October 2015

1st October 2015, Thursday
Min 6.9 C, Max 17.5 C, Rain nil, Wind E 2
A foggy start to October, though by mid-morning this fog was replaced by mere cloud. However this cloud quickly cleared away with clear blue skies and an abundance of golden October sunshine in the afternoon, temperatures being slightly above average for the the time of year. Mostly clear in the evening and for much of the night, though latterly cloud would increase for a time. However before dawn this cloud would clear away with mist patches forming by the end of the night. Ground temperatures dipping close to freezing.

The clement October sunshine this afternoon meant that a few butterflies were noted in the garden, including a few Red Admirals, a Small Tortoiseshell and a species of White (not sure which but most likely Green-veined White). A large number of ladybirds were also noted, especially around the windows, whilst in the Stevenson screen these colourful bugs are starting to congregate in the dark corners of the box. This happens every year with my weather instrument screen inadvertently doubling up as an insect box for a variety of species but especially ladybirds, lacewings and earwigs.

2nd October 2015, Friday
Bwlch-y-Garnedd - We set off for North Wales shortly before midday, picking up my eldest niece from school along the way as she and my eldest sister were joining us for the first weekend at Bwlch-y-Garnedd. The journey was largely trouble free with just the usual heavy traffic around the Manchester area slowing us down, but in little more than three hours we had reached the Welsh border, making the final half-hour of the journey to our little cottage just west of Llangollen with no further problems whatsoever. The cottage itself is located at the end of a mile long unsurfaced track near the hamlet of Rhewl, the former farmhouse being located in a peaceful and sheltered valley beneath the heather clad Llantysilio Mountains.


Since my sister wouldn't arrive until after 9 pm we decided to enjoy a short stroll up the hill with my niece in the evening, the beautiful weather which greeted us when we arrived in Wales lending the October landscape a rich & warming hue, especially up on the hills with the reddish heather and increasingly copper-hued bracken. Even down in the valley some autumn tints were showing down in the woods which line the river Dee, especially amongst the beeches and oaks, the same area where on the journey up to the cottage I had noted a number of Parasol Mushrooms fruiting in the fields. Since we were planning to climb Snowdon the next day we decided it was best to not wear out our niece too much on our walk and therefore we returned to the comfort of our cottage and retired early so that we could head off to beautiful Snowdonia bright and early the next morning.


3rd October 2015, Saturday
Yr Wyddfa - With fine weather forecast and with this being the only day it would be possible anyway, we took my sister and niece to climb Mount Snowdon (or Yr Wyddfa) in the beautiful and dramatic landscape which makes up the Snowdonia National Park. The journey to the mountain was through thick fog most of the way but as we reached our starting point we rose above the mists, the impressive bulk which makes up Yr Wyddfa looking even more dramatic thanks to the autumnal atmospheric conditions. Having climbed Ben Nevis with us back in August, my sister was keen to make the ascent of Snowdon as well, leaving just Scafell Pike to tick off in her quest to complete the 'Three Peak' challenge by the end of the year.


Having parked up at the eastern end of the Llanberis Pass (the car park at Pen-y-Pass being full when we arrived!) we began our walk in good spirits, the gentle start to the Miner's Track providing some spectacular views. We had chosen the Miners route as it is quieter than the Pyg Track and not as challenging as Crib Goch (we did have our niece with us after all), whilst it also took us along the scenic lakes which lie beneath the 1,085 metre (3,560 feet) peak which loomed high above us. As we continued the reason for the routes name became clear as we came upon the remains of the now ruined copper mine buildings beside Lynn Llydaw. Whilst these ruins looked very picturesque today one couldn't help but stop to think just how hard life would have been up here during those mining days.



After stopping for a short break beside the pretty lake of Glaslyn we began the long steep ascent up the side of the mountain, eventually joining the busier Pyg Track after a scramble up from the lake. Being a Saturday and what with the perfect weather it was very, very busy indeed with an almost constant stream of people climbing up the mountain (not my cup of tea at all!), but nevertheless we made good progress and eventually reached the top after about three hours. The top of the mountain was even busier, so busy in fact that people were queuing to take the now seemingly obligatory selfie beside the cairn, many of whom had of course come up via the train, but rather than joining the crowd we found a relatively peaceful spot from where we could sit and look down through the clouds and over the landscape below as we enjoyed a cup of tea and a light picnic.



A cold wind blew across the high peak whilst the grey cloak of cloud made it feel that bit colder (I estimate the temperature was about 2 to 3 C), though thankfully the cloud was not a thick blanket and occasional breaks allowed us to look down on the lakes and valleys below. After finishing our provisions and with little reason to linger we began the long descent, passing large numbers of people still making their way up the climb, though by now the best of the weather had passed and the mountain was obscured by a mantle of grey cloud. As we descended an unfamiliar bleating sound was heard from high above and through my binoculars I could see a small group of Mountain Goats amongst the rocks below Crib Goch.



Speaking of wildlife some interesting birds and whatnot were noted on our mountain walk, including of course the obligatory Ravens, Meadow Pipits & Buzzards, plus a single Stonechat near our starting point and a Grey Heron beside Nant Gwryd. A recent account by another birder whom lamented he had seen only six species of birds during his recent climb of Yr Wyddfa encouraged me to do my own such count, though I had somewhat better luck and counted 15 species in total. After another three hours we finally made it back to our starting point, ending what had been a very enjoyable six hours climbing Wales highest mountain.

4th October 2015, Sunday
Bwlch-y-Garnedd - After the exertions of yesterday we had a largely quiet day at the cottage, the weather yet again being kind to us with plenty of pleasant Welsh sunshine to enjoy. However before breakfast I did enjoy a solitary walk up to Moel y Gaer, the lowest of the four hills which make up Llantysilio Mountain, the walking straight from our cottage door being simply outstanding. Moel y Gaer was the location of an Iron Age hill fort, the circular shape of which can still just about be made out from the ground, whilst the name of the hill literally translates as the "Bald Hill of the Fortress". As I made my way along the path I noted Ravens cruising overhead, whilst amongst the heather Meadow Pipits and Red Grouse were also noted. A female or juvenile Wheatear was encountered on the very top of the hill, an unexpected sighting, whilst up on the slopes of Moel y Gamelin a few Stonechats could be heard, their distinctive stone like calls alerting me to their presence.


After returning to the cottage for breakfast my sister and niece went to explore Llangollen whilst we enjoyed a lazy morning in the garden, listening to all the birds which call 'our' little valley home. Buzzards were particularly abundant, their mewing calls being an almost constant sound throughout our week at Bwlch-y-Garnedd, whilst Jays were also a common sight and sound with at least three of these handsome crows being spotted at one point (Jays are an uncommon bird in East Yorkshire). The yaffling cries of Green Woodpeckers and the light twitterings of Siskins were also noted, though the highlight came in the afternoon when a BLACK GROUSE was spotted on the edge of the high field, Llantysilio Mountain being home to a small number of these rare moorland birds.


In mid-afternoon my sister and niece returned back home to East Yorkshire, the commitments of work and school meaning they could not stay with us for the rest of the week, and after seeing them off and wishing them well on their journey, we settled back down and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon in peace. The continuing sunshine meant that a surprisingly large variety of butterflies were noted, especially considering it is now October, with species noted including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Small White, and best of all, a single Small Copper. This is probably the latest date I have ever seen this species. The lawn also hosted a Blackening Waxcap, a sign that this area has never been ploughed or 'improved'.


5th October 2015, Monday
Valle Crucis Abbey - The first day of the new week dawned wet and blustery at our temporary Welsh home, the trees around the cottage swaying in the brisk breeze which blew up the south facing valley, but as the morning wore on it would steadily brighten with it becoming drier for a time around the middle of the day and into the first part of the afternoon. Though we were perfectly content to stay at the cottage all day, after all it was so delightfully cosy and idyllic, we did decide to venture down into the rest of the world for a few brief hours, and enjoyed a gentle stroll around the nearby ruins of Valle Crucis Abbey.


This former Cistercian abbey was constructed in the early 13th century and was one of the most important Welsh religious sites in the medieval age, the abbey reaching its zenith in the 15th century with particular associations with a number of prominent Welsh poets of the age, including Gutun Owain, Tudur Aled & Guto'r Glyn, the latter being buried at the site. The abbey, in common with most religious communities of the age, was dissolved in the mid-16th century during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by the Tudors, and soon fell into disrepair, though the current site is now under the care of Cadw and stands picturesquely in a sheltered valley below the Horseshoe Pass.


However as pretty as the abbey ruins are, not to mention the dramatic hills which surround the location, one can't help but think that the whole atmosphere of the site is ruined by the presence of a large caravan site which surrounds the medieval ruins on three sides, whilst another nearby historic monument, the Pillar of Eliseg, which dates back to the 9th century, was hard to access except via a very busy road. However despite these minor complaints it was otherwise a fascinating place to spend a few hours with the ruins well cared for and maintained by Cadw.


6th October 2015, Tuesday
Talyllyn - I rose early and went out for a solitary walk up Moel Morfydd, taking the long route around the side and then up over the top of the 549 metre (1,803 feet) high hill. Of the hills which make up the Llantysilio Mountains Moel Morfydd is my favourite, and whilst the hill may not be particularly tall or indeed scenically dramatic, it is nevertheless a modest hill I have come to love, especially as I have yet to ever encounter another soul whilst walking on its slopes (being ever the misanthrope this is my idea of heaven!).



The weather for my morning walk was largely grey, the hill tops obscured by wind driven clouds from the SW, though from time to time the sun would appear, shining forth above the Dee Valley and the flatter lands of England to the east. As I made my way through the bracken, gorse and birch scrub on Morfydd's southern slopes I came upon a large clump of Fly Agarics with at least two dozen of these unmistakable toadstools fruiting in the shade of a birch, whilst amongst all the gorse scrub I noted a number of Pipits. After an hour I eventually reached the top of the hill, which was up in the clouds, and seeing no reason to linger I made my way home via Moel-y-Gaer and down the pretty little valley which leads down to the cottage, eventually dropping below the clouds again as I did so.


After a late breakfast we decided to head towards the Welsh coast and spend a day visiting what is perhaps one of the most important preserved narrow-gauge railways in the country, the famous Talyllyn Railway (or Rheilffordd Talyllyn) which runs from Tywyn on the coast to the former slate quarries near Abergynolwyn. Though the weather was not particularly cooperative, with periods of heavy rain coming in off the relatively warm waters of the Irish Sea, we nevertheless had a lovely time, the delightful little trains being beautifully cared for whilst the staff were friendly, welcoming and informative.



At Tywyn there was a very interesting museum devoted to the history of narrow gauge railways in the area and across Wales, whilst there was also a recreation of Rev. W. Awdry's study, the man perhaps better known as the creator of the Thomas the Tank engine books. In fact Rev. Awdry volunteered at the railway from time to time and the Skarloey Railway in his books is based on the Talylynn. After enjoying the return trip from Abergynolwyn we made our way home, heading up the coast in pouring rain, though a few Stonechats on the shore near Barmouth brightened up the journey back to our cottage.


7th October 2015, Wednesday
Welsh Highland Railway - Yet again the day dawned wet with pouring heavy rain beating down on the slate roof of the cottage, but thankfully by mid-morning things began to quickly improve with spells of sunshine by the time we set off for another trip on a narrow gauge railway, our destination today being the Welsh Highland Railway between Porthmadog & Caernarfon. Indeed sunny skies and pleasantly warm conditions greeted us at Porthmadog, a pretty little town on the western coast of Gwynedd, whilst the railway station, which sits atop the Cob (a 19th century sea-wall), gives good views across the bay to the west and over the wetlands to the east.


Since I love to combine my passions for both birds and railways, I consider this to be one of my favourite places to visit, the location being made all the more appealing thanks to the dramatic backdrop of Snowdonia and the mountainous lumps of rock beyond. Since the tide was out the number of birds on the shore was not great but despite this a few species were noted including Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Curlews whilst a few species of gull were also spotted. Turning my attention to the marshes on the landward side a good variety of wildfowl were recorded, most numerous being Wigeon whom appeared to number in the hundreds, whilst other species included Teal, Mallard, Greylag geese, Mute Swans, Lapwings and a single Grey Heron. In summer Ospreys may also be seen here but they have already moved on.



As for the railway journey itself this was truly a delight, the two hour plus journey to Caernarfon seemingly flying past, the first two-thirds of the journey through Snowdonia being particularly scenic with some good views of Mount Snowdon and the surrounding mountains. Our locomotive for the journey (as well as for the return) was a former South African Railway engine in the shape and form of No.87, a NGG 16 Class Garratt (2-6-2+2-6-2), the loco looking rather attractive in its Midnight Blue livery. Whilst I admit that my knowledge of narrow gauge railways is woefully poor, I do have to admit that I actually prefer riding on them compared to standard gauge railways, perhaps because they are so different compared to today's rather characterless electric & diesel multiple units.



In Caernarfon we had a nice walk around the castle and its walls, exploring the old streets of this fortified town on the NW coast of Wales, and delighting in the fact that the Welsh language is strong and thriving in this part of the country, at least judging by the number of speakers one heard as we wandered around its cobbled streets. We had visited the Castle back in March so we didn't bother this time and besides we didn't actually have that much time before the train returned to Porthmadog anyway, but I did have time to visit the statue of David Lloyd George, one of the great figures of the British Liberal Party. The return journey passed with little further incident, though our train was buzzed a few times by an RAF chinook which decided to show off a little (I have to admit it was impressive to watch), whilst on the drive back to Llantysilio we had to admire the beautiful landscapes around the busy little town of Bala. This part of Wales is definitely pleasing to the eye.


8th October 2015, Thursday
Bwlch-y-Garnedd - With better weather greeting us at dawn we decided to climb the highest hill of the Llantysilio Mountains prior to breakfast, taking on the steep climb up the western side of Moel-y-Gamelin on what turned out to be a beautiful morning here in North Wales. Indeed with mist and fog hanging down in the Dee Valley and with clear skies allowing golden sunshine to bathe us on the bare mountain top, it was outstandingly scenic by the time we reached the weather beaten cairn atop the 577 metre (1,893 feet) hill, the complete absence of any other human soul yet again making it all the more idyllic and treasured.



As we made our way back to the cottage along the longer route which takes you down towards the nearby slate quarry and then along the southern and western slopes of the heather clad hill, we noted a few typical moorland birds such as Ravens, Pipits and Grouse, whilst in a few spots the heather was still in flower, the purple flowers looking all the more attractive where it bloomed amongst the luminous and fragrant gorse. From here we could also look down at our cottage on the other hillside, the old white-painted farmhouse looking like an insignificant small dot compared to the grander natural landscape all around it.



After breakfast we took it easy for a while, sitting outside for a bit in the warm Welsh sunshine, the golden rays encouraging a few butterflies to make an appearance including a Small Tortoiseshell and a Red Admiral. On the walls of the house I noticed a Spruce Carpet and no doubt it would have been fascinating to have had the opportunity to run a moth-trap at Bwlch-y-Garnedd. When we come again maybe I could ask the landowner for permission so to do.


In the afternoon we down to the Rhug Estate, perhaps most famous for its herd of Bisons which graze in the fields around the farmshop, and whilst we didn't buy any bison steaks we did come away with some tasty produce to take home with us. We also visited the Rhug Chapel, a seemingly modest building outside but one which hosts some fine features of historical interest inside, the church being quite different from the more typical plain and stark chapels which otherwise characterise Calvinistic Wales. The reason for this rich interior was thanks to a local Royalist soldier and latterly a writer of Welsh verse whom, unlike most of his countrymen, was very much of a "High Church" persuasion, creating here at Rhug his own private chapel to reflect his religious ideals. The current building also owes much to another local landowner whom had the chapel restored in the mid-19th century, the restoration crucially being sympathetic to the original vision for the building.



9th October 2015, Friday
Bwlch-y-Garnedd - With this being our last morning in Wales we arose before dawn to head out on one last walk, hoping to reach the top of Moel Morfydd before sunrise. As we left the sound of tawny owls could be heard down in the valley whilst as we made our way through the woods we disturbed roosting pheasants, these overweight game-birds never being masters of subtlety. Above us the crescent moon shone down upon our little valley, whilst on either side the bright planets of Jupiter and Venus likewise shone forth, the fainter red disk of Mars also being noted in close proximity to its brighter celestial counterparts.


Down in the Dee Valley thick fog snaked its way along the valley, the faint twilight by now starting to illuminate the scene, and as we reached Moel y Gaer the sky began to redden in the east with a promise of a fine sunrise to follow. Heading westwards along the mountain top path we could see Snowdonia and its mountains in the far distance starting to catch the first of the morning rays, and as we neared the top of Moel Morfydd we timed our ascent with almost near perfection, the red sun rising above the misty countryside of England to the east as we arrived at the summit of the mountain.


As the sun rose higher it began to illuminate the top of the valley fog below us, the shadows cast by the surrounding hills making the landscape appear all the more dramatic, and as we watched the unfolding scene I became acutely aware of just how privileged we were to see such natural beauty, the sense yet again being all the greater thanks to our delightful solitude. Indeed what with the thick fog nearly all of the communities and farms were shrouded and hidden and as we stood there one could have been forgiven for thinking that the world was ours and ours alone, a thought both appealing and terrifying at the same time.


However of course all good things never last and the realities of the real world meant we had to get back to the cottage to clean it up and get it ready for the next visitors, but as we packed up and left Bwlch-y-Garnedd to set off for home I felt sure we would return again in the not too distant future. Indeed this little cottage and the heather-clad mountains upon which it sits have become one of those uncommon corners of the world in which I feel completely detached from the rest of the world, the feeling of liberty which comes with this being extremely intoxicating and very addictive.


10th October 2015, Saturday
Min 5.0 C, Max 14.8 C, Rain nil, Wind E 1-2
A foggy start to the day but soon burning away with a lovely morning following with plenty of golden October sunshine. However in the afternoon cloud would increase with skies becoming largely cloudy by mid-afternoon and it would remain largely cloudy for the rest of the day and the evening. Becoming clearer again overnight.

Whilst hanging out the washing this morning I heard numerous skylarks and pipits heading inland over my head, their distinctive calls being a common sound throughout most of October here on the east coast of England. The high pitched 'tsweep' of Redwings were also heard though I haven't seen any in the garden yet. Meanwhile the pleasant morning sunshine brought a few butterflies out including a couple of Red Admirals and a 'White' (again probably Green-veined), whilst a probable Small Tortoiseshell was also noted.

11th October 2015, Sunday
Min 7.2 C, Max 13.9 C, Rain nil, Wind E 2
A bright day with sunny spells throughout, though the gentle easterly breeze kept temperatures pegged back to no higher than 13.9 C. Clear spells overnight.

The first garden REDWINGS were spotted this morning with a small number of this handsome winter visiting thrush being spotted enjoying the garden yew berries and haws. Whether they are truly the first of the year is unknown as they may have arrived last week whilst we were away in North Wales, but nevertheless their arrival today is roughly on schedule, the earliest date for their arrival coming in 2013 when they arrived on the 7th, whilst last year the first was recorded on the 15th. Winter is undoubtedly coming!

Whilst I haven't had the good fortune to have seen any Pink-footed Geese so far this year (though many local birders have seen them passing over the county during the last fortnight or so), I did hear a large group of Greylag geese at dawn today. The call of Greylags and Pink-feet are quite different, especially when you hear them together, and undoubtedly Pink-feet provide a much more pleasing call compared to their larger and more boisterous cousins.

12th October 2015, Monday
Min 4.2 C, Max 13.9 C, Rain 1.7 mm, Wind N 2-3
A chilly and bright start to the day with some good spells of autumn sunshine in the morning, though in the afternoon showers would start to drift in from the coast, some of which would be quite heavy at times. Becoming drier by the evening but remaining mostly cloudy, the largely cloudy skies persisting throughout most of the night.

13th October 2015, Tuesday
Min 5.9 C, Max 12.6 C, Rain 2.3 mm, Wind NW 2
A largely cloudy day with showers drifting down from the north from time to time, especially in the afternoon, some of these showers being quite heavy at times. Temperatures struggling to just 12.6 C with temps falling into single figures during some of the showers. Further occasional showers overnight though some clearer spells would develop latterly.

Large numbers of migrant birds have been reported from along the East Yorkshire coast today, and whilst I would have liked to have seen it for myself it was sadly impossible. However the pics of hundreds of Goldcrests arriving at the likes of Spurn and Flamborough has been great to see, as have the rarer migrants such as Red-flanked Bluetails, Firecrests and a variety of exotic warbler species, the weather conditions recently having been perfect for such large 'falls' of migrants here on the east coast of the British Isles.

14th October 2015, Wednesday
Min 5.3 C, Max 12.6 C, Rain 3.1 mm, Wind N 3-4
A largely cloudy morning with occasional showers drifting down from the north, though in the afternoon it would become drier and brighter for a time. Cloud and showers returning towards the end of the afternoon and into the evening, some of these showers becoming heavier and more prolonged during the night.

A few redwings were in the garden today, the sight and sound of them brightening up what was otherwise a largely grey, cool and disappointing mid-October day. Redwings are one of my favourite birds and I love to see them in the environs of the old homestead, this species of winter thrush being to autumn & winter what Swallows are to spring & summer.

North Cliffe Wood
In the afternoon we enjoyed a stroll around my favourite woodland nature reserve and whilst the skies were largely cloudy back at home nearer the coast, over here on the inland side of the Yorkshire Wolds the weather was much brighter with some good spells of October sunshine to enjoy. This warm(ish) sunshine even encouraged a few late Speckled Woods to make an appearance along the edges of the wood, especially around the heath, whilst about a dozen Common Darters were also noted.



The moderate northerly breeze meant that golden birch leaves were tumbling from the canopy as we made our way along the perimeter path, though really the autumn colours are not that great yet with the Aspens along the western edge only just starting to turn gold. The bracken likewise is still pretty green in some areas whilst in others it has already turned dark copper and has begun to die back, whilst what with it now being mid-October I decided to do my first Woodcock search of the new season but unsurprisingly drew a blank. However they should be here by the end of the month.


On the woodland floor a good variety of fungi were spotted, including old favourites such as Fly Agarics and Parasol Mushrooms, as well as common species such as Grisettes, Butter-caps and Russulas, to name but a few. In the trees roving bands of tits moved through the birches in search of food, including a few Marsh tits, whilst at least two goldcrests were also seen moving with the flock. A large number of redwings were also heard throughout the wood and it would seem that these winter visitors have all arrived at once this year judging by the numbers currently being encountered around the county.



15th October 2015, Thursday
Min 6.7 C, Max 13.0 C, Rain 0.4 mm, Wind N 3-4
A wet start to the morning with a succession of heavy & prolonged showers coming in off the North Sea, a peak rate of 6.9 mm/h being recorded around 7 am, but by late morning it had become drier if not particularly bright. Remaining largely cloudy in the afternoon with just the occasional brighter period, with overcast skies persisting throughout the evening & night.

The garden birds were very busy and active this morning, as they often are on such damp and grey autumn days, with redwings again being particularly noticeable with at least two dozen being spotted in the trees and shrubs of Wold Garth. Indeed their high pitched 'tsweep' call is an almost constant sound at the moment.

16th October 2015, Friday
Min 8.4 C, Max 12.7 C, Rain nil, Wind N 3-4
A dull and overcast morning, the cloud thick enough for some light spots of drizzle at times, and whilst it would become somewhat brighter for a time in the afternoon it would nevertheless remain predominantly cloudy, temperatures struggling to just 12.7 C beneath the largely grey skies. Becoming overcast again in the evening with cloudy skies for most of the night but latterly some clearer spells would begin to develop towards dawn.

Swinemoor
Rode down to the local wetlands prior to dawn this morning in order to see whether the floods have started to reform, but given the lack of rain this autumn it was unsurprisingly dry. As a result there were no waders or recently returned wildfowl to see (or hear), though a large skein of feral Greylags were seen to the north-east whilst the woods and hedgerows hosted large numbers of redwings. I wonder when the first Fieldfares will turn up in this neck of the woods?

17th October 2015, Saturday
Min 6.1 C, Max 13.2 C, 0.3 mm, Wind N 4
A much brighter morning with some good spells of sunshine to enjoy, a welcome tonic after the recent grey skies which have dominated the weather during the past week, but as the moderate northerly breeze eased in the afternoon the cloud would return with grey skies to end the day yet again. Overnight the cloud would thicken further with some outbreaks of rain at times.

18th October 2015. Sunday
Min 8.5 C, Max 13.4 C, Rain nil, Wind N 2
A very dull and murky start to the morning, the top of the Wolds shrouded in low cloud, but as the day wore on it would steadily brighten with even some weak spells of sunshine towards the end of the afternoon. Clear spells developing in the evening and overnight.

Grosmont
With the carpet fitters coming to the cottage this coming week we had to get a lot of work done this weekend up at Rivergarth, including glossing the skirting boards, doors and any other surface which needed doing. The interior of the house has also been used as a workshop by the builders for several months now and since such basic tools as a brush and a vacuum seem to be unknown to them, we also had to clear much of the accumulated junk out of the way. Our builders are actually promising to have the cottage cleared out by the end of the week but you'll have to forgive me if I am a little sceptical about this promise, especially since they had promised to have the toilet and bathroom finished last week but when we arrived this weekend we of course found that it had not been done.

Due to the all necessary work we weren't really able to get out much during the whole weekend but despite this the garden provided some interest, again mostly coming thanks to the riverine species such as grey wagtails and dippers. The autumn leaves are also far more colourful up here in Grosmont, especially down by the river since it is in a little dip which allows cold air from the hills above to pool, with the beeches and horse chestnuts particularly colourful at the moment. Most of the apples have now finished, though I collected about four dozen this weekend which I will now store away in a dry and cool place for feeding to the birds in the lean winter months ahead. I wonder what kind of winter we will have this year?


19th October 2015, Monday
Min 6.0 C, Max 13.7 C, Rain nil, Wind W 1-2
A bright start to the morning with some sunny spells but by mid-morning it would become somewhat cloudier with just the odd sunny spell from time to time. Remaining largely cloudy in the afternoon and evening though overnight some clearer spells would develop again.

Not much to report today expect the continuing presence of good numbers of redwings in the area whilst skylarks were also heard passing over in the morning.

20th October 2015, Tuesday
Min 5.0 C, Max 14.2 C, Rain nil, Wind W 3
A pleasant sunny October morning with good spells of sunshine, these clement conditions continuing into the afternoon. Clear spells in the evening and at first overnight but cloud would increase later with some outbreaks of rain towards the end of the night.

A butterfly was spotted briefly fluttering past my office window as I worked in the afternoon, probably either a Peacock or a Red Admiral judging by the dark colour. Meanwhile I gave the main lawn what should hopefully be the last mow of the year, the abundant worm casts making it a somewhat muddy affair. Now we need a frost and some proper cold to stop the grass growing again until next March at the earliest.

21st October 2015, Wednesday
Min 5.8 C, Max 17.4 C, Rain nil, Wind W 4-5
A wet start to the day with some outbreaks of rain but by mid-morning this would clear away with it slowly brightening as the day wore on, indeed by the end of the afternoon some good spells of sunshine would develop. However this wouldn't last long with cloudy skies returning in the evening, these largely cloudy skies persisting throughout the night. Mild.

22nd October 2015, Thursday
Min 9.6 C, Max 14.2 C, Rain nil, Wind W 4-5
After an initially cloudy start it would quickly brighten with good spells of sunshine for the remainder of the day, indeed by mid-afternoon it would become largely clear with wall to wall sunshine bathing our East Yorkshire homestead. Remaining mostly clear overnight.

23rd October 2015, Friday
Min 3.1 C, Max 12.8 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 2
A clear and chilly start to the day, a touch of ground frost (the first I've recorded this autumn) being noted in the more frost prone areas of the Parks, but after 9 am it would quickly become grey and overcast and would remain so for the rest of the day with no brightness to speak of. Remaining cloudy overnight though one or two breaks would develop from time to time.

A few golden plovers were heard going over as I cycled into town in the pre-dawn darkness early this morning. I will be glad when the clocks go back to GMT this weekend as I much prefer it to be lighter in the mornings than in the evenings, indeed I actually like the dark evenings and look forward to the cosy winter nights ahead with my family and loved ones.

24th October 2015, Saturday
Min 5.2 C, Max 12.4 C, Rain 0.5 mm, Wind W 3
A cloudy morning with outbreaks of intermittent rain from 10 am onwards, the rain never really coming to much and eventually fizzling out by early afternoon. Remaining cloudy for much of the afternoon but clearer skies would arrive from the west by the end of the afternoon, skies becoming largely clear in the evening and overnight with a touch of ground frost in the frost prone corners of the area by dawn.

25th October 2015, Sunday
Min 3.5 C, Max 11.2 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 1-2
A clear and chilly start with a touch of ground frost in sheltered spots, with the morning remaining bright with plenty of autumn sunshine bathing the East Yorkshire countryside. However as the day wore on the sunshine would become increasingly hazy and watery, and whilst skies would be relatively clear overnight the moon and stars were nevertheless veiled by a layer of thin cloud. However despite the thin cloud temperatures would dip to 1.9 C by dawn with the first official grass frost of the autumn being recorded at the weather station.

North Cave Wetlands
With so many other things keeping us busy at the moment (cottages, holidays, family commitments etc) we have, much to my regret, neglected many of the local nature reserves which we usually frequent on a regular basis. However with a free Sunday morning and with some lovely autumn sunshine promised we decided to head over the Wolds today to pay a visit to North Cave Wetlands, this being our first visit here for almost seven weeks, an inordinately long period of absence!


Despite the early morning chill we soon noted a few late Common darters along Dryham Lane, this species becoming increasingly apparent as the day continued to slowly warm as the sun rose higher, indeed by the time we had finished our visit we must have seen at least 50 around the reserve. Other species of odonata were also spotted as well, despite the fact that November is now no more than a week away, with at least one Migrant Hawker and a possible Southern Hawker noted, though the latter was far from certain and it is a little late for this species to be honest. Still the colour and size was definitely more Southern than Migrant so it will just have to go down as a 'maybe'. Far more certain meanwhile was a single (and rather tatty) Speckled Wood butterfly along the perimeter path beside Carp Lake.


On the birding front the main highlight of the morning was the large number of LESSER REDPOLLS feeding in the birches and alders around Far & Reedbed Lakes. Redpolls are not a species I frequently encounter, primarily because most of my usual birding haunts are unfavourable for this small species of finch, so any sighting is warmly welcomed and hopefully it will not be the last this year. Amongst the Redpolls a few goldfinches and siskins were also seen, all three species having similar twittering calls, whilst as I watched them a few redwings were spotted along the northern hedgerow.


As we made our way around the reserve a couple of curlews passed over heading southwards towards the nearby Humber estuary, whilst latterly eight Pink-footed Geese were also spotted heading south-westwards. Speaking of Pink-footed Geese a single bird was picked out amongst the hundreds of Greylag Geese beside Main Lake, whilst here a good number of Canada Geese were also swimming about the blue waters of this former gravel pit. As we watched the distinctive call of a Kingfisher caught our attention, the halcyon bird flying right past the hide and out of sight, and as we made our way around the reserve we would see presumably the same bird again at Far Lake.


By the time our spot of morning birding concluded we had recorded 52 species of bird, a very good count for late October, or at least by my standards anyway, with other birds of note including a couple of Grey herons, a single Little Egret, about a dozen or so Snipe and two Buzzards. Wildfowl were well represented as one would expect by this time of the year, Teal being particularly numerous, whilst a few Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted duck, Shoveler, Gadwall, Shelduck, and of course Mallard were additionally recorded.


26th October 2015, Monday
Min 1.9 C, Max 13.1 C, Rain nil, Wind SE 2-3
A cold and initially clear start but soon becoming overcast and remaining so for the duration of the morning and into the afternoon. However by mid-afternoon the cloud would quickly clear away with a fine end to the day, the skies remaining clear throughout the first part of the evening. Cloudy skies would return however by mid-evening with it becoming overcast and murky during the night.

Moths
With temperatures last night dipping low enough for a touch of ground frost it was unsurprising that when I came to empty the trap this morning that I found just two moths, these represented in the shape and form of a Red-green Carpet and a YELLOW-LINE QUAKER. The latter was a new species for the garden list whilst the former was a particularly fine specimen of Red-green Carpet with some lovely colours to admire.

Grosmont
Having been repeatedly let down by our builders, my confidence in whom has now reached rock bottom, we decided to head up to our cottage today to make sure that the carpet layers would be able to access the property and to help them where we could. Indeed I think we will just have to bite the bullet and try to complete as much of the property by ourselves, especially with winter just around the corner!


The autumn colours around the cottage and the village have continued to advance, the woods and trees beside the river looking lovely in the brief periods of sunshine in the afternoon, and whilst the leaves are now rapidly tumbling from many of the trees down here in Grosmont, the copper and yellow leaves floating past on the dark peaty waters of the river, I think some of the best colour is yet to come, especially in the oak and larch woodlands further up the valley. As I walked along 'our' riverbank I came upon a dead fish which had washed up on the rocky bank, eggs pouring forth from its ruptured flanks, a reminder that the Murk Esk is an important spawning ground for both trout and salmon. The sneezing call of a Marsh tit was also briefly heard, a bird species which is unknown back at Wold Garth, indeed the species is rare east of the Yorkshire Wolds, whilst up on the hills there are increasingly few birds about apart from the ever present Red Grouse and a few Meadow Pipits. Meanwhile above Goathland quite a bit of moor burning was being carried out today.


27th October 2015, Tuesday
Min 4.5 C, Max 13.2 C, Rain nil, Wind SE 3
A dull, overcast and murky sort of day with no brightness whatsoever, typical late autumn weather whenever the wind comes from the south-east. Remaining overcast but dry overnight with temperatures barely falling below 50 degrees (10 C).

28th October 2015, Wednesday
Min 9.2 C, Max 13.1 C, Rain 6.7 mm, Wind E 3
Another dull and murky morning with a period of moderate and at times heavy rain around the middle of the day (peak rate 8.8 mm/h). However this rain would soon clear away and whilst it would remain cloudy for the most of the afternoon, a few clearer spells would manage to break through around dusk, this allowing a colourful sunset. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight.

The local population of Mallards in the Beverley Parks area has noticeably swelled in the last few days with over a dozen at the pond near the new Figham roundabout, whilst nearer to home the Long Lane pond currently hosts about 10. Maybe a few different species may be encouraged to visit by their presence. Meanwhile the winter gulls have returned to the areas around Beverley with increasing numbers of Black-headed Gulls, Common Gulls and a few Herring Gulls being seen in and around the town.

29th October 2015, Thursday
Min 6.1 C, Max 13.9 C, Rain 11.2 mm, Wind SE 4
A mostly cloudy morning with a moderate south-easterly breeze, though as the morning wore on the cloud would thicken with some outbreaks of rain developing, these continuing into the afternoon. It would become drier by the evening and would remain so at first overnight, but further rain would arrive later in the night, this rain becoming persistent by the end of the night. Mild.

Swinemoor
A quick check of the common around dawn this morning revealed that the seasonal flood meadows are still stubbornly dry, and as a result there were only a few birds about with no signs of any wildfowl (bar the resident Mallards). However a Cormorant was spotted on top of one of the telegraph poles whilst a few "cheew-ing" Redshanks were also heard along the river. However other than these birds it was very quiet with just the usual gull species, a few flocks of mixed finches and Pied Wagtails being additionally noted.

30th October 2015, Friday
Min 9.9 C, Max 16.0 C, Rain 0.6 mm, Wind E 3-4
A very wet start to the day with persistent and at times heavy rain, but by the end of the morning this would clear away to leave a cloudy but very mild afternoon, temperatures rising up to 16 C. Remaining largely cloudy and mild in the evening and overnight though some clearer spells would develop later, this allowing some mist to form by the end of the night.

The rain and blustery southerly breeze brought a lot of leaves down this morning, and indeed many of the more exposed trees are already pretty much bare up on the hill above Wold Garth. However down here in the shelter of the wood things are not quite as advanced though the lawn is pretty much strewn with leaves (mostly beech, lime, hawthorn and birch), whilst the huge beech which looms above the house is still largely green with only a few copper leaves here and there. This tree has always been a late "turn-er" and sometimes still has leaves at Christmas!

31st October 2015, Saturday
Min 8.5 C, Max 12.3 C, Rain nil, Wind SW 1
A misty and initially bright start but by mid-morning cloud would increase with skies becoming largely cloudy for the remainder of the day. Remaining cloudy for much of the night but clearer spells would develop later, this allowing mist to form by dawn.

Grosmont
Finally some progress and for the first time in what seems like months we finally have running water up at the cottage. In fact the upstairs is now pretty much finished with all the bedrooms carpeted and the toilet and bathroom all plumbed in and fully installed, and whilst the kitchen still needs some work, everything, including the plumbing is now in place, and it should hopefully be all done and dusted by next weekend. Indeed the downstairs should also have new flooring down by next weekend though the lounge/living room (or whatever you like to call it) will have to wait a little longer as the fireplace still needs to be installed. We are slowly getting there.


Meanwhile the weather up at Grosmont was wonderful for most of the day, the last day of October being blessed with an abundance of golden sunshine which illuminated the wonderful autumn colours along the Murk Esk. Heavy rain yesterday meant the river was flowing strongly today and was almost twice as wide as usual, and whilst I am still getting to know this river and its various moods, I have noticed that it rises and falls very quickly in response to rainfall. Already I am planning to keep a consistent record of the river height as it passes our cottage garden.


As we enjoyed an alfresco lunch in the garden during the afternoon we were joined by a confiding Treecreeper which, as the name suggests, began to creep up one of our oak trees (hopefully a host for a Merveille du Jour or two), whilst the characteristic sneezing call of a Marsh tit alerted me to the presence of two of these often overlooked species moving through the garden with a band of other roving tits which included Great tits, Blue tits, Coal tits and Long-tailed tits. More surprising however was a late dragonfly hunting around the brambles at the top of our garden and eventually I was able to identify it as a Migrant Hawker.