April 2017

1st April 2017, Saturday
4.9 C to 14.2 C / 0.0 mm / 2.2 hours / W 3-4
A mixed morning with alternating sunny and cloudy periods, the cloud occasionally thick enough to produce some light drizzle, but in the afternoon things would become increasingly clement with some spells of sunshine in the second half of the afternoon. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight with some longer clear spells after midnight.

Woldgarth – A tiny species of spider was found in the kitchen this morning, a close examination through my hand-lens revealing it to be a probable species of Theridiidae (Comb-footed spiders), most probably Theridion melanurum given the patterning on the abdomen and striped legs. This species is fairly common in buildings and is generally always found in or around human habitation.

2nd April 2017, Sunday
6.2 C to 13.4 C / 0.0 mm / 1.5 hours / SE 2-3
A mostly cloudy day with extensive cloud cover for much of the morning and afternoon, though despite the cloud it was still relatively mild and clement with temperatures in the low to mid-teens. Becoming brighter towards the end of the afternoon with some sunny spells to end the day, skies remaining clear into the evening, but by midnight low cloud and murk would spread in from the North Sea.

Woldgarth Moths (1st/2nd) – The fantastic start to the mothing season continued tonight with 15 moths of 7 species recorded, three of which were new additions to the year list and all three of which have only been recorded at Woldgarth on just a handful of occasions. Best of the lot was an always impressive Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix), this species having been recorded on less than five occasions before, whilst a Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda) was equally pleasing, this species having been recorded just twice previously.

The Herald (Scoliopteryx libatrix)

Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda)

The other new addition was a fresh looking Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata), this moth usually being recorded two or three times most years here at Woldgarth, though last night’s record was particularly notable for the early date, this particular species not usually appearing till late April or even May. Yet another Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) further underlined the good spring that this species is enjoying this year, whilst other moths included 5 Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), 4 Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) and 2 Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi).

Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata)

By-catch meanwhile included three spiders, two of which were of an unidentified Clubiona species, whilst the smallest specimen I have tentatively identified as a Pachygnatha degeeri, a common species which is often found amongst low vegetation. Nevertheless this species has never been recorded at Woldgarth before so its appearance in the moth trap was most keenly welcomed.

Pachygnatha degeeri

Woldgarth – The Field Maples (Acer campestre) are now coming into leaf along the avenue, these trees having rapidly ‘greened’ up in the past few days. In the garden I finally spotted my first female Hairy-footed Flower-bee (Anthophora plumipes) of the year, the largely black and altogether fatter looking females being easy to tell apart from their smaller and orangey-brown coloured male counterparts.

North Cliffe Wood – A good walk around this tranquil woodland on the western foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, the weather this morning being largely cloudy but bright and clement enough nevertheless. The lack of bright sunshine meant that no butterflies were noted (I had hoped to see my first Orange Tip this morning) but there were plenty of other compensations to keep me occupied, best amongst these being my first Willow Warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus) of the spring, as well as at least one singing male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla). In the end at least 4-5 singing Willow warblers would be noted, most, as you would expect, in the birch woodlands, though Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) remain the most numerous species of warbler, at least 10 singing birds being recorded throughout both the birch and oak sections of this 80 or so acre woodland near Market Weighton.

Primroses (Primula vulgaris)

Fresh hawthorn leaves, good enough to eat

Larch flowers

The lack of butterflies didn’t mean that other invertebrates were also elusive, indeed four species of bumblebee would be noted, including Buff-tails (B. terrestris), White-tails (B. lucorum), Red-tails (B. lapidarius), and best of all, a single Carder Bee (B. pascuorum), my first of the year. A male Mining Bee species was also found on the gorse, this again probably being an Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa), the fragrant flowering gorse playing host to a variety of invertebrates (most beyond my ID skills). However many small weevils, presumably Gorse Weevils (Exapion ulicis) given the size (~3 mm), habitat and long snouts, were noted, as were 7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata), a Flower Bug (Anthocoris nemorum), and a variety of spider species, including Cucumber Green Spiders (Araniella cucurbitina sensu lato). Further invertebrate interest included a single Dark-bordered Bee-fly (Bombylius major) sunning itself along the northern edge of the heath, plus the odd Eristalis species here and there.

Mining Bee species (possibly male Andrena haemorrhoa)

Front view of the Mining Bee species

Gorse Weevil (Exapion ulicis)

The exceptionally mild March has meant that many plants are leafing and flowering earlier than usual this year, indeed the countryside is currently more typical of mid-April rather than early April, and evidence of this came in the shape and form of the first flowering Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) in parts of the wood, especially along the eastern perimeter. Primroses (Primula vulgaris) are now flowering widely, providing a fine display in places, whilst among them the odd bit of still flowering Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) was additionally noted (though not in large amounts). The birch woods hosted a fair bit of Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), always a favourite wildflower of mine, and further botanical notes included my first Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) of the year, plentiful Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis), and lingering Lesser Celandines (Ficaria verna) and Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis).

Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana)

Besides the aforementioned warblers at the beginning of this diary entry, a few other species of bird were worthy of mention, including two drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major) and at least one ‘yaffling’ Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis). A Stock dove (Columba oenas) was heard calling from an unseen location, a Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) likewise being heard but not seen, though more obvious were the singing Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) over the fields, and a mewing Buzzard (Buteo buteo) overhead. A single Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) egg was also stumbled upon along the western path, the distinctive colour and size making this one of the easiest of eggs to identify (I am useless at identifying eggs!), and I wonder how many other birds are now sitting on eggs?

Barren Strawberry (Potentilla sterilis)

Fresh hazel leaves

3rd April 2017, Monday
5.5 C to 17.0 C / 0.0 mm / 8.6 hours / S 3-4
A grey and murky start to the day with poor visibility, but by 8 am things began to quickly brighten up with an abundance of sunshine throughout the remainder of the morning and indeed most of the afternoon. Feeling warm and pleasant with temperatures climbing up to 17 C. Mostly clear in the evening but becoming cloudy again overnight, though latterly some breaks would develop with mist forming by dawn.

Woldgarth Moths (2nd/3rd) – Another promising night meant that once again the moth traps were placed out, both the 125W MV and 15W Actinic being utilised in the walled garden. Come dawn some 24 moths of 6 species were found in or around the trap, most being typical early fare. However a single Powdered Quaker (Orthosia gracilis) was great to find, this species having only occurred at Woldgarth once before, whilst three Small Quakers (Orthosia cruda) were notable, this species having only been recorded three times previously (including last night). Other moths included 8 Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), 5 Early Grey (Xylocampa areola), 4 Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) and 3 Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta).

Powdered Quaker (Orthosia gracilis)

Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda)

Small Quaker (Orthosia cruda) portrait

Woldgarth – My first Early Bumblebees (Bombus pratorum) of the year were noted in the garden this morning, a single bee being noted buzzing low over the lawn, whilst another was actually found in a spider web outside the kitchen window. Meanwhile in the afternoon the first Common Carder Bee (B. pascuorum) to be seen in the garden this spring was also spotted. With the exception of Garden Bumblebee, all the common species of bumblebee have now been recorded at Woldgarth this year, though interestingly I have yet to see a single Honey Bee!

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum)

A male Hairy-footed Flower-bee (Anthophora plumipes)

A female Hairy-footed Flower-bee (Anthophora plumipes)

The warm afternoon sunshine encouraged a few species of butterfly on to the wing as well, including 2-3 Peacocks (Aglais io), a lovely Comma (Polygonia c-album), and best of all our first Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) of the year. With several sightings elsewhere of Holly Blue in recent days I was half expecting to see one here as well, though it looks like this will have to wait for at least another day. Along the edge of the garden the Dark-bordered Bee-flies (Bombylius major) were again active (at least three separate individuals), as were the Tawny Mining Bees (Andrena fulva) and the male Early Mining Bees (A. haemorrhoa).

Comma (Polygonia c-album) enjoying the sunshine

Peacock butterfly (Aglais io)

Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)

Meanwhile both Common and Tapered Droneflies (Eristalis tenax & E. pertinax) were active, as was Epistrophe eligansSyrphus ribesii and Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), but it was a Dronefly like species I encountered outside the rabbit shed which caught my eye. This appeared to be my first Myathropa florea of the year, a common species here at Woldgarth but not one I would be expect to see at any point in April, let alone as early as the 3rd. Indeed most of our garden records of this species have come during high summer (ie. mid-July to late-August) so today’s record was certainly worthy of some extra note. Finally I was pleased to find a single Seven-spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) in the garden during the afternoon, this being the first non-Harlequin ladybird I have managed to find in the garden this spring!

A very early Myathropa florea

Probable Syrphus ribesii

A beautiful Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris)

4th April 2017, Tuesday
6.3 C to 12.9 C / 0.2 mm / 3.0 hours / W 3
A sunny and misty start to the day, the countryside looking beautiful at dawn with a delightful chill to the air, but by mid-morning cloud would spread in from the west with skies becoming grey and cloudy for the remainder of the morning. Indeed by midday this cloud would be thick enough to produce some rain and drizzle, but thankfully it wouldn’t last long with things slowly brightening up after 3 pm with some good spells of warm sunshine to end the day. Mostly clear skies overnight and colder than recently with even a touch of ground frost in rural areas.

Woldgarth Moths (3rd/4th) – Given the conditions I had hoped to find more moths in and around the trap this morning, indeed just 13 moths were found, but nevertheless they represented eight species with several ‘good’ species being recorded. Of these just one was a new addition to the year list, this coming in the shape and form of a Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria), again this proving to be another somewhat early record of a species usually on the wing from late April and peaking in May.

Waved Umber (Menophra abruptaria)

Another Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata) also turned up, with two very early records of this species having now been recorded in the past few days, whilst I was also surprised to see yet another Pale Pinion (Lithophane socia) in the 15W Actinic trap, this moth with fewer than a 100 records in VC61 having now been recorded twice this spring (and three times at Woldgarth overall). The good year for Small Quakers (Orthosia cruda) continued as well with two of this diminutive species of Orthosia turning up, whilst other moths included 3 Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi), 2 Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta), 2 Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) and a single Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica).

As for by-catch we are still awaiting our first Caddisflies (Trichoptera) of the year, but again a small species of spider was found in the box, this proving to be a variety of Philodromidae. Unfortunately this family of spiders is very hard to identify, indeed it is next to impossible by visual examination alone, so it will just have to be recorded as Philodromidae species. Spiders are amongst the most difficult of invertebrates to ID.

Pale Pinion (Lithophane socia)

Philodromidae species

Beverley Parks – All of the Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera) blossom has now finished, the trees now just a wonderful shade of fresh green, though in contrast the Blackthorns (Prunus spinosa) are now wonderful, the hedgerows looking at their best as the hawthorns continue to leaf and green up. On the roadside verge along Long Lane the Butterburs (Petasites hybridus) are now at their best as well, though with the strong grass growth this spring they are already in danger of being swamped. However the best observation of the morning came at the very north end of Long Lane, a single Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) singing away within earshot of Beverley Minster. Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) were also widely apparent at dawn this morning, up to five being heard during my cycle into town.

Woldgarth – The first singing Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) at the old homestead was heard as I was emptying the moth trap this morning, this melodious songster joining the more monotone Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) which has been singing away almost non-stop since he arrived on the 27th of March. Meanwhile a single Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) was enjoying the now abundant laurel blossom in the late afternoon sunshine, whilst yet more Common Carder Bees (B. pascuorum) were spotted.

5th April 2017, Wednesday
3.0 C to 14.5 C / 0.0 mm / 6.9 hours / NW 3-4
A sunny but chilly start to the day and remaining sunny for much of the morning, though by midday cloud amounts would begin to increase somewhat. Variable amounts of cloud in the afternoon, but nevertheless there would be some good spells of sunshine at times with temperatures climbing up into the mid-teens. Little change in the evening but overnight skies would clear with temperatures dipping low enough for a touch of ground frost by dawn.

Woldgarth Moths (4th/5th) – A clear and cold night meant that just four moths were uncovered in the trap at dawn this morning, though all four were of different species with one, a lovely Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria) being a new addition to the year list. This has the honour of being the 25th species of moth to be recorded at Woldgarth this year. Other moths meanwhile were standard fare with one each of Hebrew Character (O. gothica), Common Quaker (O. cerasi) and Early Grey (X. areola).

Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria)

Beverley Parks – 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Larus fuscus) were feeding in the recently drilled fields east of Old Hall Farm this morning, these being the first Lesser Black-backs I have seen in the area this spring. The gulls were also joined by feeding feral doves, these coming from a nearby property whom keep a variety of pigeons and doves. Meanwhile at the Minster Way / Long Lane pond a pair of Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) were espied, this being the first time that I recorded more than a single individual at this still maturing site on the southern edge of Beverley.

Woldgarth – The first bit of flowering Herb Bennet / Wood Aven (Geum urbanum) was found around the front of the property this morning, a relatively early date for this abundant wildflower here at Woldgarth. The first bit of Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) has also appeared, this joining the now frequently observed White-dead Nettles (Lamium album) and the somewhat less conspicuous Red-dead Nettles (Lamium purpureum). The widespread fresh green growth and the abundance of edible plants has been very much welcomed by our resident rabbits, the lean times of winter in which they live off just hay, pellets and the occasional kitchen vegetable or two, having now been replaced by a much more varied diet, favourites including hawthorn leaves, fresh bramble leaves, dandelions, cleavers, and white dead-nettles.

6th April 2017, Thursday
2.5 C to 14.4 C / 0.0 mm / 11.0 hours / W 3-4
A clear and cold start, a touch of ground frost here and there at dawn, but in the abudant spring sunshine things would soon warm up with another fine day following with good spells of sunshine and temperatures up in to the mid-teens. However a brisker breeze than recently did make it feel a little cooler, especially in the shade or exposed locations. Skies remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight.

Woldgarth Moths (5th/6th) – A clear and cold night with a touch of ground frost meant that it was a much quieter night for the old moths with just five moths of three species recorded. Of these three were Early Greys (Xylocampa areola) and another was a single Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), whilst a lone micro came in the shape and form of a White-shouldered House-moth (Endrosis sarcitrella), this being a new addition to the year list.

7th April 2017, Friday
4.8 C to 12.2 C / 0.0 mm / 3.5 hours / W 2-3
A clear, sunny and chilly start (though not as chilly as yesterday), but from mid-morning onwards skies would become cloudier with extensive stratocumulus spreading in for the remainder of the morning and for most of the afternoon. However after 5 pm the cloud would begin to break up with a fine and sunny end to the day, skies becoming clear in the evening and remaining so throughout the night. A chilly night as a result with mist patches and a ground frost by dawn.

Beverley Parks – A beautiful singing Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) was singing in the shelter belt of woodland at the Woodmansey end of Long Lane this morning, these woods also hosting at least two Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita). In the fields the Oilseed Rape is now widely in flower, though is at least a week from its best (weather permitting), whilst in the hedgerows the first of this year’s Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-hedge (Alliaria petiolata) is just starting to flower, good news for the local Orange Tips (though I haven’t seen one at Woldgarth yet). The first florets of Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) are also starting to appear here and there, spring continuing to move along rapidly in response to the ongoing fine and settled weather.

Woldgarth – The Crab Apple blossom is just starting to unfurl and given the forecast for fine and warm weather it should soon be in full flower. Meanwhile a species of Miridae was found in the utility room whilst I was re-potting the now established sunflower seedlings (we are having a sunflower growing contest this year!), this proving to be a Deraeocoris lutescens, a common species of predatory bug which favours areas of deciduous woodland (especially oaks). However East Yorkshire is very much on this species northern limit so the record is of some extra interest, whilst the lack of oak woodland in this area is also worthy of some extra notation. Yet another new species for the old homestead.

Deraeocoris lutescens, a common species of Miridae

8th April 2017, Saturday
1.2 C to 18.9 C / 0.0 mm / 12.6 hours / S 2
A cold and misty start with fog and frost patches in rural areas, but under clear blue skies things would quickly warm up with a perfect April’s day following with wall to wall sunshine throughout and temperatures climbing up towards 19 C. Remaining clear in the evening and overnight though temperatures would not dip quite as low as the previous night.

Swinemoor – Thick fog meant I couldn’t see anything out on the common itself at dawn this morning, but nevertheless I could hear the odd Redshank (Tringa totanus) on the diminishing winter floods, as well as feral Greylag Geese and Mallard duck. However I couldn’t hear any Wigeon or Teal. A few Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis) were also performing song flights over the common, and just a single Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) was on the electric line poles. Meanwhile the woods of the area hosted a couple of singing Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) and plenty of Chiffchaffs, though interestingly no Willow warblers.

Woldgarth – A sunny and very warm April’s day meant that it was a great day for bee watching, all the normal common species being recorded at one time or another, though the most common species were White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), Buff-tailed Bumblebee (B. terrestris), Tree Bee (B. hypnorum), and Hairy-footed Flower-bee (Anthophora plumipes), with others including the odd Common Carder Bee (B. pascuorum), a few Early Bumblebees (B. pratorum), and just one Red-tailed Bumblebee (B. lapidarius). However the most exciting observations of the day came in the shape and form of our first Holly Blues (Celastrina argiolus) of the spring, with not just one but two being seen fluttering around the Yews and Ivy during the afternoon. A species of ‘White’ butterfly was also spotted, this also a first for the year, but unfortunately I was unable to identify it as it didn’t stop (however the size suggested either Small White or Green-veined White), whilst a few Peacocks (Aglais io) were also fluttering around.

Tawny Mining Bee (A. fulva) sunning itself amongst the Blackcurrants

Male Hairy-footed Flower-bee (A. plumipes)

9th April 2017, Palm Sunday
5.5 C to 23.0 C / 0.0 mm / 10.8 hours / W 4-5
Another perfect April day with sunshine pretty much throughout and temperatures climbing up above 20 C for the time this year. Indeed in the end the thermometer would reach a high of 23 C, one of the highest April maximum’s ever recorded at our weather station on the edge of Beverley. However towards the end of the afternoon increasing amounts of high cloud would veil the sun, the sky becoming quite watery by evening, whilst the invading cloud would also be accompanied by a freshening breeze, this becoming quite gusty for a time before easing by nightfall. Variable amounts of cloud overnight.

Woldgarth Moths (8th/9th) – A very disappointing haul this morning, especially considering the conditions, though a bright and large moon did perhaps limit the potential catch. In the end just eight moths of three species were recorded, with three each of Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) and Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), and a couple of Early Greys (Xylocampa areola).

Woldgarth – A gloriously sunny and very warm day (up to 23 C !) meant it was another good day for invertebrates here in central East Yorkshire, especially hymenoptera, though today it was the smaller species rather than the bumblebees which provided the lion-share of the entertainment. Best of all were the first Red Mason Bees (Osmia bicornis) of the year, these lovely little species of Megachilidae always being a welcome sighting here at the homestead, whilst they were also joined by a few Tawny Mining Bees (Andrena fulva) and Early Mining Bees (Andrena haemorrhoa), both proving widely apparent this year. I also managed to spot our first female Early Mining Bee of the year, this fluffy and colourful Andrenidae always being a delight to see, especially up close through a macro lens.

Red Mason Bee (Osmia bicornis)

Female Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa)

The early season warmth was also welcomed by the Holly Blues (Celastrina argiolus) whom call our small patch of East Yorkshire their home, the early start to the season boding well for their fortunes this year. A single ‘White’ butterfly was also spotted, but again it didn’t hang around for a more accurate identification, though overall it was an under-whelming day for lepidoptera with very few moths in the trap earlier in the day (see above entry). Elsewhere Orange Tips are being widely reported from around Yorkshire and further afield (including a few seen by my parent’s in the Lake District), but so far none have turned up here at Woldgarth. Indeed this species is rarely common here and some year’s can pass without a single observation, but hopefully this year will not be one of them !

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)

10th April 2017, Monday
5.0 C to 13.9 C / 0.4 mm / 6.3 hours / W 4
A much cooler and fresher day than yesterday with a moderate WNW breeze, though despite this it was a pleasant enough day with good spells of sunshine, especially in the morning. Becoming cloudier as the afternoon wore on, the cloud becoming thick enough to produce some rain during the evening. Skies clearing overnight with temperatures dipping down below 4 C.

Swinemoor – A quick look across the common as I cycled down to Hull Bridge brought a few interesting observations, best of the lot being a trio of Little Egrets (Egretta garzetta) passing low over the flood meadows as they headed northwards along the Beverley-Barmston Drain. I also managed to finally spot my first hirundine of the year, a lone Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) chattering above me alerting me to its presence, whilst a pair of honking Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) was interesting, this species not often being recorded down here (at least by me anyway). Finally out on the floods a small number of Wigeon and Teal (Anas penelope & A. crecca) were noted, as were a few ‘cheew-ing’ Redshanks (Tringa totanus).

Woldgarth – Whilst continuing the clear out of what will become the new chicken run, I discovered up to six Common / Smooth Newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) under a pile of some long undisturbed bricks (as well as many, many spiders, including the always impressive Woodlouse-eating spiders). I always feel guilty about disturbing such wee beasties, but I did at least move them to a more suitable part of the garden where hopefully they will continue their hitherto peaceful existence.

Crab Apple blossom in the garden

11th April 2017, Tuesday
3.9 C to 14.7 C / 0.0 mm / 8.1 hours / W 5
A sunny start to the day but by mid-morning cloud would increase from the west with mostly cloudy skies for the remainder of the morning and into the first part of the afternoon. However things would clear again by mid-afternoon with good spells of sunshine for the remainder of the day, though a fresh breeze did make it feel somewhat cool despite the sunshine. Cloud increasing again by nightfall with skies becoming cloudy overnight.

Woldgarth Moths (10th/11th) – Another slow night, the early flurry of moths back in March and early April now a rapidly fading memory. In the end just two moths of two species were attracted to the 15W Skinner, with one each of Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) and Hebrew Character (O. gothica).

Walkington – The Bluebells in the woods between Beverley Westwood and Walkington (via Newbald Road) are now clearly flowering, a subtle purple / dark blue carpet now apparent. Along this same stretch of road I also encountered a small clump of already flowering Red Campion (Silene dioica), a remarkably early record given that we are still in the first half of April, whilst the Oilseed Rape fields are now a sea of yellow, the sickly scent of this near luminous crop hanging in the cool morning air.

12th April 2017, Wednesday
8.9 C to 14.7 C / 0.0 mm / 1.5 hours / W 4-5
A cloudy and breezy day for the most part, though in the second half of the afternoon some breaks would begin to develop with some good spells of sunshine during the evening. Skies becoming clear overnight though the moderate breeze prevented temperatures from falling particularly low.

13th April 2017, Thursday
4.0 C to 13.5 C / 0.0 mm / 5.8 hours / W 4
A sunny morning for the most part, though a moderate breeze made it feel quite cool, but as the morning wore on cloud amounts would increase with skies becoming cloudy and grey by the afternoon. Remaining cloudy for the remainder of the day with little change during the evening and overnight.

14th April 2017, Good Friday
6.7 C to 14.0 C / 1.2 mm / 1.0 hours / W 3-4
A mostly cloudy morning, though not without some brighter and sunnier periods, especially earlier on, but by midday skies had become cloudy with some outbreaks of rain in the afternoon, some of which were quite heavy latterly. Further showers in the evening but becoming dry by nightfall with clear spells developing after midnight.

Walkington – A few beautiful singing Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) were heard as I cycled to and from this village on the outskirts of Beverley, at least two being heard along Newbald Lane. The Bluebells in the woods along this lane have come out a little further since Tuesday, with a hint of subtle prefume hanging in the cool morning air as I cycled along the near traffic-free lane. However a reminder of the season just passed included a half dozen Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) in the Ash trees along the lane, presumably birds heading back to their Scandinavian breeding grounds.

Swinemoor – Paid a short visit to the nearest local wetland to see if yesterday’s reported Whimbrel was still around, but as I scanned across the dwindling winter floods it soon became clear that it was not to be seen. However a pair of Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) in one of the central pools was a welcome observation, as was a single Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), this being my first LRP of the year. The largest patches of open water also held the usual Teal and Wigeon (Anas crecca & A. penelope), as well as up to 8 Redshank (Tringa totanus) and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus), whilst along the river a lone Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) was seen on one of the moored pleasure craft. Further observations included the odd Cormorant flying over, plus abundant flowering Butterburs (Petasites hybridus) and the first of the year’s Cuckoo-flowers (Cardamine pratensis).

15th April 2017, Saturday
4.9 C to 13.4 C / trace / 5.9 hours / W 5-6
A bright but breezy morning, and remaining blustery for most of the day, the wind gusting up to near gale force at times. More cloudy in the afternoon, with the odd shower at times, though some spells of brightness would also break through from time to time. Skies clearing in the evening with most clear skies overnight.

16th April 2017, Easter Sunday
4.1 C to 11.1 C / 7.6 mm / 3.1 hours / NW 3
A sunny morning for the most part, though by the end of the morning cloud amounts would quickly increase from the west, this cloud bringing some outbreaks of rain in the afternoon. The rain would become more showery but heavier towards the end of the afternoon and into the evening, a peak rainfall rate of 24 mm/h being recorded at one point, though after nightfall these showers or outbreaks of rain would slowly die out with skies gradually clearing as the night wore on.

North Cliffe Wood – A less quiet walk than usual around this lovely woodland, the ‘Bluebell-ers” now starting to make their annual visitations, plus a group of about a dozen or so individuals whom were checking the bat boxes in the oak woodland. These members of the East Yorkshire Bat Group (link) were kind enough to show us some small but beautiful Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), this being a new species for me and it was interesting to compare these with the far more familiar Common Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) whom reside with us back at Woldgarth. They also kindly informed us that they had also recorded a few more species during their morning, including Common Noctule (Nyctalus noctula) and Natterer’s Bat (Myotis nattereri), the latter being a species I did not previously know occurred here at North Cliffe. Many kind thanks again to the EYBG 🙂

Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Meanwhile the Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) are continuing to come out and are now an obvious carpet in many parts of the woodland, though they are still a couple of weeks from their best, whilst here and there the odd bit of Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) has appeared since our last visit a fortnight ago. Most of the Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) have now passed, though one or two were found in shadier locations, though the likes of Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and Common Dog Violets (Viola riviniana) are still widely apparent. The first spikes of Bugle (Ajuga reptans) were also noted, though none were noted in flower yet.

Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea)

Primroses (Primula vulgaris)

The lack of warm sunshine meant that invertebrate activity was not up to much, though a single Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) was noted, plus a few species of bumblebee (B. lucorum and B. pascuorum), a species of Mining Bee (Andrena species), and a number of Gorse Weevils (Exapion ulicis). However again I couldn’t find any Gorse Shieldbugs. Bird-wise three species of warbler were recorded, with 5+ Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), 10+ Willow warbler (P. trochilus) and at least two Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla), but otherwise it was pretty quiet with a lone Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) and a mating pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major) being the best of the rest.

Bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Tapered Dronefly (Eristalis pertinax)

17th April 2017, Easter Monday
3.2 C to 11.9 C / 0.5 mm / 3.6 hours / N 3-4
A bright morning with some good spells of spring sunshine, but by the afternoon cloud amounts would begin to increase with outbreaks of mostly light rain, though during late afternoon and early evening some of these showers or longer spells of rain would become somewhat heavier at times. Becoming drier after nightfall with variable amounts of cloud for the remainder of the night.

18th April 2017, Tuesday
1.1 C to 11.7 C / 0.0 mm / 4.3 hours / NE 3
A bright morning with sunny spells, though a cool breeze and the odd passing light shower did provide some minor inconvenience. Cloudier for a time in the afternoon but sunny spells would return to end the day. Variable amounts of cloud overnight but skies would clear later with temperatures dipping below freezing by dawn, this being the first air frost this April and the first frost for almost four weeks.

Grosmont – A warm and bright morning down in the shelter of the village meant that a good range of wildflowers were apparent, especially around the iron works, the roadside bank covered in Primroses (Primula vulgaris), Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), Forget-me-nots, Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea). In our garden the Bluebells (and Whitebells) are now in flower, whilst along the riverbank the evocative scent of Ramsons (Allium ursinum) hangs in the air, the first flowers of which are now starting to appear.

The flower covered roadside at the Old Iron Works attracted a single male Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines), my first of the year, whilst the woods hosted up to 4 singing Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) and at least two Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla). Another Blackcap was singing in our riverside garden whilst I mowed the lawn, and above the village, especially down towards the river, I noted a few Swallows (Hirundo rustica), my first in the parish this spring (incidentally a few Swallows were noted on our journey to and from Grosmont, especially around Goathland, North Grimston and South Dalton).

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)

19th April 2017, Wednesday
-0.2 C to 11.9 C / trace / 3.4 hours / SW 2
A cold start to the day, the temperature hovering around freezing at dawn, but it would soon warm up in the early morning sunshine. However as the morning wore on the sunshine would become increasingly hazy and weak with a period of mostly light intermittent rain eventually arriving by early afternoon. Becoming drier by the end of the afternoon but remaining mostly cloudy for the rest of the day and into the evening, though overnight clear spells would develop, especially after midnight.

20th April 2017, Thursday
4.8 C to 16.0 C / 0.0 mm / 2.0 hours / W 4
A mostly cloudy morning with grey and overcast skies during the middle of the day, though as the afternoon wore on it would steadily brighten with some spells of sunshine in late afternoon and the evening. Feeling mild as well with temperatures climbing up to 16 C. Skies continuing to clear in the evening with clear skies for most of the night.

Woldgarth – A few male Swallows (Hirundo rustica) were noted above the old homestead this afternoon, their chattering calls alerting me to their presence. These are the first I have seen here at Woldgarth this spring. Meanwhile some warm late afternoon sunshine brought out a few butterflies, including Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and Small White &/or Green-veined White (Pieris rapae & P. napi). The day was further cheered by the beautiful singing of a male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) in the neighbouring woods, as well as my first Common Heartshield (Nebria brevicollis) of the year.

Common Heartshield (Nebria brevicollis)

21st April 2017, Friday
6.5 C to 15.7 C / 2.3 mm / 2.0 hours / W 4-5
A mostly cloudy start to the day with skies becoming grey and overcast for most of the morning, though by midday things would brighten with some spells of sunshine developing in early afternoon. However cloud amounts would increase again after mid-afternoon with outbreaks of intermittent rain arriving in the evening. Further outbreaks of rain in the first half of the night, and whilst it would become drier in the second-half it would nevertheless remain overcast for the duration of the night.

Beverley Parks – The first Mallard ducklings of the year have now appeared in the drainage pond beside Minster Way, whilst at the lower ponds (near the Figham roundabout) a pair of Coots are also nesting. In the skies above yet more Swallows (Hirundo rustica) have arrived, whilst the roadside verges now host ever increasing amounts of Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Red Campion (Silene dioica). The local Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are also beginning to flower, a most attractive sight.

Woldgarth – A single Twenty-plumed Moth (Alucita hexadactyla) was found on the workshop window this evening, the 27th species of moth to be recorded at the homestead this year.

22nd April 2017, Saturday
6.1 C to 11.8 C / trace / 0.4 hours / NE 2
A dull and grey morning, though in early afternoon some breaks would develop in the cloud to allow some short spells of welcome spring sunshine. However this wouldn’t last long with the remainder of the day seeing mostly cloudy skies. Feeling cooler as well. Little change in the evening and overnight, though towards the end of the night skies would begin to clear from the north.

Swinemoor – A dawn visit on what was a grey and dull morning, though my mood was soon lifted as I scanned across the horse and cattle grazed meadows and noted a large bird over towards ‘Bricky Bridge’. This tall and graceful bird could be nothing else but a Common Crane (Grus grus), a bird which is becoming increasingly common in Britain and eastern England, but one, which until now, had eluded me on my local patch. Indeed I have only previously seen a Common Crane when I was down at Welney a few years ago, so to see one out on the under-watched commons of Beverley was particularly pleasing!

Out on the seasonal floods a few Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) were also noted, including an obvious male showing signs of breeding plumage, as well as a few Redshanks (Tringa totanus), Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), a single Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), a couple of Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna) and just five Teal (Anas crecca). Interestingly there was no sign of any Wigeon, a sign that the season is very much turning. Along the river I heard both my first Reed and Sedge Warblers of the year (Acrocephalus scirpaceus and A. schoenobaenus), with one Reed and a couple of Sedges, whilst other warblers included at least two Willow warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus), a single Chiffchaff (P. collybita) and two Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla).

Other observations included several Swallows (Hirundo rustica), a few Stock doves (Columba oenas) in the fields, singing Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella), a lone Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), and a large number of Banded Snails (Cepaea nemoralis / C. hortensis) along the flood defences.

Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

23rd April 2017, Sunday
2.3 C to 14.7 C / 0.0 mm / 8.3 hours / W 3
A sunny and clement spring day for the most part with plenty of late April sunshine and temperatures rising up into the low to mid-teens. Clear spells in the evening and for most of the night, though cloud amounts would increase for a time in the second half of the night.

24th April 2017, Monday
6.6 C to 13.5 C / 1.9 mm / 7.5 hours / W 5-6
A bright and mildish start to the day with some good spells of early sunshine, though after 10 am cloud amounts would quickly increase from the north with outbreaks of rain and hail/ice pellets passing through. This period of rain would see temperatures drop several degrees for a time, but as things brightened up in the afternoon it would turn somewhat milder again, although a brisk NW breeze would make it feel cooler out in the open. Becoming clear by the evening and remaining so overnight, temperatures falling away quickly in the dry arctic air (DP of -3 C) with temperatures dipping below freezing by dawn.

Woldgarth – Young Blue tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) could be heard being fed this afternoon, the birds nesting on the ivy covered north-wall of the walled garden. One hopes the cold weather forecast for tonight and next few days doesn’t cause them any harm.

25th April 2017, Tuesday
-0.8 C to 9.0 C / 7.4 mm / 5.3 hours / NW 6
A clear but cold start to the day, a brisk breeze making it feel particularly wintry out in the open. Remaining cold and sunny for much of the morning but by the end of the morning blustery wintry showers would begin to sweep through, these becoming frequent in the afternoon with a mixture of ice pellets, hail, sleet and even the odd rumble of thunder from time to time. The showers would also be accompanied by strong winds, the wind gusting up to 38 knots at one point. Showers continuing into the evening and overnight, though becoming less frequent, wintry and heavy as the night wore on.

Swinemoor – A sunny but cold morning, the temperature around freezing at dawn with a fresh north-westerly breeze making it feel even colder. Out towards the coast large towering wintry shower clouds could be seen making their southwards, whilst out on the floods a thin layer of ice covered the shallower pools. However there was little in the way of hoar frost, the dry arctic air holding little moisture with dew points around -3 C. As regards bird-life it was understandably quiet, a half dozen Teal (A. crecca), a few Mallard (A. platyrhynchos), a couple of Ruff (Philomachus pugnax), two Redshanks (Tringa totanus), Lapwings (V. vanellus) and a lone Lesser Black-backed Gull (L. fuscus) being the only birds noted out on the floods.

The river itself hosted a bit more life, including both singing Reed and Sedge Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus and A. schoenobaenus), though they weren’t singing with quite the same enthusiasm as the other morning. At Grovehill Bridge a dozen or so Sand Martins (Riparia riparia) were swooping around the boats and the buildings of this industrial corner of Beverley, though interestingly no Swallows or other hirundines were noted at all this morning. Finally there has been no further sign of the Common Crane spotted on Saturday morning, indeed I have seen no other reports from others whom have visited the area since then, and one wonders where it is currently hiding. It is probably still somewhere in the Hull Valley but for such a large bird Cranes can be remarkably elusive.

Sedge Warbler (A. schoenobaenus)

26th April 2017, Wednesday
1.8 C to 9.5 C / 0.4 mm / 8.0 hours / N 4-5
A showery morning with blustery showers sweeping down on a fresh northerly breeze, though these would become less frequent by midday. Indeed in the afternoon some good spells of sunshine would develop, though despite the sunshine it would still feel quite wintry, especially in the wind, whilst the odd shower would also sweep through, one of which fell as hail. Becoming dry by the evening with skies clearing for most of the night, though latterly cloud would increase with overcast skies by dawn.

27th April 2017, Thursday
1.3 C to 11.2 C / 1.9 mm / 0.3 hours / W 3-4
A dull and chilly morning with outbreaks of rain, the rain becoming lighter and more intermittent by the afternoon and eventually clearing away by late afternoon. However it would remain mostly cloudy, bar the odd short break in the evening, with skies remaining largely cloudy throughout the night, though latterly some clearer spells would develop.

28th April 2017, Friday
3.3 C to 11.5 C / 0.0 mm / 2.1 hours / NW 2-3
A bright start to the day with sunny spells, but as the morning wore on cloud would steadily increase with the remainder of the day seeing largely grey and overcast skies. Little change in the evening and overnight with cloudy skies throughout, though the cloud cover did mean it was a little milder than of late.

29th April 2017, Saturday
6.3 C to 14.2 C / 0.0 mm / 2.0 hours / SE 3
A grey and cloudy morning for the most part, though towards midday some spells of sunshine would break through with temperatures climbing up to a very pleasant 14 C. However cloud would increase again by mid-afternoon with the remainder of the day concluding on a cloudy note. Little change overnight.

Swinemoor – Not much about on the common this morning (except for large numbers of horses), though the central floods hosted a few Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) and at least a couple of Little Ringed Plovers (Charadrius dubius). The odd Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) was also around, whilst along the river Swallows (H. rustica) and Sand Martins (R. riparia) hunted for flies on what was a grey but mild start to the weekend. The riverside reeds also hosted a larger number of Reed & Sedge Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus and A. schoenobaenus), with at least two Reeds and up to four Sedges being heard between Hull Bridge and Grovehill Bridge. The Marsh Marigolds (Caltha palustris) are also now flowering widely.

Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)

Beverley Parks – The local Common Whitethroats (Sylvia communis) have seemingly all arrived at once this year, four birds being heard this morning as I cycled through Woodmansey and along Long Lane. My first of the year was heard in the rough ground east of Woodmansey Primary School, with others coming around the railway crossing and also near the livery yard. It is good to hear their scratchy songs again and hopefully they will have a good year. Meanwhile more wildflowers continue to appear, including flowering Ramsons (Allium ursinum) in the shelter-belt woodland at the Woodmansey end of Long Lane, further Red Campion (Silene dioica) and Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) along the roadsides, and even the first bit of flowering Comfrey near the electrical sub-station. The Oilseed Rape is also now flowering at its best in the fields, the sickly scent hanging in the still morning air as I pootled along the quiet country lane.

30th April 2017, Sunday
7.8 C to 14.1 C / 0.0 mm / 9.5 hours / E 5
A fine day for the most part with plenty of sunshine, albeit somewhat hazy at times, though it was rather breezy with gusts up to nearly 30 knots in late morning and early afternoon. Becoming cloudier in the evening and remaining mostly cloudy overnight, the breeze also easing as the night wore on.

Beverley Westwood – A fine display of Cuckooflowers (Cardamine pratensis) is currently on display on this cattle-grazed common above the market town of Beverley, the flowers being particularly abundant near the golf club (the area which was unfortunately drained a few years ago).

Swinemoor – A single Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) was out on the common at dawn this morning, an increasingly common sight as this once scarce wader continues to expand its range as numbers increase. Will they ever try breeding here one wonders? Also spotted was a single Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) and the odd passage Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus).

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

North Cliffe Wood – The end of April and the beginning of the merry month of May usually brings the peak of the Bluebell season here in East Yorkshire, so with this in mind we headed out for a gentle stroll around what is my favourite local nature reserve. Normally we have this precious patch of woodland and heathland to ourselves, but at this time of year the wood is often full of other visitors, especially at the weekends, this woodland hosting one of the best Bluebell spectacles in the East Riding (at least with public access anyway.) Indeed at least a dozen or so other visitors were also enjoying the annual display this morning, positively crowded by normal standards !

One of the glories of a British spring

A blue carpet (plus the odd bit of Stitchwort as well)

The warm sunshine meant a few butterfly species made an appearance this morning as well, including Peacock (Aglais io), Comma (Polygonia c-album), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines), Green-veined White (Pieris napi) and both male and female Brimstones (Gonepteryx rhamni). The male Brimstone was a particularly vivid individual, positively glowing as it flittered around the edge of the birch woodland, though as ever with this species, especially in spring, it never stopped. The first of this year’s St. Mark’s Flies (Bibio marci) were also noted in a few locations (roughly on time this year), though a search of the gorse bushes again drew a blank for Gorse Shieldbug. Where are they this year?

Oak, birch and bluebells, a glorious natural trinity

Peacock butterfly (Aglais io)

Further invertebrate interest was provided by the odd Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major) along the edge of the heath, whilst a few species of bumblebee were noted, including Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum), Common Carder Bee (B. pascuorum), and both White-tailed and Buff-tailed Bumblebees (B. lucorum & B. terrestris). Since our last visit yet more Bugle (Ajuga reptans) has appeared, indeed it can be seen flowering around much of the wood now, whilst I also noted my first flowering Water Aven (Geum rivale) of the year along the main southern ditch, always one of my favourite flowers. It was also interesting to note that many of the Oaks are already well into leafing, indeed some are flowering profusely as well, and it would seem that Oak is well before Ash this year.

Dark-edged Bee-fly (Bombylius major)

Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea)

Bird-wise the morning was dominated by the typical woodland warbler species that one would expect to encounter at this time of year, including my first Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) of the year, though it was the Willow warblers (Phylloscopus trochilus) whom once again dominated, the delightful descending chorus of this common summer visitor being heard in almost every corner of the woodland. A few Blackcaps (S. atricapilla) were also heard, as were a few Chiffchaffs (P. collybita), though it would seem that most of these have now paired up, the repetitive two-tone song no longer quite as apparent as it was just a few weeks ago. Other avian notes included the usual suspects in the shape and form of Buzzards (Buteo buteo), yaffling Green Woodpeckers (Picus viridis) and a couple of Jays (Garrulus glandarius).

Mayblossom starting to appear

The water levels are starting to drop in the woodland