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December 2013

2nd, A Black-throated Diver at North Cave
On Sunday evening I learnt that the Black-throated Diver which had been at North Cave a couple of weeks ago had unexpectedly returned and after missing it last time I was determined to not miss out again. With this in mind we made our way across the Wolds as soon as possible this afternoon, and arrived at the nature reserve on what was a grey and murky kind of day with temperatures hovering around 6C. The awful light didn't promise much photography wise but to be honest I was not to bothered about this as I was more keen to simply see the bird as it would be a new one for me and take my Yorkshire bird list up to 220 species.


Arriving in the hide we found it to be pretty much full up with some chaps and their giant lenses taking up the prime positions, but eventually we found a free corner and made ourselves comfortable and began to look for our target. It didn't take long to find it, with the kind gentleman sitting beside me pointing it out on the far side of the lake, and after taking a few distant record shots he showed me a few photos he had taken earlier when the Diver had been much closer to the hide. His shots, taken on what looked like the Canon superzoom bridge camera, were superb and he also showed us some excellent pics of a Kingfisher he had also captured earlier.


6th, Stormy winds
Yesterday proved to be a stormy winter's day here in the East Riding with strong winds buffeting the old homestead and the trees which surround the house roared and swayed about as powerful gusts blew through the woodland. Thankfully we live in a fairly sheltered spot, at least as far as westerly winds are concerned, but despite this the roof top anemometer registered a gust of 52 knots (60 mph) and average winds speeds were as high as 26 knots (30 mph) around midday when the cold front squall passed through the region. The 52 knot gust of today is not a new record, that 'honour' going to the 60 knot (69 mph) gust recorded in January 2012, and indeed it is not even the strongest gust recorded this year, but as far as sustained wind speeds go this was a notable storm and whose after-effects are now bringing misery to many coastal and low lying districts as extremely high tides sweep in off the North Sea, including in nearby Hull which I believe has flooded quite badly near the river.


7th, Santa Specials at the NYMR
We had decided we would spend another day photographing the trains of the North York Moors Railway a couple of weekends ago, at which time the forecast had been looking favourable for a bit of snow or at the very least a decent frost, but come the day it would prove to be just a typically cloudy winter's day with temperatures around normal for the time of year (I perhaps maybe in a minority but the mild winter weather which we have been experiencing lately is really getting me down and I'm yearning for a bit of snow &/or frost). However though the weather disappointed the spectacle of the steam locomotives didn't and we enjoyed visits to the stations at Pickering, Levisham and Grosmont.



The visit to Grosmont was particularly rewarding as we had time to have a look around the yard where the locomotives and rolling stock are kept and maintained and it was great seeing so many of the locomotives at such close quarters, including the beautiful Sir Nigel Gresley which we saw running back in September. A nice little shop could also be found in the yard with many train related items (a perfect place to look for Christmas presents for train mad nephews). As well as Grosmont we spent time in both Levisham and Pickering, the 1930's style station at Pickering being decked out with Christmas decorations which was nice to see.


10th, Moths
Winter Moth (NFY) x3 & hibernating Parsnip Moth (NFY) x1.

21st, Another winter's day at the NYMR
With this being the last weekend before Christmas it was our last realistic chance to watch and photograph the 'Santa Specials' on the NYMR and we therefore decided to make a day of it and spent pretty much the whole day up in this beautiful corner of North Yorkshire. We were again fortunate with the weather with plenty of winter sunshine, especially in the morning, and though no new locos were on show we nevertheless had a grand time and I have to say I do thoroughly enjoy this train photography lark.


26th, Boxing Day Hunt
Today we attended the annual Boxing Day meet of the Holderness Hunt at nearby Beverley Racecourse, and with fine weather the event was well attended with large crowds coming from all corners of this part of south-eastern Yorkshire. I always enjoy these occasions, my usual dislike of crowds and large gatherings being put to one side for rural events such as these. As I have stated previously I am not pro or indeed anti hunt, and as long as the local hunt remains within the law as it currently stands I am willing to tolerate this colourful country tradition, though I am well aware that some of you may have much stronger opinions than I on this still divisive subject.



28th, Rosedale & the Moors
On what was a lovely winter's day we headed up to the North York Moors on Saturday, primarily to view a few properties in the area but also to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of this corner of the British Isles. With one of our properties now nearly sold (fingers crossed that the sale proceeds without any hiccups) our search for a rural hideaway deep within the hills and dales of the Moors has entered a new phase and we were able to check out a few lovely properties yesterday, one of which I have to say I liked very much, especially as regards its position nestled within a quiet and sheltered dale with Cropton Forest to the east and Rosedale to the west.



Another attractive aspect of the house is that it is within an easy cycling distance of Hartoft Rigg, from where one has a fantastic view across Rosedale, certainly the most beautiful of all the valleys in this part of the North York Moors, while the numerous footpaths, bridleways and open access land which abound in the area offer a nature lover such as myself a wealth of potential interest throughout the year with possible garden wildlife including Badgers, Grouse, and even Nightjars, sheer heaven.


Indeed a bracing walk across the moor above the village of Rosedale Abbey offered numerous encounters with Red Grouse, most of course being of a distant nature, but one or two were much tamer and allowed me take some decent enough photos. In the mixed woods on the edge of Cropton Forest Siskins were both seen and heard frequently and thanks to the fact that this part of eastern Yorkshire has seen relatively little rain lately (at least compared to southern and western parts of the country) ground conditions were very good for the time of year (in fact less than half of the normal December rainfall has been recorded so far this month back home in East Yorkshire).


29th, A walk around Huggate & Horsedale
On Sunday morning we went for our customary walk up on the Yorkshire Wolds, and with fine weather yet again it was a joy to walk on these rolling chalk hills with a deliciously crisp and chill wind blowing away the Christmas cobwebs. Walking in the Wolds is always a pleasurable experience with very few people to disturb either ourselves or the wildlife which calls this area home, and in the damper months of the year the free draining and firm chalky soil generally ensures that the ground, for the most part, remains firm and pleasant for walking. Though it has been strange to experience a December with an almost complete absence of wintry weather we can at least be thankful that the weather woes of the North Sea coasts earlier in the month and more recently the flooding in southern and western parts of this island have left this region unscathed (at least so far!).


However though the Wolds are generally quiet and undisturbed, it is not unusual in this festive season to meet more people than usual out and about, and this was the case on Sunday morning with family groups going for bracing walks, many of whom were perhaps discovering the Yorkshire Wolds for the first time much as I had some 20 years ago when I first moved down here from the Pentland Hills of Lothian in the December of 1993. If some of these walkers were indeed newcomers to this often overlooked corner of Yorkshire they certainly saw it at its best what with the low winter sun bathing the countryside in a lovely golden glow, the yellow grasses of the south facing dale sides further emphasising this attractive and warm toned light.



Wildlife wise the morning was dominated by the mammalian life which calls the Yorkshire Wolds home, with a couple of Roe Deer out on the high cereal fields and large numbers of Brown Hares in the grass covered downs. Interestingly a couple of Hares were even seen chasing and boxing each other a little, the mild winter perhaps confusing them too, though it was somewhat half-hearted and didn't have the same intensity as would have been the case in February or March. Bird wise it was very quiet with not even a Buzzard to be seen, though a few Kestrels were spotted as were Skylarks along the wheel tracks of the cereal fields.