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May 2016

1st May 2016, Sunday
-0.5 C to 13.9 C / trace / 1.8 hours / S 4
A sunny and chilly start to May with a light frost, but by mid-morning cloud would begin to rapidly invade from the SW accompanied by a freshening southerly breeze. However other than some light rain and drizzle in mid-afternoon it would remain dry, the cloud even beginning to break up a little for a time in the evening. Mostly cloudy overnight with temperatures remaining in double figures throughout the night.

Two Pipistrelle bats were hunting around the beech tree in the evening, the large mature tree in question now coming into leaf. The blossom buds on the Crab Apple trees are also beginning to swell and burst.

Wolds - This morning we went for a walk in the high Wolds with my eldest sister and her lovely red fox Labrador, our walk of choice being the short circular route down through Tun and Frendal Dales and back up through Pasture Dale and over Huggate Wold to our original starting point. The weather was grey and cool with a brisk SW breeze being funneled up the dry chalk valleys, the cloud eventually thick enough to produce some rain towards the end of our walk, but despite the weather it was a good walk, Rosie (the labrador) greatly enjoying her few hours up on these chalk hills.

Willow warbler (photo taken May 2013)

On the journey we had noted hunting hirundines in the wet pastures near South Dalton, with both Swallows and House Martins swooping over the swiftly flowing chalk stream, whilst in the local fields the Oilseed Rape is now widely in flower throughout the local countryside. With the poor weather it was hardly surprising that no interest was provided by butterflies or insects in general, but thankfully the birds were still singing well with the warblers once again being particularly conspiciuous. In total two Chiffchaffs, six Willow warblers and at least one Blackcap were heard, whilst amongst the fragrant gorse a good number of Linnets were trilling away. Meadow Pipits were also noted in good numbers in the grass covered dales, whilst Skylarks were recorded in small numbers up on the cereal dominated Wold tops themselves. Finally in the skies above up to four Buzzards and a single Kestrel were observed.

Male Redstart (photo taken May 2013)

However the highlight of the morning would come near the junction of Frendal and Pasture Dales with a lovely male Redstart being noted low amongst the hawthorns. This colourful summer visitor does breed in this corner of the Wolds but the exact local status of the bird is still unclear, the lack of regular birders and the general absence of people meaning that many of these beautiful birds probably go undetected from one year to the next. However with tools such as the BTO's Birdtrack (link) it is hoped that some of the holes in our knowledge may well be filled in given time, and indeed if you do see any Redstarts yourself whilst walking in the Wolds please do send in the details.

Other observations of note included large numbers of Cowslips flowering in the dales, most of these being stunted somewhat in their appearance, whilst the hedgerows and field edges hosted flowers such as Garlic Mustard, White & Red Dead Nettles, Speedwells, Spurges, Plantains, Dandelions and the last of the Celandines. The hedgerows themselves are also rapidly greening up, this area of the high Wolds being about a fortnight behind the rest of the county thanks to the higher altitude, and as we made our way along I also noted both Wild Raspberries and Wild Gooseberries, the latter being fairly common around Huggate and down towards Warter. Finally a few Brown Hares were noted in the high fields, though the winter cereals are now becoming tall enough to conceal their presence.

Brown Hare

2nd May 2016, Monday
6.6  to 15.9 C / 1.7 mm / 4.1 hours / W 4-5
A cloudy and mild morning with just the odd brighter spell from time to time, especially in mid-morning, but latterly the cloud would thicken with some outbreaks of rain in the first half of the afternoon. Dying out by 4 pm with skies quickly clearing, this leaving a pleasant and sunny end to the day, albeit somewhat chilly thanks to a brisk breeze. Remaining clear and breezy overnight, the breeze preventing a ground frost.

For the first time in more than a week I decided to put out the moth trap, the cloudy skies and relatively mild conditions meaning that conditions for mothing were seemingly the best they have been for quite some time. However there was a snag and that was the brisk SSW breeze, and indeed despite the double figure temperatures I discovered just the two moths in the trap this morning. Still I wasn't complaining as both moths were new additions to the garden list, the best being the rather wonderful Mullein (Cucullia verbasci), whilst the other was a micro-moth in the shape and form of a Brindled Flat-body (Agonopterix arenella). I am now just one away from my lepidoptera triple-century!

Mullein (Cucullia verbasci), a new moth for Woldgarth

Brindled Flat-body (Agonopterix arenella), another new moth for the garden

Other insects attracted to the trap included a few Caddisflies with at least two species being represented (I think), the most numerous being Limnephilus auricula whilst a possible Limnephilus lunatus was additionally noted. I have only recently begun to try and ID these delicate looking insects so please forgive any errors. A single Black Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus humator) was also attracted to the light along with my first Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) of the year.

Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale)

Black Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus humator)

Over twenty Harlequin Ladybirds were counted inside the Stevenson Screen this morning, these having to be removed so that I could give the thermometer screen its annual spring clean. Meanwhile my nephew and I went on a 'bug safari' in the garden and found a number of wee beasties under the stones, including an abundance of Common Shiny Woodlouse (Oniscus asellus), a single Black Clock Beetle (Pterostichus madidus) and a species of Bembidion beetle (probably B. quadrimaculatum). Two variety of slugs were also uncovered including Dusky Slug (Arion subfuscus) and Irish Yellow Slug (Limacus maculatus), whilst two Leatherjacket grubs were unearthed. A variety of centipedes were additionally revealed, most of which were probably examples of Schendyla nemorensis, though to be honest, as is the case with many invertebrates, it is often difficult (or indeed impossible) to identify by mere visual examination alone.

Crab Apple blossom starting to appear in the garden

Bembidion quadrimaculatum ?

3rd May 2016, Tuesday
2.0 C to 14.5 C / 0.0 mm / 11.6 hours / W 4
A mostly fine day with plenty of sunshine and just the odd cloudier period, though a moderate to fresh WNW breeze did make it feel a little on the cool side, especially out in the open. Skies remaining clear in the evening and overnight with temperatures dipping low enough for a slight ground frost by dawn.

Two male Blackcaps were around the garden today with one male currently favouring the holly thicket, whilst the other is somewhat more distant and is about a 100 yards or so beyond the garden. It is just me or do Blackcaps seem particularly abundant this year? Elsewhere in the garden a good variety of bees were again noted (White-tails, Red-tails, Hairy-footed, Carders & Tawny Mining) whilst Cuckoo bees (Nomada flava) were encountered frequently. However it was disappointing on the butterfly front today with just a single Peacock being noted into the logbook.

I also continued my efforts to photograph more of the crawling and creeping residents of the garden and today focused on spiders again. As I am sure you are aware I don't like spiders but I do find their sheer diversity fascinating, whilst close up some of them are wonderful to study with subtle patterns and their extraordinary eyes and fangs. However identifying them is very difficult indeed, and in many cases impossible without a full examination by an expert, but nevertheless I am enjoying trying to get know these much maligned creatures a little better.

Cuckoo bee (Nomada flava)

House Spider (Tegenaria domestica)

Striped-legged Spider (Harpactea hombergi)

Swinemoor - A dawn visit to the horse grazed pastures brought some new additions to the year list, the first coming in the shape and form of at least a trio of Reed Warblers beside the peacefully flowing river. I had seen my first Sedge Warblers when I last visited the area on the 15th of April but it was good to finally catch up with this other typical wetland warbler. Speaking of Sedge Warblers these are now widely apparent along this stretch of the river, at least 10 being heard from Hull Bridge in the north to Grovehill Lock in the south, whilst other warblers heard this morning included two or three Whitethroats, three Blackcaps, two Chiffchaffs and two Willow warblers.

The flood meadows themselves were very quiet with hardly any wildfowl or waders (possibly because a dog walker had scared them all of before I arrived!), though a single Shelduck, two Little Egrets and two Herring Gulls meant it wasn't completely devoid of interest. A small number of Lapwings were also to be seen (about a dozen) whilst a horse flushed up a single Snipe at one point. Rather worryingly I haven't seen any drumming Snipe at the common so far this year.

However the highlight of the morning would come down at Grovehill Lock with up to four SWIFTS hunting around the river, my first of the year, their arrival date matching last year. Since they were flying relatively low I was able to observe them closely, the large size of the birds, at least compared to the hirundines, always being impressive. Meanwhile all three species of common hirundine were noted with plenty of Swallows, a dozen or so Sand Martins and at least one House Martin. Further notes included flowering Cuckoo-flower beside the river and towards the south of the common, and a single Oystercatcher was seen and heard flying northwards.

Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)

The first Swift (Apus apus) of the year

4th May 2016, Wednesday
2.1 C to 18.2 C / 0.0 mm / 13.5 hours / SW 3
A sunny and warm day with barely a cloud in the sky, especially in the afternoon. The strong sunshine would also see temperatures climb up to over 18 C, easily the warmest day so far this year. Remaining mostly clear overnight with temperatures not falling quite as low as recently.

The first Swifts were spotted above Woldgarth today (this following my first local sightings on the other side of Beverley yesterday), whilst in the warm afternoon sunshine the first Holly Blues of the spring also made a most welcome appearance. A number of Peacock butterflies were also spotted around the old homestead throughout the day.

North Cave Wetlands - An evening visit to the wetlands brought plenty of interest, including a number of new additions to my year list, whilst the warm and golden sunshine made for an enjoyable stroll. In total 57 species of bird would be recorded, though since I only took my macro lens with me I'm afraid I didn't get many pics. Indeed the lack of a long lens proved rather frustrating on a number of occasions, especially when I had a Lesser Whitethroat on no less than two occasions performing right in front of me, but alas it was nice to simply watch and observe it through my binoculars in close detail. However this evening's frustrations may finally induce me to finally buy myself a 'birding' camera for occasions such as these!

A pleasant evening at North Cave Wetlands

On the warbler front a good variety of common species were noted around the reserve including the aforementioned Lesser Whitethroats (x2), Common Whitethroat (x1), Blackcap (x4), Willow warbler (x4), Sedge Warbler (x5) and Reed Warbler (x2), though I have yet to pick up my first Garden Warbler of the year. On Dryham Ings the Little Ringed Plovers have arrived since my last visit with at least six counted, whilst two Ringed Plovers were also here along with 20+ Avocets and my first Common Terns of the year (6+). At Village Lake a Ruff moulting into summer plumage was interesting to see, as was a single Common Sandpiper, whilst other waders seen elsewhere included a single Snipe, Redshanks, Lapwings, three Oystercatchers, a lone Curlew overhead, and best of all a single Whimbrel low over Reedbed Lake.

At Main Lake further Common Terns were noted, as were a pair of Mediterranean Gulls amongst the hundreds of noisy Black-headed Gulls, whilst wildfowl included plenty of Tufted duck, a few Shoveler, a dozen or so Gadwall, at least two Teal, 6+ Shelducks, Mallards, Greylag Geese, and most surprising of all, a couple of Pink-footed Geese. Out on the surrounding arable fields three Stock doves joined their more abundant Wood Pigeon cousins, as did a few Red-legged Partridges, Pheasants and Lapwings, whilst birds of prey noted this evening included one each of Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Finally young ducklings, goslings and cootlings were all noted and no doubt the stripey-headed Grebelings should also be making an appearance very soon.

Further non-avain notes included my first Hawthorn blossom of the year, the first Red Campion, and a variety of bees, including Common Carder and Cuckoo-bees.

Common Tern (photo taken May 2014)

Mayblossom starting to appear in the hedgerows

5th May 2016, Thursday
5.8 C to 20.2 C / 0.0 mm / 11.1 hours / SE 2-3
Another sunny spring day with blue skies and strong sunshine bathing the countryside, the temperature reaching 20 C for the first time this year. Considering that this time last week we were having frosts and wintry showers it has certainly come as quite a shock. The sunshine would become hazier in the evening with the stars being veiled by a layer of thin cloud during the night.

Seven moths of five species were attracted to the trap last night, two of which were new additions to the year list. The most colourful of these two NFY's was a lovely Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata), a moth I usually only record two or three times in a typical year, whilst the other was a Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica). Though the latter is generally more common across the British Isles I have actually only recorded Muslin Moth on two previous occasions. The other three moth species recorded were Early Grey (x3), Hebrew Character & Clouded Drab.

Meanwhile a few Caddisflies were attracted to the light with one Stenophylax permistus, and at least three of four Limnephilus auricula. An Earwig (Forficula auricularia) was also found buried deep within the egg boxes.

Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata)

Muslin Moth (Diaphora mendica)

A quiet dawn walk around the local patch this morning brought little of note, though it was good to see that a few Lapwings have remained in the wet pastures just beyond the livery yard. A survey of the local warblers brought at least seven Blackcaps, one Whitethroat, a single Chiffchaff, two Willow warblers and one Sedge Warbler, though I have yet to see (or hear) any Lesser Whitethroats so far this spring. The Yellowhammers were also singing well this morning, along with the pleasing twitterings of Linnets, whilst above the cereal fields a few Skylarks were singing their attractive song from high in the clear morning sky. Meanwhile the new flood alleviation pond beside Long Lane was notable for the complete absence of birds, but I am still hopeful that this new habitat might bring some damselflies to the local patch in the coming weeks and months.

Back home the Swifts have now returned in good numbers and were heard screeching in the skies above our home, whilst a Curlew was also heard passing over today, an uncommon sound here at Woldgarth. Butterfly wise three species were noted with Peacocks, Small/Green-veined White (not sure which) and Holly Blue, and on the bee front it was nice to add Early Bumblebee to the 2016 garden list (the sixth species of bumblebee this year). Finally I came across another one of those jumping spiders I found the other day (Pseudeuophrys lanigera), though this one was on my windowsill and was a female rather than a male.

Female Pseudeuophrys lanigera on my windowsill

6th May 2016, Friday
Hazy sunshine in the afternoon and feeling warm, though becoming cloudier later. Becoming overcast and murky overnight.

Bempton Cliffs - On a warm and sunny morning we finally made our first trip to Bempton this year, this RSPB reserve being one of the jewels of the Yorkshire coast. From the high chalk cliffs one is provided with superb views of the seabirds which breed here every summer, with Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Gulls near the top, Gannets on the larger ledges below, and Auks making use of the smaller and steeper sections of these 300 feet high cliffs. In the small caves and holes Puffins can often be seen, much to the delight of the vast majority of visitors to the reserve, though looking out to see will usually produce much greater numbers of these colourful little auks, their distinctive flying style and bright orange feet making them easy to spot once you get your eye in.

Kittiwake close-up. They are beautiful birds.

The same Kittiwake on the cliff-tops

Puffin on the cliffs

All the usual seabirds were indeed noted on our visit today, with an abundance of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Guillemots, whilst Razorbills, Puffins, and Fulmars were also recorded in good numbers. Gulls included Herring, Lesser Black-backs and at least one Great Black-back, whilst down at the bottom of the cliffs a single Shag was noted on the rocks, its distinctive crest and greenish hue helping to identify it from the passing Cormorants. In the sea itself a Grey Seal was seen swimming amongst all the auks floating on the surface, though better yet was a small pod of Harbour Porpoises which were spotted drifting past the cliffs heading southwards towards Flamborough Head.

Herring Gull

Razorbill pair

A Shag at the base of the cliffs

Other notes from around the area included a few warblers, most numerous being Common Whitethroats, whilst two Lesser Whitethroats were also recorded along with a single Chiffchaff. In the scrub Linnets, Reed Buntings and Tree Sparrows were widely evident, and over the cliff top pastures Skylarks, Pipits and hirundines were also noted frequently. On the Barn Owl nest-box a pair of Stock doves were added to the day list, and further observations included at least one singing Corn Bunting just beyond the southern boundary of the reserve. Finally St. Mark's Fly were flying, as were a few butterflies including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White, though most interesting was the number of Rivulet moths on the wing, this species not usually becoming frequent up here in Yorkshire till the middle of the month.

Harbour Porpoise (I think?)

Rivulet moth

Tree Sparrow in the hawthorn and gorse scrub

7th May 2016, Saturday
Murky and overcast though feeling muggy in the morning. Becoming fresher in the afternoon but remaining largely cloudy.

Grosmont - The return of Swifts and Common Whitethroats to the countryside around Grosmont was the major highlight of the weekend, the scratchy song of the Whitethroat being heard along the railway embankment and also around Fairhead Farm, whilst the Swifts screeched in the skies above this community of 300 or so souls. House Martins and Swallows were also numerous in the skies above the village, whilst down around the river a few Sand Martins were also noted, surprisingly a new addition to my Grosmont list. Interest was also provided by a single drake Wigeon with a pair of Mallards, presumably the same individual noted at the end of March, and I wonder if this bird is actually feral rather than genuinely wild?

A number of Goosanders were once again noted throughout our stay, these often calling as they flew over our riverside cottage, whilst as ever the Dippers and Grey Wagtails frequently passed the cottage as they flew up and down the Murk Esk, both giving their presence away by their distinctive calls. On the Saturday a racing pigeon also showed up on the riverbank but soon departed after a short rest and feed, whilst beside the Esk Valley railway line I heard and spotted my first Garden Warbler of the year. Other warblers recorded around the village included Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow warbler.

The drake Wigeon which was seen around the village this weekend

This racing pigeon turned up on the riverbank on Saturday

It was hardly a butterfly fest whilst we were up at the cottage this weekend but nevertheless a few species were noted, including Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and best of all, my first Speckled Wood of the year. I also spent an hour up at Water Ark looking for my first Green Hairstreaks of the year but unfortunately drew a blank. Perhaps next week?

With fine weather throughout the weekend I was able to put the moth trap out on all three nights of our stay up at the cottage, and whilst catches with the 15W Actinic Skinner were far from spectacular, I nevertheless caught a number of new species for my ever growing Grosmont list. Indeed one of these moths, a Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac) was a new species for my lifetime list, this striking and interesting moth bringing up my lepidoptera triple-century. The other new additions to the patch list were Purple Thorn (Selenia tetralunaria), Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis), Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta), Common Pug (Eupithecia vulgata) and Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla).

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) in the garden

Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac)

Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis)

The moth trap also attracted a variety of other bugs and insects, a 22-spot Ladybird being noted on the first night, whilst subsequent nights brought a few Caddisflies, including Stenophylax permistus and what appears to be a species of Hydropsyche, though I am not even sure about this. My first Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha) of the year also appeared in the trap on the last night, whilst a Black Sexton Beetle (Nicrophorus humator) was another guest of the trap on one night.

I also took time to study some of the smaller insects and spiders within the garden, the riverside nature of the area meaning that many of the small beasties are quite different compared to what we have back at Woldgarth. The most beautiful discovery was a Blue Shieldbug (Zicrona caerulea), a species I have never previously seen, the metallic blue-green sheen of this species being simply stunning. A couple of interesting beetles were also found which I have yet to ID with any certainty, though I think one of them was Altica lythri/palustris (A. lythri seems more likely given the presence of water).

Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)

The unidentified species of Caddisfly (possibly a Hydropsyche species?)

Blue Shieldbug (Zicrona caerulea)

A few spiders were also collected and photographed including Snake-back Spider (Segestria senoculata), a variety of Lace Weaver Spider (either Amaurobius similis or A. fenestralis), a variety of jumping spider which I failed to photograph (however my initial impression was either Pseudeuophrys lanigera or even Sitticus pubescens), a species of Philodromidae (possibly P. aureolus) and another species I have yet to ID.

Finally I will finish on slightly more familiar ground with good old bees (who doesn't love these hairy garden visitors), with the main highlight coming in the shape and form of my first Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) of the year. However unlike Woldgarth I do have to check these bumblebees more carefully as Heath Bumblebees also occur around here, though so far I have yet to record one. Other species seen this weekend included Buff-tailed, White-tailed, Carder, and Early Bumblebee. Bee-flies were also noted in the garden again, and also up at Water Ark, whilst Eristalis species were frequently encountered basking in the sunshine.

Snake-back Spider (Segestria senoculata)

Lace Weaver spider species (Amaurobius similis or A. fenestralis)

Philodromidae species (P. aureolus ?)

The garden and the countryside around the village continues to host an ever increasing variety of wildflowers, and whilst many of the spring species are now fading away, the flowers of early summer are now starting to appear, including the likes of Cow Parsley, and Vetches, and it also won't be long till the Mayblossom begins to replace the rapidly fading Blackthorns. In the garden Bluebells (& Whitebells) now look wonderful, these beautifully complimented by the Forget-me-nots and Alkanet, whilst beside the river the Ramsons (Wild Garlic) are also now in flower. On the Rigg the smell of Gorse hangs in the air, whilst Broom is also now in flower, and other flowers noted included Stitchwort, White and Red Dead-nettles, Wood Sorrel and a large number of Violets on the path up to the Rigg.


Bluebells and Whitebells in the garden

Ramsons (or Wild Garlic) in the dawn sun

8th May 2016, Sunday
A misty start but soon brightening up with hazy sunshine throughout the rest of the morning. Sunny spells in the afternoon and feeling much warmer than yesterday.

Fen Bog - This moorland bog lies right at the extreme south of my new extended home patch and will likely be a place I will visit frequently in the coming months, the wealth of upland bird and insect life which can be enjoyed at this reserve being rather impressive. Indeed despite being still relatively early in the season, some good sightings would come this morning, the best being a pair of Whinchats, a bird which does breed in this area of the moors. A single Woodcock was another welcome addition to the site list, whilst numerous Common Lizards and a single male Adder were also stumbled upon as I made my along the access path.

The birch, willow and alder scrub provided good habitat for singing Willow warblers (5+) and Common Whitethroats (2+), as well as Reed Buntings, Linnets and of course the ever present Meadow Pipits. I had hoped for perhaps a Tree Pipit but alas not this time. Over the moors a few Curlews displayed and a Buzzard was seen soaring to the north, and as we enjoyed a cup of tea overlooking the reserve we were entertained by hunting Swallows low over our heads. On the insect front plenty of Common Heath moths (Ematurga atomaria) were on the wing, whilst butterflies were represented by just the odd Peacock, though most interesting was the number of attractive Green Tiger Beetles (Cicindela campestris) seen around the area, this common moorland and heathland beetle always being nice to see.

A record shot of the male Whinchat

Male Adder on the access path

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris)

NYMR - Despite the disappointment of the non-attendance of two prospective guest locos, the NYMR nevertheless provided a feast of railway heritage during the first week of the newly dubbed 'Scottish Steam Gala'. Since the Scottish railways are one of my favourite subjects, primarily because I spent a considerable part of my childhood growing up near Edinburgh, I was actually looking forward to this gala more than the originally planned one, the combination of heritage diesels and steams being far more appealing than just a mere steam one. The star of the gala was the wonderful Class 55 No.55022 'Royal Scots Grey' (which for this gala was running as No.55007 'Pinza'), my love for Deltics being stronger than for any other class of locomotive, whilst the Class 26 No.26038 was another welcome guest to the railway.

Class 26 No.26038 at Grosmont

The Class 26 departing the village with a rake of teaks

Class 55 No.55022 (running as No.55007) passes resident Class 25 D7628

On the steam side of things it was disappointing that the K1 No.62005 suffered a failure and was unable to operate on the Saturday or the Sunday, but the only guest steam loco at this event, the Standard 4 tank No.80072 (running as No.80126), operated flawlessly throughout and was much enjoyed as it ran services along this 18 mile long heritage railway. From the home fleet the Black 5 No.45428 (running as No.44787) and the Standard 4 No.76079 (running as No.76001) were reliable workhorses as usual, whilst the NER T2/Q6 No.63395 also made a number of runs, giving the LNER at least some representation at this gala. However it was strange to see a gala without the once ever present A4 No.60007 'Sir Nigel Gresley' present, and one hopes that its prolonged absence for its 10 year overhaul is not too long this time around.

Class 25 D7628 'Sybilla'

Standard Class 4 tank No.80072 (running as No.80126) at Grosmont

Standard Class 4 No.76079 (running as No.76001) approaching Water Ark

9th May 2016, Monday
Sunny throughout and feeling very warm during the middle of the day.

Stoupe Brow - On another warm and sunny day we headed out to spend a few hours by the sea, our destination of choice being the beach below Stoupe Brow, this relatively quiet spot lying between Ravenscar in the south and Robin Hood's Bay in the north. To be honest I am not a huge fan of the sea-side, at least in the warmer months of the year, as the beaches are far too busy for my liking with both people and poorly controlled dogs, but thanks to the relatively poor access to this area it is at least a little quieter than other nearby parts of the so called 'Heritage Coast'.

However despite the less welcome aspects that come with it, the sea-side is always a good place to watch wildlife, especially birds, and as I scanned the shore I noted good numbers of Oystercatchers, Herring Gulls, a Great Black-backed Gull, a couple of Grey Herons, Cormorants and best of all, a single Grey Plover in full breeding plumage. Sand Martins also flew along the beach, the soft cliffs providing nesting sites for these small brown hirundines, whilst out to sea Sandwich Terns could be seen fishing in the blue waters of the perennially frigid North Sea.

Grey Plover (photo taken May 2013)

Sleights Moor - I spent a couple of hours up on the moor above Grosmont on Monday morning, the strong May sunshine beating down on the sheep-grazed heather whilst I enjoyed the wonderful views from this otherwise windswept and exposed hill-top. Nature wise it was pretty quiet with no Golden Plovers or Wheatears this afternoon, though Lapwings (10+) and Curlews (3+) were both noted, whilst a single Kestrel appeared at one point. More surprising was a single female Teal which flew over (a new addition to the patch list!), whilst other observations included Red Grouse, Skylarks, Mipits, and a few Swallows.

10th May 2016, Tuesday
9.3 C to 15.1 C / 3.4 mm / 2.2 hours / NE 3-4
A warm and sunny start to the day but after mid-morning cloud would quickly increase from the south with outbreaks of rain arriving shortly before midday. Outbreaks of rain would continue into the afternoon and indeed into the evening, though it wasn't wet throughout with some drier periods as well from time to time. Also feeling warm and muggy despite the rain. Rain dying out overnight though remaining cloudy and close throughout the night.

It was another disappointing haul last night with just three moths of three species, though the presence of a Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix) in the trap did at least provide some cheer, this striking species always being a welcome visitor to the Skinner trap. The other two moths were Twenty-plume Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) & Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla). Caddisflies mean-while were restricted to a single Stenophylax permistus & a few Limnephilus auricula.

The Crab Apple blossom in the garden has come out during our absence up at the cottage, the pink blooms further brightening up the flower bedecked late spring gardens of Woldgarth. The lawn too has grown considerably in just a few days and is covered in daisies and dandelions, though a closer look has also revealed plenty of Speedwell and a few buttercups as well. The dandelions have been attracting the Goldfinches and Bullfinches as well, these colourful little finches having been seen hopping about the lawn today as they search for food for their young families.

The Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix)

11th May 2016, Wednesday
9.5 C to 16.0 C / trace / 1.3 hours / N 3-4
A dull and muggy morning with some outbreaks of mostly light and drizzly rain, but things would improve somewhat in the afternoon with even some spells of sunshine managing to break through for a time. However cloud would increase again in the evening with mostly cloudy skies for the rest of the night. Mild again.

Not much to report today, especially as I was busy with other things, but it was good to hear the Swifts screeching overhead whilst the Swallows hunted low around the old homestead. A Holly Blue was also seen fluttering around the garden and would occasionally stop to sun itself amongst the Yews and Laurels along the eastern edge of the garden. Further excitement was provided by a Hornet which appeared in what used to be dubbed the 'snug', this having to be removed carefully so as not to enrage what can be an aggressive and unpredictable species of hymenoptera. However it did provide a rare chance to see this impressive insect up close.

12th May 2016, Thursday
8.4 C to 17.6 C / 0.0 mm / 12.0 hours / NE 4-5
A sunny and warmish day with largely clear blue skies in the afternoon, though a fresh NE breeze did make it feel a little cooler than the thermometer otherwise suggested. Clear spells in the evening and overnight with the breeze remaining fresh.

13th May 2016, Friday
8.1 C to 11.4 C / trace / 1.6 hours / NE 4-5
A bright and blustery start to the day but cloud would soon increase with cloudy and grey skies for the rest of the day, the moderate to fresh NE breeze making it quite cold as temperatures struggled to just 11.4 C. In early evening the cloud would produce a short period of rain but this didn't come to much with merely cloudy skies for the rest of the evening and the first half of the night. However after midnight some clearer spells would develop with the breeze also easing during the night.

14th May 2016, Saturday
A fine day with sunny spells in the morning and clear skies in the afternoon, the countryside of the beautiful Esk Valley being bathed in spring sunshine. However a brisk NE breeze did make it feel quite cool, especially in exposed locations. Cloud increasing overnight with overcast and grey skies by dawn.

Grosmont - We arrived in the village in mid-afternoon on what was a sunny but chilly spring day, the fine weather encouraging us to enjoy a stroll up the Rigg shortly after our arrival. The local Oaks have continued to 'green' up during the fine weather earlier in the week and now only the mature Ashes are now lacking leaves. Indeed even the Alders are now starting to obviously leaf, at least down here at Grosmont anyway, whilst in the sheltered micro-climate of the village the first bit of Mayblossom is starting to flower by the footbridge over the Murk Esk, as are a few lovely purple Lilacs. In the pastures on the south-side of the Rigg the cows and calves are now out enjoying the lush spring grass, with 14 youngsters being noted, whilst around them Swallows hunted for flies attracted by the livestock. Down by the river Esk, which is currently running at just 0' 7", House Martins were hunting in good numbers, whilst by the river itself a pair of Grey Wagtails were noted, as were the resident Dippers. I do love it up here before the tourists arrive.

The Murk Esk

15th May 2016, Sunday
A cloudy and grey start to the day, the onshore breeze making it feel quite cold at first, but by mid-morning things would quickly begin to brighten up with sunny spells by late morning. Remaining clement into the afternoon with plenty of long sunny spells, and with lighter winds than recently it would feel pleasantly warm, especially in any sheltered sun-traps. However in the evening cloud would increase again and it would remain largely cloudy overnight, though prior to dawn this cloud would begin to break up and clear.

Grosmont - After an initially cloudy start to the day, things would quickly improve with some good spells of sunshine developing by late morning, and with lighter winds than recently it would feel pleasantly warm. A stroll up the Rigg in late morning brought a single Garden Warbler, whilst up towards Egton a fine display of Early Purple Orchids were enjoyed, my first Orchid species of the year. A wander through Doctors Wood in the afternoon allowed us to enjoy the wonderful carpet of Ramsons (Wild Garlic) which can be found here, whilst on the upper slopes of this woodland Bluebells too carpeted the woodland floor. Further flowers included Water Avens starting to flower (one of my favourites), Bugle and Herb-robert, whilst it was good to spot at least one Speckled Wood enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine. Back in the garden a Nuthatch was at the bird feeders and I also came across a newly fledged Dunnock down by the river.

In late evening I also came across a curious harvestman species on the wall of the cottage, this turning out to be a Megabunus diadema, a species which I have never previously encountered. Indeed this species seems to prefer more northern and western parts of Yorkshire and appears (at least according to NBN data) to be almost absent back in VC61. However the Esk Valley seems to be the stronghold of this species here in VC62 and through the macro lens it was amazing to study this harvestman up close, the bizarre 'ocularium' being almost alien like in appearance with conspicuous spikes & large eyes.

Megabunus diadema. Note the bizarre 'ocularium'.

Danby Beacon - We set off shortly after 6 am to visit the high moorland above the village of Danby, the location of the former RAF radar station being little more than 10 minutes drive away from the cottage. In recent years this high and exposed moor has become a regular staging point for Dotterels, and with reports of up to 10 being spotted since Thursday, we headed up with high hopes of seeing them, this being a bird which has always managed to elude me. However after an hour of searching on what was a grey and cold morning I failed to find any of the upland plovers, and whilst this was undoubtedly disappointing we nevertheless encountered some nice birds, including beautiful Golden Plovers (10+), a couple of drumming Snipe, 8+ Curlews, and of course all the other usual moorland suspects (ie. Red Grouse, Mipits etc). However the best observation would come just as we left the moor with a lovely male CUCKOO sitting on one of the roadside fence posts, the bird in question being mobbed by an LBJ of some kind.

Red Grouse in the heather

However a few hours after returning to the cottage I was informed via twitter that the Dotterel had been re-found and we therefore headed out again, this time determined to not to leave the area until we had found at least one. By the time we arrived a half dozen cars were already parked up on the road and following the gaze of the birders we finally managed to spot the DOTTERELS, albeit distantly, with at least six being spotted. By now the weather had improved and the sun had come out, and with little better to do we decided we would hang around to see if the birds got any closer, the wonderful views over Eskdale, Great & Little Fryupdales and Danbydale providing plenty to look at whilst we waited. Eventually after an hour or so they drifted towards us and eventually got remarkably close, indeed they seemed little concerned by our presence as long as we remained on the road. Apparently some idiot photographers had tried to get closer earlier in the day and had flushed them away, but thankfully this time everyone behaved themselves and the birds were left in peace, these delightful birds repaying us with outstanding views. Patience does occasionally pay-off.

Other observations from our second trip to Danby included a couple of Wheatears, a few displaying Curlews, many Common Heath Moths and a squashed Adder on the road.


Confiding Dotterel at Danby

Moorgates - An evening stroll in the low moorland south of Goathland brought some good observations to end the day, the best provided by a pair of Stonechats in and around the boulder strewn hillside on the eastern side of the shallow valley. However no Wheatears were spotted, which was surprising, though once they are paired they can become more elusive until the youngsters start to emerge. A single male Redstart near the Beck was another fantastic sighting, a new bird for my Grosmont/Goathland List, whilst other avian observations included an abundance of thrushes (Blackbird, Song & Mistle), Mipits, Curlews, Willow warblers, Reed Buntings, and a single Oystercatcher flying over. The Birches are also rapidly 'greening' and a close inspection of the stunted beck-side Alders showed that the leaves are just starting to emerge, the trees up here (>500 feet above sea level) being at least a couple of weeks behind those down at Grosmont.

Sleights Moor - On the journey back to the cottage we also noted another pair of Stonechats on 'our' local moor, along with a single Roe deer. Other birds included Lapwings, Mipits, a few hunting Swallows and a single Red-legged Partridge.

Male Stonechat

16th May 2016, Monday
A beautiful morning with an abundance of warm sunshine, though in the afternoon increasing amounts of cloud would bubble up, indeed it would become quite cloudy for a time in late afternoon. However in the evening breaks would again develop with a fine end to the day with variable amounts of cloud overnight.

Grosmont - The day dawned sunny and bright and as I headed out for my customary pre-breakfast stroll up the Rigg and down to the Esk I was taken aback by the warmth of the morning, more like July or early August than mid-May! However I wasn't complaining and as I made my way up the Rigg with no-one else around I was in heaven, the village looking peaceful down below me. As I enjoyed a rest on the higher of two benches I listened to the Chiffchaffs singing away, much as they have done almost constantly since their arrival at the end of March, whilst in the woods around the church a Nuthatch was spotted. In the gorse scrub below the Rigg a good variety of finches were noted, including Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, whilst a prematurely fledged Rook was noted below the Rookery. I wonder if it will survive?

However the best sighting of the morning would prove to be a pair of Spotted Flycatchers which showed well near the top of the path, the male being particularly showy as he moved from branch to branch and sang his piercing song (no camera I'm afraid though). This bird has become very hard to see back home in the Yorkshire Wolds, a decline reflected elsewhere nationally, but hopefully we will have a pair up here at Grosmont this year. Another good sighting would come above Alder Farm as a Tawny Owl flew in and tried to roost in the thick hawthorns, but its arrival didn't go unnoticed by the local thrushes and it was soon forced to move on.

Early morning above Grosmont

Spotted Flycatcher (photo taken at Spurn, September 2014)

The railway cutting above Alder Farm is an excellent place to look and listen for warblers, the bridge over the railway providing a good vantage point, and as I listened I managed to pick out at least one Garden Warbler, as well as a few Blackcaps, a Whitethroat and Chiffchaffs. A Grey Wagtail pair were also wandering along the railway line, whilst the dead roe deer, which has been here since mid-March, is now starting to get rather smelly and providing food for maggots and burying beetles. Further observations included fluff coming from the female Willows, a Grey Heron pair along the river, and of course the wonderful resident Dippers. They are such charming little birds.

With the fine weather today we decided to walk along the route of the old horse-drawn railway up to the neighbouring community of Goathland, this excellently maintained path linking the two communities which form the core of 'Heartbeat' country. Since the route of the path follows the Murk Esk up to its starting point at Beck Hole, and also passes through both rich pastures and mature woodlands, there is usually plenty to enjoy as regards nature, especially at this time of year.

Stitchwort, now nearing the end of its flowering season

The neighbouring hamlet of Esk Valley

Since I am still new to this part of the world I try to record as much as I can whilst I am out and about, the nature of this part of the world being quite different in many regards compared to what I have been used to back in the Wolds. Indeed the abundance of Early Purple Orchids in the area has surprised me, a species which is uncommon back on my familiar chalk uplands, whilst Nuthatches are a bird which I delight in seeing, this species being very rare back in the East Riding. More familiar meanwhile were Water Avens, whilst as we wandered through the delightful woods near Beck Hole we were treated to the sights and smells of Ramsons and Bluebells flowering in profusion. A few late Wood Anemomes were also noted here and there, whilst Wood Sorrel is now abundant, along with other woodland flowers such as Bugle and Campion. The woods around here, at least around the rivers, are also carpeted in Woodrush, another plant not really familiar to me before. In fact this plant also grows on the riverbank beside the cottage.

Ramsons and Bluebells along the Rail Trail

Dusky Cranesbill flowering near Esk Valley

Bird wise I decided to count all the warblers along our walk with the end result being 13+ Blackcaps, 10+ Willow Warblers, 8+ Chiffchaffs, and at least 2 Garden Warblers. Interestingly no Whitethroats were encountered along the walk. Meanwhile the woods either side of the old incline from Beck Hole to Goathland hosted a pair of Spotted Flycatchers (my second pair of the day!), whilst Marsh Tit and Goldcrest pairs were also noted in these woods. At Beck Hole a newly fledged Dipper (Dipperling?) was being fed by one of its parents at the point where West Beck meets Eller Beck, the rather demanding young bird constantly demanding food from its overworked progenitor.

Butterfly wise a few species were flittering about including Orange Tips, Large White, Green-veined White, and Small Tortoiseshell, though again I failed to find any Green Hairstreaks despite the favourable conditions. Further notes included young Starlings and a Song Thrush family, whilst a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in Incline woods. Finally we returned to the village via the railway, our train being hauled by the resident Class 37 No.37264.

Incline Woods

Whitby - In the evening we went for a stroll along the pier at Whitby, and whilst I do not much like this seaside town (to be honest there are very few which I do like), it was at least relatively quiet for a change with just a few other families and couples wandering about its historic and winding streets. The wind coming in off the sea was rather chilly, to say the least, but it was an enjoyably bracing walk to the entrance of the harbour. However other than an abundance of Herring Gulls very few birds were about, though a single Fulmar was nice to see (my favourite sea-bird) whilst three Oystercatchers and a Grey Seal out at sea were additional observations.

Whitby Harbour with the Abbey in the distance

17th May 2016, Tuesday
A partly cloudy start and feeling much cooler than yesterday, but by 8 am the early cloud had cleared away to leave a mostly fine morning with plenty of warm sunshine to enjoy. However as the afternoon wore on the sunshine would become increasingly hazy and indeed by late afternoon it had become largely cloudy, the disc of the evening sun just about visible through the thickening cloud. Cloud continuing to thicken overnight with some outbreaks of rain latterly.

Grosmont - The day dawned largely cloudy and was noticeably cooler than yesterday, though nevertheless it was pleasant enough morning as I headed out once more on my usual early morning perambulation. As I headed up the Rigg I became aware of a once familiar sound drifting across from the other side of the Murk Esk, a male Cuckoo announcing his presence with that deeply evocative, if somewhat monotonous, two note song. Cuckoos have become so rare back home in the Yorkshire Wolds that simply hearing one is worthy of celebration, and indeed this single observation meant that I continued the rest of my walk in a joyous mood. Such simple things make life worth living after all!

I was also pleased to hear the male Spotted Flycatcher again, though this time I was unable to spot him high in the tree tops, whilst the female also remained elusive this morning. As I sat on the high bench a female Goosander flew over and circled the Rigg a few times, calling as she did so, whilst over the village Swifts and House Martins hunted above the quiet roof tops. Down by the Esk it was quiet with little about, though the lack of rain this May has meant that the river has now dropped to just six inches at the ford. Indeed it is now shallow enough to wade through, though the strong current and slippy cobbles, especially in the middle of the ford, means it is still best to use the footbridge! Finally an Engrailed Moth (Ectropis crepuscularia) was noted on the walls of the Station House, a new species for both my Grosmont and lifetime list.

Engrailed (Ectropis crepuscularia) on the walls of the Station House

NYMR - With nowt to do until the afternoon we decided to enjoy a rare trip down to Pickering on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, our membership of the railway entitling us to half-price fares. For our southbound trip we were hauled by the impressive BR Class 55 Deltic No.55022 (currently running as 55007 'Pinza'), the scheduled steam developing a fault of some kind, but since I like diesels, especially Deltics, I was actually quite pleased about this. Meanwhile on our return from Pickering we had another diesel hauling our train, this time the visiting Class 26 No.26038 doing the duties.

Since the trains are restricted to a maximum speed of just 25 mph you can often enjoy some good nature observations along the journey, especially in Newtondale which is otherwise difficult to access by any other means, the best sighting today coming to the east of Fen Bog with a single Marsh Harrier being mobbed by crows, another new addition to the patch list (just!). A Sedge Warbler was also noted towards the south end of the Bog, though since this end of the reserve is outside my patch I'm afraid I can't add it to the list as well. A few butterflies were also noted including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orange Tips, Green-veined White, Large White and finally Brimstone. Flowers too were noted including Early Purple Orchids, Primroses, Violets and Cowslips. A large area of burnt moorland was also passed in Newtondale, presumably caused by one of the steam trains earlier in the week, a reminder of how easily fires can start up here.

Low Marishes - On our journey back to Woldgarth we encountered a Little Owl in the middle of the road in this small hamlet between Thornton-le-dale and Malton. It appeared that the Owl had actually just caught a Sparrow but it was forced to let it go when we arrived, the Sparrow flying away seemingly unscathed after the incident.

The Deltic (No.55022) at the end of the railway at Pickering

Burnt moorland in Newtondale. Note the damaged fence.

18th May 2016, Wednesday
11.2 C to 15.6 C / 1.4 mm / 0.0 hours / SW 2
A muggy but grey day with occasional outbreaks of rain, especially in mid-morning and again in late afternoon. However in the second half of the evening the cloud would begin to clear away with some clearer spells developing overnight. Also becoming fresher and less muggy feeling during the night.

Unfortunately due to heavy rain I had to curtail last nights mothing session, conditions prior to the rain being seemingly favourable, though in the end only a few moths were attracted to my low powered Actinic trap. However one of these moths was a lovely Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria), a species I have only recorded once previously, whilst the other moths were also NFY's, a single Spruce Carpet (Thera britannica) and two Bee Moths (Aphomia sociella) meaning that the night wasn't entirely wasted. Other visitors to the trap included three Cockchafers (Melolontha melolontha), a species of Harvestman (probably Platybunus triangularis) and eight Caddisflies (all of which seemed to be Limnephilus auricula).

Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria)

Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)

19th May 2016, Thursday
5.5 C to 18.0 C / 3.0 mm / 1.0 hour / SW 2-3
A largely cloudy and grey morning, especially in mid-morning, though some brighter periods would break through in late morning and into the first half of the afternoon, this helping to push temperatures up into the high teens. However cloud would thicken in the second half of the afternoon with outbreaks of rain arriving in early evening, some of which were quite heavy. However the rain wouldn't last long and would clear by dusk, this leaving a cloudy but mild night with temperatures falling no lower than 9.1 C.

I had begun to wonder whether the recent arrival of Pseudeuophrys lanigera in the house was having an adverse affect on the Zebra Spiders (Salticus scenicus), especially as I hadn't seen one for a few weeks, but thankfully I came across one today on the walls of the bathroom. These endearing little spiders have been a favourite of mine since we moved to Woldgarth some twenty odd years ago and I always enjoy seeing them up close, those wonderful large dark eyes being almost hypnotic.

Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus)

20th May 2016, Friday
9.1 C to 18.7 C / 6.0 mm / 2.8 hours / SW 3-4
A largely cloudy morning, though latterly some brighter spells would develop. Indeed by midday and during the first half of the afternoon some good spells of sunshine were enjoyed, this helping to push temperatures up into the high teens, but cloud would soon increase again with a cloudy end to the day. By late evening this cloud would become thick enough to produce some rain, which though light at first, would become more persistent and heavier during the night.

Warm and muggy conditions during the night meant that I had hoped for a few more moths in the trap, but yet again very little was found this morning. In fact no moths at all were found within the trap, with just a couple of Wasps and a dozen or so Caddisflies (mostly Limnephilus auricula) within the egg boxes, but thankfully a few moths were on the outside of the trap or found nearby. In total five moths of five species were identified, three of which were new additions for the year, these coming in the shape and form of a lovely fresh Brimstone (Opisthograptis luteolata), a Garden Carpet (Xanthorhoe fluctuata) and a Mottled Pug (Eupithecia exiguata). A Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria) also made another appearance, though it flew away before I could photograph it, whilst a diminutive Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis) was additionally found clinging on to the side of the Skinner Trap.

Least Black Arches (Nola confusalis)

Whilst inspecting the moth trap this morning I also came across a species of Ground Beetle, which after photographing and examining I have identified as a possible Nebria brevicollis, a very common species (possibly the most common carabid), but one which I have never previously encountered. Meanwhile a lunchtime stroll around the late spring garden brought a few nice observations, including a couple of Holly Blues (Celastrina argiolus), a few Bee species (including a female Andrena carantonica) and a mating pair of 14 spot Ladybirds (Propylea quattuordecimpunctata).

Earlier in the day I also enjoyed a pleasant cycle into town with the hedgerows alive with the sounds of Whitethroats and Yellowhammers singing away on what was a muggy but cloudy May morning. A few young Blackbirds and a whole family of Starlings were also encountered, whilst in the horse grazed pastures a Fox was spotted with a recently caught rabbit. The local country lanes are now bedecked with the lovely white florets of Cow Parsley, Comfrey also joining it here and there, and in the fields the first whiskers are starting to appear on the barley. It'll be harvest-time before we know it!

Ground Beetle species (Nebria brevicollis?)

Andrena carantonica ?

14 Spot Ladybirds (Propylea quattuordecimpunctata)

21st May 2016, Saturday
10.9 C to 19.3 C / 3.9 mm / 1.6 hours / SW 4
A wet start with outbreaks of moderate rain, though this would soon clear away to leave a mostly cloudy and breezy morning. Becoming brighter for a time in the afternoon with some decent spells of warm late May sunshine, but this wouldn't last long with showers developing in the second half of the afternoon. Indeed by the evening the showers turned into a longer spell of rain but by dusk this began to clear away to leave variable amounts of cloud for the rest of the night.

22nd May 2016, Sunday
A fine morning and early afternoon with plenty of sunny spells, though the warm and muggy conditions sparked some showers in the second half of the afternoon, some of which were quite heavy and prolonged. The showers or longer periods of rain would continue into the evening but by dusk would begin to clear away to leave a mostly clear night. Becoming chilly overnight as well with mist forming by dawn.

Grosmont - We arrived at the cottage in mid-morning and almost as soon as we stepped into the garden we noted a Spotted Flycatcher hunting around the area. Indeed there may well have been two for a time, the warm and muggy conditions meaning that a large number of flies were on the wing, especially around the river. As I watched the flycatchers from the riverbank, a sudden commotion amongst the other birds signaled the presence of a raptor in the area, and indeed a second later a small grey-blue raptor flew low over the river at a rate of knots, a male MERLIN. Whilst Merlins are a breeding bird up on the moors, it was nevertheless a surprise to see one down here in Grosmont!

Spot the Spotted Flycatcher!

Red-and-black Froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata)

After this early excitement things quietened down in the afternoon, but a walk after the first of the afternoons heavy showers brought another Spotted Flycatcher, this time a bird hunting for flies in the railway cutting near Alder Farm. In the same location Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff were still singing away, though already the number of singing warblers are now fading away as birds have now paired up and are busy raising the next generation. By the river a Grey Wagtail was attempting to snatch flies as they flew past his rock in the middle of the Esk, whilst as I wandered back to the cottage I heard and then spotted two Oystercatchers flying over and heading inland. In the garden the Chaffinches which nested in the ivy covered trunk of the Rowan have now fledged and a young Robin was also noted, my first of the year.

In the old ironworks the leaves of the Common Spotted Orchids are now apparent in the same locations as last year, though obviously no flowers spikes have appeared yet, while in the gardens of the village the first Lupins are starting to appear. The garden flowers were attracting Early Bumblebees and Carder Bees this weekend, the larger species which dominated spring having become seemingly less numerous recently, and a look for insects along the riverbank brought a few interesting species, including Red and Black Froghoppers and a few species of butterfly, the most numerous being Orange Tips. Meanwhile a species of Mining Bee (Andrenidae) has had me scratching my head (Andrena humilis?), as did a species of Sawfly (Tenthredo temula), though this is because I was looking in the wrong books for an ID! I really must invest in some up to date and well illustrated guide books some time.

Andrenidae species (Andrena humilis?)

Tenthredo temula, a species of Sawfly

23rd May 2016, Monday
After a sunny but chilly start to the day, cloud would soon roll in off the nearby North Sea with the rest of the morning being cold and grey, the moors above the village being shrouded in low cloud. However around midday it would begin to quickly brighten up with a fine afternoon following, indeed by late afternoon and the evening it had become mostly clear. However the northerly breeze did make it feel quite cool, especially up on the moors. Remaining mostly clear overnight.

Grosmont - I arose shortly after 5 am on what was a clear and chilly start to the day up here in the Esk Valley, heading out of the cottage early in order to walk up to Egton prior to breakfast. The air down by the Esk felt particularly chilly this morning with steam rising from the dark waters of this swiftly flowing river, and as I climbed above Priory Farm I could enjoy the view back towards the village. As I continued the ascent of the hill the sun rose ever higher in the sky and the birds serenaded me, Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Willow warblers and Chiffchaffs amongst them. Atop the whitening hawthorn hedgerows Yellowhammers sang too, and at one point a young Roe buck quietly crossed the path before me, seemingly unaware of my presence.

Priory Farm with Grosmont in the distance

After half an hour or so I reached my destination near the top of the bank and rested for a while, bathing in the golden early morning sunshine. On the bank wildflowers were noted in a good variety, best of the lot being the multiple spikes of Early Purple Orchids which rose high above all the other grasses and flowers. Other flowers were more typical fare with a few species of Vetch, Campion, the last of this years Stitchwort, Buttercups, Bluebells, Dead-nettles and Cow Parsley, to name but a few.

After returning home I ventured out once more after breakfast, though by now low cloud had rolled in off the sea with the moors to the north and east shrouded in a grey and cold blanket. Passing through the church yard I noted that a Red Hot Poker had now started to flower beside the porch, whilst the Hybrid Geums are now in full flower in the same area, and as I looked back towards our cottage I noted that the Rowan is just starting to flower, especially towards the top of the tree. As I gazed across I heard the loud call of Jay above me, this always impressive and colourful member of the crow family being chased by a Blackbird, though after this early excitement the remainder of the walk passed with little further interest, bar a quietly grazing Roe deer near Alder Farm.

Early Purple Orchids

The lane from Egton to Grosmont

Moorgates - A walk through the rock strewn landscape above Goathland on what was a fine and sunny evening brought its usual array of varied birding, the best sighting of the whole day coming down near the beck with a pair of Tree Pipits showing well. Tree Pipits are a bird I rarely encounter back in East Yorkshire, indeed most of my sightings have always come up in Scotland during past holidays, but I had long suspected that this area of the 'home' patch must have at least one pair, the landscape up here being typical 'Tipit' territory. Now I am less than 10 away from reaching the century for the Grosmont and Goathland patch.

Other good birds included three Wheatears in and around the rocks, with two males and a single female being spotted, whilst a non-calling male Cuckoo was spotted low in an Oak tree beside the track to nearby Birchwood Farm. Curlews were widely apparent with at least half a dozen in a relatively compact area, and of course Mipits were everywhere, but a Stock dove was a welcome addition to the species list, as were a pair of Stonechats, presumably the same pair that were seen last week. Finally three species of thrush (Blackbird, Song and Mistle) and singing Willow warblers completed the list, though it would seem that the Rouzels seen back in April were only passage migrants as no further observations have been made since.

Tree Pipit

Extremely cropped photo of the male Cuckoo

24th May 2016, Tuesday
3.5 C to 16.3 C / 0.0 mm / 6.4 hours / NE 4
A fine morning after a chilly start with plenty of sunshine to enjoy, though a moderate north-easterly did make it feel quite cool. Becoming cloudier by midday and becoming generally cloudy for the remainder of the afternoon and into the evening, the breeze if anything freshening a little in the evening. Cloudy overnight with the moderate to fresh NE breeze persisting throughout.

Yet another poor night, one of far too many this spring, with just one moth being found in the trap when I went to inspect it this morning. This turned out to be an Angle Shades (Phlogophora meticulosa), my first of the year, a species I have a long had a fondness for, especially since it was the first moth I actually ever identified many, many years ago. A couple of Cockchafers (Melolontha melolontha) were also attracted to the light.

North Cave Wetlands - We found ourselves looking after our youngest niece this morning, and since the weather was sunny and pleasant we decided to go for a walk around our favourite local nature reserve. Arriving shortly after 10:30 am we made our way around the reserve in a clockwise direction, first calling in at the Main Lake Hide. However apart from the pair of Mediterranean Gulls very little of note was spotted here and we soon decided to move on, though at this point we decided to split up so I could check out some of the smaller residents which dwell amongst all the wildflowers and hedgerows along Dryham Lane.

Hawthorn blossom

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)

Orange Tips and Green-veined Whites were the most conspicuous butterflies on show, with Small Tortoiseshell and Large White also being spotted, though most exciting for me was the return of the Damselflies, my first of the year. In total three species would be encountered in this part of the reserve with Azure, Common Blue and Blue-tailed being recorded in very healthy numbers, whilst later in the morning a fourth species would be added in the shape and form of a single Large Red Damselfly. No dragonflies were spotted, which was disappointing, but at least that is something still to look forward to in the upcoming weeks.

Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)

Pied Shieldbug (Tritomegas bicolor)

In the undergrowth other interesting wee beasties were discovered, including a few Cardinal Beetles (Pyrochroa serraticornis), two species of Soldier Beetle (Cantharis rustica and C. nigricans), a Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola), Red & Black Froghoppers (Cercopis vulnerata), and best of all, a Pied Shieldbug (Tritomegas bicolor), a brand new species for me. A couple of creepily beautiful Nursery Web Spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) were also found out in the open, as was a handsome male specimen, and amongst the nettles Tetragnatha species of spiders were abundant.

Weevil species (Phyllobius ?)

Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola)

Tetragnatha species

Further insect observations included a variety of Weevils, most of which were probably Nettle Weevils (Phyllobius pomaceus), but since I have great trouble separating different species of Phyllobius Weevils I may have recorded a few other species without knowing it. 7-spot Ladybirds were frequently encountered as were a few species of Bee, including an Early Mining Bee, whilst along the northern footpath a large number of Garden Tiger caterpillars were recorded, especially around the Willowherbs. On the moth front a Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae) represented my first of the year, and on the grassy bank leading down to the Turret Hide I spotted a species of Crambid, this turning out to be a Hook-streaked Grass Veneer (Crambus lathoniellus), a new species for me.

Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)

Cantharis nigricans

Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis)

On the birding front the main highlight was a lone Wood Sandpiper, this showing relatively well at Island Lake from the vantage point of the Turret Hide. This is a species I have often struggled to connect with in recent years so it was good to unexpectedly stumble upon one this morning. In the same lake another Mediterranean Gull was also spotted, the third of the morning, whilst the peculiar hybrid goose which has been around for a while was also spotted nearby, this particular bird looking like a cross between a Pink-foot and a Greylag. An informal count of the Avocets brought a minimum of 52 birds, whilst other observations of note included 4 Common Terns, 1 Oystercatcher, just a single Little Ringed Plover, and Gadwall already going into 'eclipse'.

A few species of wildflower were also noted including the first bit of Birds-foot Trefoil, plenty of Black Medick, Common Vetch, Dead-nettles, Campion and my first bit of Cut-leaved Cranesbill this year. The Mayblossom is now at its best and is providing a feast for not only the eyes but also the local insects.

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)

Cinnabar (Tyria jacobaeae)

Hook-streaked Grass Veneer (Crambus lathoniellus)

25th May 2016, Wednesday
7.8 C to 11.6 C / 10.7 mm / 0.0 hours / N 4
A grey and cold start to the day with rain moving in during the second half of the morning, this rain becoming steady and persistent for the remainder of the day with some moderate to heavy spells at times, especially around midday. Becoming lighter and patchier by the evening and indeed by dusk it did become drier, at least for a time, but further outbreaks of rain &/or drizzle would return overnight.

On what was an unseasonably cold and wet late May day, the garden and the local countryside were understandably quiet, though it was nice to see a young Robin at the feeding station. One of the adults was still feeding it throughout the day, and judging by its size and appearance it seemed in good health, the inclement weather being kept out by its fluffed up plumage. The Bullfinches were also around in good numbers today, perhaps indicating that their own young are near to fledging as well.

26th May 2016, Thursday
8.0 C to 15.0 C / trace / 0.0 hours / E 1-2
A dull and grey sort of day with some drizzle and rain in the morning, especially early on, and whilst it would become drier in the afternoon it would nevertheless remain overcast and cloudy throughout daylight hours. However despite the cloud it did feel much milder than yesterday! Remaining mostly cloudy overnight.

27th May 2016, Friday
9.1 C to 14.9 C / trace / 0.9 hours / E 2-3
A cloudy morning with some drizzle at times, especially in mid-morning, but going into the afternoon things would begin to brighten up somewhat with even the odd sunny spell managing to break through by mid-afternoon. However it would remain on the cloudy side for the rest of the day with just the odd break from time to time, though after dusk and during much of the night some longer clearer spells would develop, this allowing temperatures to dip lower than recently.

The seemingly endless disappointing counts which have been a feature of May this year continued for yet another night, just the three moths being found in the trap this morning. However all three of these moths were new additions to the year list with one each of Grey Pine Carpet (Thera obeliscata), Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta) and Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana). Surely things will improve by the start of June!

Also in the trap were three Cockchafers (Melolontha melolontha) and a luckily rather dozy Hornet (Vespa crabro), especially as when I picked up the egg carton I actually had the impressive species of hymenoptera in my hand briefly. I won't be picking up any egg boxes without checking them first in the future!

Grey Pine Carpet (Thera obeliscata)

Flame Shoulder (Ochropleura plecta)

Hornet (Vespa crabro)

The number of butterflies in the garden has been disappointing this spring, though it was good to see both an Orange Tip and a Holly Blue in the walled garden at the same time this afternoon, especially as the former species is not particularly common around Woldgarth these days. In the garden the first of this years Aliums are starting to flower, as are the Lupins and Wild Geraniums, whilst the Swedish Whitebeam is now beginning to blossom. As I wandered through the garden a busy hoverfly caught my eye, my first Syrphus ribesii of the year, and I also noted an abundance of a particular spider species which I have tentatively identified as Linyphia hortensis, a sheet-weaving species of Money Spider.

A Harlequin Ladybird was noted hunting for prey in the undergrowth, and a tiny red species of beetle was also discovered going about its daily life amongst the vetches and forget-me-nots which dominate the wilder corners of the garden. So far I have been unable to identity this species and whilst it looks like a possible leaf beetle species, I am not even sure about this. Any thoughts would be warmly welcomed.

Syrphus ribesii

Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

Spider species (Linyphia hortensis?)

Unidentified beetle (possibly a Leaf Beetle species?)

28th May 2016, Saturday
5.9 C to 14.3 C / 0.0 mm / 3.3 hours / N 2-3
A cloudy day for the most part, especially in the morning, though in the second half of the afternoon some breaks would develop with some good spells of sunshine developing by the evening. However cloud would increase again by dusk with largely cloudy skies for the remainder of the night. Cool for late May.

The Mercury Vapour bulb was utilised last night, some encouraging traps from a fellow local moth-er meaning I was a bit more confident than on recent nights, but once again when I came to check the trap this morning I found just a small handful of moths within the trap. However all but one were NFY's, with a single Flame Carpet (Xanthorhoe designata), a couple of Small Square-spots (Diarsia rubi) and a lone Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta). The other moth was a rather late Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), interestingly in good condition as well.

Small Square-spot (Diarsia rubi)

Shuttle-shaped Dart (Agrotis puta)

29th May 2016, Sunday
A largely cloudy day, though in the second half of the afternoon it would brighten up for a time with even some short spells of much welcome May sunshine. However it wouldn't last with cloud soon returning in the evening, this cloud thickening and lowering overnight with drizzle and murk by the morning.

Wolds - A freshly killed Badger was found in the middle of the road between Fimber and Wharram-le-Street this morning, a sad sight. This area is one of those corners of the Wolds where badgers are fairly common, but nevertheless it is always tragic to see any wild animal fall victim to motor vehicles. Meanwhile near North Grimston they were collecting what appeared to be haylage, possibly for the local equestrian market at nearby Malton, the countryside around the town being famous for the large number of professional horse-racing stables to be found in the area.

Grosmont - Despite the largely cloudy skies we enjoyed a good day up at the cottage, the highlight being a single Kingfisher flying down the river shortly after 11 am, the first I have seen at the cottage for several weeks. Other good birds in or beside the garden included Marsh tit (a bird unknown back at Woldgarth), the obligatory Dippers, Blackcaps and Chiffchaff, whilst a young Robin was also noted. A Dipper also looked like it was roosting in one of entrances to the old iron excavations on the opposite side of the riverbank, though unfortunately I was unable to confirm this.

A species of Oedemeridae (False-blister beetle) found near Alder Farm

Red and Black Froghopper, currently abundant in the local hedgerows

A late afternoon walk up the Rigg brought a few interesting observations, especially on the invertebrate and wildflower side, with a variety of beetles and an ever growing diversity of flowers now appearing in the local countryside. The best beetle found was a species of Oedemeridae, the so called False-blister Beetles, the specimen being found feeding in a Buttercup flower (hence the yellow pollen in the above photo). To my eyes at least I think it could be a Oedemera virescens, an uncommon species nationally but one which is known to occur in nearby locations within the National Park, but if you think differently please get in touch as I would love to know for sure.

Other species encountered included an abundance of Red-and-black Froghoppers (Cercopis vulnerata), these again being particularly numerous on the northern side of Lease Rigg, as well as a healthy number of Soldier Beetles, these all appearing to be specimens of Cantharis pellucida. A species of Cuckoobee was also encountered beside the river Esk, probably Nomada flava, whilst back in the garden I found a type of leaf beetle on the leaves of a Wood Aven, this most likely being a Large Flax Flea Beetle (Aphthona euphorbiae), but as ever one can't be sure without the thorough examination of a proper expert (which I am not!).

Cantharis pellucida

Cuckoo-bee species (Nomada flava?)

On the wildflower front more and more species are now starting to flower as we approach June, typically the climax of the botanists year, and a wander around the village will now bring upwards of 25 species now in flower (those with better eyes and knowledge than me might get far more of course). In the garden (& elsewhere) Red Campion, Cow Parsley, Alkanet and Ramsons are still going strong, though the Bluebells and Forget-me-nots are now well past their best (especially the Bluebells), whilst at the church across the river more flowers can be encountered including Geums (hybirds of Wood & Water Avens), Bugle, Oxeye daisies, Black Medick, Docks and even a few lingering Primroses.

In the pastures, which now have cattle grazing in them rather than sheep, a species of Mouse Ear is just starting to flower, whilst the Violets (& Primroses!) are still showing well along what must have once been an old boundary hedge which runs the length of the Rigg up to the farms at the top. On the roadside verges Common Vetch has been joined by the tattier and less attractive flowers of Bush Vetch, and other flowers noted included a species of Speedwell, increasing amounts of Herb Robert, Ribwort Plaintain, Lady's Bedstraw, Thistles, and of course species such as Dandelion, Daisy and Buttercup. The female flowers of the Willows have also spread large amounts of fluffy seeds everywhere, so much so that in places it looked like the ground was covered in grey fur.


Lupins flowering outside the cottage

30th May 2016, Monday
An overcast and murky morning with periods of drizzle, the tops of the hills enveloped by low cloud as cold and moist air came in off the nearby North Sea. Becoming somewhat brighter in the afternoon, especially in late afternoon and at first in the evening, but cloud would begin to return around dusk with a cloudy & increasingly windy night following. Cold for the time of year, especially in the northerly breeze.

Grosmont - The weather was poor last night with drizzle and freshening winds, but nevertheless I risked putting the trap out since Actinic electrics are relatively safe if they get wet. However in the end I wish I hadn't bothered with just a single moth being found amongst the soggy eggboxes, this proving to be a very worn Brindled Pug (Eupithecia abbreviata). A single Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha), two species of Caddisfly (Hydropsyche contubernalis & H. pellucidula) and a Mayfly species were also attracted to the 15W light.

With the grim morning weather I headed out on my customary walk with little hope of seeing much, and so it proved to be the case, at least on the birding front anyway. However closer examination of the hedgerows and roadside verges did bring some invertebrate interest, including more Cantharis pellucida (a species of Soldier Beetle), a few species of Weevil, including possible Otiorhynchus singularis and Phyllobius virideaeris, as well as another species of larger Phyllobius, whilst bugs too were noted, including a Harpocera thoracica in the garden and another initially similar looking species which I have very tentatively identified as Lygus wagneri. In the long grass by the Esk I also came across the exuviae of Mayflies, along with a few species of Bee and St. Mark's Flies trying to keep out of the steady morning drizzle.

Apologies for the poor photo but I think this is Harpocera thoracica

Lygus species, probably L. wagneri in this part of the country (?)

A couple of micro species of moth were also found as I looked for bugs and beetles, including the tiny but very pretty Sulphur Tubic (Esperia sulpherella), a species which has been around in good numbers this year judging by the number of other observations I have seen on 'social media'. In the thistles I found another micro, this seemingly being a Thistle Bell (Epiblema scutulana), though since this species is visually very similar to Epiblema cirsiana a degree of caution is advised. At the station house a Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata) was beside the primary platform lamp, this species not being particularly common in VC62 with just 67 previous records (as of 2014).

Other news from the village today included an abundance of hunting Swallows and House Martins down around the Esk, these dancing around my head as I watched from the footbridge near Alder Farm, a young Pied Wagtail in the same area, and silage cutting and collecting at Fairhead Farm, this farm still collecting the cut-grass rather than wrapping it in plastic bales, presumably for storage in a silage clamp.

Thistle Bell (Epiblema scutulana)

Wheeldale & Tranmire Bog- Evening strolls around Wheeldale Beck and latterly Tranmire Bog were unsurprisingly quiet given the unseasonably cold and blustery conditions today, but nevertheless some welcome sightings were enjoyed, including a very handsome male Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) down by the ford over Wheeldale Beck. This delightful corner of the Moors is relatively sheltered from cold northerly breezes thanks to its natural geography, and as we wandered along the bubbling beck we enjoyed listening to the singing Willow warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus), with both the calls of Peewits (Vanellus vanellus) and Curlews (Numenius arquata) coming from the sheep-grazed and grouse covered heather moorlands above.

Moving on to Tranmire Bog we soon realised it was a forlorn hope to look for any damselflies or dragonflies, this location beside Rutmoor Beck and on the edge of Cropton Forest being far less sheltered than the previous destination, but as we looked across the bog we noted large amounts of Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) coming into flower, a plant I rarely encountered back on the Wolds! A closer look also revealed a few Marsh Violets (Viola palustris), and best of all a few Round-leaved Sundews (Drosera rotundifolia), whilst on the surrounding moors Cotton-grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) is now becoming widely apparent. In the beck Tadpoles were noted in large numbers, these still being very much on the small side up here, as were a few Water Beetles of some kind. Both Grey & Pied Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea & M. alba) frequented the edges of the beck during our visit, whilst other birds of note included a displaying Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) and calling Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria).

Record shot of the Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata)

Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)

31st May 2016, Tuesday
A windy and overcast morning with spits of rain in the air, feeling cold once more thanks to the aforementioned strong breeze. In the afternoon heavier and more persistent rain would arrive, the hills around the village once more disappearing into the cloud, and all in all it was a pretty disappointing end to May with temperatures rising no higher than 11 C. Becoming drier in the evening but remaining overcast with further occasional light rain and drizzle overnight.

Grosmont - Brisk winds and low temperatures meant it was hardly surprising that when I went to inspect the trap this morning I found very little, indeed just the one moth was found within the trap. This turned out to be a White Ermine (Spilosoma lubricipeda), a species which I record far less frequently than the similar Buff Ermine back at Woldgarth. Around the trap 3+ Diamond-back Moths (Plutella xylostella) were also spotted near the 15W light, as were two species of Caddisfly and a lone Earwig. Hopefully conditions will be better next weekend!

Gardening and the inclement afternoon weather meant I had little time for birding and whatnot today, though a morning walk around the Murk Esk and Doctor's Wood did bring sightings of all the usual local suspects, including Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail and a Grey Heron. Whilst I was gardening I was joined, as ever, by the local Robin, and at one point I also had two young Marsh tits checking me out. Both the male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers remain frequent visitors to the bird feeder outside the cottage, and I wonder how long it will be till the first red-capped juvenile of the year also pays a visit.

May 2016 Weather Report
A largely quiet and uneventful month with no extremes or weather phenomena worthy of particular note, though overall it was warmer and drier than average month, the first calendar month to be so this year. In the end the month the concluded 0.8 C above the long term average, and indeed had it not been for a chilly last week, the month probably would have concluded over a degree above the 1981-2010 average. Unusually the warmest weather in the month came during the first fortnight, with temperatures passing 20 C on a couple of days, though the highest maximum was a modest 21.2 C.

MAY 2016
Average Temperature
 11.7 C
 +0.8 C
Average Maximum
 16.4 C

Average Minimum
 6.9 C

Highest Maximum
 21.2 C
Lowest Maximum
 11.4 C
Highest Minimum
 11.2 C
Lowest Minimum
 -0.5 C
Air Frosts

Grass Frosts

Frost duration
 1 hour

Total Rainfall
 33.7 mm
Maximum total
 10.7 mm
Days =>0.2 mm

Days =>1.0 mm

Days =>10.0 mm

Total rain duration
 49 hours

Total Sunshine
 169.1 hours
Average per day
 5.45 hours

Sunless days

Average Wind Speed
 2.7 knots

Maximum gust
 30 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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