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May 2012

1st (Tue) 8.6 C to 10.6 C / 0.5 mm / nil / N 5.0 26 Kt.
A grey, cloudy and blustery day with temperatures again really struggling to just 10.6 C. In the afternoon the cloud would become thick enough for some rain around 3pm, but this didn’t last long and soon cleared. Nevertheless it would remain cloudy for the rest of the day and through the evening and indeed most of the night.

Went down to Swinemoor this morning, hoping to catch up with the Whimbrels which have been reported there lately. Thankfully within minutes of my arrival I found them, though the view was rather distant as they were on the far side of the marsh and I was glad I had taken my scope with me. At least three were seen, though after I relocated to another view point I was unable to relocate them for the rest of my trip. However their was plenty of other interest on the current floods, including 8-9 Gadwall, 1 Teal, a Shelduck, Redshanks and abundant Swifts (probably about two dozen). Another highlight was a calling Grey Partridge in nearby fields.

2nd (Wed) 8.0 C to 14.7 C / nil / 5.3 hours / NE 7.7 31 Kt.
A grey start but by mid morning it would begin to brighten up with sunny spells developing for the remainder of the morning. A bit more cloudy again in the afternoon, but nevertheless it would remain fairly bright with some spells of hazy sunshine. Largely cloudy in the evening and overnight, the cloud becoming thicker towards the end of the night.

At least four Whitethroats were heard this morning around the Parks, including two in Old Hall Hedge.

3rd (Thu) 5.9 C to 9.2 C / nil / 0.1 hours / N 4.1 18 Kt.
A grey and dull morning with a blustery and cool north-east breeze. Remaining cloudy for the duration of the afternoon, though a very short break did allow a brief bit of hazy sunshine in mid afternoon. Little change in the evening and overnight with cloudy skies pretty much throughout.

Went to see if I could find the Garganey reported near Hull Bridge but unfortunately I drew a blank. However the same location did provide two Shelducks and an Oystercatcher, while at nearby Swinemoor I got 5 Whimbrels, & 2 Gadwall, as well as 5 late Fieldfares overhead and a Cormorant.

4th (Fri) 5.9 C to 9.1 C / 2.7 mm / 0.7 hours / N 4.9 26 Kt.
Another cloudy and cool May day for the most part, with some outbreaks of rain in the afternoon, some of these quite heavy at times. However the rain would clear by the end of the afternoon and during the evening the cloud would even begin to break up, giving some late sunshine to end the day. Mostly clear for much of the night, this allowing temperatures to fall low enough for a grass frost, but towards dawn showers would be brought in off the sea on a moderate NE breeze.

5th (Sat) 1.0 C to 10.0 C / trace / 3.8 hours / NE 2.8 20 Kt.
A showery and chilly morning with mostly light and brief showers being brought in off the sea on a NNE breeze. However between the showers their were some sunny spells too. Little change in the afternoon, though the showers become even lighter and short, though one in mid afternoon did contain some hail. By the end of the afternoon any remaining showers died out, with a bright and sunny end to the day. Mostly clear overnight, though their was an extensive veil of high cloud, but nevertheless it was clear enough for temperatures to fall below freezing for a short time, the first air frost since mid-April.

This evening Jenny, Andy, Michael & I went for fish and chips in Bridlington, and then enjoyed a short walk along the water frosts. The wind was cold but otherwise it was sunny and pleasant.

6th (Sun) -0.2 C to 9.9 C / nil / 6.9 hours / SE 1.4 14 Kt.
A bright and cold start but by mid morning it had become largely cloudy and would remain so for much of the morning. However in the afternoon the cloud would break allowing a fine afternoon with spells of welcome sunshine, though despite the sunshine temperatures would again struggle, not even reaching double figures. Becoming mostly clear in the evening and overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall sharply with a frost by dawn.

The garden is still full of flowers, with the pale Broom looking particularly beautiful. Meanwhile a fine clump of Cowslips are thriving in the SE corner of the garden, while the Forget-me-nots are absolutely fantastic this year with a beautiful haze of pastel blue covering some of the garden beds.

7th (Mon) -1.2 C to 11.6 C / 7.2 mm / 4.7 hours / SE 2.3 20 Kt.
A very pleasant sunny start, though quite chilly at first with a frost covering much of the ground. However as the morning progressed cloud would increase and by the end of the morning it had become mostly cloudy. The cloud would be thick enough to produce some rain in the afternoon, though this didn’t come to much, and it would become somewhat brighter again by late afternoon. However in the evening cloud would thicken again, with heavier outbreaks of rain during the first half of the night (peak rate of 6.6 mm/h). Becoming dry by dawn with the cloud breaking up.

A beautiful morning in the Parks this morning, with the countryside looking lovely in the late spring sunshine (despite the touch of frost which covered the ground at first). The birds were in fantastic song too, with Whitethroats particularly conspicuous along Shepherds Lane and particularly around Old Hall Farm and the Millennium  Orchard, while Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs & Willow warblers also sang in the same area. Indeed there may well have been about a dozen separate Whitethroats this morning, and amongst these I managed to pick out at least two Lesser Whitethroats (the first I’ve seen this year). However the undoubted highlight of the morning would be hearing a distant CUCKOO, an always welcome sound and by no means an annual one nowadays. Hopefully it will hang around for the rest of the spring and early summer.

8th (Tue) 6.9 C to 16.8 C / trace / 7.1 hours / W 2.2 18 Kt.
A bright morning with good spells of sunshine, and feeling warmer than recently. However cloud would bubble up by the end of the morning, with the afternoon seeing a mixture of cloudy and sunny spells. Some of these clouds would become thick enough to produce some showers, but these didn’t come to much and barely dampened the ground. Any remaining showers dying out by the evening with skies becoming largely clear overnight.

Got some decent pictures of a Yellowhammer this morning, with the bird in question allowing me to get as close as ten yards. Lots of Whitethroats again this morning too.

Meanwhile in the garden the local birdlife & wildlife enjoyed the warm spells of sunshine, this encouraging a few butterflies on the wing, including some Holly Blue’s (as well as Whites). Bees and hoverflies also seen in good numbers, though the main drama of the day was a raid by the local Magpies on my Coal Tit nest-box, this forcing the birds to fledge a few days earlier than would have been ideal. Thankfully they could just about fly but they were very weak on their feet and I think the odds are very much against them. All I can do is hope for the best and wish them well.

9th (Wed) 7.0 C to 15.2 C / 20.3 mm / 4.5 hours / E 2.3 20 Kt.
A bright morning with good spells of warm late spring sunshine, but by the afternoon cloud quickly increased with cloudy skies for the remainder of the day. This cloud would become thick enough to produce some rain by the evening, which as the evening progressed would become increasingly heavy and persistent. This heavy rain (peak rate of 9.6 mm/h) would continue for most of the night with a total of 20.3 mm being measured in the gauge by morning, making it one of the wettest May days on my records.

10th (Thu) 8.7 C to 20.8 C / 1.5 mm / 4.6 hours / SW 4.6 29 Kt.
A grey and cloudy morning with everything very wet after last nights heavy rain, though as the morning progressed it would become bright with spells of sunshine by midday. Becoming warm and humid in the afternoon, the temperature rising to over 20 C for the first time since late March. This sunshine and warmth would trigger a few showers by the end of the afternoon, some of these accompanied by some gusty winds. Further showers in the evening and overnight with some clearer spells in between.

The Great Tits are constantly feeding their young at the moment, with a nest in the south wall Ivy. Other birds nesting there include Wren and Robin. The local Holly Blue’s were on the wing again today, though again butterfly diversity is still low with the only other type seen being a Large White. Meanwhile the Beech tree by the house has rapidly begun to leaf in the last few days, and now is covered in fresh green leaves. Of course this means it is now dropping its leaf shells all over the garden!

11th (Fri) 9.4 C to 11.3 C / 2.9 mm / 3.8 hours / W 4.3 22 Kt.
A morning of sunny spells and blustery showers, some of these quite heavy at times. Remaining bright in the afternoon though it did become quite cloudy for a time. However from mid afternoon the sun would return, but this again would trigger some showers, and again some of these were quite heavy (peak rate of 15.6 mm/h). The showers dying out by the evening and becoming largely clear overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall to about 4 C.

12th (Sat) 4.1 C to 14.2 C / trace / 6.7 hours / W 3.3 18 Kt.
A lovely sunny morning, though quite cool at first and the grass very wet after yesterday evenings showers and a heavy overnight dew. However by the end of the morning cloud amounts had significantly increased, indeed in the afternoon their were some lengthy cloudier periods, and the cloud would even be thick enough to produce some rain at times. However this rain was barely enough to dampen the ground. Cloud breaking up in the evening and becoming largely clear again overnight.

Cuckoo again briefly heard this morning in the Parks (see the 7th). Loads of Whitethroats again, with every hedge seeming to contain at least one singing individual, and I also managed to spot a couple of Lesser Whitethroats.

13th (Sun) 5.4 C to 15.1 C / 0.4 mm / 5.4 hours / SW 4.9 26 Kt.
Another gorgeous start to the day with clear blue skies and warm sunshine, but by 10am it would become increasingly cloudy with the wind also freshening from the west. Remaining mostly cloudy and breezy in the afternoon, though there were still some brighter spells at times. The cloud becoming a little thicker in the evening and overnight with a short spell of rain for a time, but this would soon clear though the remainder of the night would see continuing mostly cloudy skies and a moderate to fresh SW breeze.

Enjoyed a walk across the Westwood this morning, with the buttercups now well in flower and Skylarks and Pipits singing everywhere. Indeed a few of Skylarks allowed quite close approach and I got some reasonable shots with my Lumix bridge camera. I had also hoped for Wheatears but I had no luck this morning.

Nettle Dale
After hearing about the annual return of the small but seemingly stable population of Redstarts up on the Yorkshire Wolds, I have been itching to get up to Nettle dale, for me the most reliable location to see these colourful and striking birds locally. The weather was not ideal by the time we arrived, with cloud already starting to cover the initially clear blue skies, and a blustery westerly breeze which was being funneled up the short length of Nettle dale. This made hearing bird song particularly difficult with the roar of the wind in the trees, scrub and ones own ear, but nevertheless as we climbed the path we noted a good number of Willow warblers and at least one Whitethroat. However much of the scrub in the lower part of the dale has been cleared recently and for me this is a real shame as the area used to be alive with warblers at this time of year. Hopefully it will soon recover from this somewhat harsh and excessive clearance.

However concerns about excessive land management were not why we were here this morning, and after passing through the gate and making our way a short distance up the dale I saw a small bird in corner of my eye fly into an area of Hawthorn scrub. From what I saw of it it undoubtedly had the look of what we were looking for, but after searching in vain with my binoculars we again decided to move on. It was then that I suddenly saw it right in the heart of a large hawthorn, an unmistakable male Redstart in all its glory, but just as I raised my field glasses once more it took flight and headed up the dale towards the wood.

In pursuit we gradually made our way around the dale, noting plenty of interest along the way, including lots of fairly recently hatched Pheasants eggs amongst the tussocky grass, interesting wildflowers (including gorgeous aromatic gorse and lots of Cowslips) and a surprising number of St. Mark's fly on the wing given the coolish and blustery weather (certainly yet another poor day for butterflies). Eventually we reached the footpath which runs beside the old hedgerow which cuts across the southern flank of the dale in an east-west direction, and this is where we decided to sit down and simply wait as this narrow strip of hawthorn hedge is usually the most reliable spot to see the Redstarts in Nettle dale.

After only a short wait a beautiful male appeared but sadly was just too distant for my bridge camera to acquire a decent shot. However through my binoculars I enjoyed a fantastic view of this brightly coloured bird, the vivid white eye-stripe and red breast standing out like a sore thumb amongst the fresh spring green leaves of the Hawthorn on which it perched. It was then I noticed a female Redstart relatively close by, and though the females are much plainer than their male counterparts I was very happy to get a decent enough photo. In the hope that the male would return we waited amongst the spring grass for a further hour, and though the male Redstart continued to prove elusive, we did enjoy some other good views, including hunting Kestrel almost overhead and Hares grazing on the grassy downland sides. All in all it was a good morning and we'll undoubtedly return very soon to try catch up with the local Redstarts again.

14th (Mon) 8.0 C to 15.0 C / nil / 8.9 hours / W 5.1 24 Kt.
A cloudy start but by 8am the cloud began to break with good spells of warm sunshine developing. Remaining mostly sunny for much of the day, though it was somewhat cloudier for a time in early afternoon, and out of the brisk wind it felt pleasantly warm. A sunny and fine evening with clear spells overnight.

North Cliffe Wood
On what was a sunny, warmish but blustery afternoon yesterday, we made our way across the Wolds to pay a visit to North Cliffe wood, hoping to catch the Bluebells at their best. As you maybe able to tell by my frequent visits to this small woodland and heathland reserve recently, North Cliffe wood is one of my favourite nature reserves in East Yorkshire, especially at this time of year when all the wildflowers are at their best (it's also very good in late summer and autumn when all the fungi start to emerge). Their are few woods better in the county for Bluebells, with only a couple to my knowledge where a similar carpet can be found, but the extra appeal of North Cliffe is the greater diversity of other wildflowers and wildlife, especially birds.

With the cool weather which dominated April and early May, the Bluebells have been somewhat delayed, but now the Bluebells have finally reached their peak with a beautiful display in various parts of the wood. The carpet of blue is particularly beautiful in the heart of the wood, what I call the hazel coppice, though access to this part of the wood requires at least wellies to wade through a deep ditch on one side or though an area of boggy ground on the other. However not only Bluebells can be seen here, with a few Primroses still flowering on the woodland floor, as well as Bugle, Stitchwort, and Wood Sorrel, while the boggier areas host Marsh Marigold and Cuckoo-flowers. Stitchwort is a particular favourite flower of mine, and these white flowers looked particularly beautiful yesterday, especially mixed in amongst the Bluebells.

Away from the glorious spring flowers there was also plenty of other interest in the wood yesterday afternoon, especially amongst the local birdlife. A pair of Marsh Tits was a good sighting, and in the same area a newly fledged family of Long Tailed Tits was another personal highlight. The warblers were in fine song, including all the usual common species one would expect (Chiffchaff, Willow warbler, Blackcap & Whitethroat) but in the hazel coppice I heard and actually managed to see not only one but two Garden Warblers, a species which can be identified by its almost complete lack of distinguishing features. A Green Woodpecker was also heard 'yaffling' in a corner of the wood, a bird which is not that common in the East Riding (at least east of the Wolds anyway.

The sunshine also encouraged a decent variety of butterflies on to the wing yesterday afternoon, and after what has been one of the worst springs I can remember for butterflies (at least since early April anyway), it was very welcome to see these sunshine loving insects fluttering amongst the sunny glades and along the woodland rides. Peacocks were particularly numerous, with other species noted included a single Brimstone, a few Orange Tips, Green Veined Whites, and Speckled Wood. However the highlight for me was the spotting of my first Small Copper of the year, with a particularly fine individual stumbled upon near the northern edge of the wood. Indeed my photo doesn't quite do the particular butterfly in question justice, and I have seen few Small Copper's more vividly coloured than this particular individual.

15th (Tue) 5.0 C to 10.9 C / 0.8 mm / 5.9 hours / W 5.4 31 Kt.
An initially mostly clear and morning, but by mid morning cloud and showers would move down from the north, accompanied by a chilly and blustery NNW breeze. These would continue into the first part of the afternoon, but after 2pm they would die out with good spells of sunshine for the remainder of the day. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall to 2.3 C, low enough for a grass frost in prone locations.

Managed to photography a Willow warbler this morning at the Millennium Orchard. I also noticed that the first whiskers are just beginning to appear on the barley.

16th (Wed) 2.3 C to 13.3 C / nil / 10.9 hours / NW 2.3 19 Kt.
A sunny and clement day for the most part, with barely a cloud in the sky during the morning, and just fair weather cumulus in the afternoon. However it wasn’t particularly warm, with temperatures again struggling to a very modest high of 13.3 C. Mostly clear in the evening, bar some high thin cloud, and remaining so at first overnight, but cloud would increase and thicken later.

Bempton Cliffs
We had intended to visit the RSPB reserve at Bempton (near Bridlington, East Yorkshire) yesterday, but the weather was hardly ideal on Tuesday with strong northerly winds and frequent squally showers, so we waited a day and instead visited this morning on what was a much better morning with mostly clear skies and a much lighter wind. However it was quite cold at first, the temperature only around 3C when we arrived at 7am, but this early start did mean we did have the cliffs pretty much to ourselves for the first couple of hours.

The early start also gave us some great views of a hunting Barn Owl over the fields around the visitor centre, and though my photos are not that great it was nevertheless a thrill to watch a bird which has become sadly quite scarce around my home near Beverley since the severe wintry weather of December of 2010. Barn Owls are one of my favourite birds and to watch one hunt seemingly oblivious or regardless of our presence was quite a privilege. However this fantastic sight was nearly eclipsed a few minutes later as a sudden flurry of activity by the nesting birds on the chalk cliffs heralded the arrival of a Peregrine Falcon, and we were able to watch repeated raids by this speedy falcon as it seeked out a meal. We didn't actually see it catch anything, but it did dislodge a Kittiwake nest which fell from its high position and smashed upon the rocks at the bottom of the cliff. Hopefully there were no eggs within the nest.

After this early excitement the rest of the morning would be more typical, with the usual array of seabirds which can be enjoyed at this excellent RSPB reserve throughout the spring and summer. The Gannets again were a joy to watch as they cruised almost within touching distance of the cliff top viewing points, while Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills were plentiful. A few Puffins were also seen, including a pair which seemed to be repeatedly bothered by their noisy Kittiwake neighbours. However there seemed to be fewer than usual number of Fulmars, though nevertheless a few of these graceful and handsome birds were seen cruising on the cool breeze.

The fields above the cliffs hosted there fair share of birds too, with Skylarks and Pipits constantly singing and displaying, while the scrub hosted Tree Sparrows, Reed Buntings, Linnets, Whitethroats and at least near the visitor centre, Willow warblers. However disappointingly I didn't manage to hear or see any Corn Buntings, a bird which is usually a certainty at this location in early summer. Hopefully this was just bad luck on our part and not a sign of any reduction in numbers of this already nationally dwindling farmland bird. Meanwhile the Red Campion is continuing to come out, these pale red flowers attracting a few butterflies and lots of St. Mark's Flies. A few hairy caterpillars were also stumbled upon along the footpaths, but I'm ashamed to say that my ID skills when it comes to caterpillars is nearly non-existent. All in all it was a fantastic morning by the sea with clement weather and plenty to see.

17th (Thu) 3.2 C to 12.0 C / trace / nil / SE 1.8 12 Kt.
A cloudy morning, the cloud becoming thick enough for some light rain by mid morning though this didn’t really come to much. Drier by the afternoon but remaining cloudy throughout the afternoon with little in the way of any brightness. No change in the evening and overnight with overcast skies.

18th (Fri) 7.2 C to 13.3 C / 5.1 mm / 0.1 hours / NE 4.3 20 Kt.
Another grey and cloudy morning, the cloud thick enough for some spots of rain at times. Little change in the afternoon, though there was a very brief brighter period in mid afternoon. The cloud thickening again in late afternoon with outbreaks of rain in the evening and overnight, some of these quite heavy during the middle of the night.

19th (Sat) 7.1 C to 9.0 C / trace / nil / N 4.3 19 Kt.
The grey weather continuing for yet another day with overcast skies and occasional outbreaks of light rain coming in off the sea on a moderate NE breeze (these mostly in the morning). Under the cloud temperatures would really struggle, reaching a high of just 9 C, notably low as we now move into late May. Remaining cloudy in the evening and overnight.

20th (Sun) 6.8 C to 11.1 C / nil / nil / N 4.0 14 Kt.
Another cloudy day for the most part, with thick stratocumulus being brought in off the sea on a moderate and coolish northerly breeze. Remaining cloudy in the evening and overnight.

Huggate & Horse Dale
Today would take us up to the village of Huggate, right in the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds and one of the highest communities in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The village itself is well known for its pub, the Wolds Inn, and this attracts large number of visitors on a Sunday, but of far more interest to me is the attractive steepled church of St. Mary's which lies on the northern edge of the village, and from here one has a pleasant view of the rolling countryside to the north and east. The interior of the church is also very fine, perhaps one of the best in the Yorkshire Wolds, with the stone work, arches and windows being particularly pleasing, while the whole church is very well maintained by the local community and always looks in good condition.

The village also has two attractive ponds, while near the centre of the village one can find an old well, reputedly one of the deepest in the country at a depth of 340 feet. The dry nature of the Yorkshire Wolds, what with its free draining chalky soil, has always restricted settlement in the past, especially up here on the high Wolds, and the sheer effort of digging the well in the mid 18th century through solid chalk is testament to the desperate need of those whom lived up here in centuries past. As it was the well was actually a bit of a failure, with it reputedly taking two men quarter of an hour to draw just one bucket of water, and by the end of the 19th century it was abandoned and boarded over. Today the site of the well is marked by a millstone on the village green.

However this morning I was here to enjoy a pleasant walk in the countryside surrounding the village, and from our parking place near Manor House Farm we made our way northwards, following the winding country lane which wends its way up to Northfield Farm. Despite the fact we are now in late May the hawthorn blossom is still only partly out, though the forecast for the week ahead is looking very promising with sunshine and warmth promised and hopefully this will get things moving along. Meanwhile the avenue of cherry blossom leading up to the aforementioned farm was glorious this morning, even under the grey and cloudy skies, and this fine display gets better and better every year as the trees mature.

Before reaching Northfield Farm we turned left, heading across the rolling hill towards the deep and well traversed valley of Horse Dale. This part of the route is actually part of the Wolds Way, and a new bench has recently been placed above the dale by the national trails organisation. From here one has a fine view of this long and winding dale, with its grassy down-land sides and small areas of woodland and hawthorn scrub. In summer this a fine area for butterflies, with Marbled Whites being a particular highlight, but today one was content with just a few wildflowers, including abundant Cowslips, as well as buttercups, dandelions, dead-nettles, ground-ivy, speedwell, field speedwell, cow parsley, and in a few shadier spots, Herb-robert. A hunting Kestrel was another sighting in this area, while a single Roe deer was spotted where Horse Dale meets Holm Dale, seemingly trying to work out a way to cross the fence as walkers approached from the other direction.

From here on, the walk was relatively quiet with little of any real note, but one glorious (but unpleasantly pungent) field of Oilseed Rape (OSR) was alive with bees and other insects, these in turn attracting hunting Swallows, Swifts and a few House Martins which zoomed around our heads seemingly unconcerned about our presence. Despite the grey skies the OSR positively glowed a luminous yellow, seemingly lightening up the whole countryside around it, and though I admit this crop does have an unpleasant smell, it is now without doubt very much part of the British springtime landscape and the countryside would be the poorer without its annual display of golden blooms. Speaking of crops I also noted that up here the first whiskers on the barley are only just starting to appear (back at home near Beverley they are already quite apparent), while many of the fields have been recently drilled with potatoes, this producing attractive straight furrows and ridges stretching across this well farmed and productive landscape.

21st (Mon) 7.8 C to 16.3 C / nil / 3.2 hours / NW 4.5 18 Kt.
A cloudy morning and remaining so into the afternoon, but after 3pm it would begin to brighten up with spells of sunshine developing from about 4pm onwards. Remaining bright and sunny for the remainder of the day, and feeling much warmer with temperatures climbing up into the mid to high teens. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, though despite this it was also quite a mild night with a low of just under 8 C.

22nd (Tue) 7.8 C to 23.2 C / nil / 15.0 hours / N 3.0 15 Kt.
A clear and sunny start and remaining so throughout the day with not a single cloud being seen all day. The sunshine was very strong and helped to push temperatures up to 23.2 C, making this the warmest day of the year so far and finally beating the 21.3 C set 8 weeks ago in late March. Clear at first overnight but later cloud would come in off the North Sea with grey skies by dawn.

At least three Holly Blues were in the garden this afternoon, while a few Green-veined Whites were also seen. Quite a few fledglings in the garden now too, including Blackbird, Robin, and Tits, while three Bullfinches were seen feeding on the lawn this morning, strangely two males and a female which seemed a bit odd.

23rd (Wed) 9.8 C to 20.6 C / nil / 8.1 hours / NE 1.9 13 Kt.
A grey and murky morning with a high harr coming in off the North Sea, but by the end of the morning this would burn away rapidly leaving a sunny and warm afternoon with barely a cloud in the sky. However a gentle to moderate NE breeze did mean it wasn’t quite as warm as yesterday but nevertheless temperatures reached a very pleasant high of 20.6 C. Remaining clear in the evening and overnight, with a slight mist forming by dawn.

Bishop Wilton Wold
This morning my Dad and I made our way up to the beautiful area of the Yorkshire Wolds in and around the villages of Millington, Givendale & Bishop Wilton. The weather when we left Beverley was grey and murky, with a sort of harr (or 'fret' as they call it locally) coming in off the sea, but as we travelled inland the cloud quickly burned away and by the time we arrived in Givendale the sun was beating down with temperatures already in the high teens (it would eventually reach 22C according to the car thermometer). However even here it remained very hazy, with visibility no more than 10 miles, and certainly the Moors to the north and the Pennines to the west were hidden by the murk.

Our day started well, with some fine views of a Barn Owl just outside Millington, and we also enjoyed a stunning view of a Red Kite as it cruised low over our heads (no pictures of either I'm afraid). After what had been a personal drought when it came to Barn Owl sightings, I have enjoyed some fine views in the last few weeks and hopefully this trend will continue. I really do miss the days when Barn Owl used to be an almost daily observation near my home in the Beverley area, though I remain hopeful they will return to the Parks sooner rather than later, especially since they can still be found at nearby Figham.

Meanwhile Skylarks and Meadow Pipits displayed in the blue sky above Bishop Wilton Wold, while the now flowering and the almost snow white hawthorn scrub hosted singing Willow warblers, Linnets & Whitethroats. Along the quiet country lanes, flanked by Cow Parsley and Garlic Mustard (Jack by the hedge), good numbers of butterflies were fluttering in the warm late spring / early summer air, including a lot of Orange-tips. I nearly got a cracking picture of a male and female OT together but they took flight just as I was about to press the shutter and I didn't get another chance. Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks were also seen in these areas, while along the edges of the woodlands a healthy number of Speckled Woods were spotted, certainly the best count I've enjoyed so far this spring/summer.

However the biggest highlight of the morning was the brief sighting of a Dingy Skipper basking on the footpath above Bishop Wilton, a species of butterfly I have never seen at this particular location. I don't know whether this is a new colony or not, but the location is promising with plenty of wildflowers and a steep sided bowl shaped valley. Previous visits in mid and high summer has revealed that Birds-foot Trefoil is particularly prevalent amongst the Oxeye daisies, Knapweed and other wildflowers, and since Trefoil is one of major food plants of Dingy Skippers this is also encouraging as regards the future of this butterfly/skipper at this potential site.

The wildflowers in the areas of fallow pasture were in full flower, the strong sunshine making the flowers open to their fullest extent. Speedwell was particularly prevalent, with numerous patches of pastel blue dotted across the hillsides, and at least three different types of Speedwell were noted, the most prevalent being Germander and Persian. Forget-me-nots were also seen here and there, especially in the wetter areas around the springs which dot this hillside, and the wetter areas also hosted a few attractive light pink Cuckoo-flowers. Typical common and widespread meadow and grassland flowers such as Buttercups, dandelions, daisies and Cowslips also provided further splashes of colour to the whole scene, while patches of Stitchwort and the similar but more diminutive flowers of Chickweed were also noted. Meanwhile Old Wood above the village of Bishop Wilton contained a beautiful carpet of Ramsons (or Wild Garlic), these attractive and aromatic white flowers now being fully out and at their best, a beautiful sight. Finally some Water Avens were discovered in a ditch just outside the village of Givendale.

24th (Thu) 10.0 C to 22.3 C / nil / 12.0 hours / NE 2.0 13 Kt.
A gorgeous sunny and very warm day for the most part, though it was somewhat cloudier for a time in the morning. It was also quite misty at first. Remaining clear and sunny into the evening, but by dusk a harr would roll in off the sea with things becoming a little murky by 9pm. However overnight this cloud would clear with clear skies by the end of the night.

Set off on an early cycle around the local countryside this morning, with clear blue skies and a slight mist hanging in the warm morning air. The countryside is looking gorgeous, with white hedges and beautiful bird song, though the Oilseed Rape is now beginning to fade as spring makes way for summer. Most barley fields now have whiskers while the wheat is now at least a foot tall and is a gorgeous glossy dark green. The Westwood is also covered in beautiful yellow buttercups with the display this year being one of the best for years (no doubt benefiting from all the rain in April). The Bluebells in Burton bushes have now largely finished, but patches of Stitchwort can still be found, while the likes of Red & White Campion & Cow Parsley are now widespread along the hedgerows and roadsides. I also came across at least two pairs of Grey Partridge this morning, with one pair allowing me to grab a few photos before they scrambled away into the cover of the long grass. A heavenly morning.

Meanwhile in the garden the Holly Blues were in good flight this afternoon, with about four flittering amongst the Yews, and I even managed to get a few photos of one. A good number of Green-veined Whites were also noted, I again managing to grab a few photos while they basked in the warm sunshine. Another good sighting was a Mint Moth in the garden, the first I’ve recorded here, while a few 10 and 14 spot Ladybirds were discovered crawling about in the under-growth. I also conducted a small wildflower study of the garden, and in the process I discovered the likes of Common Vetch, Wild Strawberry, Chickweed, Herb-Bennet and what I think is Yellow Sorrel.

25th (Fri) 8.3 C to 20.6 C / nil / 15.1 hours / E 4.0 24 Kt.
Another gorgeous clear and sunny early summer’s day, though a gentle to moderate easterly breeze did mean it was a little cooler than lately (still reaching a high of over 20 C mind). Remaining clear in the evening and overnight.

Silage/haylage making is now under way locally, with one field of grass being cut near Model Farm. Meanwhile back at home a male Marsh Harrier was seen passing overhead, the first I’ve recorded locally for a few years, while a Comma butterfly was a good observation (this being my first Comma since late March).

26th (Sat) 9.4 C to 20.6 C / nil / 15.1 hours / E 2.4 14 Kt.
Clear and sunny again, with wall to wall clear blue skies throughout the day. Indeed feeling very warm in the sun, despite a moderate high of 20.6 C, this in part due to a lighter breeze today. Remaining clear in the evening and overnight.

27th (Sun) 8.7 C to 22.2 C / nil / 15.2 hours / E 1.7 14 Kt.
The wonderfully warm, fine and clement weather would continue for another day with not a cloud in the sky and strong early summer sun. Indeed it was a little warmer than recently, with a high of 22.2 C today, this largely due to a lighter easterly breeze in the afternoon. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight.

Wharram Percy
On what was another stunning early summer's day, with clear blues skies and temperatures around 20 C, we headed up to the far north of our usual range and visited the area around the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy. This site of special historical interest is just over the county border in modern North Yorkshire, and from this far north-western corner of the Wolds one has a fine view over the Vale of Pickering and the Howardian Hills to the north and north-west. Indeed Castle Howard itself is clearly visible from the car park near Wharram Percy, as is the White Horse above Kilburn.

From the car park we headed north along the road to small village of Wharram-le-Street, and from there proceeded to head towards the chalk Quarry which lies beside the now abandoned railway line. This was actually my first visit to this Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve (despite the fact I've been passed it many times) and as with all first such visits one never knows quite what to expect. However I'm glad to say that I was suitably impressed, with this sort of dry chalky habitat being probably my favourite, especially as regards butterflies and wildflowers. Indeed I expect we will visit again in the next month or so, as by then the first Orchids should be on show, including Common Spotted, Pyramidal & Bee.

However as it is not quite Orchid season up here on the Wolds yet, our primary reason for visiting this reserve this morning was instead to see the Dingy Skippers which are an annual occurrence here. The presence of quite a bit of flowering Birds-foot Trefoil was an encouraging sign, and indeed within a few minutes of arriving we spotted our first Dingy feeding on the yellow flowers of a Trefoil. As we made our way through the quarry more and more Dingy Skippers were spotted, indeed more than I could count, and it would seem that these butterflies/skippers are enjoying the warm, sunny weather at the moment.

The short and dry grass of the quarry also hosted at least half a dozen Small Heaths, the first I've managed to spot this year, while the more lush habitat just beyond the reserve had Orange-tips, Green veined White, and Small Tortoiseshell. However no Common Blues or Meadow Browns were spotted on our walk today, two species one would expect to be on the wing by now, but this may have just been bad luck (or poor observing) on our parts.

The areas of scrub in the quarry and the trees nearby hosted a good variety of warblers, with Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats all being recorded in healthy numbers. A beautifully singing Garden Warbler was also heard in the hawthorn scrub, and while looking for butterflies we met a very interesting and knowledgeable gentleman whom was conducting a breeding bird survey for the YWT. Other bird highlights this morning came near the deserted village at Wharram Percy, with a Curlew heard nearby, good numbers of Swallows and House Martins hunting around the ruined church and over the small pond, and a Spotted Flycatcher hunting in the scrub just beyond the pond (my first Flycatcher of the year). A pair of Pied Wagtails also allowed some good views here as they chased each other around the thick hawthorn scrub.

Meanwhile the area along the abandoned railway line hosted a fine display of wildflowers, with lots of Cow Parsley, Jack-by-the-hedge, Red Campion, Speedwell, Cowslips, Bugle and loads of Water Avens (to name but a few). This profusion of white, red, blue, yellow and peach blooms was further enhanced by the abundant Mayflower blossom which now bedecks the hedgerows and areas of scrub, and on such a day as today the British countryside is as close to an earthly paradise as one could surely imagine (at least for me anyway). Indeed I was enjoying myself so much I could have happily stayed out all day wandering this beautiful corner of the Yorkshire Wolds. On the walk back to the car a large Stoat was spotted along the edge of a still bare field, while in the middle of the fields good numbers of Hares were observed. We also came across a vintage tractor rally, with many old, and even a few near ancient examples of agricultural engineering, including a Massey-Ferguson 35, my fathers first tractor. I would have liked to have seen more of these old pieces of machinery but time was short and we had to get home, but it's a reminder that the summer season of agricultural shows is now nearly upon us once more.

28th (Mon) 7.6 C to 25.8 C / nil / 14.5 hours / N 2.1 13 Kt.
A sunny, warm and clement day once more, this prolonged spell of settled and clear weather continuing into the new week. Indeed today would prove to be quite a scorcher, the temperature eventually reaching a high of 25.8 C, making today the 2nd warmest May day on my records. Clear at first in the evening and overnight but cloud would increase later with grey skies by dawn. However all this cloud would make it a very mild night.

River Hull
This morning I arose early and headed down to the river Hull which flows past the eastern edge of Beverley. The weather was again glorious, with clear blue skies and low mist hanging over the fields and meadows, though looking at the forecast it looks like today will be the last day of this wonderful weather we have been enjoying, with cloud, showers and much cooler weather on the way.

The birds were in fine song this morning, with the typical sounds of early summer filling the still dawn area. The hedgerows hosted Whitethroats and Yellowhammers, while the woods had Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, and the wonderfully gentle descending song of Willow warblers. However I was here to see those birds typical of the riverside, with the reeds which grow abundantly along the edge of the river Hull having a healthy number of Reed Buntings, Sedge Warblers and Reed Warblers. I even managed to get a few photos of the Reed Warblers, a bird which I have often struggled to capture in the past, and amongst them I even spotted a few juveniles.

Beyond the river the vast common pasture-land of Swinemoor is now rapidly drying up, though some sizable pools still exist, these hosting Lapwings, Redshanks and a few ducks. However beside one pool I noted at least 7 Ringed or Little Ringed Plovers, though I forgot to take my scope my morning and I am still unsure whether they were LRP's or Ringed Plovers. However Steve Webb reported 8 LRP's last night and I'm pretty confident that his ID skills are far superior to my own. I also saw a rather distant view of another wader, which I am pretty confident was one of the Wood Sandpipers which have been seen here on and off for the last week or so, and though I couldn't get a very good view, its behaviour was certainly typical of a Sandpiper as it fed beside the distant pool of muddy water.

A Pied Wagtail also gave some good views, while young families of Moorhens and Mallards cruised on the gently flowing river whose surface was like a mirror this morning, reflecting back the aforementioned clear blue sky and providing a gorgeous light which gave the whole area around a summery golden hue. The only disappointment of the morning was the continuing absence of displaying Snipe, a sound I haven't been able to enjoy so far this season, and I hope this is just bad luck on my part and not a sign that Snipe are becoming increasingly scarce on this area of seasonal flood meadow. I also checked for Grasshopper Warbler at nearby Figham, as in previous years I have heard one near Weel, but again I drew a blank. Maybe next time.

29th (Tue) 11.6 C to 19.3 C / nil / 6.7 hours / SE 1.5 12 Kt.
A grey and cloudy morning, bringing to end a run of four cloudless days. Still warm though and indeed as the day progressed it would slowly brighten. Indeed after 2pm the cloud would rapidly break up, with the rest of the afternoon enjoying largely clear skies and un-interrupted sunshine. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight.

Again I arose early this morning (4.30am) and headed down to Swinemoor. Yesterday a Temminick's Stint was reported, and after missing out on it yesterday I was determined to find it, even it meant an uncomfortable bike ride through Beverley carrying all my optical equipment (2 cameras, binos, scope and tripod). The weather was grey and cloudy but at least it was still warm as I ventured out onto the buttercup covered moor heading for the riverbank. I don't usually go onto Swinemoor itself, usually choosing to watch from the opposite bank of the river, but I think trying to spot the Stint would have been very difficult indeed from that distance, even with the help of my spotting scope.

As I made my northwards beside the gently flowing river Hull a Cuckoo was calling from a tree just over the river, and it would be heard on and off throughout the rest of the morning. I did think I possibly heard a female at one point too, but I'm not positive about this and may have just imagined it. After 5 minutes I made it to the first vantage point over the southern pool, and set up my scope to view the area in much sharper detail. Within moments I spotted the Ringed Plovers which were there yesterday, though I have subsequently learned from Erich Hediger that these are actually Tundra Ringed Plovers. Infact there seemed to be 8 this morning (6 were recorded yesterday), and this was confirmed when they took flight and headed ENE, these small plovers not returning for about 10 minutes.

While they were absent 2 Little Ringed Plovers were noted at the same pool, while a male Gadwall was seen on the northern most pool, this small area of flooded meadow also hosting lots of juvenile Lapwings and a few feeding Redshanks. However despite three-quarters of an hour of searching I still had not found the Temminick's Stint, and I was beginning to fear I had missed it, but then, just as I was about to depart, I saw it right on the edge of the southern pool. How I had missed it on previous scans I do not know but the getting up early and uncomfortable bike ride all seemed suddenly worth it. This is not my first Temminick's Stint but nevertheless seeing one so close to home is always that bit sweeter, and the journey back home through town and up the hill didn't seem so bad this morning.

30th (Wed) 9.4 C to 21.8 C / 8.0 mm / 8.9 hours / E 2.1 14 Kt.
A lovely sunny morning, with just some patches of cirrus and altocumulus in an otherwise clear sky. However by midday some cumulus had bubbled up and as the afternoon wore on this would spread out to form stratocumulus. However the sun would still break through from time to time, with a bright if not necessarily sunny evening following. Cloud thickening by dusk and overnight with a period of heavy rain around midnight (peak rate of 32.4 mm/h). Clearing later but remaining grey and cloudy for the resr of the night.

The second field of silage/haylage has been cut in the Parks, and is now drying out in the early summer sunshine. Meanwhile the country-lanes are now surrounded by masses of full flowering Cow Parsley, while patches of Campion and Comfrey also give splashes of colour. In the fields the OSR is now fading fast, while the Mayblossom is likewise already beginning to go over. However Elderflower is beginning to flower, and these large florets should be widely out by next week if this current warm and settled weather holds.

Meanwhile back at home a Garden Carpet moth was seen flying around the astronomy shed.

31st (Thu) 12.2 C to 16.2 C / 4.0 mm / 2.7 hours / W 2.9 23 Kt.
A cloudy and grey morning with outbreaks of occasional rain, these spells of rain becoming somewhat heavier and more persistent by the end of the morning and continuing into the first part of the afternoon. Becoming drier thereafter with spells of sunshine developing for a time, but by evening cloud would increase again with mostly cloudy skies overnight. The cloud would be thick enough for some further outbreaks of light rain at times.

The first of the Hogweed is beginning to join the Cow Parsley. Meanwhile I was having a closer look at the grasses at owl dip, where lots of ribwort plantain and other grasses currently beyond my ID skills can be seen flowering. Groundsel, docks, Speedwell and first of this years Yarrow can also be seen on the rough grassland.

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