unpleasant morning, with persistent rain, sleet and even short spells of wet snow, as well as a strong and raw NE wind (very different from the 21 C recorded this time last week). However by the afternoon it would slowly begin to dry out, and by the end of the afternoon even some spells of sunshine would manage to develop as the cloud broke up. The cloud further breaking up in the evening and eventually becoming largely clear overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall with a low of -0.3 C.

5th (Thu) -0.3 C to 9.4 C / nil / 9.8 hours / W 2.3 16 Kt.
A sunny but chilly morning, with a frost at first, and it would remain largely sunny for most of the day with just some broken and scattered cumulus from time to time in the afternoon. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, this again allowing temperatures to fall with another frost by dawn (low of -0.8 C).

Used my brand new telescope tonight, and first impressions are great, especially as regard the optics and even more so the EQ5 mount. I have long wanted an equatorial mount, as personally I find the push and shove nature of Dobsonians a bit crude, though acquiring one meant selling my old scope and losing 2 inches of aperture (the EQ6 mount for my previous 10 inch reflector was simply beyond my financial reach). However though I have technically lost about 55% of my light gathering power, I have to say this was not really evident tonight, and if anything the optics and the mirror of my new 8 inch scope are more refined and sharp. Indeed the views of Mars and Venus I had tonight were beyond anything I have seen before, with dark features on the Martian surface clear at just x111, while Venus showed a lovely half lit phase.

The resolution of the scope also seems very good, easily splitting the range of double stars I tested it on, though the dual speed focuser undoubtedly helps for both planetary and double star observing and I certainly don’t regret spending the extra money for this feature over a standard focuser. However the presence of a bright full moon meant I couldn’t really test the DSO quality of this scope, and indeed the 2 inches less of aperture may well show when it comes to looking for ‘faint fuzzies’, though I did enjoy some fine views of a couple of open clusters within Auriga while the Moon was still low. In short I am very impressed and happy with my new scope, and I am sure it will provide me with some superb views over the coming years.

6th (Fri) -0.8 C to 10.0 C / 1.9 mm / 0.5 hours / W 2.9 20 Kt.
A bright and chilly start with a touch of frost, but as the morning wore on cloud would increase and thicken, indeed becoming thick enough for some light rain by early afternoon. Remaining cloudy with further light outbreaks of rain in the afternoon, though towards the end of the afternoon and into the evening the rain would become somewhat heavier, this continuing into the first part of the night. Clearing later but nevertheless remaining cloudy for the rest of the night.

A couple of Grey Partridges were seen and heard in the Parks this morning, the first I’ve seen for quite a while. Meanwhile three Roe deer were also seen passing through the OSR field to the east of Old Hall Farm.

7th (Sat) 5.0 C to 9.1 C / 0.2 mm / 1.0 hours / NE 2.1 14 Kt.
A cloudy morning, with the ground wet after last nights rain, but by midday it would begin to brighten up somewhat, with even some spells of sunshine developing for a time in the afternoon. However cloud would increase again by the end of the afternoon, this cloud thickening in the evening with some mostly light outbreaks of rain during the night.

8th (Sun) 5.3 C to 13.0 C / 2.2 mm / 0.4 hours / SW 3.8 25 Kt.
A cloudy start, the ground wet after overnight rain, and after a brief brighter period in mid morning the cloud would thicken up again with a short period of rain around midday. However on the lowlands at least this rain didn’t come to much, and by early afternoon it would brighten to brighten up. However again this brightness would be fairly short lived and cloud would soon increase and thicken with the rest of Easter day seeing grey and overcast skies. Remaining overcast in the evening and overnight, with the cloud becoming thick enough for some outbreaks of rain at times.

Deepdale & Cot Nab (Calliswold)
A somewhat grey and soggy walk up on the High Wolds this morning, with the weather particularly dreek at times with moderate to heavy rain and the top of the hills enveloped by low cloud. However despite the presence of snow patches from the somewhat unseasonable snowfall which affected these upland parts on Wednesday (the A166 at Garrowby & the B1248 above Fimber both being closed for a short period during the worst of the wintry weather), it was in fact surprisingly mild, this making conditions not as inclement as perhaps one would have expected.

Indeed the Skylarks remained in fine song this morning despite the rain and murk, while out in the fields Hares were seen boxing and Lapwings were heard and seen swooping as they performed their distinctive displays. A flock of about 20 to 30 Golden Plovers were also seen and heard passing low overhead, indeed with the poor visibility they were forced to fly lower than usual, while in the mixed plantation which covers the western slope of Deepdale a small flock of Siskins were heard, their presence reminding one that not all of the winter avian visitors have left this area yet (no winter thrushes were seen this morning though). The woods and scrub of the area hosted a number of Chiffchaffs, these small warblers singing on regardless of the weather, while a single Willow Warbler was briefly heard amongst all the Elder and Hawthorn scrub which lies at the base of the dale. This is my first Willow Warbler of the year and hopefully it will be first of many more.

With the leaden skies it was not the best day for looking for wildflowers on the chalky downland sides of the dale, with most flowers being sensibly closed up as protection against the weather, but the area around Cot Nab did provide some interest, with Dog Violets in plenitude on the top of the hill, while further down the hill these were replaced by more sporadic Sweet Violets (or at least I think they were Sweet Violets but they may have also been Hairy Violets). For those interested in how to tell Dog Violets from Sweet/Hairy Violets, the key is too look at the sepals, with Dog Violets having long and sharp pointed ones (almost dagger like), while Sweet Violets have much shorter ones, with the point being blunted. Further botanical interest was provided by nothing more than daisies, dandelions & allies, buttercups and dead nettles, though more welcome was the sight of fattening blossom buds on the Hawthorn bushes, which given a return to warmer and sunnier weather will surely be opening very soon.

9th (Mon) 6.4 C to 10.2 C / 6.0 mm / nil / SW 2.6 21 Kt.
A grey and wet day for the most part with spells of light to moderate rain on and off pretty much throughout the day, though it was somewhat drier for a period in early afternoon. Rain continuing into the evening and the first part of the night, though after midnight it would begin to dry out.

10th (Tue) 4.8 C to 11.9 C / nil / 6.9 hours / SW 3.4 27 Kt.
An initially grey and cloudy morning, but by mid morning some sunny spells would begin to develop, these becoming longer and stronger as the day progressed. Indeed by the end of the afternoon it had become mostly clear, and it would remain so through much of the evening and night.

11th (Wed) 3.6 C to 11.8 C / 0.5 mm / 2.3 hours / W 1.8 16 Kt.
A bright morning with broken cloud and sunny spells, but by midday the cloud would begin to increase and look increasingly threatening. Indeed by mid afternoon some thundery rain would develop, and this would continue on and off for the remainder of the afternoon. Becoming drier by the evening, though remaining largely cloudy for the rest of the night.

12th (Thu) 4.0 C to 11.6 C / 0.8 mm / 1.0 hours / E 1.8 15 Kt.
A bright but fairly cloudy start, with a lot of broken Cumulus around, and this cloud would increase as the morning progressed with showers developing by the afternoon. Again these were slow moving and of a thundery nature, though most seemed to skirt us here and the rain wasn’t particularly heavy. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight, with some further showers or outbreaks of rain, but it would become drier by the end of the night.

13th (Fri) 3.3 C to 10.8 C / 0.9 mm / 3.4 hours / W 3.4 17 Kt.
A bright morning with sunny spells and cloudier periods, but in the afternoon showers would again develop, though again they weren’t particularly significant. The showers would die out by the end of the afternoon, and as the evening progressed it would become increasingly clear and would remain so for most of the night, this allowing temperatures to fall low enough for a ground frost.

14th (Sat) 1.4 C to 8.4 C / 1.3 mm / 1.9 hours / NW 5.3 23 Kt.
A clear start but as the morning progressed cloud would increase with showers by the afternoon. Some of these showers would see a mixture of hail and rain, though again like most days recently the showers were largely brief affairs. In the evening the showers would die out, with clear spells developing overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall to near freezing with even some patches of ice by dawn.

15th (Sun) 0.2 C to 9.1 C / 0.2 mm / 3.3 hours / N 4.3 24 Kt.
A cold start with temperatures near freezing, and as the morning wore on wintry showers would develop (most of these were brief affairs, and didn’t really come to much). Further occasional showers in the afternoon, but after mid-afternoon the showers would tend to die out with some spells of sunshine to end the day. Becoming increasingly clear in the evening and remaining so for much of the night, this allowing temperatures to fall to just below freezing for a time, but by the end of the night cloud would increase from the north-west.

North Cliffe Wood
For the second time in a fortnight we paid a visit to North Cliffe Wood, one of my favourite places within the county, especially at this time of the year what with all the spring flowers and returning warblers which can be enjoyed in this little woodland at the moment. However the weather has become much colder and unsettled recently compared to the wonderful weather we enjoyed in late March, though the recent rains have increased soil moisture levels, much to the approval of local farmers and horticulturalists. Indeed water levels around this usually damp woodland have been very low since the remarkably dry and warm spring of last year, with the bog at the south of the reserve having becoming almost completely dry, but the recent rains have really raised water levels with most of the ditches and marshy areas now being back up to at least normal levels for the time of year.

The Bluebells are undoubtedly the star of the woodland at this time of year, though what with the recent cooler weather the flowers haven't really advanced that much compared to a fortnight ago. However in the shelter of the Hazel coppice which lies at the heart of the woodland, a blue haze of beautiful Bluebells can now be enjoyed, and by the end of the month it should be an absolutely stunning spectacle which should be enjoyed and shared with all those whom have a love for the beauty of the natural world. Wood Sorrel is another flower which is very apparent at the moment, these delicate white flowers flourishing in both the Oak & Birch woodland which dominates this wood, while Primroses can still be enjoyed in the Oak woodland, along with Wild Strawberry, Violets & Bugle. However I didn't find any signs of Stitchwort or Cuckoo-flower yet, though surely they will appear very soon to join the botanical party that is spring-time in England.

Further spring migrants have appeared in the wood since our last visit, with Willow warblers now already quite abundant and out-numbering the earlier arriving Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. The Birch woodland at the south of the reserve was particularly full of these lovely little songsters, whose gentle descending song is such a feature of spring and early summer in this country, and it was a pleasure to just listen to these fairly newly arrived warblers as we wandered through the wood. Chiffchaffs meanwhile seem to prefer the northern and eastern Oak woodland parts of the reserve, with about 3 to 5 heard this morning, while Blackcaps seem to prefer the heart of the wood, with certainly 2 to 3 being within earshot as we rambled along the winding woodland paths.

16th (Mon) -0.1 C to 11.2 C / 4.6 mm / 5.6 hours / S 3.4 29 Kt.
A mostly cloudy but bright start to the morning, but after 10am it would become mostly sunny with just some broken cloud at times. Remaining sunny into the afternoon, but as the day wore on cloud would increase again with it becoming mostly cloudy by the end of the afternoon, and remaining so through the evening. Overnight the cloud would slowly thicken with outbreaks of rain arriving by the end of the night, the wind also freshening from the south with it.

17th (Tue) 2.4 C to 12.6 C / 1.5 mm / 6.0 hours / SW 2.5 23 Kt.
A grey, wet and blustery start with outbreaks of rain (with some sleet mixed in during the heavier bursts), but becoming drier and brighter by the end of the morning with a mostly sunny and clement afternoon following, though some showers would develop by the end of the afternoon. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening, but overnight some lengthy clear spells would develop, this allowing temperatures to fall close to freezing with a grass frost.

A Swallow was seen over the house this afternoon, the first I’ve managed to spot locally this year.

18th (Wed) 1.5 C to 7.7 C / 16.6 mm / nil / E 5.1 25 Kt.
After an initially bright start, with a touch of frost across the area, cloud would soon increase with some outbreaks of rain moving in. These outbreaks of rain would continue for pretty much the rest of the day, and indeed into the evening and overnight. The rain would be quite heavy at times, and by the end of the recording day over 16mm of rain had been recorded.

Spotted a lone Wheatear in the fields near Black House Livery, while a Green Woodpecker was also heard ‘yaffling’ in the area. A buck & doe Roe deer were additionally seen grazing near Old Hall Farm.

19th (Thu) 6.0 C to 10.1 C / 0.5 mm / 0.3 hours / NE 4.4 16 Kt.
A very wet start to the day with persistent moderate to heavy rain, though as the morning progressed the rain would ease and become more intermittent. A mostly cloudy afternoon would follow the morning rain, and by the end of the afternoon some sunny spells would even manage to break through briefly from time to time. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight.

20th (Fri) 5.3 C to 12.8 C / 13.7 mm / 3.0 hours / W 1.9 16 Kt.
A grey and cloudy morning, with a little bit of rain and drizzle at first, but as the morning wore on it would become steadily brighter with some sunny spells developing by the afternoon. However this sunshine would help trigger some showers after 4pm, most of which were brief and light at first, but in the evening a prolonged heavy and thundery shower would pass over (peak rainfall rate of 49.8 mm/h). This shower would eventually clear after nightfall, with the rest of the night seeing variable amounts of cloud.

North Cave Wetlands
This morning we set off for nearby North Cave Wetlands, mainly in the hope of catching up with the Black-necked Grebes which had been reported here recently. On the way the weather seemed unpromising, with outbreaks of rain up at High Hunsley, but as we descended down from the Wolds and onto the Vale of York the weather improved markedly with nothing worse than overcast skies and the odd spot of drizzle by the time we arrived at this compact wetland reserve just outside the village of North Cave.

Our early start meant we had the reserve too ourselves at first, this allowing us to enjoy in full the unique sounds and sights of a wetland at dawn, dominated mostly by the Black headed Gulls (which are abundant on the reserve at the moment), Skylarks, Lapwings & the loud shrill calls of a handful of Oystercatchers. On our way to the hide which overlooks the Main Lake we saw Sand Martins & Swallows hunting for flies overhead, while the trees and hedgerows beside the lane hosted Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings & singing Willow warblers.

Within minutes of settling into the hide we spotted the three Black-necked Grebes in the SE corner of Main Lake, with a pair together and another one seemingly hovering nearby. Sadly the birds were just beyond my photography range (this compounded by the poor low light conditions this morning), but through my binoculars I admired these small and interestingly looking waterfowl whom frequently dived beneath the water as they searched for food.

After spending about half an hour watching these handsome little Grebes (and hoping in vain they would come a little closer) we headed off around the rest of the reserve, noticing the higher water levels in the lagoons & lakes, not surprising given all the recent rain. In the nearby fields we saw Greylag Geese, Red-legged Partridge & displaying Lapwings, while the reserve itself hosted a decent variety of wildfowl (including Mallard, Tufted duck, Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler & Pochard) and gulls aplenty, the aforementioned numerous Black-headed Gulls being joined by Black-backed Gulls in the Reedbed Lake.

This being my first visit this spring I was also looking forward to seeing my first Avocets of the year, and I was not disappointed with as many as 67 counted on Village Lake. Due to various circumstances I was unable to visit this reserve last spring & summer, and as a result missed the chance to admire these graceful and elegant waders, but thankfully no such problems would deny me today as I watched them go about the business of feeding and courting. Village Lake also held a pair of Great Crested Grebes, and I also noted three young Coots with their parents beside the waters edge. No doubt I will visit the reserve again over the coming weeks to enjoy further such wetland scenes, and hopefully on these future occasions the light and weather conditions will be at least a little better than they were today (fingers crossed).

21st (Sat) 5.1 C to 12.6 C / 1.3 mm / 3.9 hours / W 2.5 24 Kt.
A grey start with some light outbreaks of rain, but by mid morning it would begin to brighten up with some sunny spells developing. However like yesterday this sunshine would help trigger some showers by the afternoon, though most of these were lighter and briefer than yesterday, with some good sunny spells in between. Largely cloudy in the evening, with one or two further showers, and remaining largely cloudy overnight.

22nd (Sun) 5.5 C to 12.5 C / 0.2 mm / 4.3 hours / W 1.2 15 Kt.
A bright and clement start to the day, with some pleasant spells of morning sunshine, but as the morning wore on some strong convection would see some decent cumulus congestus and latterly cumulonimbus develop. However these showers would by and large miss us, with only a relatively short shower in early afternoon. The rest of the afternoon would see a mixture of cloudy and sunny spells, with variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight.

Bratt Wood, Nunburnholme
On what was a bright and mild morning, we headed up towards the western edge of the Wolds with our destination being the the attractive countryside which can be enjoyed around the village of Nunburnholme. This mornings walk would see a mixture of habitats, firstly passing through mature woodland, past arable farmland, and finally through areas of pastoral farming, where lambs & ewes graze the now lush grass which has really benefited from all the recent rains. Indeed further rain threatened at times today, but thankfully it would hold off right until the last couple of minutes of our Sunday perambulation.

With spring now reaching its zenith, it would be the wildflowers of the woodland floor which would provide the majority of interest during our walk, especially as many of the earlier spring flowers are overlapping the flowering season of those usually later species during this somewhat stop-start spring. Primroses & Violets in particular are still going strong in this wood, indeed I'm not sure that I've ever seen so many in one place before, while even a few Wood Anemones could be found in some of the darker & higher corners of the wood. Beside the tracks Colts-foot, & Dandelions provide splashes of yellow beside the woodland rides, while the majority of the wood is covered in the locally endemic Dog's Mercury, though closer inspection also revealed the likes of Ground Ivy, Bugle, Herb-robert (the first flowering ones I've seen this year) and in one or two wetter spots beside the ditch some emerging Water Avens.

However the stars of the wood at the moment are of course the Bluebells, with the entire bottom of the wood covered with them, while further patches of these beautiful blue 'Wild Hyacinths' can be found through the shelter belt woodland which extends up from Bratt Wood and over into Warter Dale. However the Bluebells do have strong rivals in the form of Ramsons (Wild Garlic) whose flowers are perhaps less spectacular than the Bluebells, but nevertheless these white flowering plants make their presence known thanks to their strong and distinctive perfume which, for me, is the very smell of springtime in our native woodlands. Indeed smell is deeply evocative, far more so than sights and even sounds, and their is no way to convey in words the experience of strolling through a carpet of these aromatic flowers on a beautiful spring day.

However flowers are increasingly not just the preserve of our woodlands, with an increasing variety starting to appear in our grasslands and along the field edges. Indeed in areas where the covert crops have been grown for the benefit of game-birds and wild-birds alike, a good variety of 'weeds' can be currently found, these thriving in these locations due to the non-application of herbicides. The covert crops which had benefited the birds in the winter have now died back, and the rough ground where they grew is now home to abundant Red-dead Nettles, some White-dead Nettles, carpets of Speedwell, gone wild Rapeseed and some flowers which I'm not quite sure about the identification of (possibly Charlock). Buttercups, dandelions & daisies meanwhile grow along the paths and in areas of pasture, while I also noticed some of the grass is now coming into flower (Meadow Foxtail?).

Away from all the glorious wildflowers, the local birds also provided plenty of interest this morning, with the highlight being a pair of Red Kites passing low over us (I decided to simply enjoy the spectacle rather than photographing it). Indeed without even binoculars I was able to admire the wonderful plumage of these handsome birds of prey, a species which is currently thriving in this corner of the Yorkshire Wolds, and the view this morning was certainly amongst the best I have ever enjoyed. Another species of bird which can be found here which is otherwise relatively scarce in the rest of the county is Marsh Tit, and sure enough one was seen this morning and a few others were also heard. The mature woodland also hosted quite a few Chiffchaffs & Blackcaps, while in the Larch plantations near Wold Farm a couple of Willow Warblers were heard. The farm also hosted a few Swallows.

23rd (Mon) 3.0 C to 11.6 C / nil / 0.7 hours / NW 2.6 13 Kt.
A grey and murky start to the day, indeed almost foggy in lower regions of the area, and remaining overcast throughout the morning. Becoming a little brighter in the afternoon, with some brief sunny spells, but overall it would remain generally cloudy. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight.

A couple of Grey Partridges were seen beside the OSR field near Old Hall Farm this morning. In the garden the local Bullfinches are currently destroying the Crab apple blossom, which in contrast to last year is giving a poor showing this spring, partly due to the weather but also due to the Bullfinches and Squirrels.

24th (Tue) 4.2 C to 11.3 C / nil / 4.1 hours / N 2.2 13 Kt.
A bright morning with broken cloud and sunny spells, though as the morning progressed cloud would increase so that by midday it had become largely cloudy. Remaining mostly cloudy in the afternoon, though their were still some sunny spells from time to time, especially latterly. Indeed by the evening the cloud would break up with some pleasant sunshine to end the day. Variable amounts of cloud overnight.

Bempton Cliffs
This morning we made our first visit of the year to see the wonderful sea-bird spectacle which can be enjoyed annually at the RSPB Bempton cliffs reserve near Bridlington (East Yorkshire). The weather was bright and clement enough, though the northerly breeze did make it feel quite chilly at first, but latterly it soon began to warm up, this making watching the birds all the more pleasant and comfortable (something which is not always the case at this exposed and windswept location). Our early start meant we had the cliffs pretty much to ourselves, bar a couple of photographers and some RSPB wardens whom were undertaking some surveys of the nesting sea-birds.

Upon arrival at the reserve the shrubs and scrub around the visitor centre were alive with the sounds of singing Willow warblers, while Tree Sparrows were busy around the feeding station. The rough grassland meanwhile on the way down to the cliffs hosted a good number of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks & Pied Wagtails, while above us a handsomely plumaged Kestrel hovered as it searched out another meal. A few Swallows were also noted, but as we drew closer to the cliffs it was the sound (and indeed odour) which reminded us why we were here in the first place, namely the sea-birds.

We have been visiting these sea-cliffs annually now for several years, but nevertheless the initial sight of this 'city' of birds always makes one simply stop and take in the ever-changing scene, as birds constantly come and go from their precipitous nesting ledges, and others simply cruise on the updrafts caused by the equally impressive chalk cliffs. The sounds and smell also add to the whole sensuous experience, and it is no wonder why this reserve is considered one of the crown jewels of the RSPB's portfolio of nature reserves dotted around the country.

The first viewing points gave fine views of Kittiwakes, whose loud calls so dominate the sound-scape at this time of year, while other birds include numerous Guillemots & Razorbills. The odd Puffin was also picked out amongst the throng, their bright orange feet making them easy to spot, while over the sea Gannets & Fulmars cruise majestically, these two birds being real masters of the skies. I have always particularly enjoyed watching the Fulmars, as for me they are amongst the most graceful and beautiful of all sea-birds. Towards the top of the cliffs Herring Gulls were noted, these keeping a watch out for any passing meals which they could steal, and other birds espied from the cliff-tops included Jackdaws & Rock doves.

Further along the walk we came across Gannets collecting grass and alike in order to repair and maintain their large nests, these birds seemingly oblivious to our presence and allowing us some marvelous up-close views of these handsome feathered fowls. The Gannets at Bempton have been thriving for years, and numbers keep increasing annually, so much so that these birds seem to be absolutely everywhere on the cliffs now, this restricting the smaller birds to the steeper and narrower ledges where the Gannets can't reach. However if this means that one can now enjoy such close encounters without the need to sail out to some remote rock of our shores, then I for one welcome this population explosion.

Away from the birds the Red Campion is now coming out along the cliff top path, and will soon be a fine spectacle in itself. Indeed the early summer display of Campion & other wildflowers is one of the highlights of the year for me, and we will certainly return when this reaches it flowery climax. While here I also scanned for any interesting birds amongst the grass, hedgerows and scrub, but sadly this morning all I found was Pipits, Sparrows, Linnets & other finches, these undoubtedly welcome sights, but not the hoped for Wheatears, Redstarts or other scarcer birds. However this disappointment did nothing to ruin what had been a wonderful few hours of bird-watching, and no doubt we'll be back again over the coming months to enjoy this outstanding location which we are lucky enough to have in our own back-yard.

25th (Wed) 3.0 C to 9.5 C / 9.8 mm / 0.2 hours / SE 4.9 27 Kt.
A cloudy start, with the cloud becoming thicker as the morning progressed with rain arriving around midday. Outbreaks of rain for the remainder of the afternoon, quite heavy at times and accompanied by a moderate SE breeze, though by evening it would become somewhat drier, the sun even managing to break through for a short time. However after dusk the cloud would thicken again, with further outbreaks of rain overnight.

Heard and spotted my first Whitethroat of the year along Shepherds Lane this morning.

26th (Thu) 6.0 C to 14.2 C / 19.6 mm / 0.1 hours / N 3.3 21 Kt.
A wet morning for the most part with outbreaks of rain, though their were some drier periods too, especially towards the end of the morning. However in the afternoon heavy showers would develop, some of these accompanied by the odd rumble of thunder, and all in all it was another grey and wet day. Further outbreaks of rain in the evening and overnight, and by the end of the recording period (9am) 19.6 mm of rain had been recorded. This has taken the monthly total to 112.5 mm, well over twice the normal for April, and also making this the wettest April since my records began in 2003.

A Grey Partridge was heard calling in the Parks this morning.

27th (Fri) 5.8 C to 9.8 C / nil / 0.4 hours / N 3.8 21 Kt.
A wet start with moderate to heavy spells of rain, accompanied by a blustery NNE breeze, but by mid morning it would begin to die out with the rest of the morning becoming largely dry but nevertheless cloudy. Remaining mostly cloudy in the afternoon, though some sunny spells would manage to break through at times, particularly around 3pm. Little change in the evening and overnight with mostly cloudy skies throughout.

28th (Sat) 4.9 C to 9.7 C / 1.1 mm / 1.1 hours / NE 7.5 28 Kt.
A mostly cloudy and grey morning, though towards midday it would begin to brighten up somewhat. Remaining largely cloudy in the afternoon, with some light showers coming in off the sea, but their were some brighter spells too, especially latterly with some weak spells of sunshine in the second half of the afternoon. However cloud would increase again in the evening with mostly cloudy skies for the remainder of the night.

29th (Sun) 5.2 C to 10.9 C / 16.6 mm / nil / NE 4.1 31 Kt.
A wet and blustery day with persistent rain throughout the morning and afternoon, quite heavy at times, especially around midday and early afternoon. The wind would also gust to 31 knots, and as it was from the north-east it felt really quite cold (the temperature being just 4 C at noon), making it feel more like winter than late spring. The rain would die out in the evening however, and as the night wore on the cloud would begin to break and clear, this allowing mist to form by the end of the night.

North Cliffe Wood
With persistent rain throughout today, along with a buffeting and cold NE wind, one would have been forgiven for staying indoors and enjoying the relative comfort of the hearth. However if dressed correctly such weather can actually be quite enjoyable to be out and about in, and in such spirit we headed out into the rain and wind for a short walk around North Cliffe Wood (again!). North Cliffe was a good choice on a morning such as today, as the wood afforded a degree of shelter from both the wind and rain, and despite the poor weather their was still plenty to see and enjoy.

The Bluebells again haven't really advanced much in the last fortnight, and indeed the best is still yet to come given a warmer and sunnier period of weather in the next fortnight. However Stitchwort is now appearing amongst the Bluebells, these delicate white flowers being amongst my favourites, and we also found some Cuckoo-flowers, the first I've personally seen this year. Wood Sorrel, Ground Ivy, Dogs Mercury, Bugle, Marsh Marigold, and Primroses were also seen abundantly, while the first unfurling bracken is starting to emerge on the woodland and heathland floor.

The birds were in good song despite the weather, with the Blackcaps being particularly melodic this morning. At least four were heard as we made our way around the wood, with a very lyrical and confiding individual being encountered right in the heart of the hazel coppice. The soundscape was further enhanced by other warblers, namely the Willow warblers & Chiffchaffs, and if anything their songs were all the more enjoyable because of the bleak and inclement weather. Another good sighting was provided courtesy of a Tawny Owl which we accidentally disturbed near the heart of the wood, while in the same area a couple of Roe deer were spotted.

However the most striking aspect of this mornings visit was the rising water table, something which I was equally struck by a couple of weeks ago. For almost two years one had become used to water levels being very low here, to the point that earlier this spring most of the ditches and marshes around the reserve had become dry, but over the course of this month the water levels have dramatically returned to former levels, and indeed many parts of the wood are now at risk of flooding. Given today's rain I would thoroughly recommend wearing wellies if you are planning to visit, especially along the eastern path, and again in the heart of the wood as most of the ditches and marshes are again full and saturated.

30th (Mon) 4.8 C to 17.2 C / trace / 10.3 hours / NE 4.0 23 Kt.
A bright and sunny morning, though a bit misty at first after all of yesterdays rain. Remaining mostly sunny in the afternoon, and with the sunshine it would become pleasantly warm with temperatures climbing into the mid to high teens. Cirrus and other high clouds would increase during the evening however, with this cloud becoming thicker through the night, indeed even thick enough for a few spots of rain by the end of the night.

A Willow warbler was singing in the garden this morning, a bird not often recorded around the house itself, while a Blackcap was also heard (the local Chiffchaff meanwhile has been heard pretty much everyday since it arrived earlier in the spring, despite the recent weather). A few Swallows were also swooping low overhead, these calling and chattering as they did so. However the highlight of the day would be the spotting of my first SWIFT of the year, while another notable observation was my first Holly Blue of the year.

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