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May 2013

1st (Wed) -0.4 C to 16.5 C / nil / 7.1 hours / NW 2.5 17 Kt.
A bright and sunny morning, though cold at first after an air frost overnight, and it would remain bright and sunny for much of the day with temperatures very pleasant in the high teens. More cloudy for a time in the afternoon and evening, but this would break up by dusk with clear spells overnight (not as cold as last night though).

2nd (Thu) 3.2 C to 16.2 C / nil / 12.0 hours / SE 1.5 19 Kt.
A gorgeous late spring day with bags of sunshine and light winds. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight.

3rd (Fri) 3.4 C to 17.0 C / 0.8 mm / 1.8 hours / SW 3.4 20 Kt.
A bright start but by mid-morning it would become cloudy and would remain so for most of the day, though it was typically fairly bright mid-level cloud and temperatures were pleasant enough in the mid to high teens. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight with a few breaks from time to time. A mild night.

4th (Sat) 9.0 C to 15.8 C / trace / 8.4 hours / W 3.7 22 Kt.
A bright and warm start to the day, but around 9am a short but moderate to heavy shower would drift over. Soon brightening up again however, though the breeze would pick up somewhat, with a sunny but breezy afternoon following. All in all a very pleasant late spring day with temperatures in the mid-teens. Largely clear in the evening and overnight, though there were some cloudier periods from time to time.

5th (Sun) 6.1 C to 19.7 C / nil / 6.6 hours / SW 1.4 17 Kt.
A lovely sunny and warm start to the day, but by late morning it would become cloudier with extensive stratocumulus. Slowly breaking in the afternoon with spells of warm sunshine by mid-afternoon, and temperature would reach a very pleasant high of 19.7 C. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with some long clear spells latterly.

6th (Mon) 4.9 C to 20.8 C / nil / 12.0 hours / SW 1.0 13 Kt.
A gorgeous sunny and very warm day with temperatures reaching 20 C for the first time this year (max of 20.8 C). Mostly clear in the evening and overnight with a very heavy dew by dawn.

Wold Garth - Week 18
The weather was superb during the eighteenth week of 2013 with temperatures eventually climbing above 20 C for the first time this year, and with largely clear skies and strong late spring sunshine it was a joy to be out and about around Wold Garth throughout most of the week. The sighting of the first Swifts (Y109) of 2013 was another reason to be joyful, while other good sightings during the week included a few Yellow Wagtails in the nearby fields, and the continuing presence of a calling Cuckoo within the wider Wold Garth area (which roughly speaking covers the area SW of Beverley). Butterfly numbers though were somewhat disappointing with just a few Peacocks, Holly Blues, Green-veined White, Large White and Small White.

7th (Tue) 5.4 C to 21.8 C / nil / 10.9 hours / E 2.6 20 Kt.
A sunny start to the day and it would remain sunny throughout the day with only some high cirrus cloud at times. With this strong late spring sunshine temperatures would reach a high of 21.8  making this the warmest day so far this year (beating yesterday’s record). High cloud increasing and thickening in the evening with partly cloudy skies overnight.

Bempton & Flamborough
This morning we paid a visit to the wonderful sea-bird colony at Bempton Cliffs, with our young niece accompanying us, and with the gorgeous sunshine and pleasant temperatures it made for a very enjoyable morning. Having a four year old child with us meant I wasn't able to do as much photography as I would have done otherwise, and as we arrived later than normal the viewing platforms were also more crowded, but despite these handicaps we were able to see all the typical species which inhabit these cliffs during the warmer months of the year, including Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Herring & Black-backed Gulls, Guillemots, Razorbills, and of course Puffins (my niece's favourite). Meanwhile the cliff top fields and scrub hosted Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, Whitethroats, Linnets and Tree Sparrows and further interest was provided by a few species of butterfly whom like us seemed to be enjoying the beautiful and strong May sunshine.

After our morning at Bempton Cliffs we headed just a few miles to the south and enjoyed a couple of hours at South Landing, a peaceful and wooded location which falls steeply away to the sea and which is well known as a migrant hotspot in spring and autumn. No rare birds were spotted during our visit but it was lovely to walk down to the shore with the sights, and most evocatively the smell, of gorse hanging in the warm May air, and Whitethroats singing in the scrub.

The rocky shore was equally beautiful with the white cliffs positively glowing in the strong sunshine and with a flat, lazy sea there was truly no other place than I would rather have been at that moment. As we reclined on the shore and looked out across Bridlington Bay and the North Sea we spotted large flocks of Razorbills in the distance and a few Turnstones heading along the coastline, with a single Rock Pipit additionally spotted hopping about the shore and on the steep cliffs. Another good sighting was a very tame and approachable Roe Deer which posed for a few photos before heading further into the wood and eventually out of sight.

8th (Wed) 5.6 C to 18.6 C / 0.4 mm / 1.8 hours / SW 1.9 21 Kt.
A cloudy morning but feeling warm and muggy despite the grey skies, and despite threatening at times it would remain dry. Indeed in the afternoon some breaks would develop with some sunshine, but by evening cloud would begin to increase again, this bringing with it some short bursts of rain around dusk and at first overnight. Clearing away later though with largely clear skies by dawn.

9th (Thu) 5.5 C to 15.7 C / 3.7 mm / 1.1 hours / SW 4.3 21 Kt.
A bright start but by mid-morning cloud amounts would increase with largely cloudy skies for the rest of the day, this cloud thick enough for a short burst of rain around 3pm. Also very breezy and feeling much cooler with temperature only reaching 15.7 C. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight with some further outbreaks at times, especially in the evening and later during the night.

10th (Fri) 8.2 C to 15.4 C / nil / 3.9 hours / SW 3.8 24 Kt.
A mostly cloudy start but by mid-morning it would begin to brighten up with some sunny spells developing. Alternating sunny periods and cloudy periods in the afternoon but again with a moderate breeze it would feel quite cool despite the sunny spells. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, but becoming clearer latterly.

11th (Sat) 5.5 C to 12.9 C / 1.5 mm / 4.8 hours / W 4.6 28 Kt.
A clear start to the day but as the morning wore on cloud amounts would increase from the SW, accompanied by a freshening WSW breeze. A short period of rain around 1pm and after a short period of drier weather this would be followed by a short but heavy downpour around 3pm. After this shower cleared the weather would brighten up again with sunny spells for the rest of the afternoon, and in the evening the skies would eventually become clear. Mostly clear at first overnight but cloud amounts would increase later with a few light showers towards the end of the night.

More moths begin to appear
In the last week I have been able to use the moth trap no less than four times and thanks to the decent weather and some milder nights a greater variety of moths have begun to be attracted to the moth trap, including a few new species to the Wold Garth List (though admittedly this is still in its infancy). The type of moths caught has also begun to change this week, with less Quakers and more Pugs and Carpets, and this has seen me swatting up on these often tricky to identify species (especially the Pugs), though I'm sure I have probably made the odd mistake here and there (please tell me if you notice any errors). Unfortunately as of the time of writing the weather has now turned cooler and more unsettled and I fear trapping will now be suspended for a few days at least, but this does at least give me time to update all my logbooks and also start work on a homemade Robinson Trap.

Moth Species recorded recently (2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th & 10th May 2013)
1288 Twenty-plume Moth x3 (4th x1, 6th x1, 8th x1) - First of the year
1428 Bee Moth x2 (6th x1, 10th x1) - First of the year
1497 Beautiful Plume x4 (4th x4)
1524 Common Plume x2 (4th x1, 8th x1)
1722 Flame Carpet x1 (8th x1) - First of the year
1747 Streamer x1 (8th x1)
1834 Common Pug x2 (4th x1, 8th x1) - First of the year
1862 Double-striped Pug x2 (6th x1, 8th x1)
1883 Yellow-barred Brindle x1 (4th x1) - First of the year
1917 Early Thorn x1 (6th x1)
1919 Purple Thorn x1 (8th x1) - New species for Wold Garth
2063 Muslin Moth x1 (4th x1) - First of the year
2078 Least Black Arches x1 (8th x1) - New species for Wold Garth
2187 Common Quaker x10 (2nd x6, 4th x3, 6th x1)
2188 Clouded Drab x3 (2nd x1, 6th x1, 10th x1)
2190 Hebrew Character x7 (2nd x1, 4th x1, 6th x3, 10th x2)
2243 Early Grey x9 (2nd x1, 4th x5, 6th x1, 8th x2)
2450 Spectacle x1 (8th x1) First of the year

12th (Sun) 5.3 C to 13.5 C / 1.7 mm / 2.9 hours / SW 3.7 27 Kt.
A bright and breezy morning with a few light showers at first, but cloud would increase after midday with a period of rain in the afternoon. Clearing by dusk with variable amounts of cloud overnight.

Bluebell time
On Sunday morning we decided to visit North Cliffe Wood, hoping to see the Bluebells at their peak on what was a bright but cool morning. With rain the night before the scent of Bluebells and damp earth filled the air with sweet perfume, and as ever the carpet of pastel blue blooms proved beautiful to behold, especially along the eastern edge of the wood and in the hazel coppice. The ears too were stimulated as we wandered onwards through the late spring blooms, with bird song filling the woodland realm with varied notes and tunes, amongst which a couple of Garden Warblers were heard (and seen), the first I've managed to record this year.

Amongst the Bluebells other wildflowers were recorded including a few Water Avens, Wood Sorrel (which is now almost finished flowering), abundant Stitchwort, Primroses, Bugle, Dead-nettles, and a bit of Campion and Cow Parsley along the edges of the woodland. Another good sighting was a Grass Snake beside the road near the White Rose Polo Club, a surprising sight considering the coolish temperatures.

13th (Mon) 6.2 C to 13.1 C / 1.2 mm / 5.2 hours / SW 4.0 26 Kt.
A blustery day with sunny spells and squally showers, many containing hail at times, but by the end of the afternoon these would die out with it becoming increasingly clear and sunny in the evening. Mostly clear throughout the night with temperatures falling quite low as a result.

Wold Garth - Week 19
The nineteenth week began as the last week left off with temperatures climbing to nearly 22 C on the 7th, but  thereafter the week became cooler and more unsettled which unsurprisingly has had an effect on the nature and wildlife of the garden and the greater Wold Garth area. Indeed hardly any butterflies have been seen this week, with just the odd White and Peacock here and there, and even Bee and Hoverfly numbers have been noticeably depressed after the peaks of activity during late April and early May. The number of Swifts in the sky above has only marginally increased as well, with Swallows still easily outnumbering them at the moment (in high summer Swifts tend to dominate here) and there has been no sign of last weeks Cuckoo. The cool weather has additionally seen moth trapping come to a grinding halt and I was only able to use the trap once this week (this attracting one each of Early Thorn, Least Black Arches and Brown House Moth) though hopefully by the time I return from my holiday to NW Norfolk things will have improved somewhat.

Norfolk Holiday (18th-23rd)
The shore birds of RSPB Titchwell Marsh
To say that Titchwell Marshes is one of my favourite places in England is very much an understatement and if I was lucky enough to live within cycling distance of this wonderful reserve I think I would spend most of my days at this varied and windswept coastal marsh. The fact I like Titchwell so much always surprises me as to be honest I hate crowds but somehow there is always room at this reserve without it becoming claustrophobic thanks to the cavernous hides and the large size of the reserve itself. The fact that Titchwell Marsh is possibly one of the coldest places in England also helps to keep crowds down somewhat (anyone who has visited Titchwell in mid-winter will well know just how cold it can be when the wind sweeps in from the North Sea) but being someone whom actually likes the cold and having to wrap up warm against the elements this adds an extra appeal to me.

For this post I have decided to concentrate on the shore birds which can be found along the beach at Titchwell, as this is perhaps my favourite part of the reserve and is also the best photographically as many of the birds which inhabit this coastal margin are surprisingly tame and allow close approach if one is quiet and sympathetic as regards their personal space. The most numerous birds were the handsome and always busy Sanderlings, closely followed by the colourfully plumaged Turnstones, while other birds included Oystercatchers, Godwits, Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers, Little Terns, Common Terns, and some lingering Knots. Further out to sea we also spotted a few late Eiders and Scoters, as well as the odd Cormorant, Grebe, and passing Sandwich Tern.

The marshland birds of RSPB Titchwell Marsh
After my previous post which primarily focused on the shore birds we encountered along the beach at the superb RSPB reserve of Titchwell, this post will now look at those birds we were lucky enough to record and photograph on the marshes themselves, both the freshwater and brackish marshes which have both undergone some major changes since our last visit some five or so years ago. Indeed I am not even sure whether the brackish marsh is indeed still technically a brackish marsh as the old sea wall has been partly breached with the consequence that this part of the reserve is now slowly becoming tidal saltmarsh. This will not only create some new & interesting habitat, of which one can enjoy fine views of from the comfort of the new Parrinder hide, but will also provide additional protection for the freshwater marsh from the threat of encroachment by the North Sea.

Despite the cool weather we were able to record a lot of birds on these marshes, including a good number of new species for our 2013 list, and it was also a chance to catch up with a number of bird species which I do not often record in my usual birding haunts in inland East Yorkshire. The highlight was a trio of Temminck’s Stint which was kindly pointed out to us by a local birder, and though I could get nothing better than a few distant record shots it was nevertheless nice to photograph a species I have only encountered on a couple of occasions previously. Another bird which was good to see was a single Spoonbill, a bird which I later learned was actually originally ringed in Spain, while on our last visit we had a distant Montagu’s Harrier pointed out, a new species for me at least.

Grey Plovers proved to be quite abundant on all our visits, especially on Volunteer Marsh, with most showing off their attractive breeding plumage with its striking and contrasting black and white patterns (very different from their otherwise grey and drab winter appearance). Indeed from the new Parrinder hide we got some decent pictures of this species, though it would take us a couple of visits to finally work out how to open the hide windows of this new and innovatively designed hide. Other birds seen from this hide included Godwits, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Avocets, Turnstones, Redshanks, & Shelducks and probably a few others which I have subsequently forgotten.

However Volunteer Marsh is not the only bit of tidal salt marsh at Titchwell with the aptly and somewhat unimaginatively named Tidal Marsh also providing habitat for typical species of such environments. Indeed this proved to be the best place to watch Little Terns hunting and diving, something I particularly enjoyed watching as they acrobatically tumbled from the skies, and they were also joined by their larger cousins the Common Terns at times. Avocets were recorded in good numbers again on this marsh while overhead a few skeins of Brent Geese passed over our heads, their distinctive barking calls alerting us to their presence. A single Fulmar also passed over at one point, a bird which I would not necessarily associate with Titchwell but a nice recording nevertheless.

Returning to the fresh water marsh a good variety of common wildfowl were noted, including Shoveler, Pochard, Gadwall, Mallard, Greylag Geese and at least one female Red-crested Pochard, and it was also here that we recorded the largest number of Little Egrets, the first I’ve managed to see this year. A few Little Ringed Plovers were also seen, along with Common Sandpiper, Godwits and Lapwings, and it was also on this marsh that the greatest evidence of this years new hatchlings were noted with goslings and ducklings keeping close to their parents. Finally Chinese Water Deer were seen on neighbouring Thornham Marshes, one of which was close enough for a few pics, and it was interesting to watch these somewhat odd looking and introduced species of deer as they grazed the marshes, especially as these were actually the first ones I’ve ever seen in the wild.

Cley & Holkham
Though Titchwell was the main focus of our visit to Norfolk, with the reserve being just a mile or two from our holiday cottage near Burnham Market, we were also lucky enough to visit a few other spots along the coast, including Holkham and Cley. Both these locations will undoubtedly be familiar to those whom have visited the beautiful North Norfolk coast, and Cley in particular draws in thousands of visitors every year to enjoy the marshes and coast near this delightful community, most famous of course for its picturesque windmill which overlooks the aforementioned marshes.

However the weather was less than ideal on our two visits to Cley, with either heavy grey skies or buffeting winds making conditions far from perfect, but it was nice to visit the area again after an absence of far too many years. The new reserve centre was particularly impressive, with a fine view over the marshes being afforded from the cafe as one enjoyed a warming cup of tea or hot chocolate (very civilised) and from here we spotted at least a couple of Marsh Harriers quartering the lagoons and reedbeds. I had hoped to see a Hobby but sadly neither of our two visits brought any sightings of this summer visiting hawk, but plenty of interesting birds were encountered nevertheless, including an abundance of Sandwich Terns whom passed low over our heads as we walked along the shingle beach.

In much better weather we spent the good part of a day at Holkham, taking in not only the beach and woods of the famed Holkham Gap, but also enjoying the beautiful grounds of Holkham Hall, the historic residence of the Earl’s of Leicester & the Coke family. Though our trip to this area was primarily a family day and was not really based around birding or wildlife watching, we did manage to get away a few times and find some interest here and there, including herds of both Fallow Deer and Red Deer at Holkham Park (both species of deer being either absent or rare in East Yorkshire) and some wildfowl around the Lake, including Egyptian Geese, & Barnacle Geese. A couple of Cuckoos were also heard calling in the woods of the park with other interest provided by Jays, Green Woodpecker and a few species of butterfly, including Whites, Orange Tips, Comma and Speckled Wood.

A few landscapes and a last visit to Titchwell
I have decided to end this series of posts where it began and focus once more on the RSPB reserve of Titchwell. During my previous posts I focused on the wetland and coastal birds of the reserve, but I will conclude with a look at the birds of the reedbeds and Willow carr, a habitat which I have always had a close affection and affinity for. To be honest such habitat is a nightmare for wildlife photography as so much remains hidden or at the very least obscured, but as an experience it is beyond mere imagery anyway and is akin to entering another world where horizons become shortened and the senses become enhanced.

The sense of sound is particularly important in such habitat and a knowledge of bird song and call is invaluable for finding and identifying otherwise obscured and skulking birds deep within the reed-beds, this being especially the case for the few Cetti’s Warblers we were able to record during our handful of visits to the reserve. One particular morning we identified at least two and perhaps three of these secretive birds, but despite attempts to actually see one we were rewarded with nothing more than a few fleeting glimpses as they moved from one thicket to another.

Other warblers also abounded in this rich and damp environment, including Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, and of course Sedge Warblers & Reed Warblers. A Cuckoo was additionally heard on a number of visits while Hirundines and Swifts hunted for flies low over the reeds and neighbouring lagoons. An early morning visit also brought sightings of a hunting Short-eared Owl and further views of Chinese Water Deer. However our exploration of the reed-beds also brought other sightings besides birds with a few interesting flowers, including Ragged Robin, Cuckoo-flower and Marsh Orchid, as well as my first Odonata of 2013 in the form of a newly emerged Azure Damselfly.

So all in all our first visit to Norfolk for many years was an enjoyable and interesting one, with some 20 or so new birds added to our 2013 list and one new lifer in the form of Montagu’s Harrier. The Chinese Water Deer at Titchwell was another personal highlight and a new species of mammal for us, but its a shame the weather was so cool that conditions proved unfavourable for both butterflies and odonata (though to be honest mid-May is hardly the best time for either). However I enjoyed my time in Norfolk so much I may have to return again at least once more this year, though the only downside is that it does rather spoil you!

26th, Redstart at Bishop Wilton Wold
Meanwhile last Sunday morning we headed up to the pleasant and peaceful countryside around the villages of Great Givendale and Bishop Wilton on the western edge of the Yorkshire Wolds. The weather was sunny and pleasantly warm, and with my niece joining us it all made for a very enjoyable stroll with the countryside now looking increasingly lush as we move into early summer.

Making our way along the footpath we noted a few species of white butterfly, mainly Large Whites, Green-veined Whites and a few Orange-Tips, and amongst the long grass & Cow Parsley Cardinal Beetles and St. Mark's Fly were seen frequently. In the more wooded parts of the walk a good number of Speckled Woods were noted, with maybe as many as a dozen seen in a relatively small area, but unlike last year there was no sign of any Dingy Skippers in the large open dale above the village of Bishop Wilton.

However the main highlight of the morning would be the spotting of our first Redstart (Y139) of the year, which we initially briefly spotted near Givendale but eventually re-found above Bishop Wilton where it would pose for a few distant record shots. This is the first time I've seen Redstarts at Bishop Wilton, though I have seen them at Deep Dale which is just over the hill in previous summers, but since the Yorkshire Wolds population of this colourful bird is relatively small (but seemingly stable) it is always a good bird to see and hopefully this will not be the last time we come across it this summer.

31st, Back home and some late May mothing
After a very enjoyable week in NW Norfolk it has nevertheless been good to return to the old homestead and enjoy the peace of the garden and local countryside, which is now bedecked with the white flowers of Hawthorn blossom and Cow Parsley. The garden meanwhile is also now displaying a fine variety of hues, with yellow and white Brooms, the beautiful purple globes of Aliums, blue Cranesbills, pink and white Clematises, and yellow Welsh Poppies (to name but a few).

I have also run the moth trap a couple of times since our return home last weekend, and though things are still slow for the time of year the variety and number of species is slowly starting to increase. Indeed when we were in Norfolk we were lucky enough to witness moth trapping taking place at Titchwell, though even here the catch was very disappointing with just two moths caught by the morning! However a look at the weather charts does show signs of encouragement and I have my fingers crossed that June will bring some much more favourable conditions.

Moths species recorded recently (13th, 26th, 28th & 31st May 2013)
0464 Diamond-back Moth x1 (31st x1)
0647 Brown House Moth x1 (13th x1)
0892 Garden Cosmet x2 (26th x1, 28th x1) - First of the year
1428 Bee Moth x1 (28th x1)
1722 Flame Carpet x1 (31st x1)
1728 Garden Carpet x9 (28th x5, 31st x4) - First of the year
1775 Early Thorn x1 (13th x1)
1802 Rivulet x1 (31st x1) - First of the year
1819 Mottled Pug x2 (28th x2) - First of the year
1834 Common Pug x3 (28th x1, 31st x2)
1906 Brimstone Moth x1 (26th x1) - First of the year
1920 Scalloped Hazel x5 (28th x2, 31st x3) - First of the year
2078 Least Black Arches x5 (13th x1, 26th x1, 28th x2, 31st x1)
2092 Shuttle-shaped Dart x1 (28th x1) - First of the year
2160 Bright-line Brown-eye x1 (26th x1) - First of the year
2450 Spectacle x1 (28th x1)