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March 2013

1st (Fri) 2.3 C to 7.8 C / nil / 0.2 hours / N 3.0 19 Kt.
A largely cloudy morning with a cool NNE breeze and it would remain largely cloudy throughout the day. Remaining mostly cloudy in the evening but overnight skies would clear with temperatures falling below freezing by the end of the night.

A pair of Siskins were at the Nyjer feeder this morning, the first seen in the garden this winter.

2nd (Sat) -1.5 C to 9.8 C / nil / 7.0 hours / NW 1.3 13 Kt.
A cold and frosty start but it would soon warm up with clear blue skies and an abundance of sunshine for most of the day, the temperature eventually reaching a very pleasant 9.8 C. However after 3pm cloud would increase and for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and indeed the night, it would remain cloudy.

The pair of Siskins were at the Nyjer feeder again today. Meanwhile quite a few Honey Bees were seen enjoying the Snowdrop, Aconite and Crocus blooms during most of the day.

3rd (Sun) 2.5 C to 9.0 C / nil / nil / NE 0.3 12 Kt.
A cloudy morning with grey skies and it would dull and grey throughout the day, very different from the gorgeous weather yesterday. Mostly cloudy in the evening but overnight skies would clear for a time, this allowing temperatures to fall below freezing for a few hours, but cloud would increase again by the end of the night.

4th (Mon) -1.7 C to 5.6 C / nil / 0.9 hours / SE 1.1 15 Kt.
A cloudy and grey morning but in the afternoon it would slowly brighten up with some spells of hazy sunshine developing in mid to late afternoon. However in the evening cloud would increase again for a time, though overnight this would thin and would allow thick fog to form by the end of the night.

5th (Tue) -1.5 C to 7.2 C / 0.4 mm / 1.0 hours / NE 1.5 11 Kt.
A cold and foggy morning, visibility down to about 150 metres at times, but slowly through the morning it would thin somewhat with some brightness finally managing to break through by 1pm. Hazy spells of sunshine in the rest of the afternoon, the suns disc being easy to see through the thick haze (especially in late afternoon when it looked like an Indian sun), but by dusk fog would quickly return and it would remain foggy for the rest of the night.

Wold Garth ; Week Nine
After the tedious and uninspiring dull weather of the week before the weather would markedly improve as February gave way to March, and some good spells of pale spring sunshine would reawaken the nature of the garden and surrounding area during this ninth week of 2013. Indeed on many days it was warm enough to sit outside and enjoy the spring flowers which now grace many corners of the garden, and it was even more heartening to watch the Honey Bees visiting these same flowers. The Crocuses were a particular draw for the Bees on the sunnier days this week though the last of the Winter Aconites were also popular with these industrious insects (the vast majority of the Aconites have now already concluded for yet another year however).

Other flowers are also starting to appear, including the first of this years Daffodils, a sight which surely lifts the coldest of hearts, while the blue flowers of Anemone blanda and the yellow blooms of Forsythia are also appearing here and there. The blue and purple flowers of Lungwort (or Pulmonaria if you prefer) are additionally just starting to open and since I've had a stinking cold this week I think I could have done with a herbal remedy using the leaves of this once favourite plant of the medieval herbalists (though whether this would be advisable I'm not really sure). However despite a search in the usual spots I have not been able to find any Violets yet, but given some fine weather I'm sure they will soon appear (Violets being a particular favourite of mine).

Bird wise a pair of Siskins visiting the Nyjer feeders was the main highlight (a good first target for my new camera combination) and after shunning our garden for the whole winter it was only typical that they would appear on the most spring like week we have thus far enjoyed in 2013. Elsewhere the pair of Bullfinches are still being seen feeding on the blossom buds, their delicate 'piping' calls being heard throughout much of the day, while the more common garden songbirds have been excelling themselves this week and providing a fine chorus of soothing and varied notes, though special mention must go out to the Song Thrush which seems to sing from dawn to dusk atop the Ash tree. Meanwhile at night the local Tawny Owls have been noticeably more active and on a couple of evenings they have been seen in the trees surrounding the house, seemingly indifferent to our presence as they silently sit and keep an eye out for their next meal.

6th (Wed) -1.2 C to 7.0 C / 0.2 mm / nil / NE 2.7 18 Kt.
A thoroughly miserable morning with outbreaks of rain and visibility below 1 km, and it would dull and murky for the rest of the day. Little change overnight with cloudy skies throughout.

7th (Thu) 3.7 C to 7.9 C / 1.3 mm / nil / E 3.5 22 Kt.
Another grey and murky morning (visibility below 1km at first) but as the morning wore on it would become somewhat brighter with the sun just visible through the cloud at times. Remaining cloudy in the afternoon and latterly the breeze would also begin to pick up somewhat. Overcast skies in the evening and overnight with outbreaks of rain and/or drizzle latterly.

8th (Fri) 3.8 C to 5.1 C / 4.8 mm / nil / NE 2.2 17 Kt.
A wet and murky start with outbreaks of moderate drizzle, and though the drizzle would ease by 8am it would nevertheless remain dull and grey for the rest of the day with no brightness whatsoever. Little change in the evening, though by mid-evening some outbreaks of drizzle would develop and overnight these outbreaks of drizzle and rain would become more persistent. The temperature would also fall overnight with the rain becoming slightly wintry by the end of the night.

9th (Sat) 2.7 C to 3.9 C / 8.0 mm / nil / NE 3.3 18 Kt.
A thoroughly miserable morning with outbreaks of sleety rain and ice pellets and it would remain dull and damp throughout the day, all in all a pretty grim March day. Rain & sleet continuing into the evening and becoming somewhat heavier for a time, but overnight it would ease and would become somewhat more intermittent. Indeed with falling temperatures some snow flurries would develop by the end of the night, but these came to nothing and it melted as soon as it hit the ground.

10th (Sun) 1.0 C to 4.0 C / 2.3 mm / 3.6 hours / NE 5.5 27 Kt.
A cold start to the morning with some light flurries of snow &/or pellets but these would die out after 9am with some good spells of sunshine during the rest of the morning and into the first part of the afternoon, though a brisk NE wind made it feel quite cold. A few snow showers in the afternoon, though most of these were brief and light, but in the evening these showers would become somewhat heavier with a light covering of snow by 7pm. A few further snow showers overnight with about 2cm of snow covering the garden by dawn.

Kirby Underdale
On a crisp but mostly sunny morning we headed up to the north-western corner of the Yorkshire Wolds, our walk of choice this Sunday being around the very attractive community of Kirby Underdale which lies right on the East Yorkshire / North Yorkshire border. This village is part of the extensive Garrowby Estate, owned by the Earl of Halifax, and the countryside around this quiet and peaceful village is delightfully pastoral and rolling, quite different from the wide open arable fields of the northern and eastern Wolds. After parking beside the pretty church of All Saints we headed north-eastwards, following and then crossing the Snowdrop lined beck (or stream), and marched onwards against the brisk breeze towards the nearby hamlet of Uncleby (which in reality is no more than a few farms and a handful of houses). At Manor Farm we came across a half dozen Suffolk Rams but unfortunately the light was behind them and I didn't manage to get any usable images of these handsome beasts. Speaking of sheep a few Lambs were seen in the fields this morning but I think the vast majority are still being kept in the relative shelter and safety of the lambing sheds and probably will remain so till the weather improves and some goodness returns to the grass.

Still heading northwards we crossed the county border into neighbouring North Yorkshire and made our way up Open & Ray Dales, two south-west facing dales whose sides are covered in multiple springs and small bogs which can make this section of the walk very muddy indeed. Indeed in winter wellies are essential as the mud is more than ankle deep in places and one has to ford the stream a few times, but if one is well prepared it is actually quite fun. All of the water which flows out of the hillsides here has also allowed a sizable man-made lake to be created, and as open water is very scarce on the Wolds this can make this particular spot a mecca for wildlife and birdlife in particular. However today the lake was quiet, which has been somewhat typical this winter, with no wildfowl or waders (not even a Mallard), but hundreds of Fieldfares were spotted feeding in the boggy ground around the lake while overhead a Buzzard was seen soaring briefly.

From Open Dale our walk turned westwards and we began the walk up the hill towards Mount Pleasant Farm which sits in an open area of land below Hanging Grimston Wold. From here the view to the south and west is very rewarding, with the green rolling pastures of the Garrowby Estate to the south, and the Vale of York stretching away to the west. The twin towers of York Minster and the so called Yorkshire Wheel (a somewhat more modest version of the London Eye) could be seen from here this morning, and beyond one could see the snow covered Pennines glistening in the March sunshine.

After following the footpath westwards for a half a mile or so we then began to head southwards back towards Kirby Underdale, passing through more fields of peacefully grazing Sheep and along the wide bridleways which characterise this area of the Wolds (horses almost outnumber people in this corner of Yorkshire). After crossing over Salamanca Beck, whose banks are lined by currently in flower Alder trees, we noticed lots of finches and sparrows feeding in the fields, and though the vast majority were Chaffinches, a few Tree Sparrows, Bramblings and Siskins were also picked out amongst the throng. After this minor excitement the rest of the walk was peaceful, with just a Buzzard outside Kirby Underdale providing some additional interest, and before long we found ourselves back at our original point of disembarkation. It is true we saw little in the way of wildlife this morning, which was disappointing, but despite this it was a very pleasant walk all the same with beautiful countryside to enjoy and only a few sheep and horses to disturb the otherwise peaceful solitude and tranquility.

11th (Mon) -3.2 C to 3.1 C / 0.5 mm / 2.2 hours / NE 4.8 31 Kt.
A cold day with moderate snow and snow pellet showers, and sunny spells in between, though the showers would become less frequent around midday. However these showers didn’t really add to the lying snow from yesterday evening and in the sunnier and warmer parts of the garden the snow would melt (though well over 50% of the garden kept its slight covering / heavy dusting throughout the day). A few further snow flurries in the evening and overnight, but for the most part it was a night with variable amounts of cloud and temperatures below freezing. The breeze also freshened from the NNE for a time in late evening but it would ease again by the end of the night.

12th (Tue) -2.6 C to 4.6 C / 1.5 mm / 3.3 hours / NW 5.8 22 Kt.
A bright and cold start with a dusting of fresh snow covering the ground, but by mid-morning it would become mostly cloudy and would remain so till about mid-day. Brighter in the afternoon with sunny spells and the odd wintry shower, these becoming increasingly sleety by evening and any lying snow would melt by early afternoon. Variable amounts of cloud overnight but latterly snow showers would drift down from the NNW and give a slight covering by dawn.

13th (Wed) -0.7 C to 4.5 C / 0.5 mm / 3.9 hours / NW 3.8 24 Kt.
A cold start with snow showers, this giving a covering of about 1cm, but by mid-morning it would become mostly sunny with the snow soon melting in the March sunshine. A few wintry showers around midday and in early afternoon but otherwise it was a bright afternoon. Clear spells in the evening but prior to midnight a short period of snow would give about 1cm of snow. The rest of the night would see largely clear skies with temperatures falling below freezing.

14th (Thu) -2.5 C to 6.9 C / 1.5 mm / 1.2 hours / S 3.0 17 Kt.
A cold and bright start to the day, the ground again covered by about 1cm of snow which fell last night, but as the morning wore on it would become somewhat cloudier and temperatures would rise (any snow gone by 11am). Mostly cloudy in the afternoon with some light rain after 4pm and through the evening it would remain overcast with outbreaks of mostly light rain. Drier after midnight but nevertheless remaining mostly cloudy.

15th (Fri) 1.4 C to 7.7 C / 6.8 mm / 0.4 hours / S 3.2 24 Kt.
A bright start, much milder than recently, but by mid-morning it would become cloudier with outbreaks of rain arriving by late morning. Further outbreaks of rain in the afternoon and at first in the evening, but skies would clear by 8pm with some clear spells for the first half of the night. However cloud would increase again as the night wore on with further outbreaks of rain by the end of the night.

16th (Sat) 3.7 C to 8.0 C / 1.4 mm / 0.1 hours / S 2.8 18 Kt.
A cloudy and breezy morning with occasional outbreaks of light rain, these spells of rain becoming a little heavier in the second half of the morning. Becoming drier in the afternoon, with even some brightness, but cloud would increase again later with a few spots of rain around dusk. Mostly cloudy in the evening but overnight skies would become increasingly clear, this allowing temperatures to fall to nearly freezing.

17th (Sun) 0.9 C to 5.9 C / 23.2 mm / 0.3 hours / E 1.3 13 Kt.
A bright and chilly start but cloud would increase by mid-morning and steadily thicken as the morning progressed. After midday the cloud would become thick enough for some mostly light rain, but as the afternoon wore on the rain would become heavier and more persistent with a peak rate of 10.2 mm/h during one of the heavier bursts. Further outbreaks of moderate rain in the evening and overnight, and by the end of the night nearly an inch of rain had been recorded and the ground had become fully saturated.

Nettle Dale
On a grey and dull Sunday morning we made our way up into the heart of the Wolds and enjoyed a short ramble around the Millington Dale area, and in particular the usually peaceful valley of Nettle Dale. However for reasons unknown it was exceptionally busy this morning, with rambling groups and dog walkers disturbing the usual tranquillity, and I was also somewhat surprised to find that many parts of Nettle Dale have recently been fenced off with trees and hedgerows being planted in what used to be open grassland. Whether all this fencing is merely temporary I don't know but I am somewhat concerned about this development as the grassland between Nettle Dale and Pasture Dale is a fantastic spot for butterflies, especially Marbled Whites and other grassland species, and in the past I also discovered a small colony of Brown Argus butterflies breeding here (a species which is not particularly common in this part of the Wolds). However the extra scrub might be good for the Redstarts, Spotted Flycatchers and warblers which breed in this valley so perhaps things will improve in the longer term, especially since the local landowner ripped out much of the scrub a year or so ago in this area.

Our walk started well with a Red Kite soaring over our heads as we departed our vehicle, and it stayed long enough for me to grab a few shots as it passed within 50 yards of us, but with the grey skies and dreadful light the captured images were not that great (as you can see). Nevertheless they are some of the best Kite photos I have yet achieved and I am hopeful that my new camera and lens combo is going to be an excellent set up for birds in flight and indeed birds in general. Meanwhile quite a few Skylarks were heard singing in the skies above us this morning, and a number of Lapwings were noted displaying over the nearby fields, but despite the fact we are now moving into late March the countryside is still showing very few signs of spring.

Heading through the Maple and Birch woodland at the top of valley we made our way across to the southern flank of Pasture Dale, disturbing hundreds of Wood Pigeons and Fieldfares which had been feeding in the neighbouring field in the process. A few Hares were also noted out in the field, and though they were somewhat distant I managed a few record shots as they fled away and out of sight. As we stopped for a short break and a cup of warming tea, enjoying the view of Pasture Dale below us, we suddenly noticed a distant group of about a dozen Geese heading north-westwards, but as they drew nearer and within ear-shot we soon realised they were not Geese at all but Whooper Swans instead, a very unexpected sight up here on the Wolds. I expect these birds are probably starting their move back towards their breeding grounds in Iceland and one wishes them well on their long journey northwards.

18th (Mon) 1.5 C to 4.6 C / 1.3 mm / nil / N 1.5 13 Kt.
A thoroughly grey and wet morning with persistent moderate rain, and after a day of rain yesterday the ground would become very saturated with some minor flooding in the usual prone areas. The rain would become lighter as the morning progressed though and by early afternoon it would become drier, though nevertheless it would remain grey and cloudy for the rest of the day. Mostly cloudy in the evening but by late evening the cloud would begin to break up with clear spells developing overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall below freezing.

19th (Tue) -0.7 C to 7.7 C / 3.9 mm / 3.7 hours / E 2.4 17 Kt.
A cold and bright morning with sunny spells and it would remain bright into the afternoon, though cloud amounts would increase as the afternoon wore on. Mostly cloudy in the evening with outbreaks of rain arriving by 10pm, and these spells of rain would continue for the rest of the night.

Wold Garth ; Winter drags on
First off apologies for the lack of an update last week but for various reasons I could neither find the time or the enthusiasm to post, especially as the week had been largely quiet and uneventful within the confines of the garden. However despite the two week gap since my last update from Wold Garth it is still quite hard to think of anything to write, especially since the persistently cold and damp weather which seems to have dominated so much of March has continued throughout the past fortnight. In fact it was even cold enough for some snow between the 10th and 14th, and though amounts were small it was more than enough to give a slight covering on at least four days during the past couple of weeks. With cold weather looking to remain with us for at least the next week and possibly beyond the end of the month things look likely to remain slow for the foreseeable future, though one can only hope that things will drastically improve with the coming of April.

Of course this is all very different from last year when March enjoyed some exceptionally warm and sunny days which saw temperatures reach 21.3 C (70.3 F) by the end of the month, but since that exceptionally warm March was followed by a distinctly cold and unsettled April and an indifferent summer perhaps the delayed start to Spring 2013 is a portent of better things to come (we can at least hope). Indeed a quick study of weather lore does seem to suggest that a cold and delayed spring is often a positive sign for the year ahead, though as with so many country sayings one can find plenty of other examples which seem to contradict the above view and therefore I think it is best to simply try and make the most of whatever the weather brings.

However despite the grim weather it is not all doom and gloom in the garden and I was jolly happy to find my first flowering Violets of the year the other day (something I've been looking for since the beginning of March). Though I thus far have found just two single flowers it is nevertheless a heartening observation and more will undoubtedly appear in the next few weeks. Meanwhile a few more daffodils have come into flower in the garden, and the first of the dwarf Tulips have begun to bloom, and despite the fact we are now in late March the Snowdrops are still going strong. Another phenological observation of note this week was that the male Yew trees are now in flower and have begun to 'smoke' in the gentlest of breezes.

Bird wise the Siskins have continued to visit the garden during the last fortnight, and so far I have spotted at least five individual birds (2 males and 3 females). Being March I have also begun to listen out for the first Chiffchaff of the year but so far I have drawn a blank, and I haven't even heard a Blackcap yet (indeed I haven't seen a Blackcap since January). Meanwhile a more gruesome sight was provided by the local Sparrowhawk as it disemboweled a poor Collared Dove in the middle of the lawn last week, but as sad as such observations are it is of course very much part of nature and should be viewed as such.

20th (Wed) 1.0 C to 3.3 C / trace / nil / E 0.9 14 Kt.
A grey and cold morning with outbreaks of rain and sleet at first, but by 9am these outbreaks of wintry precipitation would largely die out, bar the odd snow grain from time to time. Remaining cloudy in the afternoon with grey skies throughout and it would remain largely cloudy through the evening. However overnight skies would begin to clear and this would allow temperatures to fall over 3 degrees centigrade below freezing.

21st (Thu) -3.1 C to 6.6 C / nil / 3.0 hours / E 6.5 28 Kt.
A bright and sunny morning, though cold at first with a frost, but with the sunshine it would soon warm up. Becoming more cloudy in the afternoon, though still not without some brighter and sunnier periods, and in the evening cloud amounts would increase further. The breeze would also begin to freshen by the end of the evening with mostly cloudy skies and blustery easterly winds overnight.

22nd (Fri) 0.5 C to 2.8 C / 2.1 mm / nil / E 9.5 32 Kt.
A cloudy and windy morning, and feeling bitterly cold in the noticeable wind chill. Remaining dull and bitter in the afternoon with winds gusting up to nearly gale force and it would remain cloudy and windy throughout the evening and night. Indeed towards the end of the night the cloud would become thick enough for some snow, with a slight dusting by the end of the night.

23rd (Sat) -1.1 C to 2.2 C / trace / nil / E 7.8 32 Kt.
A snowy start to the morning with persistent light to moderate snow, this producing about 2cm of lying snow by mid-morning, but after 9am the snow would largely die out and for the rest of the day it would be grey and cold, most of the snow surviving all day thanks to the lack of sunshine. Mostly cloudy throughout the evening and overnight with a strong and gusty easterly breeze, but despite the cloud and the wind temperatures would fall below freezing with a significant wind chill.

24th (Sun) -0.8 C to 3.4 C / nil / 4.0 hours / E 8.5 36 Kt.
A mostly cloudy and windy morning, feeling bitterly cold in the fresh to strong easterly breeze, though latterly in the morning some spells of sunshine would develop and it would remain bright in the afternoon with sunny spells and variable amounts of cloud. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight and remaining breezy throughout, this wind helping to keep temperatures above freezing.

North Cliffe Wood
This morning we made our way across the Wolds and paid a long overdue visit to North Cliffe Wood, our last visit being way back in mid-January (I like to try and visit this woodland at least once a month). The weather was bright but very cold, the strong easterly breeze really biting in the more exposed and open areas of the woodland, and after snow yesterday morning the ground was covered by a light layer of snow which in places had drifted somewhat deeper here and there. Thankfully this corner of Yorkshire has escaped very lightly from the recent snows which have struck parts of the British Isles recently, though as we crossed the Wolds we noticed some deep drifts along the hedgerows and I expect some of the higher and less used Wold roads may be temporarily blocked at the moment.

However the biggest problem at North Cliffe Wood this morning was not the snow but the very high water levels, something which has been a problem since autumn, and in places we had to wade through nearly knee deep water as some of the less accessible parts of the woodland have become completely flooded and totally saturated. Of course for the most part this is a good thing for the wildlife of the wood and the recording of at least eight Woodcock as we made our way around this precious 35 hectare of birch and oak woodland was a real sign of this fact, though one hopes some of the woodland floor plants don't suffer too much from this inundation.

Speaking of woodland plants the leaves of the Bluebells are now coming up widely in the normal parts of the wood, their green spikes rising above the cold and snow covered ground, while in the hazel coppice the Primroses are just starting to show signs of flowering with the merest hint of yellow to be seen if you looked closely. However no Violets could be found, though whether this was because they have not yet appeared or they were simply covered by snow is not clear, and despite my best efforts I am afraid to say I couldn't find any flowering plants, though I expect when we next visit things will be very different as by then we should be well into April.

Other good sightings this morning included a very handsome Buzzard, a couple of Greylag Geese on the lake at the centre of the heath, Teal and Mallard in the woodland itself, lots of common woodland birds such as Tits and Finches, a couple of Woodpeckers, the aforementioned Woodcocks, and two Roe deer. I also think I am starting to understand my new camera better now and have been working on the correct settings for various different types of shooting, though the good light today made things much easier. So all in all it was a very enjoyable morning despite the bitter easterly wind with plenty to see and enjoy in this lovely little woodland which sits just below the Yorkshire Wolds.

25th (Mon) 0.5 C to 3.5 C / trace / 1.2 hours / E 5.5 28 Kt.
An initially bright start with broken cloud, but by mid-morning it would become mostly cloudy and remain so for the rest of the morning. Very cold again as well, the fresh easterly breeze really biting exposed skin. Largely cloudy in the afternoon, though it was not without some brighter spells, but there were also a few very light  snow flurries at times. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight with occasional light snow flurries (not even enough to provide a dusting) with the fresh easterly wind again preventing an air frost.

North Cave Wetlands
With a free afternoon yesterday we decided to visit North Cave Wetlands on what was another bitterly cold but reasonably bright day, though as we made our way around the reserve we had to fight against the brisk easterly breeze and occasional light snow flurries. Most of the snow on the lowlands of East Yorkshire has now thawed with just the odd patch here and there, though on our way to the reserve we had to cross the Wolds near High Hunsley (approx. 160m / 525 ft asl) where most of the fields are still covered in snow (except where it has been blown off by the wind) with drifts of up to 3 to 4 feet along the hedgerows. Though this kind of wintry weather is not particularly unusual at this time of year (despite what the somewhat sensationalist news agencies keep telling us) the current cold spell is perhaps unusually persistent for so late in the year and it now seems increasingly likely that the chilly weather will last into the first week of April.

Upon arrival at the reserve we were keen to get going as some good birds have been spotted at the reserve lately, and as we move towards April we are starting to get that overlap between lingering winter visitors and early spring arrivals which can provide plenty of interest at wetlands reserves at this time of year. With the strong winds the Main Lake was unusually quiet, with most of the birds concentrated in the sheltered north-eastern corner of the lake, and though the views were somewhat distant we picked out plenty of Teal, some Wigeon, and a couple of Oystercatchers (as well as the near ever present Greylag Geese whom were as numerous and noisy as usual).

Moving on we had a brief look out over the newer parts of the reserve to the south of Dryham Lane and here we spotted a single Ringed Plover (Y79) feeding along the edges of the freshly dug channels, my first of the year. A few Redshanks were recorded too, along with Lapwings and up to half a dozen Pied Wagtails. Soon we arrived at Carp Lake and here we found the long staying red-head Smew (Y80) swimming about on the far side of the lake, another very welcome year tick. Though red-head Smews are not quite as striking or handsome as their mature male counterparts they are by themselves a handsome little duck and it was good to finally catch up with this northern visitor which has been at the reserve since late February.

Carp and Far Lakes also hosted plenty of other wildfowl & waterfowl, including a fewPochard, good numbers of Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Cootand Moorhens. Meanwhile the waterside Alders and Willows, most of which are now in flower, played host to a few Siskins though despite my best efforts I failed to spot any Redpolls amongst them. In the fields to the west and north Lapwings were recorded in good numbers, a few of which were seen and heard displaying overhead, and as we continued on towards Reedbed Lake a small flock of about a dozen Oystercatchers passed low over our heads.

Further typical winter wildfowl and waterfowl were recorded at Reedbed Lake, though well over a dozen Shelducks joined the usual Shovelers and Teal at this part of the reserve, while along the waters edge a dozen or so Redshanks were additionally added into my field logbook. Making our way towards Turret Hide we enjoyed a nice view of a Goldfinch in the hedgerow as well as a few other nice passerines including Tree Sparrows, Yellowhammers and the usual array of common tits and finches. At Turret Hide itself we saw little new, though a single Avocet (Y81) was a great to see (and another year tick), and a couple of Little Grebes were also spotted feeding below the hide, and together these brought to an end an enjoyable afternoon of birding at this little nature reserve.

26th (Tue) 0.3 C to 3.5 C / 0.2 mm / 1.4 hours / E 4.2 24 Kt.
Another cold and blustery morning with occasional bright spells and a few wintry showers. More cloudy in the afternoon with further light snow flurries (not enough to provide the slightest of dustings) and it would remain largely unchanged throughout the evening and overnight. Still cold though the easterly breeze was somewhat lighter today.

27th (Wed) 0.0 C to 4.4 C / trace / 0.9 hours / E 2.9 21 Kt.
A cloudy and cold morning with occasional light flurries of snow &/or snow pellets but by afternoon it would brighten up somewhat with even some spells of sunshine at times. Feeling less cold again today, with the wind becoming increasingly light over recent days. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight but one or two clearer spells did allow temperatures to fall below freezing.

28th (Thu) -0.7 C to 4.8 C / nil / 0.4 hours / NE 2.1 18 Kt.
Another cold and cloudy morning with very occasional and very light flurries of snow in the wind. Becoming somewhat brighter in the afternoon though nevertheless remaining largely cloudy. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight though one or two clearer spells would allow temperatures to fall below freezing.

Wold Garth ; What a difference a year makes
In common with many of my fellow blog-land friends and local amateur naturalists I am becoming increasingly impatient and frustrated with the ongoing cold and wintry weather which seems to be holding so much of the country within its grip at the moment. With a newer and more powerful moth trap added to my nature recording gear a few months ago I was hoping that by this time it would have had far more than the two outings it has thus far enjoyed, and with little prospects of a dramatic improvement in the weather one fears it will remain largely idle until mid-April at the earliest. My mood has not been improved by looking back at my blog entries for this time last year (see March 2012 archive) and its amazing to see how far behind nature is this year compared to last.

Nevertheless I was able to find a few active Ladybirds in the garden this week, with the vast majority being 7-spots though somewhat less welcome was the additional discovery of a Harlequin Ladybird. This is not the first Harlequin to be recorded here at Wold Garth with the first record coming a couple of years ago but nevertheless they are relatively uncommon and I hope this early discovery is not a sign of a burgeoning population within the confines of the garden. Another first for the year was provided by a hunting Pipistrelle Bat on the evening of the 19th, though unsurprisingly given the weather no further signs of these flying nocturnal mammals have been noted since.

With the ever brightening mornings I am also starting to enjoy some longer morning walks/cycles in the surrounding countryside and the other day I found a large area of winter flooding down in nearby Beverley Parks. This area of water (which in places must be nearly 3 feet deep) is an area which hasn't actually fully flooded since the winter of 2010 but at the moment even the board walk is hard to access without the aid of full wellies. However this flood water is providing some good habitat for a few water birds, including Coots, Moorhens, and Mallards and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that a few scarcer visitors may be turn up at this relatively undisturbed pool in the coming weeks, especially since open water is so rare in the immediate environs surrounding our home.

29th (Fri) -0.3 C to 7.0 C / 0.2 mm / 8.1 hours / NE 2.1 16 Kt.
A bright but chilly morning with long spells of much welcome spring sunshine. Remaining bright with sunny spells in the afternoon with variable amounts of broken Cumulus and Stratocumulus. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, with some light flurries of snow for a time overnight (this giving a very slight dusting) but it would clear by the end of the night with temperatures falling to nearly -3C by dawn.

30th (Sat) -2.6 C to 6.9 C / nil / 6.6 hours / NE 1.6 16 Kt.
A bright and sunny morning with the slightest of snow dustings at dawn, though this would soon melt in the spring sunshine. Remaining bright throughout the day with spells of sunshine, though in the afternoon there were variable amounts of broken cloud. Has spring finally arrived ? Mostly clear in the evening and overnight, though there were some cloudier periods at times, and temperatures again would fall well below freezing.

31st (Sun) -2.5 C to 6.7 C / nil / 8.2 hours / E 2.7 19 Kt.
A lovely sunny morning, though it was cold to start with, and it would remain largely sunny and clement throughout the day. Indeed out of the cool easterly breeze it even felt quite warm. However towards the end of the day cloud would increase and it would remain largely cloudy for the rest of the evening and night.

Easter Sunday proved to be gloriously sunny and clement here in East Yorkshire, and out of the cool easterly breeze it was even quite mild with sitting outdoors just about tolerable despite the rather modest temperature of 5 C (42 F). This made for an enjoyable afternoon with my nephew and nieces going on an Easter egg hunt around the garden, whilst I searched for spring signs in the garden borders. The Daffodils looked particularly good in the spring sunshine today, with other flowers including an abundance of Crocuses, Anemones, Wallflowers, Lungwort and even a few Violets. These flowers attracted a lot of Honey Bees, with the Crocuses proving particularly popular, though the highlight of the day was the recording of the first Bumble Bee of the year. A butterfly was also spotted very briefly but the sighting was so fleeting I was unable to identify it (though judging by its largely dark appearance I think it was probably a Peacock).

However the pleasant Easter Sunday weather failed to produce any Chiffchaffs in the garden and it looks certain that March will now conclude without any Chiffchaff sightings this year, unless I manage to find one this evening. However I did enjoy listening to a singing Siskin in the Elder scrub, a sound which reminds me of past spring-time trips to pine forests in northern Yorkshire and Scotland, while most of the other garden songbirds were additionally in fine song, especially at dawn when the golden sun rose over the cold and frosty landscape of eastern Yorkshire. I know it is a risky thing to say and I will whisper it very quietly but today had a real spring feel about it and maybe, just maybe, winter is now finally on the wane and better days lie ahead.

Finally I and my family would like to wish everyone a very Happy Easter and I hope you have enjoyed this most important day in the Christian calendar. Hopefully the Easter message of peace, forgiveness and charity will bring prosperity and health in the year ahead and whether we are people of faith or not surely we can all agree that goodness, kindness and generosity should be the basis of how we live our lives, not only in our dealings with others but also in our relationship with all the livings creatures and organisms with whom we share this most precious and remarkable of planets.