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March 2015

1st March 2015, Sunday
Min 5.2 C, Max 9.3 C, Rain 0.7 mm, Wind SW
A blustery but bright morning on the whole, though a few showers of hail/pellets would also blow through around 11 am. Some longer outbreaks of rain in the afternoon and feeling much colder and rawer by dusk, though it would become drier by dusk. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with clear spells later, though the breeze prevented anything more than a light frost by dawn

North Cliffe Wood
Our weekly stroll around the birch wood was undertaken on what was a breezy but largely sunny morning, though latterly some wintry pellet showers made us glad of the shelter of the woodland. The wind was strong enough to lift the light sandy soil on the neighbouring bare fields with a mini 'fen-blow' reducing visibility out on the heath, and the same wind also made it hard to hear the birds. Nevertheless a decent variety of birds were in song in the more sheltered parts of the wood, including up to half a dozen Marsh tits, plenty of Great tits, Chaffinches, Robins, Wrens and all the other typical woodland birds. Perhaps also indicating the changing seasons was the lack of any Woodcock today, the first time we have drawn a blank since November, though in compensation Brown Hare were very apparent both in the wood and out in the fields with up to a dozen recorded. Three Roe deer were also spotted in the heart of the wood, always a pleasing sight.

2nd March 2015, Monday
Min 0.4 C, Max 5.8 C, Rain 0.6 mm, Wind SW
An initially clear and frosty start but wintry showers of pellets, sleet and wet snow (often all at the same time) would arrive around 8 am and would continue on-and-off throughout the morning. Feeling bitterly raw in the brisk WNW breeze, especially during the showers. A few further wintry showers in the afternoon but dying out by dusk with clear spells in the evening and for most of the night, this allowing temperatures to dip below freezing.

For the first time this year I left the house prior to 6 am in what was twilight and not pitch dark, a nice feeling and one which makes life much more pleasant. Heading along the river a Barn Owl was seen hunting in the rapidly brightening twilight whilst out on the floods, which have significantly reduced in the past fortnight, the number of wildfowl has decreased, though nevertheless a few Teal were heard, and a Grey Heron was spotted beside one of the drains. Near the village a couple of Roe deer were grazing whilst along the hedgerows Yellowhammers were widely in song, a cheering sound on what was otherwise a breezy & cold March morning. Meanwhile the waxing gibbous Moon & Jupiter were close together in the evening sky with the two celestial bodies high in the eastern sky at 6 pm.

3rd March 2015, Tuesday
Min -0.7 C, Max 6.9 C, Rain trace, Wind W
A frosty start again but soon warming up in the early spring sunshine. However like yesterday a few wintry showers (mainly snow pellets) would drift in from the WNW by late morning though these would quickly die out with sunny spells in the afternoon. Feeling chilly in the blustery breeze. Mostly clear overnight though the fresh breeze prevented anything more than a patchy ground frost by dawn.

Further evidence of the annual spring build-up of winter thrushes was noted around the area with plenty of Redwings and a few Fieldfares this morning. Meanwhile a beautiful near white Barn Owl was seen hunting over the low fields near the river at 6.10 am.

4th March 2015, Wednesday
Min 2.3 C, Max 10.3 C, Rain nil, Wind W
A sunny and breezy morning, with a patchy frost in sheltered areas at dawn, and apart from the odd cloudier period it would remain largely sunny throughout the afternoon with it feeling positively spring-like, at least out of the wind anyway. Clear skies for much of the night, this allowing temperatures to drop close to freezing with a ground frost, but cloud would increase later.

The Rookeries are now full of noise with most birds having now returned to nest. A single Greylag goose had also joined the resident Mallards at the 'lake' when I passed it at 6.30 am. Meanwhile up on the windswept wolds Skylarks were singing in the wind, though there are no signs of Pipits yet. However milder weather is forecast next week so they might arrive then (though I myself will be away in north Wales next week).

5th March 2015, Thursday
Min 1.0 C, Max 10.1 C, Rain nil, Wind SW
A largely cloudy day for the most part with just the odd brighter spell, though in mid-afternoon some longer breaks did develop with some pleasant enough sunshine to enjoy on what was another mild day. In like a lamb, out like a lion? Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight.

The barn owl continues to be seen daily with one seen this morning along the river, the beautiful bird cruising within 20 yards of us as we rode along. Still no signs of the pipits but larks were singing away, as were the yellowhammers, goldfinches & linnets.

6th March 2015, Friday
Bwlch-y-Garnedd - On a bright morning we began our journey across the country to spend a week in the rugged landscapes of North Wales, our journey through Yorkshire, across the Pennines and around Manchester passing with little incident. As we arrived prior to 3 pm, the time upon which our property became vacant, we spent a few hours exploring the nearby town of Llangollen, a busy and pleasant enough place surrounded by hills and with a large river running through its centre over which an attractive stone bridge joins the two sides of the town. We also took the opportunity to take a quick look at the headquarters of the Llangollen Railway and the pleasant riverside station and with fine weather promised tomorrow I am looking forward to seeing more of this railway.

7th March 2015, Saturday
Llangollen Railway - With fine weather promised we were looking forward to attending the second day of the Llangollen Railways Steel, Steam & Stars Gala where a number of beautiful locomotives would be performing along this beautiful north Welsh railway. As many as six guest locomotives joined the resident fleet, and though we have previously seen half of them at other railways it is nevertheless always good to see locos in different environs and working with differing gradients & rolling stock.

The premier guest of the gala was the recently restored Southern Railways (SR) West Country Class No.34092 'Wells', an impressive stream-lined Pacific (4-6-2) which usually resides at the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway in West Yorkshire. We previously saw this loco at the KWVR autumn gala last year and it is currently pencilled in as a guest at the NYMR this year, something which I am looking forward too. Another of the guest locos was an old friend in the former of the British Railways (BR) 9F No.92214, a powerful freight loco which used to be based up on the moors where it was informally named the 'Cock O' the North' but has since been renamed the 'Central Star' since its move to Loughborough & the Great Central Railway in 2014. Finally the other loco we had seen before was the GWR Auto Tank No.1450, the lovely 0-4-2T having been frequently seen at the Severn Valley Railway back in September of last year.

However the remainder of the locos at the gala were all new to us, with most coming from the Great Western Railway and included an Early BR liveried 2884 Class (2-8-0) No.3802, a GWR liveried 42XX Class (2-8-0T) No.4270 (a guest from the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway), and a Late BR Green liveried 2251 Class (0-6-0) No.3205, this last loco being my personal favourite and a guest from the South Devon Railway. Though I remain a (L)NER man at heart I do have to admit that these GWR locos are beautiful pieces of engineering whilst the variety & numbers of GWR locos which have survived into preservation is enough to make any Eastern Region enthusiast green with envy.

Meanwhile a dawn walk up Llantysilio Mountain this morning brought some good nature observations, including Ravens overhead, a pair of Stonechats, and most excitingly of all a BLACK GROUSE amongst the mountain top heather, the first I have seen for many, many years. Meanwhile in the afternoon I saw my first bumble bees of the year with a couple spotted amongst the flowers at Berwyn station, whilst five Goosanders were seen passing-by on the river Dee below the station. Railway heritage and nature together, surely there is no better combination.

8th March 2015, Sunday
Bwlch-y-Garnedd/Llangollen Railway - A wet and miserable day, a sharp contrast to the beautiful day before, and with little else to do, at least in the dry, we decided to spend another day exploring the Llangollen railway and watching the impressive trains go by. The stars of the show were again the two guests, the brutish stream-lined SR West Country 'Wells' and powerful BR 9F 'Central Star' dwarfing the smaller locos, though my favourite remained the diminutive but perfectly formed GWR 2251 Class No.3205, this 0-6-0 having come up from the beautiful South Devon Railway.

However in the evening the weather would rapidly improve with even some sunshine to end the day, and we therefore decided to enjoy a climb up to the top Moel y Gaer which lies directly behind our holiday cottage. The view from the top was stunning with Mount Snowdon visible to the WNW and the rich pastures of England to the east, and it was also interesting to note the remains of the old hill fort which used to be located at the top of this windswept hill. Having never really explored Wales before I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised by the wildness and beauty of this small country, and I could certainly get used to views like this every day.

9th March 2015, Monday
North Wales - The day began with a colourful sunrise over Bwlch-y-Garnedd, and mindful of shepherds & their warnings (as well as 21st century weather forecasts) I headed out at first light to climb the highest 'mountain' behind the cottage, the 1,893 feet high Moel y Gamelin. By the time we reached the mountain track which forms part of the Clwydian Way the weather was beginning to close in with a strong wind buffeting us as we ascended the long and steep slopes of this heather-covered hillside, but eventually we made it to the top and were rewarded with fine views over the north Welsh hills and towards England beyond. To the south-west a mountain with large patches of snow could be seen, presumably one of the southern mountains of the Snowdon area near Bala, but by this point the rain had arrived and therefore we made our way back home as quickly as possible, enjoying a cosy & welcome breakfast before facing the rest of the day.

The inclement weather meant we were somewhat restricted as regards any possible sightseeing but nevertheless we decided to head westwards into the hills and see what we could find. The hills were covered in low cloud and the rain fell persistently throughout our journey, but nevertheless the landscape was ruggedly beautiful, indeed in places it could even rival my beloved Western Highlands (though without the same kind of grandeur or feeling of wilderness). As we made our way along some winding road we came across a castle and stopped to enjoy a pleasant if somewhat damp picnic. The castle turned out be Dolwyddelan, an early 13th century hill-top stronghold built by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd, and though we decided not to go in the castle we were nevertheless suitably impressed by its dramatic location.

From Dolwyddelan we continued westward to the slate-mining community of Blaenau Ffestiniog which on a wet day such as today looked particularly uninviting and frankly pretty bleak, the dark and grey mountains looming above the community and the widespread evidence of slate mining making it seem all the grimmer. Undoubtedly we saw the community at its worst and that on a sunny day it would seem much nicer but the whole area did seem to have that same feeling that one gets in some of the less beautiful corners of the old West Riding and industrial Lancashire.

After passing back through the mountains we arrived back in the Llangollen area and visited the World Heritage Site that is the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, this 19 arch structure carrying the Llangollen canal some 40 metres above the river Dee below. It is the longest and highest aqueduct in the British Isles and is a marvel of British Industrial engineering, having been completed in 1805 and designed by Thomas Telford and William Jessop. Thankfully I have no problems with heights and thoroughly enjoyed the walk along the narrow footway though I have to admit it was strange walking beside a canal some 40 metres above the ground below.

10th March 2015, Tuesday
Snowdonia The day began bright and frosty and after again rising shortly after first light we headed out prior to breakfast for our morning ramble on Llantysilio Mountain. Having ascended two of three 'peaks' of this wide mountain on previous morning's we decided to complete the hat-trick and climbed the second highest in the form of Moel Morfydd. As we passed through the gorse covered lower slopes a few Stonechats were noted, as were a number of displaying Pipits, and I imagine that this area would be an absolute paradise in early summer when all the gorse is fragrantly flowering and the warblers are singing from the scrub-lands.Climbing ever higher we entered the world of heather and small moorland streams, where Red Grouse were noted, and after a long but relatively gentle slog we made it to the top, our reward being a stunning landscape stretching out beyond us in all directions.

After returning home and enjoying breakfast we were keen to make the best of the day, sunny days being relatively rare here in north Wales (or so it seems anyway), and decided we would head to the coast and Snowdonia National Park. The journey through the hills & mountains was again hugely enjoyable and as we arrived at the coast at Porthmadog the weather was simply perfect with blue skies and warm sunshine bathing the pretty seaside towns & villages of the area.

Heading inland we made our way along the scenic winding road towards the highest mountain in Wales, the 3,560 feet high Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh), this being my first ever visit to this iconic lump of rock which dominates this corner of North Wales. Considering that it is still only mid-March the amount of snow on the tops was not much to write home about (at least compared to the Scottish peaks anyway), but despite this it was an impressive sight and it was just a shame that we didn't have enough time to climb to the top. Maybe next time...

Continuing northwards from Snowdon we returned to the coast, though on the way we stopped briefly beside the lake at Llanberis, an outstandingly scenic spot where a few Goosanders were swimming about in the blue & still waters. From here we went on to visit the Welsh speaking town of Caernarfon, most famous of course for its beautiful castle and old town walls which so dominate this pretty seaside community. Luckily for us the castle was free to visit today and it was fascinating to explore its medieval ruins & walls and learn more about the castle and its role in what was an important chapter in the history of both Wales & Britain.

11th March 2015, Wednesday
Bwlch-y-Garnedd & Plas Newydd - We both rose early this morning to walk the three 'peaks' of Llantysilio Mountain before breakfast, heading out on what started out as a bright and frosty morning but one which began to deteriorate latterly with rain & strong winds arriving from the west. The first 'mountain' we ascended was the second highest summit of the chain, Moel Morfydd, and as we made our way up the mountain we encountered a few Stonechats amongst the gorse scrub, as well as a good number of displaying Pipits. After briefly spotting to enjoy the view from Moel Morfydd we headed eastwards towards Moel y Gaer, a relatively easy & pleasant stroll. However from Moel y Gaer we faced the stiff and long climb up the highest mountain of the morning walk, the 1,893 feet high Moel y Gamelin, but we soon made it to the top and before heading for home had time to enjoy the stunning views from the summit across the Dee Valley and the beautiful countryside of Denbighshire.

Meanwhile in the afternoon we paid a visit to Plas Newydd in the suburbs of Llangollen, an attractive National Trust property which was originally home to Lady Eleanor Butler & Caroline Ponsonby, the so-called Ladies of Llangollen whom lived here together for nearly 50 years. The house was shut up for the winter, in typical National Trust style, but the gardens were free to explore and these were particularly attractive despite the rain & grey skies, the wooded riverine part of the garden being particularly pleasant to stroll through, especially with Primroses appearing here and there and the subtle scent of Ramsons hanging in the damp winter air. A Dipper in the river was an additional bonus and I have to say I like the Ladies of Llangollen taste in garden design with many delightful follies, bridges and secret hideaways within the grounds, perfect for those with an imaginative and romantic view of the world.

12th March 2015, Thursday
Ffestiniog Railway - Our last full day in north Wales was somewhat ruined by the wet weather which arrived in the morning, though upon rising around 6 am the weather was not actually that bad and we were able to complete one last walk up on Llantysilio Mountain. True the clouds were grazing the hill-tops and the wind was screaming over the exposed hillsides, but having come to know this mountain over the past week I was just happy to have this last chance to wander over her slopes.

Having returned home for breakfast the weather begun to rapidly deteriorate with persistent heavy rain setting in for the day, and therefore we decided that since the Ffestiniog Railway was running today we would enjoy a ride on the narrow gauge railway which runs from Porthmadog on the coast to the slate mining community of Ffestiniog. However with some time to spare before the train departed we decided to pay a quick visit to Harlech Castle a few miles down the coast, this imposing clifftop castle and community having a stunning view over the rugged countryside of this corner of north-west Wales.

Returning to Porthmadog we boarded the narrow gauge train in what was torrential rain, but once we were in the comfort of the carriages we could at least sit back, relax and simply watch the world go by as our little train leisurely made its way inland. Out on the estuary a good variety of birds could be spotted as we went along the causeway, including 100's of Wigeon, a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers, Little Egrets and plenty of Curlews, Redshanks and Oystercatchers. The moss and fern laden trees of the woods we passed through on our way further testified to the somewhat soggy nature of the local climate, though as we climbed ever higher towards Ffestiniog the landscape became bleaker and emptier, with the ever present signs of slate mining everywhere to be seen.

13th March 2015, Friday
Journey home - We left our delightful cottage on what was a wet and pretty unappealing north Welsh morning, saying goodbye to our week-long peaceful and warm abode on the slopes of Llantysilio mountain. Before leaving Wales we spent a couple of hours at Glyndfrdwy station watching a few steam trains go by, including the powerful 9F No.92214 'Central Star' and the impressive West Country No.34092 'Wells', as well as purchasing a few late gifts & souvenirs at the lovely little shop beside the platform.

Our journey back to Yorkshire was largely uneventful, though Manchester was as awful as ever, Friday afternoon not being the best time to use the motorways around this sprawling conurbation, though as we climbed over the Pennines we temporarily returned to winter with a covering of snow above 250 metres. The grey skies remained as we passed through the West Riding, though the rain had stopped by this point, and as we continued eastwards the skies rapidly lifted and brightened with warm sunshine by the time we reached the Vale of York, the temperature even climbing up into the mid-teens around Goole. However this sunshine would be short-lived for as we grew closer to the coast the sunny skies were replaced by murk and low cloud, a cool north-east wind bringing in a 'harr' off the chilly North Sea. Nevertheless despite the grey skies it was nice to be back home, our batteries fully recharged after a welcome change of scenery in the rugged countryside of beautiful northern Wales.

14th March 2015, Saturday
Min 3.3 C, Max 8.7 C, Rain nil, Wind NE
A grey and overcast morning but after midday the cloud would break up with some good spells of sunshine in the afternoon. However despite the sunshine it would remain quite chilly with a NNE breeze pegging back the temperature. Cloud increasing again in the evening with cloudy and eventually overcast skies throughout the night.

First full day back home and it was nice to see that the garden Bullfinches are still coming to the feeders despite the lack of food during the past week. Greenfinches & Chaffinches were also present for much of the day, a reminder that this time of year (March & April) is the hardest period for finches due to a lack of natural food. It was also good to see my first Yorkshire BUMBLE-BEE of the year in the environs of the walled garden, the specimen seeming to be of the 'white-tailed' variety.

As regards spring and its inevitable advance, very little has been noted in the garden despite the spring-like weather last week, though the aconites have now finished and the snowdrops are well beyond their best. However crocuses are now everywhere, whilst daffodils are coming out throughout the local area, including of course in the gardens. The blue flowers of anemone blanda are open whenever the sun does indeed shine, a heart-warming sight, whilst a tour of the gardens revealed that the hyacinths are now showing their flower spikes deep within their hearts, and other flowers such as kerria and lungwort are also making an appearance. Living on chalk does mean that spring comes early here, the stony soil warming quickly, but it also dries out very easily and to be honest we could do with some rain after what has been a dry winter.

15th March 2015, Sunday
Min 2.2 C, Max 9.7 C, Rain 0.2 mm, Wind E
A largely cloudy day, especially earlier in the morning, though some brighter periods would develop around midday and in early afternoon with even a few spells of sunshine. Remaining cool with a moderate NE breeze. Overcast overnight with some outbreaks of rain by dawn.

North Cliffe Wood
A stroll around the birch woodland on a bright but cool mid-March morning, the whole family joining us on this Mothering Sunday. Obviously with several screaming children in tow we were unlikely to see much wildlife, and so this indeed proved to be the case, though a few Hares were seen, either on the heath or in the nearby fields, whilst marsh tit was also noted. Being mid-March I did keep an ear open for chiffchaff (a few have been reported elsewhere in Yorkshire lately) but drew a blank, though signs of spring were noted on the woodland floor with a few primroses now in flower here and there.

16th March 2015, Monday
Min 3.4 C, Max 7.8 C, Rain nil, Wind E
A damp start with some outbreaks of rain & pellets, and remaining grey and dull throughout most of the day, though towards the end of the afternoon a few brighter periods would break through. Cloudy in the evening and overnight.

17th March 2015, Tuesday
Min 3.3 C, Max 8.5 C, Rain 1.6 mm, Wind E
Yet another dull and cloudy day with low cloud and murk as easterly winds continue to bring in grey skies from the coast & the frigid North Sea. Indeed in the second half of the afternoon and going into the evening a period of rain would arrive, and with poor visibility & low temperatures it was a pretty miserable end to the day. However this would clear away by 9 pm with clearer skies developing, and though it would remain misty, temperatures were allowed to drop below freezing with patches of frost and ice by dawn.

The dawn chorus was quite noticeable this morning, the sound of the woodland birds providing a beautiful start to the day as we stirred from our slumbers around 5.30 am.

18th March 2015, Wednesday
Min -0.7 C, Max 8.4 C, Rain nil, Wind N
A frosty and misty start, the suns pale disk shining through the murk as it rose over the flat fields of Holderness, but by mid-morning it had become overcast and would remain so throughout the remainder of the day, though in mid-evening a few clearer spells managed to develop, this allowing a touch of ground frost before cloud increased again later.

The larks and yellowhammers were in fine song this morning during our ride whilst fieldfares remain apparent along Long Lane as the local annual spring build-up continues of this winter visiting thrush species.

19th March 2015, Thursday
Min 2.3 C, Max 7.7 C, Rain nil, Wind N
An overcast and dull morning and remaining pretty grey throughout with little worthy of note. However overnight some clearer spells would develop, this allowing a touch of ground frost and a light mist to form by dawn.

Another beautiful dawn chorus this morning, though the biggest highlight of the day was our first singing CHIFFCHAFF of 2015 with a single bird heard along Long Lane. For me the chiffchaff is the true herald of spring and it is fantastic to hear its simple two note song ringing out once more in this little corner of eastern Yorkshire. Meanwhile I also came across my first egg of the year, with a broken white Woodpigeon egg found on a country lane just down the road from Wold Garth.

Grosmont & Darnholm
We paid a visit to our holiday cottage today on what was initially an unpromising grey and murky day but which by the end of the morning had become clear and sunny with temperatures comfortable enough to sit out and enjoy the sights and sounds of the riverside garden. I do find it incredibly soothing and relaxing to listen to the river and watch the natural world pass-by, and as we sat and enjoyed an impromptu garden picnic we watched a Dipper and a pair of Grey Wagtails wandering along the banks. As we did this one of the neighbours friendly cats joined us for a bit, rolling around and covering me in white hairs, and with the warm sunshine a number of insects were in evidence, including both honey & bumble bees, my first wasp of the year, and even a moth of some kind (if I had to guess I would say Dotted Border judging by its size & the time of year). More coltsfoot has come out along the river, the bank dotted with the tall yellow flowers of this plant, whilst the fragrant leaves of ramsons are now apparent at the bottom of the garden. Speaking of the river the lack of rain recently means that it is actually quite low at the moment and it will be interesting to see how levels respond over the coming months.

Latterly we went for a stroll around Darnholm, again noting the low water levels in the beck which has fallen by more than a foot since our last visit, and as ever at this times of year the area was alive with bird song. No Chiffchaffs were heard but nevertheless the chorus was rich and varied with drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers and 'yaffling' Green Woodpeckers joining in with the more accomplished songbirds. Up on the moorland displaying Lapwings were common-place and I was delighted to hear a lone CURLEW as well, one of my favourite spring and early summer sounds and the first one I have heard this year. Speaking of firsts a single PEACOCK butterfly fluttered past us as we sat on the banks of the beck, my first of the year, and on a sunny bank a COMMON LIZARD was sunning itself, a testament to the growing strength of the March sun.

20th March 2015, Friday
Min 0.9 C, Max 13.9 C, Rain nil, Wind W
A bright morning after a misty start with variable amounts of cloud and sunny spells, and it would remain pleasant and quite spring-like throughout the day with spells of sunshine from time to time, though by the end of the afternoon cloud did increase with largely cloudy skies for much of the night, The breeze would also freshen towards the end of the night.

The Chiffchaff was again singing along Long Lane this morning.

Partial Solar Eclipse
This morning we were treated to the rare spectacle of a solar eclipse, with over 90% of the suns disk being obscured by the moon from our location in East Yorkshire. The weather was not perfect with lots of cloud coming and going, but mercifully the cloud was not particularly thick either so the projected view of the sun through my refractor was clear enough even during some of the cloudier periods. The eclipse began shortly before 8.30 am (GMT) and progressed slowly towards maximum coverage around 9.34 am, when roughly 91% of the disk was covered. For the ten minutes either side of this period it became ominously dark, and indeed even quite cold, with the same kind of evening-like light that we witnessed during the partial solar eclipse in 1999 when 97% of the sun was obscured.

21st March 2015, Saturday
Min 4.6 C, Max 8.1 C, Rain trace, Wind N
A largely cloudy and breezy day, the wind being strongest in the morning when it was quite gusty, and feeling much colder after yesterdays relative warmth & spring-like sunshine. Remaining cloudy in the evening, with even a little bit of rain prior to midnight (barely enough to dampen the ground), but thereafter the skies would clear with temperatures dipping below freezing shortly before dawn.

A female Blackcap was spotted at the feeding station this morning, the first I have seen in the garden this winter. I wonder if it is a British bird or an over-wintering continental one?

22nd March 2015, Sunday
Min -0.4 C, Max 10.0 C, Rain nil, Wind SW
A clement and bright spring day with plenty of sunny spells throughout, though out of the sun it was still quite cool with temperatures only reaching a modest 10 C (50 F). Clear spells overnight with a touch of ground frost by dawn.

A peaceful ride early this morning on what was a stunning morning with nothing to disturb the peace bar the singing Skylarks and the other songbirds which dwell along the hedgerows and in the woods. The recently returned Chiffchaff was singing along Long Lane, much as he has every day since returning on Thursday, whilst in this same area the hedgerows are covered in the blossom of Cherry Plum. On the Horse Chestnut trees the first finger like leaves are unfurling from their swollen and sticky buds, whilst in one or two favoured locations the first green flush is starting to appear along the hedgerows. Spring is now well on the way for yet another year.

North Cliffe Wood
A sunny and most pleasant perambulation around 'our' wood this morning, though when we arrived I was somewhat annoyed to see a dog-walking couple emerge from the reserves entrance, this despite the clear signs that dogs are not allowed on the reserve, especially at this time of year when some birds may be starting to nest on the heath! The dog did admittedly seem fairly docile (a typically overweight Labrador) but nevertheless one can't have a rule for some and not for others.

With the recent return of a single Chiffchaff to the environs of our East Yorkshire residence I was hopeful of hearing one or two here at North Cliffe this morning, especially with the spring sunshine, but surprisingly we drew a complete blank with not a single chiff or chaff to be heard. In addition I had also hoped to see the odd early flutterer too but again our luck was lacking and we left the reserve empty handed on both regards. It has certainly been a hesitant spring so far and looking back at my records it is running well behind some, notably 2011 when we had a very early spring indeed, but at least it is ahead of 2013 when spring was exceptionally late, especially up on t' moors.

The morning wasn't without some spring interest however with primroses now flowering along the ditches and the forest rides, and the first marigolds coming out in the heart of the wood. The bluebells are also growing strongly and with it comes the promise of their beautiful & fragrant blooms in little more than a months time, and whilst no butterflies were seen the odd bumble bee was spotted buzzing around the early spring flowers. Three Roe deer & a number of Brown Hares were additional observations during our wander around this delightful birch & oak woodland.

23rd March 2015, Monday
Min 0.5 C, Max 10.9 C, Rain nil, Wind W
A bright and chilly start with a touch of frost, and it would remain bright for much of the morning with sunny spells. However latterly cloud would increase and it would become largely grey throughout the afternoon, the cloud thick enough to produce the odd spot of rain from time to time as well. Remaining cloudy into the evening but overnight skies would clear again, this allowing temperatures to drop close to freezing by dawn.

A Green Woodpecker was in the neighbouring woods this morning, an uncommon visitor here. Meanwhile an over-wintering Peacock butterfly was found fluttering around the sheds and was duly released. I wonder how it will get on this early in the year?

24th March 2015, Tuesday
Min 0.5 C, Max 10.8 C, Rain nil, Wind W
A beautiful start to the day with clear blue skies and a touch of frost, and it would remain mostly sunny throughout the morning and the afternoon with just the occasional cloudier period from time to time as cumulus bubbled up in the ever strengthening spring sunshine. Mostly clear skies overnight with temperatures dropping below freezing.

Whilst enjoying a wander around the garden I noticed that a couple of Dog Violets have now come into flower, the first of year here at Wold Garth.

25th March 2015, Wednesday
Min -1.0 C, Max 9.8 C, Rain 5.8 mm, Wind N
A sunny and crisp start to the day, the countryside initially adorned in frosty splendour, but this would soon thaw in the spring sunshine. Thereafter the remainder of the day would see a mixture of sunny spells and cloudier periods, though with a cool northerly breeze temperatures would remain in single figures. Mostly clear in the evening and for much of the night, this allowing a ground frost, but later cloud would increase with moderate to heavy rain & sleet arriving around dawn.

Two Chiffchaffs were heard around the homestead this morning, a most pleasing sound on what was such a perfect spring day. Meanwhile in the woods a Green Woodpecker was heard yaffling again, increasing the hope that maybe we will finally having a breeding pair here this year, whilst in the afternoon the delightful (and some say rare) sound of a singing Bullfinch was heard, the soft trills and 'whiirs' coming from the depths of a thick yew & holly thicket. With four males & four females having been in the garden throughout this winter I am hoping for a Bullfinch population explosion in the garden this year!

26th March 2015, Thursday
Min 0.1 C, Max 11.3 C, Rain trace, Wind W
A wet and grim start to the day with moderate to heavy rain & sleet but by 9 am this began to clear away with even some spells of sunshine breaking through by the end of the morning. However in the afternoon a number of blustery showers would blow through, though the most noticeable feature of the weather in the afternoon was the increase in temperature compared to the morning making it very much a day of two halves. Clear spells in the evening and overnight, though a brisk breeze, especially in the first half of the night, kept temperatures above freezing.

27th March 2015, Friday
Min 1.3 C, Max 12.1 C, Rain 0.5 mm, Wind W
A clement and pleasant early spring day with plenty of sunshine and feeling reasonably warm, at least in any sun traps anyway. However it was somewhat cloudier around midday for a time but this soon gave way to clearer skies again, these clear skies persisting into the evening and the first half of the night, though after midnight cloud would increase again with outbreaks of rain arriving by the end of the night.

Hornsea Beach
We spent a very enjoyable few hours with Miranda by the sea-side this morning, the beach being bathed in warm sunshine (at least out of the wind) and being relatively quiet with just a few dog walkers and pensioners about. The sheltered nature of the beach at Hornsea, at least when the wind is in the west, means it is generally very pleasant in the sun, and testament to the warmth were the number of SMALL TORTOISESHELL butterflies along the 'cliffs' with at least half a dozen flittering about. Bird-wise there was little of note bar the resident Herring Gulls, though far out at sea I did spot a single RED-THROATED DIVER bobbing about on the waves.

28th March 2015, Saturday
Min 1.2 C, Max 15.7 C, Rain 2.6 mm, Wind W
A wet and mild morning with outbreaks of rain being blown along by a warm & moderate SSW breeze, some of these periods of rain being quite heavy at times. Somewhat drier in the afternoon with even a few sunny spells, though showers would continue to threaten though most seemed to miss us. Very mild as well in the afternoon, the temperature climbing close to 60 degrees (16 C). Variable amounts of cloud overnight though becoming more generally cloudy later.

The female Blackcap continues to visit the seed feeders in the garden, the bird in question enjoying the sunflower hearts along with the resident Bullfinches, Greenfinches & Goldfinches. Meanwhile in the morning a Green Woodpecker was again heard nearby, whilst in the afternoon the local foxes were in the garden, much to the delight of my youngest niece.

29th March 2015, Sunday
Min 6.2 C, Max 9.3 C, Rain 1.5 mm, Wind W
A cloudy start to the day with outbreaks of rain from mid-morning onwards, though by mid-afternoon it would become drier again with even some good spells of sunshine after 3 pm. However the wind would also become very gusty in mid-afternoon and would remain fresh through the evening and night. Clear spells overnight.

North Cliffe Wood
A wet wander around the lowland birch wood this morning, though despite the grey skies and periods of rain it was at least quite mild with the air certainly having a spring-like feel. Confirmation of the spring feel was a singing Chiffchaff, the first I've heard at North Cliffe this year, whilst flowers such as Primroses and emerging leaves on the smaller trees such as Hazel also showed just how much the countryside has come on during the past week. In the ditches the green spikes of irises are growing ever higher, and the leaves of bluebells now carpet favoured parts of the woodland with their dark green leaves which in less than a month's time should bring forth a beautiful display of wild flowers. As we walked through the wood a pair of Jays passed over our head, a breeding pair perhaps, and other pleasing observations included a couple of Treecreepers, a trio of Marsh tits, and a healthy number of singing skylarks over the fields.

30th March 2015, Monday
Min 2.2 C, Max 11.1 C, Rain 11.1 mm, Wind W
A bright and breezy morning with sunny spells, but as the afternoon wore on cloud would gradually increase with largely cloudy skies from 3 pm onwards. Rain arriving around dusk, this becoming heavy at times in the second half of the evening and overnight, though the main feature of the weather during the night was the very strong winds which buffeted the area, a maximum gust of 45 knots (52 mph) being recorded shortly prior to dawn.

Despite the cool breeze a number of bumble bees were spotted buzzing around the garden, no doubt attracted to the ever increasing variety of flowers, including the first flowering hyacinths of the year. Beneath the hedges the violets are now widely in flower, including a few of the white variety, whilst at least three chiffchaffs were in song in the local vicinity.

31st March 2015, Tuesday
Min 4.4 C, Max 10.3 C, Rain 1.7 mm, Wind W
A sunny but very windy morning with strong to near gale force winds throughout, though it would become even wilder after midday with squally showers of hail, pellets and even sleet latterly with winds gusting up to 50 knots (57 mph) at times. Definitely a day to be inside!!! The temperature would also drop sharply after the showers falling from 9 C at midday to just 4 C by 2 pm. The showers dying out thereafter with a breezy but sunny end to the day, and it would remain largely clear but windy throughout the evening and night.

The strong winds last night & this morning brought down a lot of twigs and the odd broken branch here and there in the local wood. Indeed the odd nest has been blown down out of the trees but hopefully the majority of early nesting birds haven't suffered too much from this unseasonably late gale.