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September 2013

1st, North Cliffe Wood
A nice stroll through the wood this morning with blackberries being the main reason for our visit, though it was also good to see a decent variety of butterflies and dragonflies still on the wing. On the woodland floor fungi are also continuing to appear in ever increasing variety, the best of the lot being a still emerging Stinkhorn in the area where the rhododendrons have been cleared out on the edge of the oak woodland.

3rd, Moths
Setaceous Hebrew Character x3, Silver Y x2, Dusky Thorn x1, Lesser Yellow Underwing x25, Large Yellow Underwing x65, Garden Carpet x1, Gold Spot x2, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x5, Straw Dot x3, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x2, Copper Underwing x3, Snout x1, Centre-barred Sallow x2, Dun-bar x1, Flame Shoulder x2, Brown-spot Pinion (NFY) x1, Chequered Tortrix x1 and Mother of Pearl x1.

3rd, Spurn Point
With today being the last day of freedom for my eldest niece, we decided to have a nice day out and after much deliberation choose Spurn Point as our destination for a fun day by the sea-side (and a bit of birding). However despite the fact that Spurn Point is deceptively close on the map it does in reality take an absolute age to actually get there (one of the reasons I do not often visit this wonderful location as often as I would like) but after an hour and a quarter we eventually arrived and made our way along the narrow, three mile spit of land which juts out into the Humber Estuary.

This YWT owned area is nationally and internationally renowned as a bird migration hotspot and the last few days had brought sightings of Red-backed Shrikes, Wynecks, and Barred Warbler so I was hopeful for some good birding while we spent much of the morning and afternoon at this stunning location. However if I am truthfully honest I am not a very good birdwatcher and probably would struggle to tell the difference between many of the rarer Warblers and the more familiar British species, but despite this it was actually nice to actually do some proper birding again for the first time since our Norfolk holiday.

As I enjoyed a walk up and down the narrow spit (going as far as the lighthouse and back) a few interesting birds were spotted, with a trio of Spotted Flycatchers, a few juvenile Whitethroats and plenty of Willow Warblers being the most obvious birds, though at one point I did encounter a bird which I would describe as Whitethroat like but somewhat larger, bulkier and more grey than I would expect. Unfortunately I failed to get a shot of this particular bird as it was in heavy cover at the time and only briefly appeared for me to get a decent enough view with the binoculars, but a quick look through my guide book makes me think it could well have been a juvenile Barred Warbler, which would be a new bird for me.

Meanwhile along the beach a single Wheatear was spotted amongst the ruins of the wartime defences, and Sanderlings were seen passing by just offshore, but despite my best efforts I failed to spot any Skuas or any other interesting birds out at sea (the westerly wind not really helping in this regard or indeed a niece whom wanted to paddle in the surprisingly warm North Sea). Returning northwards and up towards Kilnsea a couple of Whinchats posed obligingly along a wire fence and another Wheatear was spotted, but despite the fact we had spotted a large gathering of men with scopes staring into a neighbouring field when we had initially arrived, there was no sign of them or the bird in question when we returned (I think they had probably been looking for the reported Red-backed Shrike).

5th, Moths
Large Yellow Underwing x110, Lesser Yellow Underwing x33, Centre-barred Sallow x7, Willow Beauty x2, Lime-speck Pug x1, Garden Carpet x1, Burnished Brass x3, Silver Y x4, Straw Dot x1, Least Yellow Underwing (NFY) x1, Flame Carpet x1, Copper Underwing x4, Flame Shoulder x1, Bright-line Brown-eye x1, Green Carpet x1, Setaceous Hebrew Character x4, Square-spot Rustic x10, Common Wainscot x1, Cabbage Moth x1, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x2, Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing x2, Common Marbled Carpet x1, Brimstone x1, Flounced Rustic x1, Gold Spot x1, Mouse Moth (NFY) x2, Light Brown Apple Moth x2, Bird Cherry Ermine x2, Mint Moth x1, Small Birch Bell (NFY) x1 and Garden Rose Tortrix x6.

8th, North Cave Wetlands
Another extended family trip out saw us call in at North Cave Wetlands for the second time in two weeks on what was a pleasant late summer day, the countryside still looking golden and dry in this neck of the woods as the forecast heavy and persistent rain on Friday failed to materialise in this corner of East Yorkshire (my weather station near Beverley recording a mere 1.4 mm / 0.06 inches). However the golden countryside was further emphasised by the golden nature of the late summer / early autumn sunshine and it was lovely to see all the Haws, Blackberries, Hips, Crab Apples and developing Sloes in this soft light, the fruitful and autumnal scene further enhanced by the webs of spiders strung between the brambles and briars.

Dragonflies & Damselflies can still be found in a decent number and variety with species seen today including Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Common Darter (these the most numerous species now), and Common Blue Damselflies, though at least one of the Common Darters may actually have been a Ruddy Darter but I was unable to get a good enough view to confirm this suspicion. Butterflies were additionally seen well despite the overnight low of below 5 C, with Common Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Whites all being recorded into my notebook.

However the highlight of the morning was the spotting of a pair of Hobbies over Reedbed Lake, both juveniles I think judging by the lack of an obvious red vent, though as I was playing with my nephew at the time I was ill prepared to get anything more than a record shot of this pair of handsome summer visiting raptors. On the reedbed lake itself a Snipe was seen feeding on the shore, another favourite bird of mine, and it was good to see the number of Pochard and other wildfowl now beginning to slowly increase. I was also doubly glad to see that the majority of wildfowl are now finally starting to come out of eclipse and should soon start to look their best again as autumn approaches and the temperatures begin to fall over the coming weeks and months.

17th, North Cliffe & North Cave
Yesterday morning we headed across the Wolds and paid a visit to both North Cliffe Wood and North Cave Wetlands and despite the grey skies, blustery wind and latterly at least, heavy showers, we had a good morning out. Our primary reason for visiting North Cliffe Wood was actually for a bit of blackberry picking, for as we are going away next week on holiday we thought this might be our last chance to collect some before Michaelmas on the 29th (the date upon which blackberries should no longer be picked as the devil supposedly curses them!).

Nature wise the woodland is now starting to show obvious signs of autumn, with many of the birch leaves now turning yellow and the first fronds of Bracken turning coppery gold, while the number of species of dragonfly and butterfly on show has reduced noticeably, though on the plus side I did manage to spot my first Black Darter of the year. In the wood itself the sound of Long Tailed Tit parties moving from tree to tree up in the canopy is so typical of this time of year, and these were joined by other species of tit including both Marsh & Willow Tit, species which both occur here. Indeed at one point I could hear both species at the same spot and this made ID'ing individual birds pretty much impossible (see the first photo below), especially as I find it very difficult to separate these two species visually. In my limited experience some of the oft quoted advice as regards different facial colourations, paler wing panels, bib shape/size, and beak variations are very difficult to see in the field and can vary with lighting conditions and the time of year, so for me their calls remain the only reliable way of identifying these two uncommon East Yorkshire birds (Willow Tits are particularly scarce in this county).

After a few hours at North Cliffe Wood we decided to head down the road and pay a quick visit to nearby North Cave Wetlands, the possibility of a Kingfisher posing on one of the provided perches being utmost in our minds, but sadly in the end this dream photographic opportunity failed to materialise (one day it will happen... maybe). However this disappointment was more than compensated for by the sight of a hunting Hobby over Main Lake, as well as a few other decent birds including Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Wheatear and Jack Snipe (the latter being spotted by my father and missed by me).

23rd, Nidderdale Show
Despite the fact we were on holiday last week in the North York Moors we were nevertheless able to attend Nidderdale Show this year (we missed last year's due to the awful weather), this annual country show being my favourite in Yorkshire with the showground sitting picturesquely in the grounds of Bewerley Park in Nidderdale. Much of my childhood was spent in this beautiful part of the world and I always enjoy returning as it feels a little bit like returning home, this feeling of homecoming being further enhanced by the friendly and welcoming people of this green and fertile valley which owes its origin to the usually peaceful river Nidd which flows right past the showground. The river Nidd itself begins life much further up the valley on the bleak and windswept slopes of Great Whernside (one of the wettest locations in England) where after passing through three dams (the upper two of which provide water to the city of Bradford) it flows southeastwards through the dale passing communities such as Pateley, Summerbridge, Darley,  Birstwith, Hampsthwaite and then on towards Knaresborough (by which time Nidderdale itself has ended) and eventually meeting the river Ouse a few miles north of York at Nun Monkton.

The weather in contrast to last year was stunning, especially in the morning when golden sunshine bathed the showground and temperatures climbed into the high teens, and though it became somewhat cloudier in the afternoon it was nevertheless a fine day considering the time of year. Indeed having attended a number of grey, cold and wet Nidderdale Shows in the past the clement weather this year was a particularly rare and welcome treat.

As one would expect the standard of livestock on show, particularly the cattle, cows, and sheep was very impressive indeed, the fact that Nidderdale Show is traditionally the last show of the year in Yorkshire always means it is very well attended and provides a last chance for many farmers and breeders to show off their highly valued stock. Other animals being shown included a few Pigs, Goats, Rabbits, and Poultry.

However my main interest as ever was the horses, these beautiful beasts being the very epitome of grace and beauty, and the quality in what is after all a very horsey part of the world was as high as one would expect. Yorkshire has a proud and rich equestrian heritage being home to multiple racing stables around Malton and Middleham, past and present world champion eventers and showjumpers, no less than nine racecourses, the birthplace of the Thoroughbred, and more fox hunts than any other county with 22 hunting within its borders (more than any other county). Speaking of hunts the West of Yore made their annual appearance in the afternoon, showing of their hounds to the public in the main show ring, these being additionally joined by the green jacketed huntsmen of the Claro Beagles, these small hare hunting hounds always being popular with the crowd and especially children.

Elsewhere other interesting events included sheep dog trialing, dry stone wall building, wood carving, falconry displays, vintage tractors and agricultural machinery, and produce by the mouth watering bucket full. The hay judging was also interesting, the quality being very good this year, while other exhibits I enjoyed were provided by the Nidderdale Bird watching group and of course the photography competition, the standard of which was excellent with many of the images being both an inspiration and humbling in their quality (my father actually won a few awards at Birstwith Show in his SLR days in the 80's). All in all it was a fantastic day and both the organisers and the Nidderdale Agricultural Society can be proud of putting on another well organised and enjoyable show and weather permitting I am already looking forward to next year.

21st-28th, A week in the North York Moors National Park
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway
With our holiday property being located beside the delightful North York Moors railway station of Levisham (a few miles up the valley from the market town of Pickering) we were fortunate to have outstanding views and access to the many engines, both steam and diesel, which this heritage railway runs on a daily basis. My nieces and especially my nephew were particularly excited to see the trains come and go and thanks to having a week long free pass to the trains we were also able to use the services regularly with trips up to Whitby, Grosmont, Goathland & Newton Dale as well as grocery shopping trips down to Pickering.

Of all the trains we were fortunate enough to see the 'Sir Nigel Gresley' 60007 was a regular sighting, this blue coloured engine being the current holder of the post-war speed record for a steam powered locomotive and being of the same A4 'Pacific' Class as the perhaps more famous Mallard (the fastest steam loco ever).

Other engines we noted during our week long excursion included a few less glamorous but nevertheless handsome locos, the 92214 'Cock O' The North' looking resplendent after a recent bit of spit and polish, as well as engines such as the 75029 'The Green Knight', 61002 'Impala', 45428 'Eric Treacy' (an engine named after a former Bishop of Wakefield whom was famous for his railway photography), and an American engine going by the number USA 6046, one of many engines built by the US Department of Defence for use in Europe during and after the Second World War.

We also saw a few Diesels during our stay and though I myself quite like them (I have a natural draw and affinity with the less loved things of this world) I have decided not to bore you with the details and photos of these particular locomotives and instead have decided to conclude this post with a brief look at some of the stations of the North York Moors Railway, in particular Levisham.

The nature & landscapes of the Moors
Though our holiday to the North York Moors was more about simply relaxing in this beautiful part of the British Isles (and doing both a bit of house hunting & seeking out new locations for upcoming photo shoots), I did nevertheless get out a few times to look around the woods and moors surrounding our holiday home and during these walks we were lucky enough to encounter plenty of interesting nature including lots of fungi, a few species of butterfly and moth (including Canary-shouldered Thorn & Pink-barred Sallow), and plenty of birds including a few species which are either unknown or uncommon in East Yorkshire such as Red Grouse, Wheatear, Nuthatch and Jay. Roe deer were seen outside our holiday home and the night brought the sounds of Owls and Foxes, though despite the fact Badgers were located near to our temporary residence we didn't manage to spot any. Speaking of nights I wish I had brought a portable moth trap with us as judging by the number of them flying around in the evenings we could have caught loads and it would have been interesting to see how the catch compared to what we get back home in the southern Wolds.

Another thing I also really enjoyed about the Moors was the sheer amount of open access land, indeed it makes the Yorkshire Wolds patches of open access land seem trivial in comparison, and one could wander across the moors for hours in absolute peace and solitude with nothing but sheep and the bizarre calls of Red Grouse to disturb the silence. However on another day low cloud and fog enveloped the moors and with visibility reduced to less than 50 metres this came as a timely reminder that these uplands can be dangerous places for the unprepared! Meanwhile down in the dales the sprawling acres of the Forestry Commission land are also open to access, these pine scented woodlands being an absolute delight to wander through at this time of year (or indeed any other time of year) and it was here we encountered most of the fungi including some near perfect examples of Fly Agaric.

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