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January 2014

5th, North Cave Wetlands
On Sunday morning we visited our favourite wetland nature reserve in the county, North Cave Wetlands, and with sunny skies for the most part it was an enjoyable and interesting morning with plenty to see and record. Our main reason for visiting was to see the GREEN-WINGED TEAL which has been spotted here recently, and though we struggled to identify it amongst the thousands of Eurasian/Common Teal a very friendly couple were kind enough to point it out to us on the far bank. It was too distant for a decent photograph but the white vertical stripe which distinguishes this species (at least as far as drakes are concerned) was clearly visible and provided a good tick to start of 2014. This is only the second ever Green-winged Teal I have ever recorded, the first coming a few years ago at this same location.

Three GOOSANDERS were another welcome sight, as last year I seemed to keep missing these birds at this reserve, while a lone PINK-FOOTED GOOSE was picked out amongst the mass of Greylag Geese which are seemingly omnipresent at nearly all British wetlands. All the other species of wildfowl and waterfowl one would expect to encounter at this time of year were also present, though the fortunes of different species was interesting with more Wigeon and less Pochard than normal (at least compared to my own very limited records).

Meanwhile the maize field and the bird feeders nearby provided some nice photographic opportunities with the Goldfinches showing off particularly well, while other common species of finch, as well as Tree Sparrows, Robins, and Reed Buntings were noted in healthy numbers. To the north a Buzzard was spotted and as we made our way along the western perimeter a party of Long-tailed Tits followed us along, calling and roving through the trees as they did.

7th, North Cliffe Wood
A mid-winter's walk around the woodland on what was a bright and sunny morning here in the East Riding of Yorkshire. As is often the case at this time of year the woodland was largely quiet with the only birds of note including Marsh tit and Green Woodpecker, though a good variety of bracket fungi and similar species were noted, the pale winter sunlight really helping to emphasise the subtle colours of these fascinating organisms.

8th, Wold Garth
The first WINTER ACONITES are starting to flower in the garden.

11th, Red Kites & red skies
On a sunny but chilly afternoon we headed to the winter Red Kite roost near the town of Pocklington on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, this annual gathering of these magnificent birds of prey being one of the highlights of the year in this part of the county. I'm sure most local people are aware of the location where this spectacle takes place, though again, as I did a few weeks ago, I would urge people too never be tempted to trespass in order to see these birds (as per advice from the Yorkshire Red Kites group). In the end the number of Red Kites didn't actually reach some of the reported maximums of the last week, though large gatherings were seen to the south (11+) and east (9+), of these only a small number actually drifted close to our vantage point which we shared with several other birders whom braved the chill wind to marvel at these red hued raptors.

Meanwhile as the sun fell over the flat plain of the Vale of York to the west we were treated to a fine sunset, the sky becoming a rich hue of warm tones as the sun dropped below the far off horizon. To the east the earth shadow was likewise an attractive sight, the subtle pink colour which marks the boundary of this phenomena being so hard to capture photographically but nevertheless beautiful to the human eye. Eventually darkness began to descend upon the Yorkshire Wolds and as temperatures began to rapidly fall we decided to head home, though before we left we were treated to the sight of a Tawny Owl passing over our heads, truly a fantastic way to end a cold but rewarding few hours in the countryside I love most.

12th, A frosty walk around Nunburnholme
Sunday began clear and frosty and as such weather has been shockingly absent so far this winter I was keen to get out and enjoy the crisp winter air before the forecast cloud and milder temperatures moved in from the south. Our destination of choice was the short but pleasant circular walk which begins at the top of Nunburnholme Wold and which then proceeds down the hill through Merebalk Wood before heading down to the village of Nunburnholme itself at which point the walk reaches its lowest point. From this point the walk heads straight back up Nunburnholme Wold with an ascent of 130 metres back to the original starting point,

When we set off the frost still covered the ground, the road itself coated in white crystals with patches of ice here and there which made it quite slippy in places, but as the sun shone and the wind freshened from the south, temperatures began to rise so that by the time we reached the village most of the frost had melted away (bar the odd patch in the shade). Nature wise the first half of the walk provided little interest, with just a MARSH TIT in Merebalk Wood and sightings of Red Kites in the distance, but as we made it down to the beech wood we came upon a mixed flock of finches and tits, amongst them several very handsome BRAMBLINGS.

Continuing on the walk we heard Jays over in Garforth Wood, the loud harsh calls of this Crow species being a common sound in the woods around here, while Mallards and Teal were heard at the small private pond below Totterdown Farm. The hazels meanwhile are starting to flower with the lambs’ tail catkins opening up in response to the recent mildish temperatures and the now lengthening days, though in most other respects the woods and the woodland floor remain quiet and dormant and will probably remain so until at least early to mid February.

20th, A Duchess at Locomotion
The other day we traveled up to the north-east of England to visit the Shildon National Railway Museum (not to be confused with the other excellent National Railway Museum at York) with our primary aim being to see the stream-lined 'Duchess of Hamilton' 6229 (BRN 46229), a magnificent looking locomotive of the Princess Coronation Class. Though this style of loco proved unpopular with those that had to maintain them (the stream-lining making maintenance awkward), one can't deny the uniqueness of its appearance and the beautiful lines and curves that make the engine a feast for the eyes.

20th, A frosty evening in Bilsdale
After our trip to Shildon we returned home via the beautiful Bilsdale area on the north-western edge of the North York Moors, the weather that day being stunningly clear and frosty with mist hanging over the long and winding valley below, a rare treat in what has otherwise been a grim and damp January. I had been to Bilsdale before but for some reason I had never fully appreciated what a stunning landscape it is, and hopefully I'll return again some time in the year ahead to explore the dale further.

22nd, Bridlington
A trip to Bridlington today brought some decent birding opportunities, with a few new species added to my year list including Turnstones, Dunlin, and even a lone Barnacle Goose which was somewhat unexpected. Though the weather was grim and cold we actually enjoyed this stroll around the harbour as the whole area was pretty much deserted, very different compared to the warmer months of the year when it can be unpleasantly crowded.

25th, Great Central Winter Gala
Last weekend we attended the Great Central Railways Winter Steam Gala, this being my first visit to this heritage railway in the lovely rolling countryside of Leicestershire. The weather was mercifully dry until mid-afternoon with even some spells of sunshine in the morning and with the fine weather the whole gala was well attended with visitors from all over the country.

25th, Mute Swans at Swithland Reservoir
Whilst visiting the Great Central Railway we also stumbled upon this large series of reservoirs which lie beside the railway, the water hosting a good variety of ducks and waterfowl. Nothing out of the ordinary was spotted but the local Mute Swans were friendly and posed for a few photos, the handsome birds still living in family groups with juvenile birds feeding with the adults.

27th, Garden Bird Count
Back at home in the garden the bird feeders have become busier as the month has progressed as natural food in the surrounding countryside becomes very scarce and thanks to my new study/office having a great view of the feeders I was able to conduct the RSPB garden birdwatch thingy from the comfort of my desk. The best bird on show for the hour was a single female Blackcap which has been showing well for most of the month, while other birds included Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove and Magpie. Of course a few otherwise typical species disappeared for the hour but I think we did pretty well this year.

Other news from Wold Garth includes the kicking off of the 2014 Moth List with a Twenty Plume Moth (or Many Plumed Moth as it also known) hanging about in the upstairs hallway, while an inspection of the spider infested garage loft revealed no further moths but it did uncover several hibernating butterflies, including two Peacocks, two Small Tortoiseshells and a Comma.