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March 2016

1st March 2016, Tuesday
0.9 C to 12.6 C / 1.9 mm / 0.8 hours / SW 4-5
A wet start to March with persistent rain in the morning, though by midday things would start to improve with even some sunny spells developing by the afternoon. Mild as well with temperatures well into double figures, though a brisk breeze meant it didn't feel particularly warm. Cloud increasing again in the evening with a short spell of rain around 8 pm, but this would soon clear away with the cloud breaking up for a time during the night, this allowing temperatures to dip near to freezing with a ground frost for a time. However once more cloud would increase by the end of the night with outbreaks of sleet and wet snow by dawn.

Five siskins were at the feeding station this morning, the highest count so far this year, with three males and two females, these joining the usual resident finches at what proved to be a very busy day at the garden feeding station. Indeed my stock of sunflower hearts is depleting rapidly at the moment!

2nd March 2016, Wednesday
0.5 C to 5.5 C / 12.0 mm / 2.9 hours / W 5
A grim & raw start to the morning with sleet and wet snow, feeling particularly unpleasant out in the open, but by the end of the morning the sleet would turn into proper snow with lovely big flakes tumbling out of the grey March sky. The snow gave a short lived covering of about a centimetre but with plenty of early spring sunshine during the afternoon, it soon melted with any trace of the snow gone by dusk. Cloud increasing again in the evening with persistent, and at times, heavy rain during the first half of the night, but this would clear later with temperatures falling below freezing by the end of the night.

At least eleven Siskins were recorded today, smashing yesterdays count of five, with eight males and three females, and one wonders if there are any more hiding in the garden. It has been a strange winter for the local siskins, as I have been hearing them on and off in the neighbouring wood since late November, but it wasn't until mid-January that a single male finally made an appearance at the garden feeding station. He remained the only siskin visitor for over a month but since then numbers have been slowly increasing, possibly in response to the recent colder weather.

Indeed today saw a period of moderate snowfall in late morning, this giving a light covering of about a centimetre, at least on the grass and trees, by midday. However it would soon melt in the afternoon sunshine here at Woldgarth, though during our test drive of our new car we came upon plenty more snow up on the Wolds, especially around Huggate where a few centimetres covered the fields and roads. During our trip I also noted a flock of about 30-40 Golden Plovers in their favoured field just outside Cherry Burton.

3rd March 2016, Thursday
-0.7 C to 8.2 C / 16.5 mm / 7.0 hours / E 3-4
A clear and cold start to the day, the rain last night creating a lot of ice first thing, but this would soon melt with an abundance of March sunshine for the rest of the day. However in the evening cloud would quickly begin to increase with rain arriving shortly before midnight. This rain would become heavy and persistent for the rest of the night and would continue right through to dawn and beyond.

4th March 2016, Friday
1.7 C to 5.6 C / 8.0 mm / 0.0 hours / N 4
A thoroughly wet morning with persistent and at times heavy rain (peak rate of 5.2 mm/h), though by midday it would ease, at least for a time. Becoming colder as the day wore on with rain turning into sleet and wet snow in the first half of the afternoon, though after 3 pm it would begin to dry up, with merely grey and cloudy skies for the rest of the day. Remaining cloudy but dry in the evening but yet more rain would arrive overnight, this becoming persistent before finally clearing away shortly before dawn.

5th March 2016, Saturday
0.7 C to 8.0 C / 3.0 mm / 2.1 hours / NW 4-5
A bright morning but feeling chilly in the brisk northerly breeze, whilst underfoot it was very wet and soggy after all the rain and sleet yesterday. In the afternoon showers of rain, ice pellets and hail would become frequent at times, the sound of the hail on the roof and against the windows being very loud indeed, though by the end of the afternoon these wintry showers would die out with clear spells developing by the evening. However further showers would drift down from the north in the first half of the night but these would soon die out with clear spells once more developing by the end of the night.

It was a bright but showery day for my garden bird count this weekend, heavy showers of hail and ice pellets sweeping down from the north from time to time and temporarily whitening the ground, but despite the cold conditions a decent variety of birds turned up, including; Blackbird (x3), Blue tit (x2), Bullfinch (x2), Carrion Crow (x4), Chaffinch (x7), Goldcrest (x1), Goldfinch (x7), Greenfinch (x15), Great tit (x2), Long-tailed tit (x1), Magpie (x1), Robin (x1), Siskin (x7), Starling (x2), and Wood Pigeon (x2). In total 57 birds of 15 species were noted, about average for the year so far.

Meanwhile in the afternoon I spotted a hunting Peregrine in the skies above Beverley, and as I watched I saw it suddenly dive bomb a group of feral pigeons near the Minster, though the actual attack took place hidden from my view by a nearby building. However the Peregrine seemed unsuccessful when it reappeared but nevertheless it was a thrill to watch.

Garden bird counts 2016

6th March 2016, Sunday
0.2 C to 6.9 C / trace / 2.6 hours / W 4-5
A chilly but bright Mother's Day with plenty of sunny spells, especially in the morning, though it did feel cold out in the wind. A few light wintry showers in the afternoon as well, but not really coming to anything. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with the breeze preventing temperatures from falling much below freezing, whilst latterly a few snow flurries would drift down from the north, these giving the slightest of dustings on any cold surfaces (ie. car roofs, patches of ice, etc.)

On what was a chilly but bright March afternoon I conducted an informal survey of all the flowers currently in bloom within the confines of Woldgarth, something I have been meaning to do since being inspired by Ragged Robin's similar such list. In total eighteen types of flower were found, and included, in alphabetical order;

Balkan Anemone (or Anemone blanda), Berberis (just starting to flower), Bergenia, Crocus, Cyclamen, Daffodil (both dwarf & normal varieties), Daisy, Feverfew (this particular plant has flowered throughout the winter), Forsythia (just starting to flower), Grape Hyacinth (or Muscari), Hyacinth (a pink one has just starting flowering in the past week), Kerria (double variety), Lesser Celandine, Lungwort (or Pulmonaria), Primulas (not including Wild Primrose), Snowdrop, Winter Aconite (a few very tatty specimens are still just about flowering in the shade), and Winter Jasmine.

As regards insects it has been a very slow start to the year with no butterflies, just the one species of moth, a single unidentified Bumble Bee back in January, and the odd Ladybird, mostly of the harlequin variety unfortunately. However the weather forecasts are suggesting that it might warm up by next weekend, so, all being well, I should be able to run the moth trap for the first time this year.

7th March 2016, Monday
-1.3 C to 6.8 C / 0.0 mm / 3.8 hours / NW 4
A few snow flurries early in the morning but otherwise it was a largely fine and bright morning, though it felt very cold, especially in the breeze. More in the way of cloud in the afternoon but remaining fairly bright with some sunny spells at times. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with a moderate frost by dawn.

The female Great Spotted Woodpecker is now frequently visiting the bird feeders, especially early in the morning and again in late afternoon. Meanwhile the male Bullfinches have become less tolerant of each other in recent days, one particular male chasing away other males throughout the morning, whilst it also didn't take kindly to some of the male Chaffinches as well. However the Siskins, Greenfinches and Tits seemed exempt from his aggressive behaviour.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (female)

8th March 2016, Tuesday
-2.6 C to 7.1 C / 16.0 mm / 0.0 hours / SW 3-4
After an initially cold and frosty start it would soon become cloudy and grey, this cloud being thick enough to produce some light rain at times in the morning. Remaining overcast during the afternoon and the evening with heavier and more persistent rain arriving around 9 pm. This rain would continue throughout the night and would become heavy at times, this causing lots of standing water by dawn.

Swinemoor - I headed down to Swinemoor at dawn on what was a cold and frosty morning, the roads being covered in ice in places, especially along the river Hull where water had been able to leach through the riverbank (in this area the river is actually higher than the road and the surrounding countryside). The river itself is running quite high at the moment and is very muddy and unappealing, whilst on the common itself the winter floods are now extensive and cover much of the area between the river and the so called Beverley-Barmston Drain, this natural flood meadow being like a scaled down version of the wonderful Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire/Norfolk.

The river Hull this morning

Of course all this water is great for the wildfowl and waders whom roost and feed here, the birds seemingly tolerating the frequent disturbance from dog walkers, and as I scanned across the open and windswept pasture I could observe huge numbers of Wigeon and Teal, the Wigeon possibly numbering in excess of a thousand. However due to the large distances involved it can be difficult to records birds here without a scope and since I only had my binoculars with me I could only do a quick check this morning. However birds I did manage to record included; Wigeon (1000+), Teal (250+), Shoveler (25+), Mallard, Golden Plover (20+), Curlew (x2) and Lapwings.

Elsewhere in the area I spotted a Barn Owl hunting along the banks of the 'drain', and a Kingfisher whizzed past the Crown & Anchor pub at Hull Bridge as I cycled over the footbridge, whilst as I stood on the riverbank a Little Egret flew past, an uncommon sight in this neck of the woods until a few years ago. Cormorants too were noted in good numbers, whilst a few species of gull were also observed including Black-heads, Commons, Herrings and Lesser Black-backs. Further observations of note included a number of singing Reed Buntings along the river, Skylarks overhead, and the sad sight of a dead fox beside the road. People do drive far too fast along this road!

The winter floods have brought shocking amounts of rubbish

A dead fox beside Weel Road. What a sad fate for such a beautiful animal :-(

North Cave Wetlands - Later in the morning we took our youngest niece for a walk around this always interesting Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserve, and whilst the weather was pretty grey and unappealing with a bitterly cold wind sweeping across the reserve, we nevertheless had a very enjoyable and bracing walk. A number of interesting birds have been around the reserve this winter, including a redhead Smew, a Green-winged Teal, a Bearded Tit and even a Kittiwake the other day, but unfortunately until today I haven't been able to get down to the reserve.

Indeed despite my best efforts I was unable to relocate the GW Teal, the lack of reports recently perhaps suggesting it has moved on anyway, whilst I also failed to find the pair of Mediterranean Gulls which have recently returned to the reserve. However I had better luck with the first Avocets of the spring, a single bird being spotted on Village Lake this morning, whilst at Far Lake I had outstandingly close views of a very handsome drake Mandarin duck. Indeed if I had taken a proper camera I could have got some great pics but I was at least able to get a decent record shot with my telescope and iphone.


In total 49 species of bird were recorded during our stroll around the reserve with most being fairly typical fare for this time of year. Indeed the usual build-up of Shelducks is now well under-way with at least 75 being recorded this morning, while Oystercatchers have additionally returned with the number of these rather noisy waders now back in double figures. Redshanks, which can usually be found at the reserve throughout the year in small numbers, were also numerous this morning with 30+ counted, most of these being spotted in the flooded fields north of the reserve, whilst a few Snipe were additionally spotted. Overhead a Curlew called as it flew over, a reminder that these wonderful but declining birds should already be returning to the high moors above Grosmont & Goathland, and a sign of the times was the presence of two Little Egrets on the reserve, a bird which until recently would have been a very rare sight in winter.

Great Crested Grebes have additionally returned in recent weeks with at least seven being counted this morning, whilst the much more diminutive Little Grebes were also notably more conspicuous today, with a few doing their characteristic and loud trilling type calls on Far & Carp Lakes. However reminders that we still remain very much in winter were provided by Redwings in the hedgerows and the dozen or so Pochard on the lakes, but with the Willows and Alders now very much in flower one does feel that spring is almost with us. Indeed the church-yard at North Cave was looking lovely as we passed on our journey home, with an abundance of snowdrops and Wild Primroses on show. I wonder is it going to be a case of "In like a lion, Out like a lamb" this March?

Mandarin duck on Far Lake

Alder catkins

9th March 2016, Wednesday
1.2 C to 6.1 C / 7.7 mm / 0.0 hours / N 3-4
A thoroughly wet morning with persistent moderate to heavy rain throughout, this causing lots of standing water on not only the roads and lanes, but also within the garden. The rain would become lighter in the afternoon, but despite this it would also remain persistent with the rain not stopping till around dusk. However this drier period was short-lived with light rain and drizzle returning during the night, and it would also become pretty murky as well with low cloud cloaking the Yorkshire Wolds.

A diminutive Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci) was found crawling on the walls today, this 3 mm long beetle looking like a very small ladybird with the naked eye. However with a magnifying glass it is far more interesting and it just goes to show that even indoors one can continue to enjoy the wonders of the natural world. Indeed it has given me an idea to explore the various bugs and whatnot which live within the house, but since we are going up to Grosmont for a few days it will have to wait till we come back.

Meanwhile the first nine days of March have certainly proved to be rather soggy, the monthly rainfall total already exceeding the monthly average, and as a result one of our outbuildings has been flooded with an inch of standing water covering the floor this afternoon. No doubt this will soon drain away but nevertheless it is a bit of inconvenience as every time this happens we have to move things to drier and higher locations within the building. It is also unusual to have such wet weather at this time of year, March generally being the 3rd driest month of the year (just behind February and May), but at least the water levels haven't reached the record levels of June 2007, the month of the famous floods when Hull and many parts of the East Riding were badly affected.

10th-13th March 2016
10th - Cloudy and murky in the morning with low cloud over the moor tops, but becoming brighter, at least for a time, around the middle of the day. However it would become cloudy again by mid-afternoon and would remain so for the rest of the day.
11th - It was a murky and misty start to the day but by late morning things would quickly improve with an abundance of hazy and spring-like sunshine developing for the rest of the day. Feeling pleasantly warm in the sun.
12th - A misty start again but like yesterday soon brightening up with plenty of hazy and warm-ish early spring sunshine for the rest of the day. However visibility was very poor all day due to a combination of high pressure and south-easterly winds.
13th - Very similar to yesterday with early mist followed by plenty of hazy spring sunshine, and with light winds it felt very pleasant indeed. In fact it was so warm up at Water Ark that I went bare-armed! However visibility was even poorer than yesterday.

Grosmont - As ever it was the avian inhabitants of the area which interested me most, and whilst I had hoped that the wonderful spring-like weather may have brought me my first Chiffchaff of the year, I nevertheless had plenty of other compensations, including a female Stonechat up on Sleights Moor on the Thursday, plus another three in roughly the same location on the Sunday. This is the first time I have seen more than one in the same location since last year. Also up on heather clad expanse of Sleights Moor I noted 7 Golden Plovers on the 10th, my first moorland 'Goldie's' of the spring, whilst Lapwings were seen displaying both up here and down in the sheep grazed in-bye land below, their tumbling display flights being one of those wonderful spring spectacles which I always look forward to seeing. However most exciting, for me anyway, was the return of the Curlews, with at least three different birds being heard at two different locations, this long billed wader being one of my favourite birds, and a definite harbinger of spring up here on the moors. A single displaying Meadow Pipit in the same area was another welcome sign of the changing season.

A Dipper at Rivergarth

Another Dipper in the middle of the Murk Esk

However for most of the long weekend I was actually birding in and around the village, the woods, pastures and gentle rivers providing a good array of feathered residents to record and enjoy. Delightful year round residents such as the Dippers and the Grey Wagtails provided plenty of entertainment, with at least two pairs of Dippers being noted along the river, whilst scarce East Yorkshire species such as Marsh tit and Nuthatch were seen and heard in song. On the river Esk a female Goosander was spotted shortly after dawn on the 12th, with a male being spotted flying south-eastwards later that same day, whilst a pair were seen together heading in the opposite direction on the 13th.

The woods and pastures of Lease Rigg were dominated by the sound of both Song and Mistle Thrushes in song, the latter throughout the day and the former primarily at dawn and dusk, whilst the woods both up here and down by the Esk hosted noisy Rooks at their nesting colonies. In the village some of the large number of Jackdaws which live around the area were spotted checking out chimney pots of a number of properties for potential nest sites, and as I wandered through the local woods I must have heard at least three separate Great Spotted Woodpeckers around the area. In the fallow pastures south of the Rigg a few Green Woodpeckers were also seen and heard, these same pastures being popular with the aforementioned Mistle Thrushes, whilst on the morning of the 11th a few gulls were also noted, including some handsome adult Herring Gulls.

Grey Wagtail

One of the friendly residents of our garden

Elsewhere a few Siskins were noted beside the station and also down around the cricket field, and a Buzzard was observed soaring over the in-bye land below Sleights Moor, this causing a panic amongst the local Lapwings, whilst another was also encountered at Green End. By day Skylarks sang over the fields, and by night Tawny Owls were heard throughout the valley, though on the 11th a couple of Tawnys were also heard calling around midday between Esk Valley and Green End. Around the church two of Britain's most diminutive birds were noted, with Goldcrests and a single Treecreeper amongst the beeches which surround the relatively modern 19th century building. Given the demise of Moorhens, a once common bird which has suffered greatly in the local area due to Mink predation, it was good to see at least two along the Murk Esk during our weekend, and hopefully this is just the start of a recovery of this otherwise easily ignored species. Finally a group of seven honking Canada Geese were seen passing over on the 12th, though unfortunately the village missed out on the mass movement of Whooper Swans reported from other areas of Yorkshire throughout the weekend.

The wonderful spring-like weather at the weekend brought my first butterflies of the year with a single Peacock flittering along the Murk Esk on the 12th and a single Small Tortoiseshell in the riverside garden on the 13th. Moths too provided plenty of interest, a single March Tubic (Diurnea fagella) being found inside the cottage on the 12th, and whilst I wished I had brought my moth trap up with me this weekend, I was nevertheless able to find a few moths in the village thanks to the old fashioned platform lamps at the heritage railway, including three March Moth, a single Chestnut and two Pale Brindled Beauty, the latter being a new species for me.

Robin with nesting material in the garden

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly

Given the pleasantly warm sunshine, and the increasing variety of both garden and wild flowers, it was unsurprising to see plenty of honey bees around the area, especially within the village itself. A few bumble bees were additionally noted, though most of these were just passing observations and I was unable to identify most of them, which is actually just as well anyway as my bee ID skills are not very good. However a probable Buff-tailed Bumble-bee was noted buzzing about near the river Esk on Sunday morning.

Whilst wandering from Goathland station back to Grosmont (11th), I came across a number of moorland pools near Darnholm which contained good amounts of frogspawn, the first I have seen this spring. At least four frogs were noted in the pool though they soon disappeared when I approached closer. Meanwhile the strong sun on Sunday (13th) encouraged a Common Lizard to be active on the south-facing hillside above Water Ark, though I failed to find any Adders or other herps in the area.

A pair of roe deer were in the woods beside the river Esk whilst a Stoat was spotted near the ford at Darnholm. Primroses have started to flower around the village, including at the church, at the north end of the station and on the bank beside the National Park car park. The hawthorns meanwhile are starting to 'green', especially along the path to the neighbouring hamlet of Esk Valley, whilst Dogs Mercury is coming up in the woods along here. In the garden plenty of daffodils and crocuses are now brightening up the area, though snowdrops have already nearly finished for yet another year. However better things are promised by the leaves of bluebells, whilst the evocative aroma of Ramsons (or Wild Garlic if you prefer) is now noticeable down by the river. Finally along the river quite a bit of Colt's-foot is now in flower, these cheeringly bright early spring flowers heralding the arrival of spring beside the Murk Esk.

March Moth

Pale Brindled Beauty

Frogspawn in a moorland bog

NYMR - The weekend saw the visitation of the iconic steam locomotive "The Flying Scotsman", this LNER A3 Class locomotive being perhaps the most famous steam engine in the whole world. As a result the village was packed whenever it passed through, the area in front of the cottage full of people with cameras, iphones and ipads trying to photograph the beautiful piece of British engineering. The 'Scotsman' will continue to run along the NYMR for the rest of the week and next weekend before heading back to York for a variety of upcoming mainline events in the spring and summer.

14th March 2016, Monday
-0.4 C to 9.7 C / trace / 6.7 hours / NE 3-4
Another fine spring day with plenty of hazy sunshine, though cloud would increase in the afternoon, whilst a cool NE breeze meant it felt somewhat cooler with temperatures remaining in single figures throughout the day. Cloud continuing to increase overnight with murk, low cloud and drizzle coming in off the North Sea by the end of the night.

The first moth trapping session of the year took place last night, though when I actually emptied the trap this morning I found just a single Common Quaker tucked away deep amongst the eggboxes of my Skinner trap. Still it is simply nice just to be able to trap and record moths again, and here's hoping for a good year for the nocturnal flutterers which live within the garden.

A mixed collection of gulls were in the fields near our home this morning, the soggy winter weather and the rain at the beginning of March meaning that some areas of standing water can still be found in the Parks despite the recent fine spell of weather. Black-headed Gulls, whom are very much in a mixed variety of plumages at the moment, were the most numerous, though smart looking Common Gulls were also present in double figures. Larger species were less numerous but included a few Herring Gulls and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls, one of the adult Lesser Black-backs looking particularly smart and resplendent in the golden morning sunshine.

Further notes from the Parks this morning included a few singing Skylarks over the arable fields, at least three singing Yellowhammers throughout the area, and a large and noisy flock of Starlings (100+) down beside the railway line. The countryside was also nice and frosty at dawn, especially in the usual frost hollows near Old Hall Farm.

Meanwhile it is now time to listen out for the first Chiffchaffs of the year around my home patch, the average date for their arrival in the Parks being around the 23rd/24th March. Last year the first was heard on the 19th, the second earliest date since my records began in 2006, though the earliest ever was the 15th March 2007. As I write it seems highly unlikely that this date will be beaten this year but you never know.

Common Quaker in the trap this morning

Yellowhammer (photo taken April 2013)

15th March 2016, Tuesday
3.3 C to 7,8 C / trace / 0.0 hours / NE 4
A dull and overcast day with periods of drizzle, especially in the morning, being driven in off the North Sea on a brisk north-easterly breeze. Feeling much colder as well with temperatures down a few degrees compared to recently. Remaining overcast during the evening and overnight with mist and murk returning latterly.

Cloudier and therefore slightly milder conditions meant that a few more moths were attracted to the light trap during the previous night, four moths being found in the trap when I inspected it shortly after dawn this morning. In total 2 Common Quakers, 1 Clouded Drab (NFY) & a single Hebrew Character (NFY) were tucked away either inside or in the wooden corners of the Skinner trap, and whilst they were all pretty much standard fare for this time of year, it was nevertheless nice to catch up with these familiar early season species.

Common Quaker. This is usually the most common moth at Woldgarth during spring.

Swinemoor - After several days of sunshine and light winds, it came as quite a shock to step out of doors shortly after dawn this morning to be confronted with overcast skies, mizzly drizzle and a brisk and chill north-easterly breeze. However despite the weather I decided to head down to Swinemoor to see if anything had turned up on the winter floods since last week, hoping perhaps for a small herd of Whoopers given the large numbers reported passing through elsewhere. However upon arrival it soon became clear that little new had arrived, and indeed if anything the number of Wigeon seemed less numerous than last week, though numbers were still in the several hundred. Teal were also very conspicuous on the extensive floods and easily numbered well in excess of 250+.

Shovelers were also very apparent, numbering perhaps as many as 30, though I was surprised to see no Shelducks, these large ducks usually reaching their peak at this location in March and April. Other than the resident Lapwings no other waders were noted either, though the low light and distances involved made a thorough check for some of the smaller species pretty difficult to say the least. I think I will have to take my telescope next time! Gulls meanwhile were represented by three species with Black-heads, Commons and Herrings being noted, and further interest was provided by a half dozen Cormorants and a Buzzard in the woods east of the common. A pair of large Roe deer were also noted in the fields east of the common.

Hebrew Character. Very common maybe but it is one of my favourite early moths.

Clouded Drab. This was the first species of moth I ever caught when I started mothing.

16th March 2016, Wednesday
3.9 C to 11.0 C / 0.0 mm / 3.1 hours / E 3-4
After a murky and dull start it would soon begin to brighten up with good spells of spring sunshine by late morning. Remaining bright in the afternoon with plenty of sunny spells , though a brisk easterly breeze made it feel quite cool, especially out in the open. Largely cloudy in the evening and overnight but not without some clearer spells as well.

The moth trap was put out this evening on what was a partly cloudy, cool and breezy night, though the afternoon sunshine did give me reason to be hopeful for perhaps the odd moth or two when I went to inspect it the following morning (17th). However in the end just two moths were found with another Clouded Drab & an Alucita hexadactyla (Many-plumed/Twenty-plumed Moth) being found, the latter being a new moth for the year list. Hopefully I will have better luck up at Grosmont this coming weekend though unfortunately the weather looks like being unfavourable.

17th-20th March 2016
17th - Sunny and pleasant in the morning and early afternoon, feeling warm in the sun, though as the afternoon wore on cloud would increase and thicken. Indeed by the evening it had become quite murky with outbreaks of drizzle during the night.
18th - A largely cold, grey and damp day with periods of drizzle sweeping in off the frigid waters of the North Sea, the tops of the moors being enveloped by low cloud during the morning, though it did brighten up somewhat in mid-afternoon, at least for an hour or two anyway. Overcast skies, low cloud and drizzle returning in the evening and overnight.
19th - Another largely grey and drizzly day, especially in the morning, though feeling less cold than yesterday with lighter winds. Remaining cloudy in the evening and for most of the night, though clear spells would develop latterly.
20th - A beautiful spring morning with an abundance of sunshine greeting the start of the day, though by the end of the morning a freshening and chill northerly breeze would bring cloud in off the North Sea with the remainder of the day seeing largely cloudy and grey skies, the cloud thick enough for some spots of rain at times.

Grosmont - Our weekend started well bird-wise with the observation of a 100+ Golden Plover towards the south of Sleights Moor, whilst the number of displaying Lapwings has also increased up here on the moor with at least a dozen seen swooping and diving as they perform their evocative display flights. Curlews were again heard and seen in a few places between Grosmont and Goathland throughout the weekend, including at least two together at Moorgates on the Sunday, though overall numbers remain worryingly low. The demise of this iconic upland bird in recent times is definitely alarming.

Wandering down Lease Rigg with pleasing views across the Esk Valley

The Yellowhammers meanwhile have started to sing up here, joining their lowland cousins whom have been singing since late February, the sheltered fields above Water Ark and Goathland being popular locations for this colourful bunting, whilst in the same locations it was wonderful to listen to the Skylarks singing in the vast sky above. A trip to Danby and the National Park headquarters brought Nuthatches and Treecreepers aplenty in the woods around the visitor centre, indeed I don't think I have ever seen so many treecreepers in one single place before!

Back at Grosmont the usual riverine birds were enjoyed, a Dipper singing on the rocks right beside the cottage garden delighting me as I sat and enjoyed the sound of the river, whilst a Grey Heron gracefully flew past me on Thursday evening, a most impressive sight at close quarters. On Sunday morning a male and female pair of Goosanders were spotted on the Esk, whilst in the village I noted a few Tree Sparrows high in the trees above the station, a new species for my Grosmont list. Interestingly the naturalist Graham Featherstone, whom lives a little further up the valley and writes a wildlife column for the Esk Valley News, also noted his first ever garden Tree Sparrow the next day.

A Muscovy type duck on the footbridge over the Esk (apologies for the rubbish iphone pic)

As regards butterflies the majority of the weekend was unfavourable, though during the sunshine on Thursday afternoon we did spot what appeared to be a Peacock butterfly as we made our way across the edge of Fylingdales Moor. I also took the moth trap up this weekend, but owing to brightness of my MV bulb I decided it was perhaps unfair to the neighbours to use it in our riverside garden, after all I don't want to fall out with them already. This means I will have to buy a lower powered Actinic trap for use at Rivergarth, though I haven't decided as to whether it will be another Skinner or perhaps a far more expensive Robinson. Decisions, decisions...

However like last weekend the lamps at the heritage railway station proved to be a reasonable substitute for the lack of a trap, and on Sunday morning I found a new moth in the shape and form of a Yellow Horned Moth (Achlya flavicornis). This is a species typically associated with birch woodlands, and given that the neighbouring National Park car park is dominated by birch, its presence was perhaps to be expected. Nevertheless the observation made my day, especially as it is an unknown species back home at Woldgarth and in the eastern half of VC61. Meanwhile a White-shouldered House Moth was also found in the cottage, another new addition to the year list.

A few bumble-bees were additionally noted this weekend, all appearing to be of the Buff-tailed variety, with sightings coming in Grosmont itself, as well as up on Lease Rigg, and right at the edge of 'my patch' at Moorgates.

A dead Roe buck beside the Esk Valley line, a sad sight

In the garden I was pleased to find the first flowering Sweet Violets of the year, these small and dark purple flowers being easily overlooked as they flower on the steep grassy bank leading down to the river. However otherwise no new wildflowers have been noted since last week, though primroses are now flowering widely throughout the Esk Valley, whilst the daffodils in and around the communities which nestle into this winding dale are also cheering to see, the National Park visitor centre at Danby hosting a particularly fine display. A stunning bank of Snowdrops was also admired as we travelled from Lockton to Levisham on the Sunday, the north facing hillside meaning that these flowers have come out much later than elsewhere, indeed the snowdrops have already finished at Rivergarth!

The frogspawn I discovered on the edge of Goathland Moor the other day was still apparent when I passed it again on both the 19th and 20th, though the low temperatures meant that the frogs themselves were inactive. Indeed no further frogspawn seems to have been added since last weekend. Roe deer were also noted again this week, a fine specimen spotted to the north of the Rigg on Thursday evening, and a pair near Alder House on the Saturday, though less pleasing was a dead deer beside the Esk Valley railway line, a victim of one of the services which runs four times a day between Whitby and Middlesbrough. The death is even more of a tragedy as it appeared to be a buck very much in his prime. However on a much cheerier note I noticed the first lambs of the year in the fields north of the Rigg, always a welcome spring-time sight.

Sweet Violets (this photo was taken last April)

A sunny start to the day on the 20th

NYMR - Large crowds once more descended on the area to see the LNER A3 'Flying Scotsman', which at the moment is running in its BR guise as No.60103, running along the 'metals' of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway from Grosmont in the north to Pickering in the south. However after performing faultlessly for the entire week it developed break issues on the last day of running, the loco and its train coming to a complete standstill for over an hour as engineers worked to unfreeze the breaks which had jammed on shortly after departing Goathland. Was the curse of the NYMR going to snare yet another victim?

In the end the NYMR's own loco, No.45428 'Eric Treacy' came to the rescue and took over breaking duties for the ailing 'Scotsman', this allowing the service to continue, albeit well behind schedule. However the unplanned delay did allow some spectacular photo opportunities for those whom were lucky enough to be at Moorgates during the incident, the two locos having to work very hard to get going again what the eight fully laden carriages and the incline up towards the summit of the line. The remainder of the service, and indeed the two subsequent services, passed with little further incident, bringing to an end what has been a spectacular 7 days up here at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

The "Flying Scotsman", with the help of Black Five "Eric Treacy", working hard at Moorgates

No sign of any brake problems at this point

Passing a small congregation of photographers and other railway enthusiasts at Moorgates

21st March 2016, Monday
2.1 C to 11.7 C / 0.0 mm / 2.3 hours / W 3-4
A cloudy morning with a WNW breeze making it feel quite chilly, but in the afternoon it would begin to brighten up with some spells of sunshine in mid to late afternoon. Cloud increasing again in the evening with largely cloudy skies overnight.

A colder and clearer night than forecast meant that just five moths were uncovered when I went to check the trap shortly after dawn this morning. Of these five just one was a new addition to the year list, this coming in the shape and form of a Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla), whilst the others were Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla), Twenty-plume (Alucita hexadactyla), Common Quaker and Clouded Drab. Hopefully conditions will remain favourable for the rest of the week.

I also spotted my first bat of the year yesterday evening whilst putting the trap out, presumably a Common Pipistrelle judging by the size. One of these days I will finally get around to buying a bat detector!

Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla)

22nd March 2016, Tuesday
2.4 C to 11.1 C / 0.0 mm / 0.8 hours / W 2-3
Another largely cloudy day for the most part, though in late morning and early afternoon there were some brighter periods with some spells of sunshine at times. In the sun it actually felt pleasantly warm, the sun after all becoming increasingly strong now that we have passed the vernal equinox, though by the end of the afternoon thick cloud again returned from off the North Sea. Remaining cloudy throughout the evening and night.

I had a good tour of my home patch near Beverley this morning, primarily in the hope of bagging my first Chiffchaff of the year, though despite my thorough check of the fields and woods which surround Woldgarth I came away empty handed once again. Maybe tomorrow. However I did flush a small flock of six Golden Plover from the winter cereals along Shepherds Lane, whilst at the new pond beside the bypass I noted a trio of Greylag Geese. I wonder if they will try and raise a family again this year?

Back at home the Siskins are continuing to frequent the bird feeders though overall the number of other visitors has notably decreased with far fewer Greenfinches and Goldfinches visiting during the last week or so. It will be interesting to see how much longer the Siskins continue to remain in the garden, especially as this species is not a breeding bird in this part of the county.

Since my last check of the garden flowers a few more species have subsequently appeared, including Periwinkle, a few Dog Violets, at least one Forget-me-not and plenty of Chionodaxa type flowers (sometimes known as 'Glory of the Snow'), the latter having been planted myself a few years ago in the 'spring garden'. Whilst looking for these early flowers I noted a Carder Bee buzzing about them, my first of the year, though overall very few bees were about today with just a few Honey Bees being additionally noted. Interestingly I have yet to see any Droneflies (Eristalis tenax) so far this year, which is a bit odd considering that the bees are active.

A lovely male Siskin

Dog Violets

23rd March 2016, Wednesday
5.9 C to 8.9 C / trace / 0.0 hours / W 2-3
A cloudy and pretty nondescript sort of day with light winds and little of note. However it was on the chilly side with temperatures remaining in single figures all day, disappointing for late March. Remaining cloudy in the evening but during the night some breaks would develop, at least for a time, this allowing temperatures to dip as low as 2 C. However cloud would increase again later with some spots of rain in the air by dawn.

Despite what was a relatively mild and cloudy night I was disappointed to find just three moths in and around the trap when I went to inspect it this morning. However one of these three was a new addition to the year list, my first Early Grey of the year, whilst the other two were both Hebrew Characters. It is always a close contest every year as to whether Hebrew Character or Common Quaker is the most common spring moth here, with Common Quaker just about taking the prize every year. Indeed so far this year the scores are Common Quaker 4, Hebrew Character 3, so early signs are that is going to be another 'epic' Orthosia battle here at Woldgarth.

Early Grey, the first of the year

Still no Chiffchaffs but as I cycled along the local lane I was pleased to see that the first of the Butterburs are starting to appear along the ditches, these joining the Celandines, Ground Ivy, Dead-nettles and rapidly growing Nettles on the verges and field-edges. A surprising amount of standing water remains in the horse grazed pastures, this still attracting a few species of gull, but overall it was a quiet morning with little of note. Maybe the southerly winds forecast for the weekend will bring something new.

Butterbur, a common plant on fallow land around here

24th March 2016, Thursday
2.5 C to 9.7 C / 0.2 mm / 0.0 hours / W 3-4
A cloudy day with occasional rain at times, especially early in the morning and again in the afternoon, though it was never particularly heavy and was more a nuisance than anything else. Still this sort of rain is perfect for the garden at this time of year! Drier by the end of the afternoon but it would remain cloudy throughout the evening and much of the night, though towards the end of the night the skies would begin to clear.

The distinctive hands of the Horse Chestnuts are just starting to unfurl here and there as they emerge from their large and sticky buds, the appearance of which I always associate with the return of the Chiffchaff. However yet again not a single chiff, or indeed a chaff, was heard today and with reports coming from all over the East Riding I am starting to feel left out! Surely they will be here by the end of the weekend.

Meanwhile I gave the lawn its first mow of the year in the morning, wanting to get it done before the forecast rain this afternoon, and whilst I would not describe myself as a 'lawn person', I must admit it is nice to see a neatly trimmed expanse of green turf. With nieces and nephew also likely to descend upon us in the next fortnight it should also provide plenty of space for them to run around if the weather is kind.

25th March 2016, Friday
4.0 C to 13.7 C / 0.0 mm / 10.1 hours / S 3-4
A near perfect spring day with an abundance of warm sunshine, especially in the morning, with temperatures climbing up into the mid-50's Fahrenheit. Remaining largely clear in the evening and at first overnight but as the breeze freshened from the south, cloud would also begin to increase with skies becoming mostly cloudy by the end of the night.

There was a real feel of spring in the air today as the countryside in this corner of the East Riding of Yorkshire was bathed with warm March sunshine, indeed in the walled garden it was almost too hot during the middle of the day! This spring weather encouraged a few butterflies to flitter through the gardens of Woldgarth, including my first Comma of the year, whilst other species included Peacock and Brimstone. A few droneflies (Eristalis tenax) were also spotted, whilst bees were represented by Buff-tailed, Carder and Honey. In the evening a Common Pipistrelle bat was hunting around the garden when I was putting the moth trap out and all in all it was a most enjoyable Good Friday.

Comma, my first of the year

North Cliffe Wood - On what was an idyllic spring morning we went for a walk around our favourite woodland nature reserve, meeting up with my younger sister and her family quite by chance. This made exploring the nature of the reserve all the more enjoyable thanks to the company of my 6 year old nephew and he showed me some of the mosquito larva he had found before we arrived, whilst I showed him the tiny red female flowers of the hazels, my pocket magnifying glass coming in handy, and also pointing out the masses of 7-spot Ladybirds on the flowering gorse.

The gorse also attracted a number of bee species, most numerous being Honey Bees, but a half dozen Buff-tailed Bumblebees were also noted, whilst a single Red-tailed Bumblebee was my first of the year. Nearby a single Tree Bee was seen to pass us and then land upon the dry heathland grass, this allowing me to study it through my binoculars, and latterly a couple of Carder Bees were seen around the heathland pool. Further observations of interest included my first Droneflies (Eristalis tenax) of the year, and along the western perimeter path a dozen or so Mining Bees were recorded, the distinctive holes of this fascinating insect being spotted here and there.

Seven-spot Ladybirds

Red-tailed bumblebee

Whilst bees and alike had been very apparent during our woodland stroll, the number of butterflies on the wing was disappointing by comparison, with just a couple of Brimstones being spotted. However these were my first sightings of these lovely bright yellow butterflies this year, this species being the quintessential butterfly of spring. That other herald of spring, the Chiffchaff, was also heard in the wood this morning, my first of the year, with a single bird singing in the birch woodland north of the heath.

Mining Bee species

Record shot of a flying Brimstone butterfly

On the woodland floor the green spikes of the Bluebells now provide a thick carpet and are almost ready to flower as the sun climbs ever higher in the springtime sky. Indeed two early pioneers were already starting to flower would you believe, these being the earliest I have ever recorded at North Cliffe Wood. Primroses were flowering well, and some Wild Strawberries and Violets were also found (foolishly I forgot to check which type), whilst the attractive flowers of the Larch were additionally noted.

As one would expect a good variety of bird song was enjoyed as we wandered through the oak and birch woodlands which dominate this relatively small nature reserve, the pleasing and gentle coo of Stock doves being heard amongst the otherwise more commonplace birds. A few drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard as well, whilst above the fields on either side of the reserve the Skylarks sang continuously. To the east and towards the nearby Yorkshire Wolds, a pair of Buzzards and a single Red Kite were enjoying the thermals, they too welcoming the return of the warming spring sun.

The very first Bluebells of the year

Larch flowers

26th March 2016, Saturday
4.5 C to 13.2 C / 4.9 mm / 0.1 hours / S 5
After a fine but breezy start with some early brightness, it soon became increasingly cloudy with grey and overcast skies by the afternoon, this cloud being thick enough to produce the odd spot of rain on the brisk southerly wind. However despite the grey skies it was quite mild, at least in the shelter, with temperatures again in the mid-50's Fahrenheit. In the evening a short period of heavy rain would sweep through, accompanied by some squally winds, with a peak rainfall rate of 43.4 mm/h being recorded, but this would soon clear with skies gradually clearing overnight. Remaining breezy though.

Another quiet night with six moths of four species being uncovered in the trap this morning, the fresh overnight breeze perhaps meaning that conditions were not ideal. Still a single March Moth was nice to see, only the second I have ever recorded here at Woldgarth, whilst the other species included three Common Quakers, a single Hebrew Character and another solitary Early Grey.

With cloudy skies dominating the weather today, it was a much quieter day compared to yesterday with no butterflies and just the odd bee making an appearance. However since we have been away on recent weekends I was at least able to conduct the weekly bird count today, the survey taking place shortly after lunch at around 2 pm. In the end 15 species were counted in the half-hour and included the following; Blue tit (x4), Blackbird (x2), Bullfinch (x2), Chaffinch (x2), Dunnock (x1), Great-spotted Woodpecker (x1), Greenfinch (x8), Goldfinch (x1), Great tit (x2), Goldcrest (x1), Jackdaw (x2), Magpie (x1), Siskin (x1), Wren (x1) and Wood Pigeon (x5). Overhead a variety of gulls were seen dancing about the skies in the fresh to strong southerly breeze, and as I watched from my window I spotted a rodent along the edge of the wood, presumably a little Wood Mouse judging by the size and habitat.

Last nights selection of moths

27th March 2016, Sunday
3.2 C to 12.4 C / 22.6 mm / 6.0 hours / S 4-5
A largely fine and sunny morning with temperatures pleasant enough, at least in any sheltered suntraps, but as the afternoon wore on showers would bubble up, these turning thundery by the end of the afternoon with some decent rumbles and flashes of lightning within a mile of the weather station. Some hail was also mixed in at times. Showers dying out by dusk with clear spells for a time, but cloud and rain would arrive after midnight, the rain becoming persistent and heavy and continuing for the duration of the night.

It was a decent day weather-wise at Woldgarth this Easter Sunday with plenty of sunshine to enjoy, though a brisk breeze did make it feel quite cool, especially out in the open. In late afternoon some thundery showers bubbled up too, with some hail mixed in at times, whilst a bright rainbow arced across the sky as the storm drifted away to the north-east. I wonder if there are any omens associated with thunder or rainbows on Easter Day?

Certainly rain on Easter day is supposed to 'betoken' a good harvest, whilst thunder in either March or April is also associated with good harvests of both hay and corn, at least in Scotland anyway. However, as with so many other country matters, opinions do vary greatly on this subject, thunder in March being associated with sorrow for some, whilst a wet March is also not to be welcomed, for example "A wet March makes a sad harvest." Since nearly 100 mm's of rain have been recorded this month (the average is usually 46.8 mm), one hopes that this last piece of weather-lore does not prove to be accurate!

Meanwhile back at home I noticed a few bumblebees buzzing around the spring flowers, the daffodils now reaching their peak, and in the woods the buds of Sycamores are starting to swell and burst in response to the strengthening mid-spring sun.


Swinemoor - I made my way down to the other side of Beverley this morning to see how the birds of these seasonal flood meadows were getting on, enjoying the spring sunshine and the near empty roads as I cycled the three miles to Beverley's northern most 'common-pasture'. No Barn Owls were about at Hull Bridge this morning but a Kingfisher did make an appearance in the Beverley-Barmston Drain again, whilst overhead feral Greylag Geese and Mallards flew northwards, probably to the nature reserves at either High Eske or Tophill Low. With reports of Sand Martins and even a few Swallows coming from the Humber estuary some 10 miles to the south, I was also keeping an eye out for some early hirundines, but alas I drew a blank. However even more surprising was the lack of Chiffchaffs, and whilst I have heard them elsewhere in the East Riding in recent days, I am still awaiting to hear my first in the Beverley area.

Pied Wagtail

As I reached the banks of the river I noticed more Butterburs starting to flower, the bank just outside Hull Bridge being covered in them, whilst further along the river I noticed some Speedwell just starting to come out, my first of the year. Out on the floods themselves the number of wildfowl and gulls has continued to decrease, though both Teal and Wigeon still number in the hundreds, whilst Shovelers number in excess of twenty. As regards the gulls the dominant species this morning was overwhelmingly the Common Gull (or Mew Gull), with the odd Black-head, Herring and Lesser Black-back amongst them. However about two or three rather dainty and small bodied gulls did catch my eye in the distance, possibly Little Gulls?

As I watched 20+ Golden Plovers flying over the floods, some of which were now in near full breeding plumage, the bells of the Minster, some one and a half miles away, could be heard loud and clear over the wetlands, the peal of the bells celebrating this most sacred of all days in the Christian calendar. Indeed as I headed home to join my family for our own Easter celebrations I noted a few extra birds as I departed the wetlands, including an abundance of displaying Lapwings, a single Redshank, a trio of Cormorants, and a number of Pied Wagtails, whilst amongst the reeds I noticed my first flowering Marsh Marigolds of the year, kingcups for the newly risen King of Creation.

Kingcups (or Marsh Marigolds)

28th March 2016, Monday
4.6 C to 9.7 C / 2.6 mm / 1.8 hours / W 5-6
A thoroughly wet morning with persistent, and at times heavy rain, standing water soon building up on parts of the lawn, but thankfully after midday conditions would quickly improve with even some sunny spells in the afternoon. However it would remain breezy, this making it feel particularly cool, whilst a few light blustery showers would also drift over in late afternoon (this producing the odd rainbow or two). Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight with the breeze easing and becoming light, this allowing a touch of ground frost by dawn.

The garden birds were singing well this afternoon after the morning rain, most lovely of which was the gentle trilling and whistles of the resident Bullfinches. I have never managed to actually find any bullfinch nests in the garden but I strongly suspect that they nest in the large mature yews which border the garden. With the local population of these handsome finches seemingly booming, this following a period in the early 2000's when they were almost completely absent, it gladdens my heart to see them doing so well here at Woldgarth. Hopefully 2016 will prove to be another good breeding year.

29th-31st March 2016
29th - A wet morning and early afternoon with persistent rain, this being quite heavy at times, but by mid-afternoon conditions would quickly improve with good spells of sunshine developing and feeling relatively warm in the sun. However showers would also develop by the end of the afternoon, these continuing into the evening, though by nightfall these would largely die out with skies clearing overnight.
30th - A cold and frosty start with widespread ice after yesterdays rain, but the morning sunshine would soon warm things up with plenty of spring sunshine to enjoy. However this sunshine would encourage showers to bubble up in the afternoon, some of which were heavy with hail mixed in at times, but like yesterday these would die out by the evening with another clear and cold night following.
31st - Another cold and frosty start, temperatures being just below freezing at dawn, but once more the abundant March sunshine would soon warm things up with another fine morning following. It would remain dry and mostly sunny in the afternoon, though showers would threaten for a time, but thankfully these remained inland with Grosmont remaining dry. Cold and frosty again overnight.

Grosmont - The main highlight of our few days up in the village this week was the sudden arrival of Chiffchaffs, these heralds of spring having seemingly arrived all at once since our last visit a week and a half earlier. Indeed on the 29th I heard at least four, and possibly as many as six, around the village, most being concentrated around the birch woodlands which have come to dominate the old site of the Iron Works. Indeed for the remainder of the week it was rare that I couldn't here at least one wherever I wandered around the village, and now I await the first Swallows and Willow Warblers as well! However not all winter visitors have left just yet and a flock of about a dozen Fieldfares was noted near Goathland on the 31st. Will these be my last of the winter?

The ford across the river Esk

Daffodils flowering beside the Esk

Less expected was a single drake Wigeon with three Mallards on the cricket field on the evening of the 30th, a new bird for my Grosmont list which has now increased to 84, though generally the week was unremarkable with little extra to add on previous recent weeks. However unremarkable doesn't mean undesirable, and whilst drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers, yaffling Green Woodpeckers, singing Mistle & Song Thrushes, noisy Rooks & Jackdaws, displaying Curlews, a whole host of singing woodland passerines, a good variety of common gulls, and riverine birds such as Dippers and Grey Wagtails may mean little to the tick seeking twitcher or general birdwatching boor, for me they are much cherished members of the local avifauna and all to be celebrated. Indeed in this period of changing fortunes for so many of our birds it is perhaps more important than ever to monitor and record the familiar as well as the less familiar!

A handsome cock Pheasant on a frosty late March morning

It was disappointing to see no butterflies at all during our few days up at the village, especially as the weather was quite promising on a few days, albeit a little cool perhaps, but yet again the lamps along the station and platform of the heritage railway proved an excellent place to look for moths. New for the year was an Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria), this being found on the fence near the end of the platform on the 30th, whilst other new species for my Grosmont list included a single Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) on the 30th.

However, as with the lack of butterflies, it was a poor few days for insect sightings generally, and just a few Buff-tailed Bumblebees were additionally noted down in my notebook. Even ladybirds were hard to find and hopefully warmer conditions in the coming April will provide better conditions for all insects and not just the early moths!

Frosted daffodil

With the grass now growing once more it was good to see the cattle and cows now back out in the low pastures surrounding their home farms, whilst down by the Esk the fields were filled with newborn lambs, at least a dozen of which were born during the four days we were up at the village. Roe deer again showed well during my dawn and dusk walks up and around Lease Rigg, both bucks and does being observed on various dates, whilst a buck with a missing antler was noted on the cricket field. It will be interesting to see whether I can find this individual again, especially as he should be easy to spot thanks to his distinctive appearance.

In the garden the first Forget-me-nots are starting to flower here and there, especially around our garden sheds, whilst the flowers of the Willows are now fully out and look particularly attractive in the sun. The horse chestnuts are starting to leaf, though no 'hands' have emerged yet (unlike back in East Yorkshire), whilst the Sycamores are also starting to show leaf emergence, at least down beside the relatively sheltered river. Primroses are abundant and can be encountered pretty much everywhere, even up at Goathland where spring is roughly a week or two later than down at Grosmont, whilst the bank of Primroses near the old Iron Works is host to a large number of pink specimens, these varying greatly in intensity. Finally I spotted my first broom flowers of the year near the National Park car park, though admittedly these few flowers were very much early pioneers and it will be a few weeks yet till the rest are in full flower.

New-born lamb in the pastures below Lease Rigg

Willow flowers in the late March sunshine

Mallyan Spout & West Beck (30th) - On what was a sunny and pleasant late March morning we enjoyed a walk along West Beck, taking in the attractive gorge and the famous 'Mallyan Spout' along the way. Rain yesterday meant that the river itself was flowing strongly, the water an attractive peaty colour which looked particularly attractive in the sun, this river being one of the two main tributaries of the Murk Esk which flows past our cottage some four miles downstream. Indeed it is this peaty water which gives the Murk Esk its name!

West Beck

The famous waterfall was flowing well, the Mallyan Spout being at its best after heavy rainfall, and as we walked beneath the narrow waterfall we enjoyed an invigorating impromptu shower. After passing through the narrow gorge with its thundering waters, we emerged back into a more peaceful and restful stretch of the river, this allowing us to enjoy the bird song of the alder, birch and oak dominated woods. No doubt Redstarts and Willow warblers will soon return to these woods, but for now it was dominated by more common species, especially Mistle and Song Thrushes, as well as Chaffinch, Robin and a host of others. A couple of treecreepers were noted and both Dippers and Grey Wagtails were spotted along the river as well.

The Mallyan Spout

On the woodland floor Wood Sorrel was noted, though there was no sign of any flowers just yet, and as we climbed out of the narrow river valley and back up onto the moors above, we returned to the world of the Skylarks and the Pipits, the latter now being very conspicuous as they perform their distinctive song flights. Curlews likewise were heard calling over the high and more remote parts of the moors, and as we enjoyed a rest we noted a Kestrel and a pair of Buzzards in the skies above.

Looking northward across the Esk Valley

The Two Howes & Simon Howe (31st) - The following day we enjoyed another moorland ramble, this time heading up on to the high Moors themselves above Goathland. The primary reason for this walk was to check out the small tarn which can be found up here, this being a well known location for odonata in the summer, and after enjoying this scenic and sheltered location, we continued our slow climb along the path, heading for the 'Two Howes', a pair of round barrows which are located on a minor promontory surrounded by a sea of heather moorland. These barrows date back to either the late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age and are relatively well preserved considering their age.

Goathland Tarn, a good place for dragonflies in the summer

From here we continued on to another barrow some three-quarters of a mile to the south, the so called 'Simon Howe', and whilst the barrow here has largely been eroded, the original 'kerb stones' still form a ring on what is an open and exposed location some 260 metres above sea level. A few genuinely ancient standing stones can also be found beside this location, four of which still form an alignment with the barrow itself (their is evidence of a fifth one apparently), though the actual location is dominated by the large walkers cairn which now sits at the heart of the monument. Indeed Simon Howe is a well known landmark of the famous Lyke Wake Walk which crosses the North York Moors from Osmotherly in the west to Ravenscar on the coast, the walkers of which are expected to complete the 40 mile journey within 24 hours.

One of the standing stones near Simon Howe

Nature wise our walk across the moors was dominated by the presence of large numbers of Meadow Pipits whom performed territorial display flights as we wandered southwards, whilst Skylarks likewise were heard frequently, especially at first around the Tarn. I had hoped to see my first Wheatear of the year as well, but unfortunately no 'White-rears' were to be seen, but compensations came thanks to a small group of Golden Plovers, as well as displaying Curlews down towards Wheeldale, plenty of Lapwings near Goathland, & a half dozen Hares up on the moors themselves.

Simon Howe

March 2016 Weather Report
Whilst it was undoubtedly a cool March this year, temperatures concluding 0.7 C below the 1981-2010 average, the figures as regards rainfall are somewhat misleading with much of the month actually seeing little in the way of precipitation. Indeed from the 10th to the 25th just 0.2 mm's of rain was measured, almost falling within the Met. Office definition of a drought, but a number of very wet days at the start of the month, including 65.1 mm of rain between the 1st and the 9th, and again at the end of the month, 22.6 mm on the 27th alone, meant that in the end the month actually concluded with double the average rainfall total for a typical March.

The rain towards the end of the month was often showery in nature, with thunder recorded on the 27th and hail on three further days, whilst at the start of the month it was cold enough for some wintry precipitation, including snow on the 2nd & 7th. Indeed on the 2nd the snow was heavy enough to give a short-lived dusting, something of a rarity this year, but it soon melted in the March sunshine.

Sunshine wise it was a duller than average month with just 78% of the long term average being recorded at our weather station near Beverley in East Yorkshire, seven days seeing no sunshine whatsoever. It is worth noting that the dullest period of the month actually coincided with the driest period as well, with high pressure (1038.1 mbar on the 14th) and north to north-east winds bringing with it plenty of cloud and grey skies, typical early spring fare for the North Sea coasts of the British Isles I'm afraid. Winds meanwhile were often brisk but rarely strong, exceeding gale force on just one day, whilst winds were well distributed throughout the month with no one direction dominating.

MARCH 2016
Average Temperature
 5.7 C
 -0.7 C
Average Maximum
 9.5 C

Average Minimum
 1.8 C

Highest Maximum
 13.7 C
Lowest Maximum
 5.5 C
Highest Minimum
 5.9 C
Lowest Minimum
 -2.6 C
Air Frosts

Grass Frosts

Frost duration
 17 hours

Total Rainfall
 98.2 mm
Maximum total
 22.6 mm
Days =>0.2 mm

Days =>1.0 mm

Days =>10.0 mm

Total rain duration
 87 hours

Total Sunshine
 89.3 hours
Average per day
 2.88 hours

Sunless days

Average Wind Speed
 3.4 knots

Maximum gust
 36 knots

Days with Fog

Days with Thunder

Days with Hail

Days with Snow

Days with Snow lying

Maximum Snow depth

Snow Index

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