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August 2015

1st August 2015, Saturday
Min 10.4 C, Max 20.0 C, Rain 5.9 mm, Wind SW 3
A largely pleasant start to August with comfortable temperatures and sunny spells, especially in the morning and around the middle of the day, though from mid-afternoon onwards some showers would develop, some of which would be quite sharp (peak rate of 45 mm/h recorded at 6 pm). Showers dying out in the evening with variable amounts of cloud overnight.

A nice day up at the cottage with plenty to enjoy, including a good variety of locomotive haulage courtesy of the NYMR, plus the outstandingly beautiful countryside of the Esk Valley which is now looking as pretty as a picture as we move towards the conclusion of summer for yet another year. All of the hay is now safely gathered in and is now in store awaiting the harsher days of the winter ahead, whilst the the few cereal fields which can be found in this otherwise livestock dominated area are golden in the August sunshine.

A pleasant walk up to Lease Rigg gave pleasing views over both the Esk Valley, with the pretty villages of Egton & Glaisdale to the north & west, whilst to the south the Murk Esk snaked its way upstream towards Goathland and the high moorland beyond. On the cattle grazed hillside harebells were in flower, whilst in the shade of the old weather-beaten hawthorn hedgerow which tops the Rigg, some Betony was found, the distinctive jagged & knife like leaves being a familiar flower on the Yorkshire Wolds. Descending the hill we made our way down to the River Esk itself, where herons stood in the riverside pastures, and since I had my wellies on I decided to wade through the ford instead of using the footbridge. The waters depth was about 10 inches and it was actually quite difficult at one point where the current was strong, but I did at least enjoy a different view of the river at this particularly attractive point.

Indeed I so much enjoyed the walk that I did it in reverse later in the day, though by this time some heavy showers swept in from the direction of the heather clad moors above, but since I like the rain and enjoy less clement weather I relished the feel of the rain and wind upon my exposed face as the shower lashed the exposed hilltop. Arriving back in the village I passed the church and waved cheerily at our neighbours whom run a cafe & self-catering business on the other side of the river, and from there returned to our riverside garden to enjoy a rest, listening to the relaxing sound of rain upon the roof of our small garden shed.

2nd August 2015, Sunday
Min 10.6 C, Max 22.2 C, Rain trace, Wind SE 3
A cloudy start with a little bit of rain around 8 & 9 am but things would improve as the morning wore on with sunny spells developing in the afternoon, these helping to push temperatures up into the low 20's. Remaining bright with sunny spells and variable amounts of cloud for the rest of the day, with clear spells overnight.

Thankfully their has been no further signs of ill looking birds at the feeding station, with the chaffinches and bullfinches certainly showing no signs of sickness. However perhaps fewer greenfinches are visiting the feeders at the moment and it could be the source of the disease is from another bird feeding station in a nearby garden, or indeed something else entirely.

Meanwhile the swifts were screeching loudly overhead in the evening, one of the most evocative sounds of summer, though with August now here I expect numbers will start to diminish over the next couple of weeks as these summer visiting birds start to head south towards their winter homes in the warmer climes of Africa.

3rd August 2015, Monday
Min 13.4 C, Max 25.1 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 3
A bright morning with plenty of sunny spells, though around midday cloud would increase for a time. However in the afternoon sunny spells would return and in the early August sunshine temperatures would climb into the mid-twenties with a maximum of 25.1 C (77.2 F). Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight with the breeze picking up later in the night.

The dry, sunny and warm weather today meant that it was a busy day in the Yorkshire Wolds with barley combining back in full swing after the inclement weather of the week before. So far yields are looking good in those parts of the county where harvest is further advanced (such as Holderness) though of course it is still too early to draw any definitive conclusions at this time.

Meanwhile in the evening at least three Pipistrelle bats were flying around the confines of the garden when I was putting the moth trap out shortly after 9 pm. They were flying so close I could hear the beating of their wings and I stopped to watch their aerial acrobatics for a few minutes as they skimmed past me. From the look of them I think at least two may have been juveniles, the light from the moth trap giving me good views of them, but since I know very little about bats I may well have been mistaken. Whilst putting out the trap I could also hear a hedgehog snuffling about in the undergrowth, probably the large individual which has been seen around the bird feeding station on recent evenings.

4th August 2015, Tuesday
Min 10.6 C, Max 20.8 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 4
A bright and sunny day for the most part, though a moderate to fresh SW breeze meant it wasn't as warm as yesterday with a high of just 20.8 C. However conditions were near perfect for combining in the local fields, the brisk breeze helping to lower critical moisture levels. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight with the breeze easing by dusk.

It proved to be a good night for moth trapping last night with a good variety of nocturnal lepidoptera uncovered in the trap early this morning, including a good number of NFY's and even a few NFG's. In total 96 moths of 36 species were attracted to the trap, with the year list now up to 129 after 15 nights of 'mothing' in 2015. Meanwhile the garden list has now increased to 280.

Of the four NFG's two were macro species, represented by a single DINGY FOOTMAN and a diminutive SHORT-CLOAKED MOTH, whilst the micros were Ash-bark Knot-horn and a very attractive little moth in the shape and form of a Gold Triangle. NFY's meanwhile numbered ten species in total (not including the NFG's) with these including a Yellow-tail (x1), a Magpie Moth (x1), a White Satin Moth (x1), a Flounced Rustic (x1), a Mother of Pearl (x1), a few Bird Cherry Ermines (x3), Common Grass Veneer (x2), Pearl Veneer (x1), Rosy Tabby (x1), and finally a Long-horned Flat-body (x1).

Other moths included as follows; Poplar Hawk-moth (x1), Buff Ermine (x1), Early Thorn (x1), Marbled Beauty (x8), Marbled Minor agg. (x1), Dark Arches (x6), Common Rustic (x10), Dot Moth (x1), Dun-bar (x3), Heart & Dart (x1), Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (x5), Large Yellow Underwing (x19), Willow Beauty (x1), Riband Wave (x8), Garden Carpet (x1), Common Footman (x3), Snout (x1), Small Magpie (x1), Bee Moth (x1), Light Brown Apple Moth (x1), Garden Grass Veneer (x4), & Common Plume (x1).

5th August 2015, Wednesday
Min 12.9 C, Max 22.3 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 3-4
A largely sunny and clement summer's day for my 33rd birthday with blue skies in the morning, and sunny spells in the afternoon, though after 4 pm cloud would increase with grey skies during the evening, this cloud being thick enough to produce the odd spot of rain. Remaining largely cloudy overnight though there would be the odd clearer spell from time to time.

A Sparrowhawk was seen plucking a dove in the garden in late afternoon, the handsome bird of prey giving some great views as it prepared its meal on the lawn. Thankfully it wasn't worried about the sound of my cameras shutter firing away and I was able to grab some photos before it headed off into the woods. Meanwhile a Southern Hawker dragonfly was seen hawking about the garden in the afternoon.

North Cliffe Wood
On a sunny morning we went for a short stroll around North Cliffe Wood, though what with this still being mosquito season we stayed out of the wood itself and instead spent most of our time on the heath as mosquitoes are less of a problem in this part of the reserve. However at this time of year it is on the heath where most of the interest is anyway and armed with my camera and macro lens I enjoyed a couple of hours snapping away at the inhabitants of this precious fragment of heathland which once formed part of the an extensive heath which covered much of the Vale of York in medieval times.

Butterflies made themselves most apparent first, especially the Gatekeepers whom were found in large numbers along the western path and amongst the flowering heather, and indeed I couldn't count them all in the end as they proved so numerous. The distribution of Gatekeepers in East Yorkshire is a curious subject, since in some places, especially in the SW of the county, they can be abundant, whereas elsewhere, including in the Beverley area, they are uncommon. However it does seem to be a good year for them as I have even seen a few at Wold Garth this summer, whilst the numbers seen here at NC Wood does seem to further confirm this fact.

In total twelve species of butterfly would be recorded around the heath and along the western path, with other species including four Peacocks, at least 10 Large Whites, a few Green-veined Whites (x2), and Small Whites (x1), at least five Speckled Woods, 10+ Ringlets, a single Red Admiral, five Meadow Browns, a lovely fresh looking Brimstone, a Small Skipper, and perhaps best of all up to 7 Small Coppers. North Cliffe is well known locally for its colony of Small Coppers, for though this species can be found in much of the East Riding, especially up on the Yorkshire Wolds, it is here that they can be found in good numbers, especially once the heather is in flower.

However it was not the butterflies which were my main interest this morning but it was instead the dragonflies and damselflies, these prehistoric looking insects being one of my favourite photographic subjects. In total nine species would be noted around the heath with most being found around the rapidly drying out heathland pool, especially the Emerald Damselflies which numbered over a hundred and which were frequently seen flying around in pairs. Other damselfly species included both Common Blues (10+) and Azure Damselflies (x1), the latter being a relatively late record for the species, as well as a few Blue-tailed Damselflies (x5).

Dragonflies meanwhile were represented by three species of hawker and two species of Darter, with the most numerous being Brown Hawker (x5). Typically this species failed to pose for any photos, indeed finding this large hawker species resting is a relatively rare occurrence, though thankfully the darters were less camera shy and posed for a few shots, including a very handsome female Black Darter. This was one of two Black Darters seen around the pool, with a male also spotted at one point, whilst Common Darters were far more numerous with 20+ being recorded. The other two hawkers meanwhile were recorded in the shape and form of at least three Southern Hawkers and a single Migrant Hawker, though I was disappointed by the fact I couldn't find any Ruddy darters amongst the far more numerous Common D's.

Meanwhile other interesting observations included a pair of Jays heard in the wood, a family of noisy Buzzards, a single HOBBY passing over (my first of the year in Yorkshire), and the first emerging Parasol Mushroom of the year. Indeed the latter observation was surprising given the fact it is only early August (usually these impressive fungi appear in September & October at North Cliffe), though perhaps the wet weather and lower temperatures at the end of the July tricked it into thinking that autumn had arrived early.

6th August 2015, Thursday
Min 12.1 C, Max 24.2 C, Rain nil, Wind W 3-4
A sunny and warm day after a cloudy start with temperatures climbing up into the mid-twenties, prefect summer weather. Clear spells overnight.

Loads of Common Gulls again in the pea fields this morning (200+ at least), certainly one of the largest gatherings of CG's I have seen in the local fields since I moved to Wold Garth some twenty-two years ago! At the new pond beside the southern Beverley bypass I stopped to see if any interesting waders were about, after all wader migration is now in full swing, but there was little to see bar four Lapwings and three Mallards. Meanwhile back in the garden a Willow warbler was heard singing, an uncommon sound at Wold Garth, whilst in the hedgerows Cherry Plums are now ripe and the first blackberries are now ready for picking, looking glossy and black and deliciously inviting.

7th August 2015, Friday
Min 9.9 C, Max 22.0 C, Rain nil, Wind E 2
A sunny morning with barely a cloud in the summer sky but by early afternoon cloud would increase from the south with skies becoming largely cloudy for the rest of the day. Indeed skies would remain largely cloudy overnight as well, though there was odd break as well from time to time.

A good long cycle along the country lanes around Wold Garth this morning on what was a clear start to the day, the golden countryside looking all the more attractive in the early dawn sunshine. Again there were very few birds at the Beverley Parks pond, with just six Lapwings to be seen, but the gulls, again mostly Common Gulls, were numerous in the fields, though not in the very large numbers of yesterday. Along the cereal fields a few large flocks of House Sparrows were noticed, a welcome observation as this bird has declined somewhat in recent years, whilst the sound of a few singing Yellowhammers was additionally pleasing.

A quick butterfly survey of the garden at 1 pm revealed a few species including Green-veined White (x1), Large White (x3), Holly Blue (x2), Peacock (x1) and Small Copper (x1), the latter being the first recorded here for a couple of summer's. Indeed judging by own observations, and those of other bloggers, it would seem Small Copper's are having a good summer.

8th August 2015, Saturday
Min 10.9 C, Max 23.7 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 2-3
A cloudy morning, though not without some brighter periods, and as the day wore on it would become increasingly sunny with a very pleasant and warm afternoon with temperatures climbing into the mid-twenties. After a pleasant evening cloud would steadily increase overnight with even some outbreaks of rain prior to dawn.

A cloudy and warm night meant that a large number of moths were found in and around the trap at dawn this morning, though less welcome was the number of Wasps also attracted to the light with up to two dozen of them buzzing around the bulb or resting on the perspex. Thankfully they were largely docile and were easy to clear away and I was soon able to start sifting through the contents of the box. In the end some 160 moths would be recorded, whilst the number of species would be recorded as 28, though since I didn't have much time this morning I decided to ignore most of the micros.

Of the 28 species recorded one would prove to be a new addition to the garden list, this coming in the shape and form of a PALE PROMINENT (x1), whilst a further five species would be new additions to the year list with a somewhat worn Beautiful Hook-tip (x1), a Yellow-barred Brindle (x1), a Least Yellow Underwing (x1), a Meal Moth (x1), and an attractive Elder Pearl (x1). It is always most pleasing to see Beautiful Hook-tips in the garden, this species being a Grade 4 species in Yorkshire and classed as 'Rare and a very local resident', but since I have recorded this species on two other occasions it could be that Woldgarth is home to a small but stable population of this attractive moth.

Other moths recorded; Large Yellow Underwing (x45), Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (x10), Shuttle-shaped Dart (x2), Dark Arches (x23), Cabbage Moth (x1), Dark/Grey Dagger (x1), Common Rustic (x28), Uncertain (x2), Dun-bar (x5), Marbled Beauty (x2), Riband Wave (x11), Willow Beauty (x2, both dark forms), Poplar Hawk-moth (x1), Flame Carpet (x1), Garden Carpet (x1), Brimstone (x1), Silver Y (x1), Yellow-tail (x1), Grass Veneers (x12), Mother of Pearl (x3), & Bird-cherry Ermine (x1).

For the first time since October we were able to spend a whole weekend up at the cottage, taking advantage of some of the recent progress to get on with some tasks of our own. However since most of these tasks were pretty mundane (curtain pole fitting, door painting, etc) I won't bore you with all that, but between all the housework I was able to get out and enjoy the garden and the countryside surrounding the village. Indeed since the weather was largely sunny and very warm today it meant it was a good day for butterflies, and around midday I enjoyed a walk on Lease Rigg looking for these sun loving flutterers.

On the way there I passed the wonderful display of wildflowers in front of Old School Coffee shop, which is now dominated by the beautiful rich purple hues of Knapweed, these flowers attracting a few Small Skippers. Here and on the Rigg Meadow Browns were also noted in healthy numbers, along with species of White and Ringlets, whilst up on the Rigg other additions to the butterfly list included Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, and Green-veined White. Grass Veneer moth species were additionally observed in large numbers, whilst back in the village a Migrant Hawker was hunting along the railway line.

On the Rigg it was nice to observe the wildflowers again, including harebells, betony, and a good variety of thistle species, and from this same hillside it was nice to look back at the village, which on a day such as today looked lovely in the August sunshine. The locos of the NYMR also looked attractive beneath the blue skies with locos on show today including the LNER Q6, a Standard 4 (No.76079), and a Black 5 (No.45428), the Black 5 also operating the evening Pullman service which didn't arrive back in the village till after 10 pm.

9th August 2015, Sunday
Min 11.8 C, Max 22.9 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 2
A cloudy start with even the odd spot of rain in the air but this would soon clear away with sunny spells developing by the end of the morning. Remaining largely sunny for the remainder of the day with it feeling very warm again with temperatures reaching up to nearly 23 C. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with temperatures staying above 14 C.

Shortly after getting up at around 6 am, I decided to head out for a walk up to Sleights Moor and Breckon Howe, a bronze age Round Barrow which marks the highest point of this moor (about 290 metres). Starting from the cottage I made the steep ascent up through the village, the weather being cloudy but dry. As I climbed up into the green pastures above the village the hill leveled out somewhat, allowing me to enjoy the rich variety of wildflowers growing beside the road, whilst below me a couple of Hares were seen chasing each other in the hay meadows. I was also pleased to find a Yellow Shell moth amongst the wildflowers, a new species for my growing Grosmont moth list.

Soon I left the green cow grazed fields behind and climbed up into the wilder countryside of the moors themselves, where sheep, heather and grouse are kings of this upland realm. Leaving behind the shelter of the valley also meant that I was now exposed to a chill and fresh breeze which up here on the moors is allowed to blow unimpeded, though after a long climb I was actually glad to have the cool and refreshing air upon my sweated brow. Indeed I love it up here on the exposed moors and though the heather has now passed its best for another year, it nevertheless had a hint of purple here and there, especially around the so called 'High Bridestones', a small collection of Bronze Age standing stones which are thought to have once formed a stone circle.

Wildlife wise I enjoyed watching and listening to a lone Curlew whom repeatedly flew from area to area upon the moor, no doubt surprised to see a walker so early in the day, whilst a couple of Snipe whom were flushed up from the heather were also nice observations. Since Sleights Moor is not really managed for grouse shooting it does mean that wildlife densities are perhaps not as high on other nearby moors, though nevertheless half a dozen Red Grouse were noted, one of which posed beautifully for a photo (unfortunately I had no camera). From the howe I returned home to the cottage along the same route, completing my pre-breakfast walk in one and a half hours.

Thereafter the rest of the day was largely dominated by various decorating tasks either inside or outside the cottage, though as I worked I was able to watch butterflies feeding on our neighbours beautiful flowers, including species such as Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Red Admiral, whilst a Large Yellow Underwing was also noted (another new moth for the Grosmont list). All in all a highly enjoyable weekend and hopefully the first of many more to come up at our little Railway and Riverbank cottage.

10th August 2015, Monday
Min 14.0 C, Max 23.3 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 4
A dry and fine day for the most part with sunny spells and temperatures again rising into the mid-twenties, though their were some cloudier periods too. Feeling muggy in the afternoon as well, despite a moderate SW breeze, with dew points up around 17 C. Clear spells overnight.

Three young bullfinches joined two adult birds at the bird feeding station today, a very welcome observation. At least five separate adult birds have continued to visit the feeders throughout the summer, and with these new additions I am hopeful that we might be able to reach double figures in the coming winter (8 individual birds were counted last January).

11th August 2015, Tuesday
Min 10.3 C, Max 20.7 C, Rain nil, Wind SE 2
A pleasant summer's day with plenty of sunny spells and temperatures just shy of 70 degrees. Not as humid as yesterday either. Clear spells overnight.

Whilst searching for the last of the gooseberries with my nephew I noticed a lovely little Mint moth on one of the leaves. Meanwhile the small colony of Holly Blues is continuing to enjoy both the fine summer weather & the flowers of the herbaceous border, especially the marjoram.

12th August 2015, Wednesday
Min 10.9 C, Max 21.5 C, Rain nil, Wind E 3
Another pleasant summer's day with sunny spells and temperatures of around 70 degrees, and indeed as the afternoon wore on skies would become largely clear with an abundance of sunshine to end the day. Skies remaining clear overnight, though after midnight mist and fog would form with visibility falling to almost 200 metres by dawn.

There has been a notable reduction in swift numbers during the past couple of days with just one seen since the beginning of the week. This observation, combined with the continuing advancement of the harvest, the growing abundance of wild fruits in the hedgerows, and the notably shortening days, means that autumn is certainly starting to manifest itself, a development which I for one welcome.

Meanwhile during the night I was lucky enough to spot a few meteors associated with the annual PERSEIDS, a few of which were very bright and were almost red-hued as they streaked across the night-time sky.

13th August 2015, Thursday
Min 9.1 C, Max 19.4 C, Rain 7.1 mm, Wind N 3
A foggy start to the day but this would quickly burn off with sunny spells for much of the morning. However by the afternoon cloud would increase and by late afternoon it had become cloudy and grey, this cloud continuing to thicken throughout the evening and night with some heavy rain arriving shortly prior to dawn.

14th August 2015, Friday
Min 14.3 C, Max 17.2 C, Rain 6.9 mm, Wind NW 3
A very wet start to the day with heavy rain, and though the rain would become more intermittent and drizzly by mid-morning, it would nevertheless remain damp and murky with intermittent periods of rain & drizzle throughout, the higher parts of the Wolds being shrouded in thick low cloud. Remaining overcast with periods of rain & drizzle in the afternoon and evening though by nightfall the rain & murk would begin to clear away leaving behind a largely cloudy but dry night.

North Cave Wetlands
On a damp, dull and murky morning I went down to our local wetland nature reserve with my eldest sister and niece, enjoying a few hours at the reserve despite the intermittent rain & drizzle. With autumn now beginning to manifest itself I was hoping to find a few passage waders around the reserve, though since neither my sister or my niece can be described as birdwatchers I was as a result somewhat restricted in my birding. However despite this we still managed to record some 50 species, my niece ticking them off in her notebook.

Best of the lot was a single GREEN SANDPIPER at Dryham Ings, the characteristic call of this wading bird alerting me to its presence along one of the ditches. Green Sandpipers are a common autumn migrant at local wetlands and can be seen frequently at places such as North Cave and Tophill Low in late summer and early autumn, though my most memorable encounter with this species actually came at Wold Garth when one made an appearance right outside our house on a very wet August morning in 2006. However the bird yesterday was the first one I have seen this year (Y144) and though I didn't have a camera I was happy to simply enjoy watching it.

Elsewhere half a dozen young YELLOW WAGTAILS was another good observation, these mixing with the resident Pied Wagtails on the Snipe fields, whilst speaking of Snipe up to five of these long billed waders were noted on the Island Lake. Avocet numbers have fallen away sharply since my last visit with just five today, including a juvenile bird, though from what I understand I think the colony yet again suffered from excessive predation this year, a problem which has afflicted this species before at North Cave (and indeed elsewhere). Foxes and stoats have been the main culprits, though as we were walking by Main Lake I also noted a mink running along the opposite bank, not a welcome observation at all!

Further avian observations worthy of mention included a few Little Egrets, up to 7 Grey Heron, plenty of wildfowl (including a single Wigeon & 20+ Pochard) a single Common Tern, and a 'jangling' Corn Bunting in the field north of the reserve. Meanwhile in the Turret hide we came across a Mouse Moth, this displaying the typical scurrying behaviour which gives the moth its name, whilst on our walk, & somewhat surprisingly given the weather, a few Gatekeeper butterflies, plenty of veneer moths and a few Common Blue damselflies were noted amongst the grasses and abundant wildflowers.

15th August 2015, Saturday
Min 10.5 C, Max 19.5 C, Rain nil, Wind W 3-4
A largely fine day with variable amounts of cloud, though in between the cloudier periods there was plenty of sunshine to enjoy, especially in the second half of the morning and again in the evening. Skies becoming clear overnight with temperatures dipping well into single figures.

Another weekend meant another day up at our cottage and with yet another personal misfortune affecting our builder we have seen no progress at all since last weekend, all in all very disappointing to say the least, especially since this means we will be unable to finish the property before we go up to Scotland next week. However I am not one to dwell on such matters and as long as the cottage is finished and fully furnished before the end of September I will be happy.

In the garden I decided to prune the riverside hedge right back, something I have been wanting to do since the start of the year, and since the birds have now largely finished nesting I felt it was safe to do it this weekend without causing too much disruption to the gardens wildlife. Though the result is somewhat drastic in appearance it should soon bush out again and we now have a much better view of the river as a result. Indeed the benefits soon showed themselves for as I sat watching the river flow past, a streak of blue heading downstream caught my eye, the unmistakable sight of a KINGFISHER. Judging by its slightly dull colours I think it was a juvenile but nevertheless it was great to finally see one of these halcyon birds from our garden and hopefully this will be first of many more observations to come.

Two other riverine specialists were also noted along the river this afternoon, with a fine looking Dipper and two Grey Wagtails, both showing well on the riverbank, whilst another pleasing observation was provided by a Nuthatch bathing in the river. My excitement over nuthatch sightings may seem unusual for most other English birdwatchers, but since this species is almost unknown in East Yorkshire (at least east of the Wolds anyway) I am over-joyed every time I glimpse this woodland creeper in our garden. In fact I have subsequently learned, courtesy of the former gentleman whom owned the property before us and whom was and still is an active bird ringer and lepidopterist, that they only arrived in the Grosmont area about 25 years ago, and though still not numerous are now nevertheless very much part of the local avifauna.

Other observations today included plenty of young birds, especially Long-tailed tits & Blue tits, a Migrant Hawker hunting along the river, three Buzzards, and best of all a female Merlin on the edge of Fylingdales Moor. Meanwhile Swifts were conspicuous by their absence whilst the rain gauge suggested that 22.5 mm of rain had fallen since last weekend.

16th August 2015, Sunday
Min 6.2 C, Max 20.4 C, Rain nil, Wind E 2
A clear and sunny morning but by midday cloud would quickly increase with skies soon becoming cloudy in the afternoon, a disappointing development after such a glorious morning. Remaining cloudy throughout the evening but overnight skies would clear, this allowing temperatures to dip to around 6 C with a shallow mist forming over the fields by dawn.

A single Swift was spotted over the garden this morning, the first for several days. Will it be the last one this year I wonder? Meanwhile, whilst putting the moth trap out, I was again entranced by three Pipistrelle bats hunting just metres above my head, the aerial acrobatics of these fellow mammals never failing to impress, whilst a hedgehog of roughly the same size as the one we rescued from a drain a few weeks ago was feeding on the lawn. If it was the same hedgehog it looks like he may be somewhat accident prone as he was only able to use three legs, his hind left leg being either absent or at the very least badly injured. However he didn't seem hampered by this disability and was able to snuffle about without any noticeable problems.

North Cliffe Wood
On a sunny Sunday morning we headed down to my favourite woodland nature reserve in the hope of seeing a good variety of nature and whatnot. We also decided it was probably safe enough to brave the woods itself now that we are moving into late summer, as from mid-June through to early August the birch woods are infested with merciless mosquitoes and biting horse-flies, not a very nice combination I can assure you. In the end this assumption did prove to be largely accurate, though nevertheless I did receive a few 'cleg' bites and upon arriving home discovered a series of mozzie bites around my ankles (even though I was wearing wellies!), but having suffered far, far worse in the past we got away with it pretty lightly.

As ever at this time of the year it was out on the heath where the action was, so to speak, with plenty of dragonflies to enjoy again (see link), with 8 species of odonata being recorded. Most numerous again were the pretty Emerald Damselflies which were numerous (100+) around the heathland pool, whilst Common Darters were also widely apparent with over 30 noted. A check for any Ruddy Darters amongst them again proved fruitless (I can only reliably tell them apart by their legs), though it was more than compensated for by the large number of Black Darters this morning, a count of these heath and moorland specialists reaching double figures.

The hawkers meanwhile cruised along the edge of the heath hunting for insects to eat, with three species of this restless group of odonata being noted down in my notebook, including three Brown Hawkers, four Southern Hawkers and 10+ Migrant Hawkers. As ever it was the Southern Hawkers whom were most co-operative as regards photography, with a few hanging in the birch and oak trees for a few quick pics, though I was disappointed I couldn't find any misleadingly named Common Hawkers as well, the part of the reserve where they are usually found being particularly plagued by horseflies.

Butterflies meanwhile were not quite as apparent as on our last visit, though nevertheless a decent variety were noted down, including Peacock (x3), Ringlet (x2), Meadow Brown (x5), Speckled Wood (x4), Gatekeeper (20+), Large White (x3), Green-veined White (x5), Small Copper (x6) and Common Blue (x1), the latter not being a particular common sighting at North Cliffe. On the heath the sound of grasshoppers accompanied us as we walked through the grasses and heather, the flowering heather also being alive with bumble bees.

I had hoped to see some fungi in the wood, as usually by mid-August they are starting to appear on the woodland floor, but this morning it was very slim pickings indeed with just the ever present Earthballs, a single broken Grisette, a rather old and unidentifiable russula and the remains of the Parasol Mushroom I had photographed in its early stages last week. With the rain a few days ago I had hoped for better pickings, but hopefully by our next visit things will be a little more advanced.

Other observations of note during our morning nature walk included a large GRASS SNAKE, a SLOW WORM (actually neither were seen by me but instead were spotted by my companions), a pair of Buzzards, another HOBBY, a Green Woodpecker, a Jay and two Coal tits, the latter observation only being notable because I am not sure I have ever recorded this species at North Cliffe Wood. It would also seem that there is going to be a large Hazel crop this year, at least judging by all the nuts which have already fallen from the trees, whilst fruits such as rowan, blackberry and haws are now widely apparent.

17th August 2015, Monday
Min 6.5 C, Max 21.4 C, Rain 2.4 mm, Wind W 4
A sunny and warm day after a chilly and misty start, with temperatures reaching a high of just over 70 degrees in the afternoon. However in the evening cloud would increase and overnight this cloud would thicken with outbreaks of rain arriving shortly after 4 am.

The squirrels have started to knock off the beech nuts from the large tree next to the house, the sound of the nuts falling on the roof waking me up early this morning. Meanwhile on my cycle into town, which was surprisingly chilly with low mist hanging over the fields (distinctly autumnal), I heard at least two Green Woodpeckers, whilst in the harvested fields large numbers of Common Gulls, plus the odd Black-headed Gull (some of which have already lost their black-heads), were again observed.

A spectacular sunset was witnessed across the county this evening as the red setting sun fell below the horizon, the view being particularly spectacular from High Hunsley Beacon as we made our way home across the Yorkshire Wolds after visiting North Cave. By the time we reached Beverley the sky was somewhat less spectacular but nevertheless I was able to take a few quick pics from Beverley Westwood of the final moments of what had been a fantastic display of natural beauty.

Unseasonably low overnight temperatures (indeed nearby Leconfield was the coldest place in Yorkshire last night) meant that is was not a vintage night moth wise, but in spite of this a new moth species would be added to the garden list with a lone SIX-STRIPED RUSTIC uncovered in the trap, whilst a couple of micros were new additions to the year list with Diamond-back Moth (x2) and Garden Rose Tortrix (x2). In total 58 moths of 16 species would be recorded.

Other species recorded; Silver Y (x2), Garden Carpet (x2), Flame Shoulder (x1), Shuttle-shaped Dart (x1), Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (x8), Large Yellow Underwing (x14), Lesser Yellow Underwing (x2), Dark Arches (x6), Common Rustic (x8), Riband Wave (x2), Garden Grass Veneer (x3), Grass Veneer (x1) & Small Grey (x3).

North Cave Wetlands
On a warm and largely sunny summer's evening we enjoyed a pleasant leisurely stroll around North Cave Wetlands, soaking in the sights and sounds of a British wetland in late summer. However the thing which struck me first was the relative silence, as on previous evening visits the sound of Black-headed Gulls had filled our ears as soon as we stepped out of the car, but now that they have moved on (indeed I didn't record one BHG this evening) they have left the reserve in peace, bar the occasional calls from the Lapwings, Mallards and Geese. Indeed gulls were few and far between this evening with just a few Common Gulls and one Herring Gull, whilst in total just 41 species of bird were noted, a very modest count for North Cave.

However this didn't mean that is was a disappointing visit, indeed far from it, and some good birds would be noted as we made our way around the reserve. Stopping at Dryham Ings I scanned across the wetlands and noted a pair of GREEN SANDPIPERS on the far side, whilst even further beyond a Little Egret and a few Grey Herons were also spotted. At the Reedbed Lake a COMMON SANDPIPER was picked out feeding beside a Snipe, though here the best observation would be a drake GARGANEY in eclipse, a summer visiting duck which is always good to see. The single Wigeon was also still present at the Reedbed Lake whilst Avocet numbers have fallen to just two, one an adult and the other a juvenile.

Further snipe would be noted at the Island Lake, taking the count this evening up to six in total, whilst on one of the islands a trio of COMMON SANDPIPERS would be additionally picked out amongst the numerous Lapwings. However there was no sign of the recently reported Godwits or Wood Sandpiper, though by now the setting sun was directly opposite us which made observing difficult to say the least. Non-avian observations included a few Common Darters, a probable Black-tailed Skimmer (though it is a little late for this species), a few Southern Hawkers, a dozen or so Common Blue damselflies and a small number of butterflies, most numerous of which were Gatekeepers. The ripe red berries of Rowan also looked particularly attractive in the golden evening sunshine whilst on the blackthorns I noted plenty of sloes, good news for my family whom enjoy my home-made sloe gin (even though I myself hate gin and pretty much all alcoholic beverages!). All in all a good day all round.

18th August 2015, Tuesday
Min 10.3 C, Max 15.2 C, Rain 26.4 mm, Wind W 4-5
A thoroughly wet day with persistent rain throughout the day, the rain accompanied by a blustery W to NW breeze which made it feel particularly unseasonal. The rain would become somewhat lighter in the evening and more intermittent during the night with it finally drying out by dawn.

Four young bullfinches noted today at the feeders, which combined with the five adult birds has taken the current number of bullfinches in the garden up to nine (at least). Can we reach double figures by the end of the week?

An exceptionally wet day at Wold Garth with rain throughout the day, the rain bringing some 26.4 mm (1.04 inches) of the wet stuff. This made today the wettest day so far this calendar year whilst it was also the wettest day at the weather station since the remnants of Hurricane Bertha brought over 40 mm last August. However since the rain was never particularly heavy (not exceeding 5 mm/h) flooding was not a problem, at least locally, and after a relatively dry start to the month the rain was actually welcome (and besides I like a good day of rain from time to time anyway).

19th August 2015, Wednesday
Min 11.4 C, Max 22.8 C, Rain 1.8 mm, Wind SW 2
A cloudy start, the countryside still soaking wet after all the rain yesterday and last night, but by 9 am it would quickly brighten up with clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine by late morning. Remaining sunny and warm for much of the afternoon, the temperature climbing up to nearly 23 C, but towards the end of the afternoon cloud would increase, this cloud becoming thick enough for some light rain by mid-evening. Further outbreaks of rain overnight but clearing by dawn.

The harvested pea-fields attracted a large number of gulls this morning, again dominated by Common Gulls, though there were more Black-heads today, as well as about a dozen Herring Gulls and at least two Black-backed Gulls. A few gulls were also attracted to the half-combined fields, the remaining uncut wheat looking somewhat weather-beaten and sorry for itself after all the rain yesterday! Meanwhile a quick check of the drainage pond revealed just a single Mallard, and whilst the small area of water has yet to attract any passage waders, I nevertheless remain foolishly optimistic that maybe a Sandpiper or alike might call in one morning.

Back at Wold Garth the fine weather today meant it was a good day for nature watching in the garden, the biggest highlight coming thanks to the visitation of a single PAINTED LADY butterfly which was attracted to the buddleia. This is the first Painted Lady I have seen in the garden this year, and if my memory serves me correctly, could be first one here at Wold Garth since 2012. The other fluttering visitors to the garden were more standard but nevertheless equally welcomed fare, with Peacock (x3), Speckled Wood (x2), Holly Blue (x2), Large White (x6), Small White (x1), & Green-veined White (x2) all being noted down in my little notebook.

A few moths were also spotted, including a Silver Y, a Common Carpet and a Mint Moth, whilst my nephew and I stumbled upon a Migrant Hawker hunting around the Yew trees, the dragonfly in question being kind enough to pose for a few photos right in front of us at one point. Another Migrant Hawker would be spotted later in the day, this being a somewhat fatter and less blue specimen than the first, whilst today also saw us collect all the red crab apples for making crab apple jelly. Though the crop was poor this year we should still get a few jars worth.

I also took some time to simply watch and record all the birds actually visiting the feeding station this afternoon, birds seen including; Chaffinch (x6), Greenfinch (x2), Goldfinch (x2), Bullfinch (x6), Blue tit (x5), Great tit (x2), Coal tit (x1), Dunnock (x3), Robin (x2), Blackbird (x2), Collared dove (x1), and Wood Pigeon (x1). Of the six Bullfinches recorded four were juveniles, whilst clearly juvenile birds were noted amongst the Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Great tits too.

20th August 2015, Thursday
Min 13.6 C, Max 21.5 C, Rain trace, Wind SE 2-3
A dull sort of morning with low cloud over the Wolds early in the day, though around midday a few brighter periods would break through. However this wouldn't last with grey skies returning for much of the afternoon, though again in the evening some breaks would develop with some pleasant spells of sunshine to end the day. Feeling humid though with dew points in the high teens. Mostly cloudy overnight with temperatures falling no lower than 15.6 C.

Whilst playing a spot of bowls in the evening I spotted at least two Swifts pass over the garden, probably migrants heading south. Being relatively near both the North Sea and the Humber estuary does mean that migrant birds can be seen quite late here, whilst the nearby wet pastures beside the river Hull are also a magnet for insect feeding birds fueling up before continuing their long journeys south. On the hirundine front a few Martins were also seen and heard, an uncommon bird for most of the summer here but one which always increases towards the end of August and into September, though the most numerous birds were of course the Swallows, with dozens of these summer visitors hunting in the skies above our heads.

21st August 2015, Friday
Min 15.6 C, Max 23.6 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 3-4
A largely cloudy and warm start to the day, but becoming brighter as the day wore on. However it would never become particularly sunny with lots of cloud all day, and whilst dew points would be up in the high teens again, a moderate SW breeze did make it feel somewhat fresher. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with temperatures remaining above 15 C throughout.

I noticed the first blackbirds starting to eat the ripening Yew berries today, as autumn, despite the warm and muggy weather today, continues to manifest itself in the local area. The yew berry crop is pretty average this year, or at least so far it is, but hopefully it should still be plentiful enough for the first winter thrushes when they start to arrive later in the autumn. Meanwhile it is pleasing to hear that the Robins are starting to sing again in the garden, another one of those evocative sounds which signal the approach of autumn and the cooler seasons ahead.

22nd August 2015, Saturday
Min 15.0 C, Max 26.5 C, Rain nil, Wind SE 3
A warm and muggy morning with largely cloud skies, though as the morning wore on it would become increasingly sunny and clear. Indeed by the afternoon the cloudy skies were a distant memory with wall to wall sunshine, and prior to the development of a cooling onshore breeze in mid-afternoon, the temperature had climbed to just shy of 80 degrees (26.5 C), the highest temperature recorded at the station since the beginning of July. In the evening cloud would increase from the south, and whilst it became very stormy for a time it didn't come to anything with any storms staying on t' other side of Wolds. Variable amounts of cloud overnight.

I watched a Garden spider building its web outside my window this morning, observing it construct its impressive web with admirable industry on what was a muggy late summer's morning. Indeed given that I will be travelling north of the border tomorrow it seemed somewhat appropriate given Robert the Bruce's penchant for watching arachnids. Other observations from a very warm and humid East Yorkshire garden included a passage Willow warbler, a single Migrant Hawker and plenty of butterflies, especially Green-veined Whites, Holly Blues and Peacocks. A suspected Painted Lady was also seen but I was unable to confirm its ID.

My last moth trapping session before our trip to Lochaber was conducted on what was a muggy and largely cloudy late summer's night, prefect conditions for mothing. Indeed when I switched on the lamp shortly after 9 pm I was bombarded by moths within seconds, and whilst most were Large Yellow Underwings, I also noted a particularly attractive moth hovering around the trap as well, which upon closer inspection proved to be my first Gold Spot of the year. In 2013 we recorded quite a number of these richly coloured moths, and I was beginning to worry that had been just a one-off, but last night proved a good night for them with four being recorded in total. With their rich golden hues I always think the moths look a bit Christmassy.

In total 134 moths of 29 species would be recorded with two new species for the garden list, these coming in the shape and form of a Blood-vein and Grey Tortrix agg., the Blood-vein being a particularly beautiful moth which I have wanted to record for some time. Indeed though the moth is most common towards the south of the British Isles, it is also considered very common up here in Yorkshire as well, especially here in VC61, so its absence from the garden list has been an anomaly which has finally been corrected.

Five other species would be added to the year list too, which, including the aforementioned Gold Spot (x4), were represented by Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (x1), Square-spot Rustic (x1), Copper Underwing (x1), and Pale Straw Pearl (x1). However the night was dominated by Large Yellow Underwings if truth be told with 72 of them in the trap this morning, and indeed owing to the restless nature of this species the true number may have been even higher with a number escaping before I managed to count them.

Other species recorded were as follows; Silver Y (x4), Dun-bar (x4), Common Carpet (x3), Flame Carpet (x1), Brimstone (x1), Straw Dot (x2), Marbled Beauty (x1), Poplar Hawk-moth (x1), Willow Beauty (x5), Riband Wave (x1), Pale Mottled Willow (x1), Six-striped Rustic (x1), Common Rustic (x2), Dark Arches (x2), Large Yellow Underwing (x72), Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (x8), Mother of Pearl (x2), Garden Rose Tortrix (x1), Light Brown Apple Moth (x7), Brown House Moth (x1), Veneer species (x3), and Knot-horn species (x2).

23rd August 2015, Sunday
Bo-ness & Journey - We left our home prior to dawn on what was a chilly late summer's morning, heading north for a week long break to the beautiful landscapes which make up the Lochaber region in the Scottish Highlands. As we journeyed north we were treated to a fine misty sunrise in the Vale of Mowbray (the area between the Yorkshire Dales & Cleveland Hills), whilst crossing the Pennines towards Penrith was beautiful as always, the bleak open moors of the north Pennines being the last true 'wilderness' in England (at least in my opinion anyway). Speeding northwards through Cumbria and onwards through the hills of the Southern Uplands we eventually reached the central belt, an area of Scotland which I will not dwell on. However passing Falkirk we spotted the impressive dual sculptures of the 'Kelpies', the largest equine sculpture in the world (or so t' internet tell me anyway), whilst to break up the journey we also stopped at the Bo'ness railway.

Here the last remaining LNER D49 resides, No.62712 'Morayshire' being the star at what is otherwise a relatively small and diesel dominated heritage railway. As luck would have it 'Morayshire' was running when we visited and it was pleasing to finally see and photograph an LNER loco which had until today eluded me. However we didn't have time to actually take a train trip though we did have a quick look around the Scottish Railway Museum, an interesting and fascinating place for those interested in North British ferroequinology. Whilst wandering around I also noted a pair of GREEN SANDPIPIERS in the remains of the old docks, an unexpected bonus.

Continuing from Bo'ness we made good progress north-westwards, passing Stirling and the Wallace Monument, and up through Callander & Lochearnhead. However after this our progress came to a complete halt as a serious road accident had closed the A85, and after being told it would take another three to six hours to clear, we had to take a major detour which would take us back down to Perth and up and around via the A9. When I was growing up the A9 was a notorious route for serious accidents, but thankfully in recent years it has vastly improved, and though the detour did add a 100 more miles to our journey we did have the added bonus of passing Blair Atholl, as well as a quick stop at the House of Bruar.

After turning off the A9 at Dalwhinnie we headed down through Laggan towards Spean Bridge, passing through some stunning landscapes as we went. We also noted the Ardverikie Estate and its impressive house (also known as Glenbogle in Monarch of the Glen), though I was more interested in the lenticular clouds which had formed over the mountains thanks to the brisk easterly breeze, a cloud variety we don't see much of in East Yorkshire! Some iridescence was also noted, looking like oil patches in the sky.

Eventually after almost 12 hours of travelling we arrived at Nevis Lodge, our temporary residence for the week, and after unpacking we were able to enjoy the outstanding view afforded from the property, with Ben Nevis and the Aonach range rising high above our forest lodge in the small community of Tomacharich. The weather was warm and breezy (the breeze keeping the dreaded midges away) and as we sat and relaxed after the trials of the day, we stopped to think just how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such natural beauty, especially after we learnt that the accident that had earlier delayed us had resulted in a tragic fatality.

24th August 2015, Monday
Nevis Lodge & Ski Centre - After the long drive yesterday we took it easy, spending much of the time around our beautiful woodland lodge, myself and my nephew and nieces looking for nature and wildlife around the garden. I had started the day with an early morning walk, enjoying all the interesting fungi in the surrounding birch and pine woodlands, whilst birds had included a TREE PIPIT, a few buzzards, RAVENS high overhead, a couple of Jays, flocks of Siskins, goldcrests, a treecreeper, and bright yellow Willow warblers. Amongst the grasses, heathers, ferns, and blaeberries, a number of little froglets were seen hopping about, whilst these same grasses hosted Veneer moths and best of all, quite a number of SCOTCH ARGUS butterflies, these almost exclusively Scottish butterflies looking like a Ringlet with dark orange splodges.

Dragonflies were also common in the garden, dominated by and large by Common Darters, but with Black darters and Common Hawkers also noted (the latter being a new addition to my year list). In the afternoon my father went down to the river and noted Kingfishers, and also noted another curious bobbing bird he couldn't identify. However his description makes me think it was probably a type of Sandpiper, though which species is open to debate.

Meanwhile my eldest sister and I enjoyed a ride on the gondolas at the Nevis Ski Centre in the afternoon, taking my niece up to the Snowgoose Restaurant half way up Aonach Mor. When I usually visit in spring some sizable snow patches are often still remaining in the area, but with this being late summer the whole area was without snow with just boulder strewn meadows and bare rock to be seen. A stroll to the nearby viewpoint gave outstanding views over the Great Glen and the surrounding landscape, the path being lined by typical high moorland flowers, whilst Meadow Pipits were noted in good numbers in the surrounding meadows. A scan across the slopes of Aonach Mor for Mountain Hare proved fruitless, the top of the mountain being shrouded in cloud, though since this species of rugged mammal is notoriously hard to spot I could well have missed them. Indeed I have never seen the species well (ie. within a kilometre) though I remain ever hopeful that one day I might get lucky.

25th August 2015, Tuesday
Ben Nevis - Since my eldest sister was determined to climb Ben Nevis during the holiday we decided that today would be the best day for it, the weather looking decidedly dodgy for the remainder of the week. This would be my fourth time up Britain's highest mountain, and whilst it is a relatively simple climb with a well trodden path all the way to the top, it is a hard and long slog which is a good test of fitness and stamina. However all the hard work is definitely worth it for as one climbs ever higher one is afforded increasingly fine views over the whole region, including the sea lochs of Loch Linnhe & Loch Eil to the west, as well as other surrounding mountains including the grey and red peaks of the Mamores to the south (including one of my favourites in the shape and form of the 1,999 metre high Sgurr Mhaim), the Cairngorms far to the east beyond Rannoch and the neighboring mountains of Carn Mor Dearg, Aonach Mor, Aonach Beag  and the 'Grey Corries'.

Our route took us from Glen Nevis and up what I call the 'tourist route' around the side of Carn Dearg, and up to the small lochan which lies between this comparatively modest hill and the glowering lump of rock that is Ben Nevis. From this scenic spot begins the long and zig-zagging climb up the mountain, the little vegetation up here soon giving way to little more than bare rock (bar resilient lichens and mosses), until one finally reaches the summit after a gruelling and seemingly never-ending climb. During most of our walk the weather had been cloudy at the summit, indeed for much of our climb we were up in the deliciously cool and all enveloping cloak of grey mist which usually crowns this notoriously wet mountain, but as we reached the top it began to clear, so much so that by the time we stopped for a refreshing cup of tea and a picnic we had fine views over the Great Glen, including our little holiday lodge hidden in the forests below.

After half an hour of enjoying the view we decided to head back home, beginning the equally gruelling descent, though when we reached the lochan we continued northwards rather than taking the route we had come up, this alternative path taking us down into the valley of the snow-fed mountain stream of Allt a Mhuilinn. This path takes you right under the bleak and grey north face of Ben Nevis, with the 'Castle' and 'Carn Dearg' rising vertically above us, whilst the boulder strewn meadows and over hanging rocks signaled that this was not a place to linger. This route under the mountain is my favourite, largely because so few other people do it, and whilst we saw no Red Deer today, it is usually a good spot to see them, especially in the morning and late evening. After fording across the fast flowing stream we continued to follow the path back to Leanachan Forest and the waiting car beyond, though before we fell below the tree line we were able to enjoy the rich early evening light which bathed the rugged mountainous landscape of the area, the warm & golden light making everything look radiantly beautiful and timeless.

On the wildlife front some good birds were noted during our day on the mountain, chief amongst these being a male summer plumaged PTARMIGAN which flew no more than 20 metres in front of me. This is the best view I have ever enjoyed of this mountain loving grouse though apart from me no one else seemed to see it. RAVENS too were ignored by 99% of walkers today, these overlooked crows being seen frequently throughout our walk, whilst Pipits were equally abundant. A single Wheatear and a small flock of SNOW BUNTINGS which flew over us were other excellent observations. Elsewhere the woods of Leanachan Forest hosted some good fungi, including a large boletus type species, and plenty of Orange Peel fungi, whilst further Scotch Argus butterflies were noted throughout the area.

26th August 2015, Wednesday
Jacobite - After a good night’s rest after the exertions of yesterday, I rose shortly after dawn (which up here is still slightly earlier than back home), and went out for a short stroll around the lodge. My legs were somewhat stiff but the discomfort was soon put to the back of my mind as I came across a Red deer grazing in a nearby meadow, the attractive deer coming within 50 metres of where I crouched amongst the heather (luckily I was wearing my moorland browns). Though the light was poor, not only from the earliness of the day but also from the grey and damp skies overhead, I was able to enjoy some privileged views of this iconic highland deer quietly grazing, and whilst I have frequently seen wild Red deer on previous Scottish sojourns, I have never been so close to a genuine wild one whilst actually out in the open.

Another deer would be seen from the lodge as we enjoyed breakfast, and this time I was able to get some photos through the window, though the poor light made it difficult to get any sharp pics (plus the distorting effect of double glazing didn’t help). This deer grazed outside the lodge for about quarter of an hour before quietly slipping away into the surrounding forest.

After breakfast we made our way to Fort William to see the ‘Jacobite’ train depart what was by now a very wet morning, the rain absolutely pouring down as the train left the station in a cloud of steam. The train was hauled by the LNER K1 No.62005, a loco which is actually technically based at Grosmont and the NYMR, but which these days spends most summers up here hauling the Jacobite service between Fort William and Mallaig. Indeed it was good to see it again, whilst a Class 67 in the shape and form of No.67011 was also standing in the station with the sleeper train.

Since my eldest sister was booked to take the train tomorrow we decided we would scout out the route today and find some good spots for photography, this journey taking us along the scenic West Highland route through Glenfinnan and the very pretty coastal areas around Arisaig. Though the weather was poor we took time to enjoy a bit of birding around the area, though apart from gulls (Herring, Black-backed & Common) and a few waders (including Turnstones and Dunlin) little was about. Still it was an enjoyable way to spend half an hour or so.

The rest of the day was uneventful, in truth I was still recovering after yesterday, but I did find a moth on the outside of the lodge which after a little research I identified as a CRESCENT of the SCOTIA type, a new species for me (I had thought it was the very similar Haworth's Minor at first). The birds around the lodge were also noticeably active, the drizzly rain seemingly having this effect (a phenomena I have also noted at Wold Garth in autumn), with the most obvious species being Willow warbler, Long tailed tit, Coal tit and a few Treecreepers.

27th August 2015, Thursday
Chasing the Jacobite - With my eldest sister and my niece taking the ‘Jacobite’ train this morning we headed off to the famous Glenfinnan viaduct to photograph it, dropping them off at Fort William and making our way to the pretty station at Glenfinnan. From here it was a mile long walk to the viewpoint, the path taking us across the hillside until we had a fine view of the famous viaduct, and as we progressed I noted good numbers of Scotch Argus whom happily fluttered about despite the light mizzly rain and low cloud. Within a minute of our arrival at the vantage point the train was upon us, snaking around the opposite hillside and over the viaduct, the loco putting on some extra steam and blowing its whistle repeatedly at it did so, a fine spectacle.

Once the train had passed the heavens opened and heavy rain poured down, but having come prepared for inclement weather I actually enjoyed this fact. Indeed if you are dressed for it rain is actually good fun, and besides if you don’t like rain there is little point coming up here to the western Highlands in late summer/early autumn. Eventually we arrived back at Glenfinnan but since the train was standing in the station we were unable to cross the line and had to wait for it to depart. However a delightful and comfortable little shelter is to be found on the ‘eastbound’ platform and I spent a pleasant quarter of an hour watching and listening to the rain outside.

With the train eventually on its way, the loco struggling for adhesion on the slick rails as it climbed up and out of the station, we made our way to Mallaig to pick up my sister and niece. Near Arisaig we passed through a period of torrential rain, the wipers of the Jeep struggling to clear the water at even the highest setting, but thankfully this didn’t last long and indeed by the time we arrived in the small coastal community it was dry, albeit somewhat chilly and breezy.

With my sister and niece safely alighted we headed along the coast to enjoy a little picnic at a lovely little natural bay just north of Arisaig, from where we had great views out towards the Isles of Eigg, Muck & Rhum. To the south Ardnamurchan jutted out into the grey Atlantic Ocean as well, whilst to the north the mountains of Skye, including the Cullins, could be seen despite the frequent blustery showers which swept in off the sea. Though it was windy and cold, I was very much in my element and from the rocky outcrop beside the shore I was able to watch the local birdlife come and go, sheer bliss.

Birds noted included a number of seabirds, including Gannets, Shags, and a variety of gulls (including Kittiwakes), whilst a pair of EIDERS in the sea was great to see, these sea-ducks being one of my favourite birds and a species I have not seen for quite some time. Meanwhile the shore hosted about 6-8 Ringed Plovers, as well as 10+ Dunlin, a Common Sandpiper, and about half a dozen Oystercatchers. Amongst the rocks appropriately named Rock pipits were spotted, whilst other observations included three Grey herons and a single Buzzard.

28th August 2015, Friday
Ardnamurchan - Today we decided to spend the day in one of my favourite places in the whole of the British Isles, the stunning Ardnamurchan peninsula in the far west of the Lochaber region. Ardnamurchan may be part of the mainland, indeed it is the most westerly point on the British mainland, but thanks to its geographical isolation it feels very much like an island, especially west of Archaracle, with a winding single-track road being the only access to the area. This road hugs the shores of Loch Sunart for most of the route, passing through stunted oak woodlands and just a handful of small communities on the way, including Glenborrodale which is home to a small RSPB reserve.

However our main aim was to reach Ardnamurchan Point and its unique Egyptian styled lighthouse, and after a slow and winding journey we arrived at this windswept point, the weather being mercifully dry and even sunny at times. From the craggy shore I found a high vantage point to watch the birds passing along the headland, and though I was bothered by a few inconsiderate visitors and their poorly trained dogs, I was able to note some interesting species during my half an hour sea-watch.

Best amongst these was a GREAT SKUA which flew right over my head, my first 'Bonxie' for quite some time, whilst other birds included Fulmars, Gannets (many of which were diving into the sea just beyond the shore), Kittiwakes, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls. Rock pipits also hopped about over the rocky shores, and a few Oystercatchers were noted, whilst a talk with another visitor revealed recent sightings of Golden Eagle just a little bit inland. Suffice to say we failed to see any Eagles (I haven't seen one for years), but the last time we visited I did have outstanding views of a Hen Harrier just outside the community of Kilchoan.

A walk a little further inland saw us come across both STONECHATS and WHINCHATS around the small lochans near Grigadale, with other notes worthy of mention including a few buzzards, a small number of ravens and plenty of Hooded crows. Later in the day we also visited a little natural history centre at Glenbeg which was a very pleasant place indeed, with some lovely tea and tasty scones, as well as fine views and interesting wildlife. I have subsequently learnt that this centre is actually up for sale and if I was a little bit richer and at liberty to do so, I would be very tempted to make an offer. However it is probably a good idea to finish our cottage at Grosmont first before gallivanting off to the wilds of Ardnamurchan!

From here we slowly made our way home, taking the route north-eastwards through Acharacle and Moidart, though just north of Acharacle we made a minor detour to visit the pretty ruined stronghold of Castle Tioram which sits on a tidal island near the entrance to Loch Shiel. Once home to the Clanranald's, the castle has been a ruin since the Jacobite rebellion of the 18th century, and it must surely be one of the most picturesque ruins in the whole of the Highlands. In the car park I also noted a little wren going in and out of a delightful mossy nest, taking food and faecal sacs to and from its little sequestered nook.

29th August 2015, Saturday
Nevis Ski Centre - Our last full day in Lochaber proved to be a wet affair with pouring rain pretty much all day, but not wanting to waste the day we decided to enjoy another ride up to the Snowgoose Restaurant via the gondolas of the Nevis Ski Centre. The pouring rain and strong cross wind made it an interesting trip, the gondola swinging about in the more exposed locations, but it was good fun and once we were at the top we were able to enjoy a hot chocolate and watch the rain pour down on the mountain side from the comfort of the visitor centre.

In the afternoon we went into Fort William for a spot of shopping, something which I do very infrequently, but since the town is an outdoors sort of place there are some interesting shops selling boots, clothing and that sort of thing. A number of 'Scottish' themed shops can also be found, selling the usual cheap junk to the tourists, though I have to say I do have a penchant for tartan and tweed and if you look for it some high quality items can be found in some of the better shops, the lateness of the season also meaning that many are now starting to sell off their stocks.

However it was during our last night in the lodge that the real excitement came, as around 4 am in the morning I was suddenly awakened from my slumbers by a noise from the window. Sitting up and looking across I was astonished to see a PINE MARTEN on the open window sill, the two of us stopping to stare at each other for a moment, before the frightened mammal took flight. I knew Pine Martens were in the area but nevertheless to have one literally within my bedroom was something rather special and something I doubt I will ever forget.

30th August 2015, Sunday
Journey & Eden Valley Railway - It was with great sadness that we departed our little forest lodge early in the morning, leaving on what was a wet and grey Scottish day. However the rain and dramatic grey skies made for a fine spectacle as we traveled up through Glencoe and up and over Rannoch Moor (I love the wilds of Rannoch in such weather), a few red deer also being noted as they retreated up into the hills with the coming of dawn. As we headed inland the weather began to improve and by the times we left Lochaber & Argyll and returned to Perthshire the skies began to lift and brighten, so much so that by the time we reached Stirlingshire and the lowlands some sunny spells would break through.

Returning down the west coast again, a route we much prefer to the less interesting A1 route down through Berwickshire & Northumberland, we stopped in the Eden Valley in Cumbria to pay a brief visit to the small Eden Valley railway. This heritage railway is very much in its infancy and has just a couple of working diesel locos, though the station was a pleasant little place, especially with the craggy slopes of the Pennines rising above it, whilst the staff were all extremely friendly and welcoming. I also picked up a lovely little book about the nature of the Eden Valley.

The rest of the journey passed with little incident and after crossing through the tedious plains of the Vale of York we finally returned to our rolling Yorkshire Wolds, where the wheat harvest was evidently in full swing judging by the number of combined fields around our home. Indeed much has been accomplished during our absence with most of the barley now in, at least the winter crop anyway, whilst the aforementioned wheat is moving on nicely. The weather hasn't been ideal, indeed almost an inch of rain has fallen during our absence and temperatures have been around the late August average, but at least conditions have been better than down in t' south (the poor wee lambs). All in all our week in Lochaber had been a wonderful & restful holiday but nevertheless it was good to be home, especially with autumn proper just around the corner!

31st August 2015, Monday
Min 12.5 C, Max 15.2 C, Rain 5.6 mm, Wind N 3
A largely wet and autumnal sort of day with outbreaks of rain throughout, some of these periods of rain being quite heavy (peak rate of 7 mm/h recorded), whilst a northerly breeze meant that temperatures failed to rise much above 15 C. Remaining unsettled and cool overnight with further outbreaks of rain. Feeling distinctly autumnal!