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February 2014

2nd, Kilnwick Percy
What with the lovely weather we decided to have a gentle stroll around the grounds of Kilnwick Percy Hall in the morning, a Grade 2* listed building sitting within 50 acres of grounds which is currently home to the Madhyamaka Kadampa Meditation Centre. My eldest sister and my eldest niece joined us and we spent a pleasant few hours doing a tour of the grounds, walking around the large lake and through the mixed woodland. Apart from a few Reed Buntings and loads of Long-tailed Tits very little was around the lake, but the woods brought some better sightings with Jay, Marsh Tit, and even a calling NUTHATCH, a very rare sound in most of East Yorkshire. The wood is also a good place to look for fungi though my woeful fungi knowledge means I am useless at identifying them apart from obvious ones like Scarlet Elf-cups or Candle Snuff Fungus.

7th, A few garden birds
Yesterday was one of those beautiful late winter days which almost make you think that spring has arrived early, with the strengthening sun making it feel much warmer than the thermometer suggested, especially so in any sheltered suntraps like a walled garden or on the leeward side of a wood. The sunshine also brought out a few insects which crawled or buzzed about the wall top Ivy and part of me even half expected to see my first butterfly of the year but alas it was not to be. I even put the moth trap out last night in hope of attracting something but unsurprisingly come morning nothing was to be found apart from empty egg-boxes and the odd gnat or two.

In the favoured locations of Wold Garth the Winter Aconites and the Snowdrops are now showing well, particularly the Aconites, while the odd Crocus is also beginning to join them, all welcome signs that nature is beginning to stir as the sun climbs higher in the sky day by day. Birds are also responding to the lengthening days with a few heard singing away this morning, including Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Dunnocks.

8th, East Coast Giants at Barrow Hill
Last weekend saw the special 'East Coast Giants' event at Barrow Hill Roundhouse and since I missed out on the 'Great Gathering' in York, plus the fact I am highly unlikely to be able to attend the 'Great Goodbye' event at Shildon, I was keen to attend this event with three of the wonderful A4 Pacific's in attendance (4464 'Bittern', 4489 'Dominion of Canada', and 60008 'Dwight D. Eisenhower'). The latter two were of particular significance as they will be returning to North America soon and this will probably be my last chance to see them in this country!

12th, A trip to the National Railway Museum
On what was initially a snowy but wet morning we made our way to the National Railway Museum at York, looking forward to seeing a wealth of railway history and heritage at this sprawling museum which lies beside the East Coast mainline. The main highlight was the recent return from Shildon of the LMS steamlined pacific "Duchess of Sutherland", the loco given pride of place at the entrance to the main part of the museum, whilst other locos of note included the 9F "Evening Star", the handsome GWR locos of "King George V" and "City of Truro" (possibly the first loco to achieve 100 mph), and a beast of an engine which was originally built for Chinese Railways.

16th, Half-term running at the NYMR
On a sunny late winter's day we enjoyed a spot of trainspotting courtesy of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, our day being centred primarily around Moorgates and Grosmont. I was pleased to see that my favourite loco the LNER B1 No.61264 was running, whilst other services were provided by the veteran diesel D5061, one of the real workhorses of the NYMR.

26th, Spring thoughts
The last few days have seen some pleasant weather here in our little sequestered nook and in the walled garden it has been positively spring like with sunshine heating up the south facing wall to the point that it has been comfortable enough to spend a few restful moments relaxing in the garden. Indeed as I sat enjoying the sun my young nephew also joined me and together we watched the Honey Bees whom likewise were out enjoying the sunshine, the abundant Crocuses proving a major attraction to these industrious insects. A few Bumble Bees were also spotted buzzing about too, one of which appeared to be a Tree Bee, a species which is now becoming quite common here in eastern Yorkshire, though butterflies remained elusive despite my optimism that one would be seen.

Other flowers brightening up the garden along with the aforementioned Crocuses include the Snowdrops which are now at their best, while in one or two very sheltered and warm spots the first Daffodils are just starting to open up, remarkably early for a location up here in northern England. The mild and relatively dry winter, at least compared to southern England, has even seen a few flowers from last year persist right through to this 'pale' spring and already the Winter Aconites have concluded for yet another year, another sign that pollinators have been unusually prolific due to the lack of frosts. Indeed the lowest temperature so far this winter has been just -3.7 C (25.3 F).