April 2013

1st (Mon) -0.4 C to 6.3 C / nil / 3.0 hours / E 2.6 22 Kt.
A cloudy and cold morning, the cloud thick enough for a few snow grains at times, but after midday it would begin to brighten up somewhat with some spells of sunshine in the afternoon. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, some of the longer clearer spells allowing temperatures to drop below freezing.

2nd (Tue) -0.6 C to 8.3 C / nil / 8.2 hours / NE 2.2 15 Kt.
A bright morning with sunny spells and broken fair weather cloud, though despite the sunshine it would feel cool, especially in the ENE breeze. Remaining clement with good spells of sunshine in the afternoon, and as had been the case on a few days recently it would feel pleasantly warm in any sheltered sun-traps. Mostly clear in the evening and overnight with a decent frost by morning.

3rd (Wed) -1.6 C to 9.3 C / nil / 10.0 hours / NE 4.2 21 Kt.
A sunny and frosty start to the day, but with the sunshine it would slowly warm up with temperatures eventually reaching a high of 9.3 C, the highest maximum for quite some time. Remaining sunny throughout the afternoon with barely a cloud in the sky, and in the shelter of the garden it was most pleasant indeed. Clear spells in the evening and overnight, though the breeze would freshen towards the end of the night.

Wold Garth ; Spring has sprung
The last few days here at Wold Garth have been beautifully sunny with today in particular seeing barely a cloud in the blue spring sky, and though temperatures remain below average it has nevertheless been pleasant enough in any sheltered sun-traps and especially within the confines of the walled garden. This sunshine and relative warmth has seen spring really advance within the garden, and it has been a joy to watch the busy activities of the birds and insects as they take advantage of this wonderful weather, especially the bees whom seem to increase in number day by day at the moment.


However the big highlights of the last few days have been the arrival of the first Chiffchaffs (Y82) and the reemergence of butterflies from their winter slumbers, with a single Chiffchaff being heard Chiffchaff-ing the last two mornings at a nearby woodland, while no less than three species of butterfly were recorded today, including a Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Such sights have really lifted my spirits and after weeks of waiting it seems that spring has finally arrived in this little corner of eastern Yorkshire. A Wasp was also spotted today, the first of the year, while in the garden beds and amongst the leaf litter the Ladybirds are continuing to wake up and can be readily seen crawling amongst the spring flowers in search of mates and food.


The garden flowers have noticeably advanced too since my last update of Sunday, and the garden is now full of colour, from the yellows of the Daffodils and Celandines, to the multitude of colours provided by Crocuses, to the blues and whites of Anemones and finally to the violets of the appropriately named Violets to name but a few. On the trees and shrubs swelling buds are everywhere to be seen with blossom finally beginning to appear on some of them, and these buds have been attracting the Bullfinches once more with no less than three spotted this afternoon (two males and a female). Since we annually have at least one breeding pair in the garden we are often lucky enough to hear their quiet but beautiful song in spring, and today I heard one singing away a number of times, a most soothing and languid sound for an idle day in the garden.



Most birds are obviously paired up now as well, with Long Tailed Tits and Goldcrests spotted moving in pairs amongst the garden Yews, and both Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes are now more apparent, a sign that perhaps they have already begun to nest. However in the surrounding countryside plenty of winter birds are still to be seen with up to 100 Fieldfares being spotted in the fields during the last couple of days, while a few Redwings are still in the local woodlands. Meanwhile two Woodcock were flushed from the edge of the winter flooding near Old Hall Farm on Monday morning, and whilst there a flock of about 30 Golden Plovers passed low overhead. At the same location the resident Yellowhammers have been joined by a few Reed Buntings, and yesterday morning a fine looking male Reed Bunting was heard singing from the top of one of the Willows. Meanwhile back in the woods a Woodpecker was drumming on Monday morning, the first I've heard this year, and a couple of Foxes were spotted briefly before they took flight and eventually disappeared out of sight.


4th (Thu) 1.0 C to 8.0 C / nil / 9.3 hours / NE 5.3 31 Kt.
A cold but sunny morning with a brisk ENE breeze, this helping to peg temperatures back compared to yesterday, though nevertheless in sheltered spots it would be pleasant enough. Remaining largely sunny in the afternoon with just some broken fair weather cloud, and it would remain largely clear in the evening and overnight.

5th (Fri) 0.3 C to 8.7 C / nil / 6.4 hours / N 5.4 23 Kt.
A bright morning with plenty of long spells of spring sunshine, though with a brisk NE breeze it would feel quite chilly in exposed locations. Cloud slowly increasing as the day wore on, though sunny spells would persist until late afternoon, but in the evening and for much of the night it would be mostly cloudy. However towards the end of the night some breaks would begin to develop again.

6th (Sat) 2.7 C to 9.3 C / nil / 7.4 hours / E 1.5 12 Kt.
A bright morning with variable amounts of cloud and sunny spells in between, though as the day wore on the skies would become increasingly clear with a lovely sunny and quite warm afternoon, the breeze being much lighter than recently and being more south of east rather than north of east. Largely clear in the evening and overnight with temperatures dropping below freezing as a result.

7th (Sun) -1.5 C to 10.4 C / nil / 4.0 hours / E 1.8 16 Kt.
A bright and frosty start, but by mid-morning increasing amounts of high cloud would make the sunshine increasingly hazy. However it would remain bright for most of the day with hazy and somewhat watery sunshine, but despite the diffused sunshine it would become quite warm with temperature climbing to 10.4 C, the joint highest maximum since January 29th (an amazing statistic !). Cloud thickening by the end of the afternoon with mostly cloudy skies in the evening and overnight.



8th (Mon) 1.9 C to 5.8 C / nil / 0.2 hours / E 3.4 21 Kt.
A cloudy and grey morning with a cool easterly breeze, and it would remain largely cloudy in the afternoon, though for a time it did brighten up somewhat with even a few short spells of hazy sunshine. Much cooler again with temperatures rising no higher than 5.8 C. Cloudy in the evening and overnight.

9th (Tue) 1.3 C to 8.9 C / nil / 1.8 hours / NE 2.9 17 Kt.
A mostly cloudy but bright morning with hazy spells of weak sunshine latterly, and though it would remain largely cloudy in the afternoon there would be some hazy spells of weak sunshine at times, this helping to push up temperatures a little bit compared to yesterday. Remaining cloudy in the evening and overnight.

10th (Wed) 2.5 C to 10.8 C / nil / 4.3 hours / E 1.5 12 Kt.
A cloudy start to the morning, though by late morning it would begin to brighten up with spells of hazy and indeed quite warm sunshine for much of the afternoon (including a red Indian like sun at dusk), with temperatures managing to rise to 10.8 C (the highest maximum so far this spring). Becoming cloudy again in the evening and remaining so throughout the night.

11th (Thu) 2.5 C to 6.5 C / 1.4 mm / 0.3 hours / SE 1.9 12 Kt.
A cloudy and grey morning, though as the morning wore on it would begin to brighten up somewhat with even a few short spells of hazy sunshine. Remaining largely cloudy in the afternoon, and with a lack of sunshine it would be somewhat cooler with a high of just 6.5 C. Cloud thickening by the end of the afternoon and in the evening, with some outbreaks of rain at times, and it would remain cloudy overnight with some further outbreaks of rain. It would also become increasingly murky overnight with some fog by dawn.

12th (Fri) 3.2 C to 8.7 C / trace / nil / N 1.2 15 Kt.
A foggy and damp start to the morning, with some light rain for a time, though these would both soon clear away. Nevertheless it would remain cloudy throughout the day with little in the way of brightness, though despite the cloud it would feel relatively mild. Cloud in the evening and overnight with mist returning later.

13th (Sat) 4.1 C to 15.7 C / 1.5 mm / 6.3 hours / S 3.8 31 Kt.
A cloudy and misty start to the day, but this would soon clear with a gorgeous and sunny morning on the whole with barely a cloud in the sky. By noon this would encourage temperatures to reach 15.7 C, easily the warmest day so far this spring, but as the afternoon wore on cloud amounts would increase and indeed by mid-afternoon it had become largely cloudy and would remain so for the rest of the day, evening and night. The cloud was even thick enough to produce some outbreaks of rain during the evening and overnight, some of which were briefly quite heavy. A very mild night too with temperatures remaining in double figures.

What a beautiful day
The weather in this corner of eastern Yorkshire was absolutely beautiful for most of the day, with bags of sunshine and temperatures into the mid-teens (or nearly 60 degrees for those of you whom still prefer the Fahrenheit scale), and this warm sunshine encouraged plenty of activity in the garden. Butterflies were the stars of the day, with four species on the wing, including Brimstone (x1), Peacock (x2), Comma (x4) and the first Large White of the year. They also seemed more willing to settle today and this enabled me to get some semi-decent shots as they enjoyed the sunshine and flowers of the garden. With warmish weather forecast for most of the week ahead I'm hoping for further sightings in the coming days, though of course it is dangerous to second guess nature and I am therefore keeping my fingers crossed that conditions will remain favourable.


However the biggest highlight of the day came in the skies above Wold Garth with the first SWALLOWS (Y84) being spotted hunting high in the azure sky, and during the day's duration at least three more were spotted. Unfortunately they didn't linger long but I managed at least one record shot. Another good sighting was a single Red Kite over the garden, and both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were also observed today. Meanwhile a Chiffchaff was singing within the confines of the garden this morning, though I was unable to locate it for a photograph despite my best efforts, and the Bullfinches remain an almost constant presence in the garden, including a very handsome male which allowed me to approach it within a few metres as it called from the top of a Whitebeam. Skylarks too were also heard singing overhead around midday, a gorgeous and restful sound on what was such a stunning spring day.


Plenty of insects were additionally noted today, including the largest count of Ladybirds thus far (all Seven-spots), a variety of Beetles, and a few species of Bee, including Honey Bee, Buff-tailed Bumble Bee (x3), Red-tailed Bumble Bee (x1), and Carder Bee (x3). Meanwhile the moth trap has been out on a couple of nights recently, with five species so far recorded, including Satellite (x1), Clouded Drab (x1), Early Grey (x1), Early Thorn (x1) and Dotted Border (x1). I would urge anyone whom has ever thought about moth-trapping to got ahead and do it, for it is an enjoyable and fascinating field of study and provides an insight to the otherwise hidden activities of these nocturnal insects. Indeed what with the aforementioned forecast for the week ahead the prospects for moth trapping are looking very good and it will be interesting to see what else turns up in the coming weeks.



14th (Sun) 7.3 C to 19.4 C / nil / 1.7 hours / S 7.0 35 Kt.
A cloudy start, but by mid-morning it would begin to brighten up with some spells of sunshine. Also feeling very mild even at dawn (the actual low last night was above 10 C), and with the help of southerly winds and a bit of sunshine the temperature would rise as high as 19.4 C. Becoming mostly cloudy in the afternoon but it would remain warm and indeed quite muggy, with mostly cloudy skies persisting through the evening. Clear spells would develop overnight however, but with the still brisk and warm southerly winds the temperature would barely drop below 10 C.

Moths
Chestnut (NFY) x1, Satellite x1, Early Grey x5, Hebrew Character (NFY) x7, Clouded Drab x4, Common Quaker (NFY) x6, Dotted Border x1, Common Plume (NFY) x1, Beautiful Plume (NFY) x1, & Brown-spot Flat-body (NFY) x1.

15th (Mon) 9.3 C to 18.5 C / trace / 7.1 hours / S 5.4 28 Kt.
A sunny and mild start to the day, though a continuing brisk southerly breeze made it feel slightly cooler than otherwise suggested by the thermometer, and it would remain bright with sunny spells throughout most of the day with temperatures reaching a pleasant 18.5 C. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with a brisk breeze, with the breeze keeping temperatures above 10 C.

Moths
Early Grey x4, Hebrew Character x2, Clouded Drab x7, Common Quaker x7, Beautiful Plume x2, Brown-spot Flat-body x1, & Common Flat-body (NFY) x1.

16th (Tue) 10.0 C to 17.1 C / trace / 7.3 hours / SW 4.2 32 Kt.
A bright morning with sunny spells, though by the end of the morning cloud amounts would increase somewhat for a time with even some very light showers around 11am. Also becoming increasingly breezy by midday. Sunny spells returning in the afternoon, and despite the gusty breeze  it would be pleasant enough again with temperatures reaching a peak of 17.1 C. Clear spells and variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, with the breeze also easing after dusk, and as a result it was a cooler night than recently with a low of 3.4 C.

First lawn mow of the year.

17th (Wed) 3.4 C to 18.0 C / nil / 1.3 hours / S 9.7 43 Kt.
After an initially bright start it would soon become cloudy with even a few spots of rain by mid-morning. The breeze would also freshen and becoming increasingly strong as the day wore on, reaching a peak in the evening with a gust of up to 43 knots. In the afternoon the cloud would slowly thin, with even some weak sunshine in the second half of the afternoon, this helping to push temperatures up to 18 C, and the rest of the evening and night would see variable amounts of cloud, though the wind remained the main feature of the weather with strong gusts throughout the night.

Moths
Early Grey x8, Hebrew Character x3, Clouded Drab x4, Common Quaker x9, & Beautiful Plume x1.

North Cave Wetlands
On what was a windy and cloudy morning my father and I headed across to North Cave Wetlands hoping to catch up with some of the recently returned spring migrants (my father has actually only recently returned from sunny Spain where he was fortunate enough to see Swallowtail butterflies, Orchids, and other goodies). Not long after stepping out of the car we spotted our first Sand Martins of the year, and amongst these a few Swallows were spotted hunting for flies despite the gusty southerly wind. This strong wind was actually creating mini dust-storms out in the neighbouring fields and over Dryham Ings, and the western perimeter path was covered in a slight layer of sand which had blown in off the fields, this making it feel like we were walking on a sandy beach at times.



Back at the aforementioned windswept Ings some of the best birds of the morning were spotted, with at least half a dozen Yellow Wagtails and a probable but by no means certain White Wagtail. I am always very wary about recording White Wagtails but at this time of year it is usually safe enough and though the view was somewhat distant it was definitely much greyer and lighter in appearance compared to the otherwise common Pied Wagtails which were also spotted on the Ings this morning. However I have recorded it with an asterisk to denote a certain degree of uncertainty. There was no sign of the reported 'Channel Wagtail' seen the other day however, though you can read more about this sighting on Michael Flower's excellent blog. Other birds on Dryham Ings included Pipits, Redshanks, and at least one Common Sandpiper.


Continuing around the reserve we heard and spotted a few Willow Warblers in the Alders and Willows which surround Carp and Far Lakes, and it was nice to finally tick of this beautiful songster whose song to me epitomises idyllic spring days out in the countryside (even if the weather wasn't quite so idyllic this morning). Walking along the footpath we also briefly spotted a Stoat, while returning to birds a few Reed Buntings were heard calling beside the waters edge while Swallows and Sand Martins hunted above our heads.


At Reedbed Lake a dozen or so Avocets were spotted amongst the Redshanks, Lapwings and common wildlfowl, and a few Osytercatchers were additionally noted here, a stocky and attractive bird which I always feel is somewhat overlooked. I also thought I heard a Water Rail at one point, but wasn't able to confirm this, but a report on the East Yorkshire birding forum does include Water Rail at the reserve today so it is a distinct possibility (however again I have marked this record with an asterisk to denote a degree of uncertainity). A distant Corn Bunting was also heard as we continued onwards around the reserve, a nationally declining species of farmland bird which is just about hanging on in this corner of East Yorkshire, but despite a thorough scan of the scrapes no Wheatears were found, a bird which I have yet to tick off this year.



Making our way towards the Turret Hide lots of Colt's-foot were in flower beside the footpath, while the Hawthorn hedgerows are now beginning to green and the Blackthorn is starting to come into blossom here and there as nature tries to catch up after the slow start to spring this year. Meanwhile from Turret Hide itself we spotted a pair of Pintails,on Island Lake, an always pleasing sight as Pintails are amongst my favourite ducks what with their graceful outlines and interesting plumage. A few more Avocets were also spotted, though for the most part this area of the reserve was dominated by the boisterous and noisy Black-headed Gulls, many of which were obviously paired up and were in an amorous mood. Finally a single singing Chiffchaff was heard as we made our way back to the car, ending another enjoyable trip to this expanding wetland reserve near the pretty village of North Cave.


18th (Thu) 8.8 C to 14.6 C / 0.2 mm / 4.8 hours / W 6.4 36 Kt.
A largely cloudy and windy morning (with gusts in excess of gale force), but there were also some brief spells of sunshine from time to time, which by midday become somewhat longer with sunny spells and cloudy spells in the afternoon. The wind would remain fresh to strong in the afternoon however, and this would help peg back temperatures to less than 15 C. The breeze would ease in the evening however and become merely gentle to moderate overnight, with variable amounts of cloud and even some light showers overnight.

19th (Fri) 6.1 C to 10.6 C / nil / 5.3 hours / NE 1.9 17 Kt.
A largely cloudy morning, though not without some brighter spells, but in the afternoon the cloud would clear away with a sunny end to the day with not a cloud in the sky. Remaining clear through the evening and overnight and with light winds the temperature would fall low enough for a touch of ground frost.

Moths
Hebrew Character x4, & March Tubic (NFY) x1

20th (Sat) 0.8 C to 15.3 C / nil / 11.2 hours / S 2.4 16 Kt.
A clear and chilly start with a touch of ground frost, but with clear skies it would soon warm up with a gorgeous spring day following with loads of sunshine and temperatures in the mid-teens. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight, though some broken cloud would begin to drift in towards the end of the night.

Bempton Cliffs
We spent a fantastic and highly enjoyable morning at Bempton Cliffs today on what was a gorgeous spring day with barely a cloud in the sky (though when we arrived shortly after 7 am the temperature was only a few degrees above freezing!). This was our first visit of the year to this superb nature reserve which is located a few miles north of Bridlington in the far north-eastern corner of East Yorkshire, and as always the spectacle of thousands of sea-birds was both breathtaking and dramatic. The precipitous chalk cliffs here, which in places are over 100 metres high, are where the Yorkshire Wolds come to an abrupt and sudden end as they meet the North Sea, and from these high cliffs one can look south-east towards Flamborough Head and northwards towards Scarborough Bay and the rugged North Yorkshire coast beyond.


However before we even reached the cliffs we found plenty of interest with a single Barn Owl seen sitting on a fence post on the far side of the field, while nearby a Wheatear was also spotted on another post, two year ticks in little less than a few minutes. In the hawthorn and gorse scrub lots of Tree Sparrows were spotted, some collecting nesting material, and in the rough grassland Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were noted in good numbers, the Skylarks additionally providing a fine soundtrack to the morning as they sang their glorious chorus of notes high in the blue sky above.


As we drew closer to the cliffs the sound of the seabirds began to grow louder and soon we arrived at the first of the viewing platforms from where we could watch the sea birds with only ourselves and the birds for company (if you want to avoid the crowds at Bempton you have to arrive prior to 9am). All the typical sea birds were there in good numbers, with Gannets, Kittiwakes, Fulmars, Guillemots, Razorbills, and of course everyone's favourite, Puffins. Later in the morning I would meet a very friendly gentleman whom showed me a pale form Guillemot through his telescope, which despite the fact I had to stand on tip-toes as the gentleman was much taller than me, was an interesting and rare sight and looked almost like a winter Black Guillemot or even a winter Red-throated Diver from a distance.


The gentleman also told me that up until this week the cliffs have been unusually quiet but thankfully with the recent improvement in the weather the birds are starting to come back in, though numbers of Guillemots and Gannets are still lower than one would expect for late April. Of course it still remains to be seen how many birds were causalities of the dreadful stormy conditions which affected the North Sea coast in March, in which period hundreds of birds were found washed up dead or starving along the east coast, but hopefully things are not looking as bad as originally feared. Nevertheless one hopes that the sea-birds have a good breeding season this year (not necessarily an annual occurrence in these erratic and unpredictable times) and recover any losses which had been inflicted during that dreadful period earlier in the year.



Continuing along the cliffs we had about half a dozen Swallows hunting around us, and every now and then a few Sand Martins and House Martins were also spotted, though the Martins seemed to be just passing through and were in a hurry to get elsewhere. A few Linnets, Pied Wagtails (one of which was almost certainly a White Wagtail), Rock Pipits, and a single Corn Bunting were also added to the day list by the time we reached the last viewing platform, and from here we were able to spend an hour or so watching (and photographing) the coming and going's of all the wonderful birds.



Low over the water a Shag was briefly spotted as it headed south-eastwards along the coast, while all of the larger species of Gull were ticked off, including a few Great Black-backed Gulls, the sheer size of which always surprises me despite the fact I know they are huge brutes of a bird. By 11 am it was time to set off home but before we left we had a Buzzard pass right over us near the Visitor Centre and we also managed to spot another Wheatear, a fine way to end what had been a terrific morning.


21st (Sun) 2.8 C to 13.9 C / trace / 5.3 hours / SW 2.0 18 Kt.
A bright morning with hazy sunshine and broken cloud and it would remain bright if not particularly sunny for the rest of the day with temperatures in the low teens. A few light showers in the evening (barely enough to dampen the ground), but these would soon clear with mostly clear skies overnight.

Moths
Early Grey x4, Twin-spotted Quaker (NFY) x1, Clouded Drab x4, Common Quaker x1, & March Tubic x1.

22nd (Mon) 3.3 C to 13.8 C / nil / 6.1 hours / SW 4.0 24 Kt.
A bright but largely cloudy morning (though prior to 8am it was clearer with just some patches of Cirrus), though by the end of the morning the sun would return and it would remain bright for much of the afternoon. However cloud would return again in the evening, and indeed it even looked quite threatening at times, but it came to nothing and overnight this cloud would break up and clear with mostly clear skies by dawn.

Sylvan Dale
Yesterday morning we made our way up to the long and steep sided Yorkshire Wolds valley of Sylvan Dale which lies just a short distance from Lily Dale and Millington Woods (the latter being a very popular destination for families and dog walkers from nearby Pocklington and other surrounding communities). The little lake/pond at the bottom of the dale often hosts some interesting birdlife, though today just a few Moorhens were noted, but the hawthorn scrub around the lake was alive with the sound of singing Willow Warblers. Indeed there were so many Willow Warblers I couldn't really work out how many there were exactly, but it was certainly greater than a dozen, and I also thought I heard a Whitethroat at one point but I wasn't able to confirm this (it was certainly not convincing enough for me to tick of this species for 2013 just yet).


In the gorse scrub Yellowhammers and Linnets were everywhere, with the thick yellow grass also providing cover for good numbers of Hares, Pheasants, Partridges and Meadow Pipits, the latter having returned in good numbers during the last week or two. However the Pipits weren't actually seen displaying this morning but they are obviously setting up territories judging by the frequent disputes seen between them this morning whenever another Pipit flew to close, and its good to see these birds back on the high Wolds. While walking around the dale I also kept an eye out for any sudden flashes of red which would have signalled the return of the small population of breeding Redstarts which can be found in this area, but sadly they don't seem to have arrived back just yet (maybe next week).


A couple of butterflies were seen along our walk, both being Small Tortoiseshells, while as we had our cup of tea and morsels of nourishment sat upon the dry grass within the shelter of the fragrant and vibrant Gorses we noted a good variety of other creeping and flying bugs, indeed at this point I was cursing my current lack of a macro lens for such beasties, but nevertheless it was good to watch them and it's a visible sign of how the countryside is now really starting to fully awaken after the chill and grey days of the winter past.



A decent variety of wildflowers were noted this morning too, in places quite spectacular so, with a beautiful carpet of Colt's-foot beside the Millington to Huggate road, while around the spring above the pond a few clumps of beautiful Primroses were enjoyed, amongst which a few pale pink flowers were noted amongst the more usual pale yellow blooms. Further up the valley a few sizable clumps of Violets were additionally found beside the roadside, which appeared to be Sweet Violets judging by their purple spurs and blunted sepals, but the lack of any scent makes me wonder if they were Hairy Violets instead (?).



23rd (Tue) 5.5 C to 17.1 C / nil / 8.2 hours / W 5.2 32 Kt.
A sunny but blustery morning, though after midday cloud amounts would increase somewhat with variable amounts of cloud and sunny spells in between for the remainder of the afternoon. Quite warm despite the fresh and occasionally strong breeze, with a high of 17.1 C. Variable amounts of cloud at first in the evening but overnight it would become largely clear.

Swinemoor
On Monday morning I arose early and headed down to Swinemoor, reaching this area of partially flooded common land which lies just east of the medieval market town of Beverley in central East Yorkshire around 6am (just in time to watch the red sun rise over the largely flat & arable fields of Holderness). The temperature was around 3 C but with light winds it was pleasant enough, and from my vantage point along the bank of the River Hull I was able to view the moor and the areas of seasonal floods which at this time of year can attract some interesting birds, especially passage waders.


However my main reason for coming down to Swinemoor was to tick off a few species which I am less likely to record on my usual home patch, with Sedge Warblers, Reed Warblers and Cuckoos being the main target species. In the end I recorded just two of these, with one Reed Warbler (Y104) and probably two Sedge Warblers (Y105) being heard and seen calling amongst the riverside reeds. I tried to get some photos but as both these species of bird are notoriously difficult to photograph due to their skulking behaviour I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, unsuccessful. However a Reed Bunting posed very obligingly on top of the flood wall for a minute or so and I was able to get some decent shots before I ended up pushing my luck somewhat and he flew off and out of sight.



Out on the floods a decent variety of wildfowl were spotted, including a fair amount of Teal, some grazing Wigeon, a few Gadwall, a pair of Shelducks and of course Mallards, Greylag Geese and feral Geese. A fair number of Redshanks were also seen and heard as they waded beside the pools, with Golden Plovers and Lapwings making up the rest. On the river Coots and Moorhens drifted along the slow flowing waters, while overhead a Grey Heron, a single Cormorant and a Mute Swan were all seen heading northwards. Both Pied and at least one potential White Wagtail were spotted (a continental sub-species which I keep coming across at the moment), and a single Yellow Wagtail was also seen briefly flying by.



Sadly there was no sign of the reported Hobby the other day, though to be honest I knew it was highly unlikely to still be there, but the lack of any Cuckoos was more disappointing and it seems to be getting harder and harder to find one these days, at least around Beverley. Hopefully Cuckoos are not going to suffer the same fate as the now near mythical Turtle Doves (a species which is very hard to find in East Yorkshire apart from one or two favoured locations) but being generally a positive person I am hopeful I will find at least one some time in the next few weeks.


24th (Wed) 6.4 C to 17.9 C / trace / 5.3 hours / W 3.5 31 Kt.
A bright and warm day with sunny spells and broken cloud, and though it was quite breezy again it was nowhere near as blustery as yesterday. Mostly cloudy by the end of the afternoon and remaining so throughout the majority of the evening and overnight, the cloud even thick enough to produce some spots of rain latterly.

Moths
Early Grey x4, Hebrew Character x6, Twin-spotted Quaker x1, Common Plume x1, Beautiful Plume x1, & March Tubic x1.

The return of the Warblers
The last week has been dominated by the continuing return of the summer visitors to the garden and surrounding countryside, with Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and Whitethroats joining the already returned Chiffhaffs and Swallows. The first Willow Warbler was heard on Thursday morning, with a few more noted in the last few days, while the first Whitethroat was recorded yesterday morning. Meanwhile the number of Blackcaps has increased to at least three since the first was heard on Wednesday, and one has been heard almost continuously singing within the garden throughout this past week. Indeed as I write this post I can hear the melodic and tuneful song of this otherwise grey and plain looking Warbler drifting in through the open window, a beautiful sound to keep me going as I work away in my office.


With most of the common summer visitors now back on the home patch, with a couple of exceptions in the form of Lesser Whitethroats and Swifts, I am now looking and listening for some of the less common annual visitors, such as Cuckoos, Wheatears and Garden Warblers, all of which are not necessarily guaranteed every year around our home. As a result I have spent quite a bit of time out in the field in the hope of coming across these more elusive species though so far I have drawn a blank despite all my best efforts. However this extra time out and about has nevertheless brought a few other good sightings, with the best being a single Water Vole in a ditch just outside Beverley. I have seen Water Voles at this particular spot a few times over the years, but this time I had a camera with me and I was able to finally capture a few semi-decent shots of this nationally declining rodent which seems to be surviving at this otherwise unpromising location.



The countryside has really begun to 'green up' during the past week, with the Hawthorn hedges now coming into leaf widely, and some trees such as Horse Chestnuts, Sycamores and Birch are obviously beginning to leaf, Horse Chestnuts especially. The Blackthorn blossom is also now out, adding splashes of white to the greening landscape. Along the hedgerows and beside the road-sides a greater variety of wildflowers are appearing, with the almost colourless spikes of Butterburs joining the Celandines, Buttercups, Daisies, Dandelions, Dead-nettles and Speedwells, while the garden is now nearing the peak of the spring flowering season with Daffodils, Tulips, Hyacinths and Wallflowers providing the focal point of the annual display. This has been good news for the Bees (and a few Bee-flies) and the other morning I noticed that the Tawny Mining Bees (my favourite species of Bee) have been active at their usual spot around the Crab Apple tree judging by the number of freshly dug holes in the lawn.


25th (Thu) 7.8 C to 14.7 C / 0.5 mm / 0.1 hours / W 2.6 18 Kt.
A cloudy morning for the most part with the odd spot of rain and it would remain cloudy for the rest of the day with the cloud becoming slowly thicker by the end of the afternoon. This would being a period of steady mostly light rain in the early evening, but by dusk it would clear away with skies slowly clearing overnight.

26th (Fri) 4.2 C to 12.8 C / 2.7 mm / 8.0 hours / NW 5.6 29 Kt.
A sunny but cool start, and it would remain largely sunny for much of the day with a blustery breeze holding temperatures back somewhat. Showers would also threaten at times in the afternoon, but until the evening at least these seemed to miss us and go around us. More cloud in the evening with a few moderate showers, some of which contained hail at times, and overnight there would be clear spells and the odd shower from time to time.

Moths
Early Grey x2, Twin-spotted Quaker x1, Common Quaker x2, Early Thorn x3,Double-striped Pug (NFY) x1, & Streamer (NFY) x2.

27th (Sat) 2.4 C to 10.4 C / trace / 7.7 hours / NE 3.8 22 Kt.
A bright and breezy morning with sunny spells and the odd blustery shower, but by afternoon these showers would die out. Sunny spells in the afternoon, though in the breeze it felt really quite cold and temperatures only rose to 10.4 C. Clear spells in the evening and for most of the night, this allowing temperatures to drop low enough for a grass frost, but cloud would increase later.

28th (Sun) 0.4 C to 14.5 C / 0.3 mm / 3.9 hours / W 4.3 28 Kt.
A cloudy and cold start to the day, but towards the end of the morning some sunny spells would manage to break through. Indeed for much of the afternoon it would be mostly bright with good spells of sunshine, but towards the end of the afternoon cloud would increase again with some outbreaks of rain in the evening. This would clear away by dusk with clear spells overnight.

29th (Mon) 3.8 C to 13.3 C / nil / 7.0 hours / W 7.2 35 Kt.
A bright and sunny morning with just some broken fair weather cumulus, though the most noticeable feature of the weather was the fresh to strong westerly breeze which made it feel quite cold (gusting up to 35 knots). More cloudy for a time in early afternoon as stratocumulus spread out, but during the second half of the afternoon sunny spells would return and it would become largely clear during the evening. Mostly clear for most of the night but some broken cloud would drift in latterly.

30th (Tue) 3.4 C to 13.3 C / nil / 9.3 hours / E 2.0 15 Kt.
A bright and sunny morning for the most part with sunny spells and some broken fair weather cumulus, and remaning mostly sunny and bright in the afternoon with just scattered and well broken cumulus or stratocumulus. Not particularly warm though, with an easterly breeze holding temperature back to just 13.3 C. Clear spells in the evening and overnight with temperatures even managing to drop below freezing for a time.

On hearing the first Cuckoo of Spring
Whilst cycling into Beverley this morning I was lucky enough to hear my first Cuckoo of the spring, and I was even able to spot it as it called from the top of an Ash tree about 200 yards away from where I was observing. Cuckoos are by no means an annual observation on my home patch and it is therefore always a major highlight when I do manage to spot or hear one, not only for the fact that they are relatively rare here but also for their symbolism as regards the progression of the British seasons (for me at least the sound of the Cuckoo represents the climax of spring and the dawning of summer). Hopefully it will remain on the patch this year and perhaps find a mate, but in the past they usually soon move on so I'm not going to hold my breath that this year will be any different.


A few extra butterflies have been added to the year list this week too, with a few Green-veined Whites and at least a couple of Holly Blues, a species of butterfly which thrives within the confines of our garden thanks to the profusion of Ivy and alike. Brimstones and Peacocks have also been spotted this week, but I'm still awaiting my first Speckled Woods or Orange Tips of 2013, two species which should be on the wing by now.


With Lesser Whitethroat (& Cuckoo) now ticked off I am now looking for the last of the common summer migrants which occur here at Wold Garth, namely that most aerial and aptly named bird the Common Swift. A few have already been spotted at a number of local nature reserves so I am keeping my eyes peeled but as of the time of writing I have thus far drawn a blank and have had to be content with just Swallows and Martins swooping through the heavens above (by no means an unwelcome or unappreciated alternative).



Meanwhile the Blackcaps continue to serenade us daily within the garden and a Chiffchaff has been heard on a few days in the small wood beside the house, while the fact that many of the birds are now on nests within the garden was confirmed this morning with the discovery of a discarded Blackbird egg on the lawn. The increased frantic feeding of some birds had already hinted at the fact that many birds already had nests within the garden but up until today I had not been able to confirm this suspicion as I don't like to disturb any potential nests or boxes at this crucial time of year.


Cycling along the country lanes around our home I am beginning to notice more and more wildflowers along the hedgerows, including the first of the delicate white blooms of Stitchwort, a late spring flower I always associate with Bluebells, as well as the likes of Cowslips, Dead-nettles, Ground Ivy, and the first of the Garlic Mustard (or Jack-by-the-hedge). In the mature woodlands Bluebells and Ramsons (aka Wild Garlic) are also just starting to flower, with the merest hint of pastel blue and whiff of garlic where the flowers are slightly more advanced, and given some fine weather the woodlands will soon be carpeted with these glorious late spring blooms.