1st June 2015, Monday
Min 4.0 C, Max 15.3 C, Rain 10.3 mm, Wind SW 5-6
After an initially sunny and clement start to the day, cloud would increase as the morning progressed with largely cloudy skies in the afternoon, these clouds bringing some outbreaks of rain in the middle of the afternoon. Drier for a time before more rain arrived in the evening, this rain accompanied by some strong and gusty SW winds. Indeed overnight it would become quite stormy for a time, especially for the time of year, with gusty winds and a rainfall rate peaking at 52.6 mm/h. However the rain would clear away by the end of the night with the wind also easing by dawn.
2nd June 2015, Tuesday
Min 7.3 C, Max 19.6 C, Rain 1.9 mm, Wind SW 4-5
A sunny and warm start to the day but by 10 am it had become grey & murky with a spell of moderate to heavy drizzle around midday, not particularly pleasant and especially poor considering it is now June! Becoming brighter after 1 pm with even some sunny spells developing, this helping to push temperatures up to just shy of 20 C, but in the evening showers would develop, some of which were quite heavy around dusk. Variable amounts of cloud overnight.
The strong winds and heavy rain the night before brought quite a few twigs and leaves down, the roads in places being covered with fresh green leaves which had been stripped from the trees during the night before. Some homes in the Beverley area were reported to be without power in the morning but thankfully we had no such problems.
3rd June 2015, Wednesday
Min 7.0 C, Max 17.5 C, Rain nil, Wind W 3-4
A dry and pleasantly warm early summer's day with plenty of sunny spells, though it was somewhat cloudier for a time around midday. Clear skies overnight with a heavy dew by dawn.
After two weeks of very slow progress, things have really moved on this week with plastering completed in my bedroom and plastering now getting underway in the kitchen. We are still waiting on the plumbers and electricians to finish off some jobs but essentially many of the rooms are now pretty much done and just need a bit of painting and what have you. Meanwhile I installed my DIY rain gauge in the garden, the simple 5 inch diameter gauge (the same as Met. office standard ones) being placed in a relatively open location near the house, and as I had a spare measuring glass back at my Beverley weather station I should be able to get fairly reliable measurements when I empty the gauge. I am really looking forward to comparing the climates of Beverley & Grosmont in the coming months.
In the garden I enjoyed an afternoon siesta (life is tough sometimes) though when I woke up I found two rats feeding on the ground beside the bench. I am not sure who was more surprised when I woke up!!! After waking up I did a little bit of work in the garden, uncovering a Red Twin-spot Carpet moth in the hedgerow, whilst a friendly cat joined me for a bit and proceeded to cover me with white hairs. However the best observation was a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER hunting around the river, a new bird for my Grosmont & Murk Eskdale list which has now increased to 75.
Finally I did another informal wildflower survey in the National Park car park, which though it is hard to tell now, was actually the heart of the old ironworks in the village. As I wander through the birch woodlands around this car park I often stop to wonder at how different things were here less than a 150 years ago when three blast furnaces churned out smoke and pollution to produce iron for the industrial heartlands of NE England (for more info about this click here). However nature has largely reclaimed the site with orchids & wildflowers thriving in the thin soil, and though none of the former have yet appeared, a decent variety of wildflowers were recorded today, including the likes of Common Vetch, Bush Vetch, Birds-foot trefoil, Meadow Vetchling, Black Medick, Herb Robert, Speedwell species, Buttercups, Bluebells (now very much on their last legs), Stitchwort, Forget-me-nots and Cow Parsley.
Back in East Yorkshire the first young Goldfinches have started to visit the bird feeders with their parents, though interestingly the youngsters prefer the Nyjer seeds whilst the adults prefer sunflower hearts. The garden Bullfinches are also becoming more conspicuous again with three adult males often spotted around the feeders and the nearby Yew trees in the last few days, and hopefully some youngsters will also join them soon.
4th June 2015, Thursday
Min 5.5 C, Max 21.4 C, Rain trace, Wind SE 3
A warm and sunny day with temperatures climbing above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C) for the first time this year, though the day had actually begun on a somewhat chilly note, at least for the time of year. Variable amounts of cloud overnight.
For the first time in more than three weeks I had the moth trap out last night on what was a dry but quite chilly early summer night. As a result just five moths were in the trap when I emptied it in the morning, though all bar one were new additions to the year list. The best of the small collection was a stunning LIME HAWK-MOTH, a large and striking species which was actually a new addition to the garden list, whilst the others were more standard fare with a Brimstone, a Garden Carpet, a Mottled Pug and a Light Brown Apple Moth.
5th June 2015, Friday
Min 7.7 C, Max 24.5 C, Rain trace, Wind SW 3
A cloudy and muggy start to the day with rain threatening, though apart from the odd drop it would remain largely dry with the bulk of the thundery rain drifting to our east. Sunny spells developing by the end of the morning and with warm air coming up from the south it would become very warm in the afternoon with temperatures reaching a high of 24.5 C (76.1 F), easily the warmest day so far this year. Cloudier for a time in the evening, this cloud introducing fresher air from the west, though overnight skies would clear again.
6th June 2015, Saturday
Min 7.0 C, Max 18.1 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 5-6
A sunny and fresh feeling start to the day, much more pleasant than the muggy weather yesterday, though as the morning progressed the wind would become increasingly strong with some near gale force gusts by the middle of the afternoon. However despite the wind it was a pleasant enough day with plenty of sunshine and temperatures a comfortable 64 degrees Fahrenheit. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight though becoming clear later.
Another Saturday meant another day of work for us up at the cottage with yet more painting to be getting on with. Part of me does feel that spring has passed us by this year as the cottage has taken up most of our spare time, though it can't be helped and in the longer term all the work will certainly be worth it.... hopefully. The exterior of the house also received a fresh coat of paint last week and this has helped to really lift and brighten the 'front' aspect of the cottage. Indeed since this is the side which faces the railway and the visiting public we no longer have to feel ashamed of how our property looks, especially after months of either being covered in scaffolding or the accumulated dust & grime associated with heavy building works.
7th June 2015, Sunday
Min 6.5 C, Max 18.6 C, Rain nil, Wind W 4-5
A sunny and clement day for the most part with temperatures pleasant enough, though a moderate to fresh westerly breeze did make it feel somewhat cooler, especially in exposed areas. Skies becoming clear overnight with temperatures dipping close to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is wonderful to see all the young birds in the garden at the moment, with juvenile Goldfinches, Robins, Blue tits, Great tits, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes & Wood Pigeons all being spotted within the confines of Wold Garth during the past week.
8th June 2015, Monday
Min 5.9 C, Max 15.8 C, Rain 0.8 mm, Wind NE 3-4
A sunny and chilly start to the day but by mid-morning cloud would begin to increase with showers threatening from the NE. Indeed shortly after midday a moderate to heavy shower would drift over, giving some welcome rain, but it would also introduce cooler and breezier conditions for the remainder of the day with just the odd sunnier spell towards the end of the afternoon and in the evening. Skies clearing overnight and becoming cold for the time of year with a minimum of 3.6 C (38.5 F), the lowest temperature I have recorded in June since my records began in 2003.
Despite chilly conditions (5.9 C) it was a decent enough mothing session last night, certainly the best of 2015 so far anyway, with 29 moths of 14 species including ten new species for the year list. The ten new additions included a very dark form Common Marbled Carpet, a Scalloped Hazel, a Bright-line Brown-eye, two Turnip Moths, nine Heart & Darts, a single Setaceous Hebrew Character, two Shuttle-shaped Darts, and one each of Cabbage Moth, Rustic Shoulder-knot, and a Buff Ermine, whilst the remaining moths included two Brimstones, five Mottled Pugs, a single Flame Carpet, and a Light Brown Apple Moth.
North Cave Wetlands
I spent an enjoyable few hours down at the wetlands this morning by myself on what was a largely cloudy, breezy and coolish Monday morning. Nevertheless despite the unpromising conditions I recorded at least 56 species of bird, pretty good going for just three hours at North Cave, whilst my odonata year finally got under way with two species of Damselfly being recorded. It was also pleasing to see the large variety and number of young birds around the reserve, including the likes of warblers, tits, finches, wildfowl and waders, the fluffy chicks of the Shelduck being perhaps the cutest of the lot.
Bird-wise it was pretty quiet despite the good count, the lack of passage waders now pretty much confirming that the excitement of spring migration is now over for yet another year, but nevertheless this does allow one to simply enjoy the summer residents of the reserve, including the graceful Avocets (which today numbered over 34), the breeding wildfowl and of course the diminutive Little Ringed Plovers whom have taken a real liking to Dryham Ings with 13 of them recorded this morning (plus a single Ringed Plover). Also at Dryham Ings the juvenile Pied Wagtails are now a common sight whilst the larger species of gull also choose this area to roost and rest.
The lack of birding excitement is also compensated by the increasing diversity of both wildflowers and insect life around the reserve, the flowers of red & white campion, birds-foot trefoil, ox-eye daisies, red & white clovers, vetches (including Tufted, Bush & Common) and of course others beyond my limited ID skills helping to brighten the reserve and more importantly provide food for insects, though I was disappointed that the Bee Orchids haven't made an appearance yet.
Though conditions were not favourable for butterflies (yet again!!) a couple of species were spotted including half a dozen Common Blues and a single Brimstone, the Common Blues being quite docile thanks to the lowish temperatures. Two species of damselfly were also noted, the most numerous being the Common Blues with over a dozen of these being recorded, whilst a couple of Blue-tailed damselflies were found amongst the grass. Again the low temperatures meant they were keeping a low profile and not flying about much but I was simply glad to finally record my first odonata of the year. Whilst crawling along the edge of the meadow I also came across a few Burnet caterpillars whilst the white-froth of Cuckoo-spit is now everywhere.
9th June 2015, Tuesday
Min 3.6 C, Max 15.2 C, Rain nil, Wind NE 3
A sunny but cold start to the day and though it would soon warm up in the sunshine it would nevertheless remain cool for the time of the year with the north-east breeze adding an extra chill to the early summer air. However despite the below average temperatures it was otherwise a pleasant day with plenty of sunshine throughout. Remaining largely clear overnight with temperatures again falling well into single figures.
Last nights low of 3.6 C (38.5 F) was a new June record for my East Yorkshire weather station, beating the previous low of 4.0 C set back in 2006, whilst it was also the coldest summer night on my records dating back to 2003 (summer being classified as June, July & August). As of writing the month is currently running 1.6 C below the long term average and is on course to become the coldest June ever recorded here, though obviously it is still early days and a late June heatwave might change all that.
10th June 2015, Wednesday
Min 3.6 C, Max 16.4 C, Rain nil, Wind E 3
Another cold start to the day but again it soon warmed up with plenty of sunshine throughout, indeed by the afternoon skies had become largely clear and in the strong mid-June sunshine (UV Index up to 7) it was very pleasant, the cool breeze of recent days being much lighter. Remaining largely clear throughout the night.
11th June 2015, Thursday
Min 4.2 C, Max 18.0 C, Rain nil, Wind E 3-4
A perfect early summer day with barely a cloud in the sky throughout, though the easterly breeze coming in off the North Sea did peg temperatures back a little bit. Remaining clear through the evening and overnight with a heavy dew by dawn.
Clear skies and lowish temperatures meant that it was hardly a vintage night as regards moths, but nevertheless it was great to see my second Hawk-moth species of the year in the shape and form of a Poplar Hawk-moth. In the three summers of moth trapping here at Wold Garth the Poplar has been the second most common species of Hawk-moth, with my personal favourite the Elephant Hawk-moth being the most common, though interestingly no Elephants have been trapped so far this year. I have also been hoping for my first Small Elephant Hawk-moth this year, especially after recent reports from a nearby local nature reserve where they caught their first one for 24 years the other night, but as of yet not a sausage. Nevertheless I remain foolishly hopeful.
In total 16 moths of 11 species were attracted to the Skinner trap, which I decided to place beside a large herbaceous border which included plants such as Lupins, Alliums, Broom, Wild Geraniums, Chives, Poppies & Aquilegia. Of these eleven species just the Poplar Hawk was a new addition to the year list, with other species including Buff Ermine (x1), Angle Shades (x1), Heart & Dart (x3), Turnip Moth (x1), Rustic Shoulder-knot (x2), Bright-line Brown-eye (x1), Brimstone (x2), Flame Carpet (x2), Scalloped Hazel (x1) and Mottled Pug (x1).
12th June 2015, Friday
Min 5.9 C, Max 16.4 C, Rain 10.0 mm, Wind N 3
A disappointing day, at least as regards the forecast, with cloudy skies throughout and temperatures only reaching relatively modest highs. The cause of the grey skies was stubborn cloud from the nearby North Sea with a haar (or sea fret as they say around here) coming in off the sea, though on the other side of the Wolds I believe it was a sunny and warm day again with highs above 20 C. Becoming even duller in the evening with persistent rain arriving around midnight, this rain becoming heavy at times and continuing for the remainder of the night.
Though I seem to spend most of my life at the moment either stuck in front of a computer screen or painting walls, I nevertheless spent a short time trying out a bit of digi-scoping in the garden this afternoon. Rather depressingly it now looks like I will be unable to get down to Norfolk this summer whilst up here family commitments keep me stuck near to home almost constantly, so for the time being it looks like garden birds will be all I have to look at. Still it has been pleasing to see that the garden finches have quickly adapted to the brand new bird feeders after an initially cautious start, especially the Bullfinches.
13th June 2015, Saturday
Min 9.8 C, Max 15.9 C, Rain 7.5 mm, Wind N 2
A very wet morning with persistent rain &/or drizzle but by midday it would begin to ease with it slowly becoming drier in the afternoon, though despite this it would remain cloudy throughout the day with no signs of any sunshine at all. Remaining cloudy throughout the night with further persistent rain arriving after midnight.
Stuck at home yet again with most of the family visiting us here at Wold Garth, though myself and my eldest niece did look around the garden for bees & wildflowers. In the end we only spotted two species with Tree Bees and Early Bumblebees enjoying the garden flowers despite the grey skies overhead, whilst the odd Hawthorn Shieldbug (a favourite of mine) was also noted creeping about in the undergrowth.
14th June 2015, Sunday
Min 9.8 C, Max 12.6 C, Rain 0.8 mm, Wind NE 2-3
A thoroughly dreek morning with persistent rain & drizzle, the sort of rain which makes everything soaking wet. Up on the moors areas above 250 metres were in the cloud with visibility below 100 metres on Sleights Moor, though in the Esk Valley it was merely a wet and grey day with rain throughout most of the morning. Slowly becoming drier in the afternoon though it would remain cloudy throughout the day yet again. However overnight the cloud would break up and clear, this allowing temperatures to dip to nearly 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Guess what we did today up at the cottage? Yes that's right, more painting! However before arriving in the village we did a bit of birdwatching up on Sleights Moor, and despite the dreadful visibility we spotted a few birds through the grey gloom, including a couple of Snipe, one of which was displaying, a single Curlew, half a dozen Lapwings and plenty of Meadow Pipits. At the cottage the river was at relatively average levels and indeed upon checking the rain gauge just 7.8 mm (0.31 inches) was noted whereas the total for Beverley over the same period has been 19.1 mm (0.75 inches). However on the banks of the river a dead Trout was found (it would make a fantastic meal for any passing otter) whilst in the garden a newly fledged family of Great tits was visiting the bird table.
After finishing all our painting we headed out for a short stroll up to the Grosmont MPD (Motive Power Depot), though on our way we enjoyed the gorgeous bank of wildflowers beside St. Mathew's church which despite the drizzly & grey skies was a joy to behold, the Oxeye daisies being particularly beautiful. At the sheds not much was going on though it was good to see the Q6 No.63395 back in the running shed, the old NER freight loco dwarfed by its more glamorous stable mate No.60007 'Sir Nigel Gresley', whilst in the surrounding woodlands Jays & Nuthatches could be heard going about their sylvan existences. Pied & Grey Wagtails were also spotted around the loco sheds with the monotonous 'song' of a Chiffchaff also cascading down from the woodlands on the slopes of Lease Rigg, and as we looked skywards a Buzzard came drifting over us. Finally before leaving we enjoyed the departure of BR Standard 4 No.75029 'The Green Knight' from the station, this Swindon built loco being one of the true workhorses of the NYMR heritage railway in recent times.
15th June 2015, Monday
Min 5.0 C, Max 17.1 C, Rain nil, Wind SE 2
A pleasantly clement day with plenty of sunny spells throughout, though in the evening it would become somewhat cloudier. Indeed overnight it would become overcast, though bar the odd drop of rain it would remain dry right through to dawn. Warmer than recently.
North Cave Wetlands
With some welcome free time set aside this week for nature watching we found ourselves with the pleasing prospect of heading down to North Cave Wetlands this afternoon on what was a largely sunny and warm afternoon with mercifully light winds. As we headed down the wildflower lined Dryham Lane a beautiful Brimstone butterfly fluttered past us, and as we continued onwards a number of Common Blue butterflies were also seen. Amongst the lush early summer grasses a couple of species of damselfly were espied with numerous Common Blues and a few Blue-tailed Damselflies flying delicately from place to place. As we watched them I suddenly spotted a much larger species of dragonfly fly past and after tracking it down I was able to ID it as a female BLACK-TAILED SKIMMER, a relatively uncommon species here in Yorkshire but one which has thrived at this nature reserve in recent times. Indeed North Cave is often regarded as one of the best sites for this species north of the Humber.
Around Carp Lake we found yet more damselflies, again Common Blues dominating, though here the main highlight was two flowering spikes of BEE ORCHIDS amongst all the other wildflowers, hopefully the first of many more to come through the remainder of June. As we looked for other Orchids we were suddenly distracted by the striking colours of a Cinnabar moth flying amongst the flowers and grasses, whilst amongst the numerous Common Blue butterflies a couple of other species of lepidoptera were noted with a Small White butterfly and a Silver-Y moth. It was also nice to see hear all the grasshoppers in the meadow, one of those sounds which confirms that summer is here.
Bird wise we managed to reach a half-century again with exactly 50 species being noted round the reserve, though we failed to connect with the recently reported Garganey despite our best efforts. However compensation was provided by a handsome MARSH HARRIER which cruised over the reserve as we enjoyed a break beside Reedbed Lake, and whilst sitting here a Curlew also passed low over our heads. On Main Lake the MEDITERRANEAN GULL family are still doing well, with one of the adult birds enjoying a vigorous bath in the lake when we arrived in the hide, whilst young birds of many species were again noted all around the reserve, including a lovely little family of Blackcaps along the western path and a couple of Oytercatherlings on Dryham Ings.
16th June 2015, Tuesday
Min 9.3 C, Max 22.4 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 1-2
A cloudy start to the day but by mid-morning it would begin to brighten up with good spells of sunshine by midday. In the afternoon sunshine it would become quite warm indeed, at least by recent standards, with temperatures reaching a high of 22 C (72 F). Becoming somewhat cloudier in the evening and remaining largely cloudy overnight, this helping to keep temperatures well in double figures throughout the night.
Through spring and summer we try to visit the RSPB nature reserve at Bempton Cliffs at least once a month and with a free morning available today we decided to make the 40 minute drive up the coast early this morning on what was to turn out to be a sunny and very warm June morning up here on the Yorkshire coast. When we arrived shortly after 7 am a small number of visitors were already on site, including the usual suspects with their massive lenses & expensive cameras (as well as a couple of dog-walkers whom evidently didn't realise &/or care that dogs are to be kept on a lead within the confines of the reserve) but despite that we pretty much had the cliffs to ourselves during the first hour or so with just the thousands upon thousands of seabirds & the North Sea below to bother us.
On the towering chalk cliffs the seabirds were busy raising the new generation, with the young of Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills, Gannets & Herring Gulls widely in evidence, many of which were looking a little hot in the June sun. Fulmars & Puffins were also seen frequently though we didn't manage to spot any Pufflings on the cliffs and as ever I enjoyed watching the beautiful Fulmars cruising effortlessly & gracefully along the cliffs. In total we managed to record some 27 species of bird around the reserve, with other notable birds including a couple of Corn Buntings, young Tree Sparrows, plenty of Skylarks & Mipits and a few handsome Stock doves. However I was somewhat miffed to learn that we missed eleven Bee-eaters which cruised past the cliffs less than half-an-hour after we left for home, but such are the fortunes of birding.
The light southerly winds and warm temperatures meant it was a good day for butterflies, at least by the standards of 2015, with three new species being added to my year list. These included a few striking Red Admirals, a single Large Skipper and best of all 3 or 4 beautiful Painted Lady butterflies. Being on the coast Bempton is usually one of the best places to see this migratory species in the local area and hopefully the good numbers seen today are indicative that this will be a good year for them. Indeed it seems ages ago since we last enjoyed a major influx of this striking species, with the summer of 2006 being particularly memorable for the large number of them we enjoyed throughout the county but especially up on the Yorkshire Wolds.
Meanwhile other butterfly species seen this morning included Large White, Small White, Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell, whilst a number of moths were also noted including Silver-ground Carpet, a large number of Rivulets and many other typical grassland species. Looking out to sea a large Grey Seal was seen beneath the cliffs, a common sight throughout the year from up here, though there was no sign of the recently reported pod of 15 Bottlenose Dolphins which were seen heading south past the cliffs about a week ago. All in all a fantastic morning on the Yorkshire coast with hopefully more such mornings to come this year.
17th June 2015, Wednesday
Min 11.9 C, Max 20.2 C, Rain trace, Wind W 3-4
A cloudy and cool morning with a brisk westerly breeze, the cloud becoming thick enough for some rain for a time, but this didn't really come to much with the weather quickly improving in the afternoon with spells of sunshine developing. Becoming pleasantly warm in the sun with temperatures climbing to just shy of 70 degrees. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight.
Warm, calm and cloudy conditions meant that it was near perfect mothing weather last night, and indeed upon inspecting the trap shortly after dawn this morning a good haul was revealed with a decent variety and number of moths in & around the trap. In total 72 moths of 35 species were recorded with twenty-two new species for the year list, and though none were new to the garden list it was nevertheless great to see a few old favourites. Amongst these was a beautiful Scorched Wing, a moth I have only trapped on two previous occasions, two lovely fresh looking Green Silver-lines, a well marked Peppered Moth, and my favourite of them all, a striking Elephant Hawk-moth.
Other new additions included Bee Moth (x3), Small Magpie (x1), Least Black Arches (x1), Flame (x1), Flame Shoulder (x2), Green Pug (x2), Common Pug (x1), Marbled Minor agg. (x1), Mottled Rustic (x1), Pale Mottled Willow (x1), Riband Wave (x1), Straw Dot (x2), Clouded-bordered Brindle (x1), Grey/Dark Dagger (x1), Ingrailed Clay (x1), Plum Tortrix (x1), Dark fruit-tree Tortrix (x1), Light Brown Apple Moth (x1) and lastly Garden Pebble (x1), whilst the other species recorded included Buff Ermine (x2), Brimstone (x3), Heart & Dart (x15), Mottled Pug (x4), Bright-line Brown-eye (x2), Scalloped Hazel (x4), Garden Carpet (x3), Spectacle (x1), Angle Shades (x1), Silver-ground Carpet (x1), and Common Marbled Carpet (x5).
We went up to the cottage today to meet up with the builders and to do a bit of work in the garden, and though we were somewhat hampered by some rain around midday we managed to get most of the tasks completed and I even had time to do a bit of birding around the village in the afternoon, by which time the weather had vastly improved. However before that I spent about half-an-hour at the bottom of the garden simply recording all the birds I could see & hear from the riverbank, and in the end some 26 species would be recorded, the highlights including three Dippers (including a juvenile one), a pair of Grey Wagtails, a Jay, a Bullfinch pair, a single Marsh tit, a Garden warbler and a Grey Heron a little further down the Murk Esk. Beside the river the dead Trout from last weekend was still there whilst as I watched for birds I also noted at least two species of moth pass-by including a Brimstone and, somewhat surprisingly considering the heavy shade in the area, a Chimney Sweeper.
Amongst all the campion, cow parsley, barren strawberries, vetches and the recently appeared Fox-and-Cubs (Orange Hawkweed) a small variety of bees were busy in the garden, and though I admit that my bee ID skills leave a lot to be desired I was able to record five species at least with Early bumblebee, Buff-tailed bumblebee, Carder Bee, Tree Bee & Honey Bee.
In the afternoon I then decided to enjoy a short stroll down to the river Esk itself, passing through what was the old iron works on the way, and it was here that I found my first Common Spotted Orchids of the year, as well as large clumps of Kidney Vetch amongst the more widespread Birds-foot trefoils & Vetchlings. In the birch woodlands which have otherwise reclaimed this site of former industry, a Song Thrush, two Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap sang, a wonderful sound, whilst by the time I reached the Esk itself the midday rain had stopped and I could enjoy simply watching the river from the narrow footbridge which spans the river.
The river itself is relatively slow and gentle at the moment, the ford over to Alders Farm & Lease Rigg being less than 1/2 foot, and as I got myself comfortable on the bridge I was hoping that this would make it good conditions for Kingfishers, a riverine species still missing from my Grosmont patch list. However in the end I failed to spot any, but I did enjoy watching a family of young Pied Wagtails, as well as a family of Wrens and a very tame Grey Wagtail. Large fish, presumably trout or salmon, were also seen to leap forth from the river from time to time, and as I peered down I could just about see other impressively sized fish swimming through the dark, peaty waters. On the riverbanks large amounts of flowering mallows added extra beauty to the almost idyllic scene and as I sat and contemplated life I was made all the more keenly aware of my desire to make our move to Grosmont a permanent one.
18th June 2015, Thursday
Min 7.5 C, Max 17.7 C, Rain trace, Wind W 4
A bright morning with plenty of sunny spells, though quite breeze with a moderate westerly breeze. Becoming cloudy & indeed quite grey in the afternoon, the cloud thick enough for some spots of rain, but this came to nothing with the rest of the day seeing dry but largely cloudy skies.
19th June 2015, Friday
On a warm but drizzly evening we headed down to Strumpshaw Fen, an RSPB nature reserve which was located within a 10 minute drive of our overnight accommodation. This was our first ever visit to the reserve, and for me my first ever visit to the Norfolk Broads, and though the weather was not great it was nevertheless enjoyable to explore new ground. Obviously no butterflies or dragonflies were noted given the weather, but as we walked through the marshes we noted a rich variety of wildflowers, including abundant Ragged Robin, Southern Marsh Orchids, Common Spotted Orchids (+hybrids), Cuckooflower and Yellow Rattle to name but a few.
Moving onwards the loud calls of CETTI'S WARBLER accomapnied us for much of our stroll, with at least four individuals being heard around the reserve, whilst as I crossed the marsh by myself (everyone else having cleared off because they couldn't stand the mosquitoes), a beautiful pale Barn Owl cruised within 50 yards of where I watched. Over the vast reedbeds MARSH HARRIERS quartered almost constantly, with up to four birds being seen at one point, the recovery of this species being one of the great success stories of modern times. Three Little Egrets were seen feeding beside one of the lagoons and as I watched a young humbug headed Great Crested Grebe I heard the distinctive pig-like squeal of a WATER RAIL, my first of the year. Finally just as we were preparing to head for home around 9 pm a Chinese Water Deer casually strolled in front of the hide, a great way to end our introduction to this large nature reserve on the banks of the river Yare.
20th June 2015, Saturday
With the day dawning bright and sunny we headed down to Strumpshaw again this morning, though by the time we arrived at the reserve it had become somewhat cloudier. Stopping at the hide near the small visitor centre I looked across the lagoon where a single COMMON TERN was spotted, amazingly my first of the year, and as we made our way to the marsh I spotted a SMALL RED-EYED DAMSELFLY, a new species for my dragonfly list. Further along a Southern Hawker was hunting along the ditch, whilst about a dozen FOUR-SPOTTED CHASERS regularly patrolled their small patches and quickly dispatched any neighbouring interlopers.
In the wildflower rich meadow mentioned yesterday a number of Meadow Browns enjoyed the weak but warm summer sunshine, whilst both Common Blue & Blue-tailed damselflies were frequently seen. Despite the lateness of the morning a Barn Owl was again hunting over the meadow, not always a good sign as sometimes hunting so late in the day can be a sign of food shortages, and indeed back home in East Yorkshire I have seen a lot of day hunting Barn Owls this year in the meadows & fields beside the river Hull. It was also whilst watching the Owl that I heard a distant CUCKOO calling from the other side of the river, this being only the second Cuckoo I have heard this year!
However the best observations were still to come with two new species for my dragonfly list in the shape and form of a VARIABLE DAMSELFLY and best of all a SCARCE CHASER, one of this reserves specialities. Though I failed to get any pics I was nevertheless overjoyed to see these two uncommon species and it would make up for the lack of Swallowtail butterflies, whom despite the promising conditions failed to appear. However despite the lack of Swallowtails a number of other species were noted including the aforementioned Meadow Browns, Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells and at least one PAINTED LADY. Up to six BLACK-TAILED SKIMMERS also showed well along the central path and all in all it was a good morning in this beautiful corner of rural Norfolk.
Originally we had intended to head up to Hickling Broad after Strumpshaw but with time running short I decided to prioritise the north Norfolk coast, a part of the world which is very dear to my heart. However I did subsequently learn that this decision cost me the chance of having some superb views of Swallowtail butterflies at Hickling, not to mention some passing Common Cranes, but such are the fortunes of nature watching.
Our visit to Cley was a short one, the reserve being a bit busy for my liking (darn Springwatch), but from the visitor centre we could look across the whole reserve where highlights included a pair of GREENSHANKS, Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets and two Little Egrets. A CETTI'S WARBLER near the visitor centre had many a birder looking for this always elusive & skulking species, but from our vantage point we managed to spot it as it headed from bush to bush. A single Marsh Harrier was also spotted but despite my best efforts (limited as they are) I failed to spot any Hobby's, a summer visiting bird of prey still missing from my year list.
From Cley we moved along the coast towards the RSPB nature reserve of Titchwell, which for me is one of my favourite places in the whole world. At the right time of year it is possible to record a hundred species of bird here in one single day, though my best effort is about 80 a few years ago, whilst the reserve also hosts a good variety of dragonflies, butterflies and moths (public moth trapping sessions take place once a week throughout the summer) which always ensures that any visit is full of interest & variety.
When we arrived the skies were grey but dry, but this didn't last long with a period of heavy rain sweeping through the reserve less than quarter of an hour after our arrival. Rather stupidly I had left my coat in the car so I was forced to shelter under a tree for what must have been at least half an hour, but eventually conditions improved and I was able to start exploring the reserve properly. Starting off in the reedbeds I came across Southern Marsh Orchids & Ragged Robin flowering, whilst dragonfly species included Southern Hawker, Blue-tailed Damselfly & Common Blue damselfly. A CETTI'S WARBLER sang (these birds are almost boringly common down here nowadays), whilst all the common species of summer visiting warbler were also noted.
In the newer part of the reserve RED-CRESTED POCHARDS were observed amongst the otherwise more typical wildfowl species, whilst as I moved on I became aware of the pinging calls of BEARDED TITS amongst the reeds, about a dozen of these pretty but often difficult to see 'reedlings' being spotted feeding along the bottom of the reeds at the freshwater lagoon. Through my scope I was able to watch them for some time and it became clear that for most part most of them were females &/or juveniles with only the odd male spotted amongst them. One day I hope to get a really good picture of one of these beauties but as I didn't have a camera with me today (except my phone camera for digi-scoping) it wasn't going to be today I'm afraid.
The freshwater lake was as busy as ever with large numbers of birds taking refuge at the reserve, including an abundance of Avocets, Shelducks & Black-tailed Godwits, the latter being particularly numerous this afternoon. At least two handsome Dunlin in breeding plumage were also picked out through me scope, as were several Little Ringed Plovers, Common Terns and at least one LITTLE GULL. A lone Brent Goose was an unusual sighting at this time of year and as I sat and quietly observed I became aware of a calling CUCKOO to the east of the reserve, my second of the day.
Moving towards the North Sea and past the brackish marshes a number of additional species would be added to the day list, including SANDWICH & LITTLE TERNS heading along the shore. Turnstones, Oystercatchers & a few Curlew were also noted beside the North Sea and by the time I had completed my five hour visit to this little bit of paradise on the north Norfolk coast I had recorded some 70 species of bird, not bad for mid-June. Other notes included a single Red Admiral butterfly, a large number of froglets and a single Chinese Water Deer on the former wildfowling marshes. On the way home we also nearly ran over a QUAIL on the road near Docking, a fantastic little bonus to what had been a very enjoyable weekend away.
21st June 2015, Sunday
Min 10.9 C, Max 17.5 C, Rain trace, Wind W 4-5
A bright but breezy start to the day, indeed feeling quite cool in the breeze, though by the end of the morning cloud would increase with some blustery showers passing through for a time. Becoming brighter again in the afternoon with a mixture of sunny spells and variable amounts of cloud, and with the breeze also easing it would feel pleasant enough with temperatures in the mid to high teens. Clear spells overnight.
22nd June 2015, Monday
Min 7.0 C, Max 15.6 C, Rain 1.2 mm, Wind NW 5
A bright start but soon becoming cloudier with frequent blustery showers by the end of the morning. In the afternoon these showers would turn into a longer period of rain for a time, and though this would clear by the end of the afternoon it would nevertheless remain largely cloudy for the rest of the day. Feeling cool, especially in the fresh & at times strong NW breeze. Mostly cloudy overnight.
North Cave Wetlands
I enjoyed a few hours down at the local wetlands again this morning, arriving shortly before 10 am and spending some three hours walking around this always interesting reserve which is located just a few miles north of the river Humber near the pretty village of North Cave. Walking down Dryham Lane Sand Martins & Swifts flew low over my head whilst the loud piping calls of Oystercatchers filled the air. Stopping to look over Dryham Ings a Little Egret and three Grey Herons were noted down in my logbook, whilst as I did this I noted a number of Common Terns flying low over the lagoons, the first I have seen north of the Humber this year.
A passing shower meant that I sought shelter in the Main Hide and as I looked out over Main Lake a good variety of wildfowl, at least for the time of year were noted, including Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Shelduck, Mallard & Greylag Geese. As I watched these the characteristic laughing calls of Little Grebes were heard, whilst Great Crested Grebes were spotted busily raising the new generation, and as I looked through the hundreds of Black-headed Gulls, the MEDITERRANEAN GULL family were noted, both chicks continuing to do well. However the second pair of Med Gulls at the reserve have not been so fortunate and their nest has been reported as failed.
Stopping to look out over the lower part of Dryham Ings a Red-legged Partridge was calling from deep within thick cover, whilst on the Ing itself (an Ing being a Yorkshire/Norse word for a wet meadow or marsh) a trio of Ringed Plovers, and at least four Little Ringed Plovers were noted. A pair of Common Terns were also seen together, raising the hopes that the Black-headed Gulls haven't totally driven this species out of the reserve, whilst on the islands young Pied Wagtails were spotted busily feeding amongst the larger species of gull which roost here during the day. Avocets were also spotted here, though these were most numerous on Reedbed lake where 25 of them were recorded, and in total some 50 species of bird would be recorded this morning, exactly the same number as last week.
In the flower rich SW corner of the reserve I managed to record at least 15 BEE ORCHID spikes, a notable increase from the two I found last week, whilst both Marsh & Common Spotted Orchids (+many hybrids of the two) were also noted. Indeed a good variety of wildflowers would be noted throughout this area with types including an abundance of Oxeye daisies around the Crossland Hide, Kidney Vetch, Meadow Vetchling, Birds-foot Trefoil, Black Medick, Tufted Vetch, Common Vetch, Woundwort, Red & White Campion & Clovers, Yellow Rattle, Ragged Robin, and many, many others.
These flowers attracted a few butterflies including Common Blues, Large White, Meadow Brown and amazingly my first Speckled Wood of the year. A Cinnabar moth was also spotted flying around the meadow whilst other moths were found in one of the hides, including a Small Magpie, a Bright-line Brown-eye and what appeared to be a dead Dusky Brocade which had fallen victim to a spider. Odonata meanwhile were represented by four different species, including numerous Common Blue damselflies, a dozen or so Blue-tailed damselflies, a single BLACK-TAILED SKIMMER, and at least two AZURE DAMSELFLIES, these being my first confirmed Azures of the year.
23rd June 2015, Tuesday
Min 9.1 C, Max 15.2 C, Rain nil, Wind NW 3
A largely grey and cloudy day though in the evening it would brighten up with even some spells of sunshine to end the day. Clear spells overnight.
A good day up at the cottage, especially since real progress is now being made, and though we have been delayed by a plumber whom has seemingly up sticks and moved to the sunny delights of Middlesbrough (ahem), we should now be finished within a fortnight, especially if our builder can quickly find another plumber to finish fitting the kitchen & bathroom. The builders have also finally cleared out our yard as well, which since November has been a scene of chaos & squalor, and all in all things are looking positive and encouraging, this being especially good news what with the summer holidays being just around the corner.
After unblocking one of the yard drains, a task which saw me elbow deep in black and not particularly fragrant water, I was able to give the yard a good scrub and clean, and as I did this I noticed two young Great Spotted Woodpeckers on the garden fence, the two, presumably siblings, not being keen to share the bird feeder they were both after. Great Spotted Woodpeckers are one of those rare birds which look at their best as youngsters, with their red caps being particularly striking, and it was great to see them at such close quarters. I also added another new bird to my Grosmont list today in the shape and form of Goldcrest, with a particularly confiding family feeding in the conifers as we enjoyed our lunch in the garden.
Apart from working in the garden and the yard, I also had time for a stroll around the village around midday, this time heading over the Murk Esk and exploring the area around the church of St. Mathew's. Since Grosmont is actually a very young village, most of it dating back to the mid-19th century when the railway & ironworks were built, the church is also quite modern, the present structure dating back to just 1875. The population of the village at that time was some 1,800 so the church was built to house a sizeable congregation, but within a few years the ironworks had closed and the population quickly dwindled with people moving away to seek employment in Tees-side. Indeed the population of Grosmont today is little more than 300.
A walk through the church-yard, many of the occupants of which suffered some pretty horrific deaths in the ironworks of the 19th century, revealed a good variety of wildflowers, the main church yard being not over manicured nor left to go completely wild. I was able to identify at least 32 species of wild & not so wild flowers, though undoubtedly someone more knowledgeable than I could have found far more, with species including Birds-foot trefoil, Oxeye daisy, Red & White Clover, Daisy, Red Valerian, Hawkweed, Selfheal, Plantain, Bush Vetch, Speedwell, Meadow Vetchling, Red-hot Poker, Wild & Barren Starwberry (the Wild ones already fruiting), Cow Parsley, Buttercup, Wood Aven, Hogweed, Dogs Mercury, Forget-me-nots (the small ones), Thistle, Bedstraw, Cranesbill, Nipplewort, Willowherb, Herb Robert, Alkanet, Ramsons, Dock & Bugle. A Beauty type moth was also seen, most probably a Mottled Beauty.
24th June 2015, Wednesday
Min 7.0 C, Max 22.5 C, Rain nil, Wind W 2-3
After a largely cloudy morning it would become much brighter in the afternoon with spells of warm and hazy sunshine, indeed it would feel really quite muggy in the afternoon with dew points in the mid-teens. Cloud increasing again in the evening and feeling quite stormy for a time, but it came to nothing with variable amounts of cloud for the remainder of the night.
25th June 2015, Thursday
Min 10.9 C, Max 23.6 C, Rain trace, Wind SW 1-2
A warm and sunny day for the most part, and though the sun was quite hazy for much of the afternoon, this didn't stop temperatures from climbing up to 23.6 C (75 F). Also feeling quite muggy again with dew points hovering around 14-16 C. Becoming cloudy overnight with temperatures falling no lower than 13.1 C (55 F), with the cloud becoming thick enough for some light & intermittent rain around dawn.
Warm conditions last night meant it was good conditions for moths, though due to the threat of rain the previous evening and the fact that I don't have a rain guard for my moth trap, I was forced to operate the trap from within the 'summer house', which was not ideal (especially since it didn't rain in the end!). As a result just 40 moths of 17 species would be found in and around the trap when I inspected it this morning, though four new species for the year list were good to see, these being represented by a single Clouded Silver, a Double Square-spot, a Freyer's Pug and best of all a small but beautiful Marbled Beauty. Though the Marbled Beauty is a common moth in our garden it is undoubtedly one of my favourites and is always pleasing to see amongst the egg boxes come inspection time.
Other macro moths meanwhile included eight Brimstones, six Scalloped Hazels, four Common Marbled Carpets, three Riband Waves, two Buff Ermines, two Silver-ground Carpets, ONLY two Heart & Darts, and one each of Common Pug, Green Pug, Mottled Pug, and Ingrailed Clay, whereas micros (which in common with many other amateur moth-ers I don't always bother to record) included four Bee Moths, and a Light Brown Apple Moth.
26th June 2015, Friday
Min 13.1 C, Max 21.6 C, Rain 3.1 mm, Wind SW 2
A grey & muggy start to the day with intermittent light rain, but after 9 am it would begin to dry out and would slowly become brighter with some sunny spells around the middle of the day. However as the afternoon wore on it would become increasingly cloudy again and indeed by the evening it became quite dark & threatening, this eventually leading to a spell of moderate to heavy rain around 8 pm (peak rate 17.8 mm/h). However the rain didn't last that long and after dusk the cloud would break with clear spells overnight.
27th June 2015, Saturday
Min 10.8 C, Max 22.4 C, Rain trace, Wind W 3
A sunny and warm day throughout with temperatures climbing up to 22 C (72 F) in the late June sunshine. Clear spells at first overnight but cloud would increase later with even some spits & spots of rain by the end of the night.
28th June 2015, Sunday
Min 12.9 C, Max 20.8 C, Rain trace, Wind SW 3-4
A cloudy and grey morning with some bits and pieces of rain from time to time, though after midday it would slowly brighten up with sunny spells breaking through by mid-afternoon. Thereafter the rest of the day was largely warm and sunny with temperatures just shy of 70 degrees. Largely clear skies overnight.
I spotted a WHINCHAT along one of the roadside fences today. These pretty moorland birds do breed locally in small numbers, especially around Fen Bog, but they are always good to see nevertheless. Meanwhile yesterday I spotted my first SMALL HEATH butterfly of the year up on the moor, whilst the heather itself is just staring to flower here and there, the beautiful purple blooms being one of the highlights of the summer up 'ere on t' moors.
29th June 2015, Monday
Min 11.4 C, Max 22.4 C, Rain nil, Wind W 2
A beautiful summer's day with sunny spells throughout and temperatures hovering around 70 degrees. Clear skies overnight with a yellow summer moon glowing in the southern sky.
I spotted a Barn Owl hunting over the Parkland pastures this morning, the first I have seen on our doorstep since their dramatic population crash after December 2010 when snow lay over a foot deep and temperatures fell to -11 C. The Barn Owl, a favourite of mine, used to be a very common sight in the Parklands before that winter, and I was overjoyed to see one again this morning as I cycled along the country lane to get the morning paper. Meanwhile a Red Admiral was in the garden this afternoon, whilst shortly after midnight I heard the unusual and not often heard 'warbling' call of a Tawny Owl, which in the dark of night can be quite spooky.
30th June 2015, Tuesday
Min 11.3, Max 28.0 C, Rain nil, Wind SE 3
A scorching summer's day with barely a cloud in the sky and temperatures soaring up to 28 C (82.4 F), easily the hottest day of the year so far. Indeed the maximum temperature today was the highest recorded at our weather station since July 2013. Remaining clear throughout the evening and overnight, this allowing temperatures to fall to more comfortable levels.
RSPB Bempton Cliffs
On a sunny and warm summer morning we headed up to Bempton Cliffs, arriving shortly after 7 am, and as we made our way from the locked up visitor centre and down the path to the cliffs we noted that we had the reserve largely to ourselves with just a trio of other visitors to be seen. Indeed prior to 10 am it was like the 'old days' with most of the viewing platforms free of the usual photographers whom otherwise monopolise the best locations, and this meant I could even do a bit of filming with my camcorder, the results of which can be seen a bit further down this post.
Most birds now have young with the Kittiwakes being particularly numerous this year, the young varying from nearly ready to fledge to still tiny chicks, whislt the fluffy balls that are Gannet chicks were also seen well. The strong June sunshine meant that many of the birds were obviously trying to keep cool, their beaks opened wide and panting like dogs, but thankfully for us humans a cool offshore breeze kept temperatures very pleasant indeed. As regards auks I only noted a few youngsters and indeed Puffins were keeping a very low profile this morning, and on the unusually blue waters of the sea I noted the odd dead auk floating about which the Herring & Black-backed Gulls were more than happy to mop-up.
Amongst the cliff tops wildflowers a couple of rather worn looking PAINTED LADIES were noted, as well as a single Small Tortoiseshell, a few Meadow Browns, Ringlets and a couple of Green-veined Whites, whilst Silver-ground Carpets were numerous again amongst the thick grasses. Indeed the meadow is so thick this year that it was quite hard to find the small number of Northern Marsh Orchids which occur here, these richly purple coloured orchids being marginally more attractive, at least to my eyes, than the otherwise similar Southern Marsh Orchids which we get in other parts of East Yorkshire.
On our way back from Bempton we decided to head up on to the Wolds and visit a couple of interesting locations for both butterflies & orchids. Our first port of call was the roadside verge beside the A166 which at this time of year hosts a good number of Common Spotted, Southern Marsh (+hybrids of the two) and Pyramidal Orchids, all of which were seen during our half-hour at the site. The Spotted & Marsh Orchids were as ever the most numerous, though at least half a dozen Pyramidal Orchids were found too, though since most of these were still early in their flowering I expect more will yet appear.
As we wandered through the orchids and the rich variety of typical chalkland flowers we noticed a number of butterfly species, which given the temperature of 26 C, were very flighty indeed and not really co-operative when it came to photography. The most abundant species were Meadow Browns, Ringlets and Small Heaths, but other species included a few Common Blues, at least three Marbled Whites, and a single Large White. Burnet moths were also seen well but these were exceptionally flighty so I couldn't ID them precisely. However past experience at this site makes me assume they were Narrow-bordered Fives-spot Burnets though Six-spot Burnets do also occur at this location, albeit in smaller numbers.
From Wayrham we went down to one of my favourite stomping grounds, namely the many beautiful winding chalk valleys which make up the Millington Dale area. Parking at the bottom of Nettle Dale we made our way up the steep track to the top of the pasture, passing some Belted Galloways and a very handsome & seemingly friendly bull. I had hoped to see lots of MARBLED WHITES here but in the end I only managed to find a small handful, perhaps indicating that it is still a little early for them up here on the highest parts of the Wolds. However the specimens I did find were in fine condition and at this early stage were clear of the red parasites which often plague them later in the summer.
A few day flying moths were also spotted here, including a beautiful Yellow Shell, as well as Silver-ground Carpet, Common Carpet (my first of the year), Chimney Sweepers, and towards the end of our walk a MOTHER SHIPTON moth, a species which I do not see all that often up here on the Yorkshire Wolds. Other butterflies meanwhile included Meadow Browns & Ringlets again, as well as Large Skipper and Small Tortoiseshell, the ST being a very beautiful specimen indeed.
Finally we stopped briefly to check out Millington Dale Pond for damselflies, this relatively small patch of water being one of the very few areas of open water on the otherwise free draining Yorkshire Wolds. Another bull had to be passed here, the black beast making it quite clear with a few swishes of his tail that he was not going to move from his prime spot in the middle of the cooling chalk stream, but nevertheless he let us pass and we were able to check out the odonata of this under-recorded site. In the past I have only recorded Common Blue damselflies and two species of Hawker here, but today I found it to be an AZURE DAMSELFLY paradise with dozens of them around the waters edge. As I watched a Blue-tailed Damselfly was also noted but best of all was a single LARGE RED DAMSELFLY, a species I certainly wasn't expecting here.