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August 2014

5th, A Southern Hawker
Since early July a few species of dragonfly have been spotted hunting around our garden, with at least one Migrant Hawker, a Common Darter and most numerous and frequent of all a few Southern Hawkers. In fact up to three were seen yesterday morning flying around the garden while the particular individual shown in the photos below posed obligingly for a few pics during the afternoon. Since Hawker species seem to so rarely keep still I am actually quite pleased with these pics.

6th, Birthday ferroequinology
It was my 32nd birthday recently and as a treat I enjoyed a very pleasant day with my family on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The day, as is now customary, began at Grosmont, a place which I sincerely hope to call home in the not to distant future, and as we headed down to the MPD we were lucky to find the recently returned from overhaul NER 0-8-0 Class Q6 ‘63395’ quietly steaming away in the yard, a new loco for me and one which I have been looking forward to seeing since its return to the NYMR a few weeks ago.

After a few hours at the MPD and an always good value visit to the excellent shop where I picked up a DVD and some bits and bobs for my 00 gauge model railway (which is coming along quite nicely), we headed up to Goathland, possibly the prettiest station on the NYMR. Here we had a short but heavy thundery shower which sent people scurrying for cover but it soon passed with the early August sun quickly returning. We didn’t spend that long at Goathland but we nevertheless saw the Black 5 44806 steam up the incline into the station as well as my personal favourite the beautiful LNER B1 61264 arrive and depart with the ‘up’ train from Pickering.

To end this post I thought it would be nice to highlight some of the heritage diesel locomotives which operate on the NYMR, these reliable (most of the time) and powerful engines being vital to the smooth operation of not only this heritage line but indeed pretty much all lines around the country. True they may not be as beautiful as ‘kettles’ and diesel fumes are far less appealing than the aroma of coal and steam, but despite this I find diesel locos as interesting as their more crowd pleasing counterparts and I certainly enjoy photographing them as they work along the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

9th, North Cave Wetlands
On what was a warm evening with hazy sunshine we went for a short stroll around a local nature reserve with our eldest niece joining us on our perambulation. Bird-wise the reserve was quiet, with juvenile Terns, Gulls, and wildfowl dominating the scene, but amongst the wildflowers and grasses plenty of insect activity was noted with dozens of Damselflies (mostly Common Blues and the odd Blue-tailed Damselfly amongst them) and a few species of butterfly, including Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral and Common Blue. It was also interesting to see the ever growing signs of autumn in the hedgerows with red Haws and black Blackberries now widespread and commonplace in this part of the county.

13th, The return of the Q6
With our holiday cottage being beside the North Yorkshire Moors Railway this means that their is always something to see everyday when we are up here, with steam and heritage diesel locomotives passing our cottage every half an hour or so as they rumble in and out of Grosmont. However every now and then a ‘new’ loco joins or rejoins the resident fleet here at Grosmont and this past week has seen the return of NER 0-8-0 Class Q6 No.63395 to the NYMR stable. This loco has had a somewhat troubled recent history, having to be repaired following problems with its firebox, and indeed these repairs uncovered yet further problems which meant that the work to the loco was eventually completed almost a year later than had been originally forecast. However hopefully these problems are now consigned to the past and we can look forward to seeing the Q6 steaming up and down the line outside our cottage for many years to come.

17th, Wold Garth
After a very obvious reduction recently and indeed an absence in the last few days, a single Swift was seen over the garden (could this possibly be the last one of 2014?)

17th, North Cliffe Wood
Near to our home is a small nature reserve which in the height of summer is a no go area thanks to the large numbers of vicious and merciless mosquitoes which plague the ‘carr’ woodland during late June and July but with the coming of August and the fact that the weather has recently become cooler and fresher we took the risk and paid a long overdue visit.

Our main target of interest was the interesting variety of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) which can be found here every summer, and sure enough plenty were observed. Indeed I am not sure I have ever seen so many ‘Hawkers‘ in one place, with species recorded including Migrant, Southern, Common and Brown Hawkers. Common Darters were also numerous while beside the pool two dozen or so Emerald Damselflies flew delicately around the waterside grasses and reeds.

Another highlight of the morning was provided by a hunting Hobby, this small dragonfly hunting raptor putting on a good show for us as we enjoyed a cup of tea and bite to the eat near the south-eastern corner of the wood. Indeed I have never had such good views of a Hobby, even down in Norfolk, and it really was a privilege to enjoy such a close and repeated view of this summer visiting bird of prey chasing its prey.

This wood is also a favourite place or ours to come fungi hunting and with autumn coming we are now most definitely moving into ‘fungi season’. Though I am useless at identifying these fascinating and diverse organisms I nevertheless love nothing more than searching through the woodland undergrowth for these all too transient works of natural art.

29th, Grand Steam Gala at the North Norfolk Railway
This morning we made the three hour journey down to the North Norfolk Railway to attend this years Grand Steam Gala, the traditional curtain-raiser to the autumn gala season. This part of the world is very close to my heart, the nature reserves of the north Norfolk coast being amongst some of my favourite places in these British Isles, and as a result I was really looking forward to my first visit to this heritage railway line which runs from Sheringham on the coast to Holt a few miles inland.

The gala had been long anticipated by me, the guest locos and the strong home fleet down here at the NNR being positively mouth-watering, but when I learnt that the LNER Class B1 No.61306 ‘Mayflower’ had recently been added to the railways home fleet my excitement grew to feverish levels. Indeed the B1 class is one of my favourites, in part thanks to the beautiful NYMR based B1 No.61264, and with only two B1’s still in existence it was fantastic to finally see the ‘other’ B1 in the flesh, this particular loco looking striking in its British Railways Apple Green as it rumbled into the pretty little station at Holt.

Prior to learning of the B1’s presence at the gala it was the LNER Class B12 No. 8572 (61572) which had been my main target of interest, the locos of the LNER being my main field of interest as for me the London & North East Railway (and latterly the Eastern Region) is by far and away the most interesting of the ‘old’ railway regions, at least as regards its history and loco fleets. Indeed it is saddening to see just how few of the old LNER locos survived the scrap-yards of the 1960’s and the few which have survived are precious jewels amongst a sea of otherwise mediocre locos from other regions.

However that is not to say I have no interest in locos from other regions, that after all would be simply daft and idiotic (especially given my family connections to the LMS and GWR) and of the two visiting locos to the NNR Gala it was the GWR Manor Class No. 7820 ‘Dinmore Manor’ which stole the show for me, the locos of the GWR always, by and large, being pleasing on the eye for any discerning ‘ferroequinophile’.

It was also pleasing to the NNR’s own 9F No.92203 ‘Black Prince’, the British Railways class 9F’s being amongst my favourite classes of locomotive which have survived into preservation, whilst other locos on show included two Black Fives in the form of No. 44767 ‘George Stephenson’ and No. 45305, and a single Standard 4 in the form of No. 76084. All in all it was a fantastic gala and I will certainly be visiting the NNR again.

29th, RSPB Titchwell Marsh
We paid a late afternoon and evening visit to the north Norfolk nature reserve of RSPB Titchwell Marsh today, arriving shortly after 4pm and not departing till after sunset around 8pm. The weather was largely cloudy with temperatures comfortably tolerable (well for Titchwell anyway), though around 6pm a squally shower drifted in from the WSW transforming the reserve from a tranquil and peaceful scene to one of drama and tempest as curtains of rain and buffeting winds swept the coastal reserve. From the shelter of the Parrinder Hide (which we had all to ourselves) it was actually an exciting and fascinating scene but I did feel sorry for those who had not reached shelter in time and whom must have been soaked by the time they reached the sanctuary of the visitor centre.

However as interesting as the weather was it was for the birds that we made our way to Titchwell marsh and being late August it was the waders which were the primary interest with birds now returning from their Arctic breeding grounds.

Best amongst these were four Curlew Sandpipers, these attractive small to medium-sized waders feeding with a few Dunlin and a single Ruff on the freshwater lagoon. Ruff were to prove numerous, certainly over 50 at least were seen around the reserve, while the aforementioned Dunlin numbered around 20 with over half being seen along the beach.

At least a trio of Spotted Redshanks was nice to see on the brackish marsh and it was here that a few Grey Plover were also seen, some of which were still in full breeding plumage whereas others were well on the way to looking like their drab winter form. A few Knot, Black-tailed Godwits, Bar-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plovers, Avocets, Turnstones, and Little Egrets were additional birds recorded from Parrinder Hide.

Moving on to the beach large numbers of Common Terns and Sandwich Terns were seen heading along the coast, while beside the North Sea Sanderlings and Oystercatchers fed on the shore. On the sea four Great Crested Grebes bobbed up and down on the grey and bleak waters, and looking further in the distance approximately 20 Common Scoter were espied through the spotting scope, the raft of seaducks containing a number of juveniles amongst their number.

Further sightings of personal interest included a few Marsh Harriers, Red-crested Pochards, a few Snipe (always a favourite bird of mine), and interestingly a small number of Swifts, these summer visiting birds having left the skies above my East Yorkshire home almost a fortnight ago.

30th, Great Central Railway Diesel Gala
After a very successful and enjoyable trip to the NNR the day before it was with great expectations that we headed westwards into the East Midlands to visit the Great Central Railway which runs from Loughborough in the north to Leicester in the south. However unlike yesterday which was all about steam today would instead be dominated by diesels, something which I at least was looking forward too.

Indeed diesels are probably more my strong point, in part thanks to my interest in model railways where I tend to prefer diesels over steams, and also because they are of my era as diesels and electrics were all I saw during my childhood train-spotting in the Edinburgh area and near my grandparents home near the West Coast main line in northern Lancashire.

My main reason for visiting was to see the ‘Deltic’ D9016 ‘Gordon Highlander’ actually running, as on previous visits to the GCR she had been simply lying idle in the Loughborough sidings, a depressing sight for a Deltic enthusiast like myself. Indeed I am sure I have written previously about my love for the Class 55’s, these twin-engined beasts standing head and shoulders above their diesel peers and whose engines produce both fumes and noise in equally impressive amounts.

However the unexpected delight of the gala was actually the most modern locomotive there, with a near brand new Class 66 looking stunning in its attractive GBRf livery. No. 66755 performed faultlessly, as after all passenger duties are pretty light work for these industrial freight workhorses, and it will interesting to see whether this sort of loco attending a diesel gala will be a one off or something which becomes more frequent and popular in the years ahead.

Other loco classes represented included a pair of Class 45’s with D123 in attractive British Railways Green and 45041 in British Railways Blue, these two being personally significant as the Class 45 is a new one for me, while a Class 27 (D5401) in British Railways Green was another new one for me. ‘Sparrowhawk’ D1705 was the only Class 47 on show, this class of diesel locomotive being one of the most successful in the history of British railways with many still in operation around the UK, while smaller locomotive classes were represented by a Class 20 (D8098) and a ‘Teddy Bear’ in the form of 14901. However the Class 14 suffered mechanical problems latterly and was replaced by the Class 31 D5830 which looks unique and indeed quite striking in its experimental Golden Ochre livery. So all in all another fantastic day with nine locomotives in operation and it was also nice to catch up with the former NYMR based 9F 92214 in the Loughborough yard, the loco having received a new livery recently with the application of lined Brunswick Green.