February 2017

1st February 2017, Wednesday
4.5 C to 10.3 C / 2.1 mm / 0.2 hours / S 3
A wet start to what is usually the driest month of the year, with outbreaks of rain throughout the morning and into the first part of the afternoon. However by mid-afternoon things would quickly improve, indeed a few breaks in the cloud would even permit some short spells of sunshine. Clear spells in the evening, but further cloud and rain would arrive overnight, this accompanied by a freshening breeze and rising temperatures.

Woldgarth – A female Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) was spotted in the garden today, the bird in question feeding on some of the last remaining berries. This is the first Blackcap I have seen in the garden this winter, and it will be interesting to see whether it remains in the area in the coming days. Wintering Blackcaps, especially females, are not uncommon here at Woldgarth, indeed it is rare not to see at least one in a typical winter, but nevertheless it is always pleasing to see them, a reminder that spring is not that far away.

2nd February 2017, Thursday
7.5 C to 11.6 C / trace / 0.2 hours / S 4-5
A cloudy and mild start to the day (above 10 C by 9 am) with some early rain and showers, but by mid-morning things would begin to brighten up with short-lived spells of sunshine for a time. However the afternoon would see mostly cloudy skies with a moderate to fresh southerly breeze, with conditions remaining cloudy and breezy throughout the evening and night. Another mild night for the time of year.

Woldgarth – The days have really begun to noticeably lengthen in the past week, especially in the evenings, whilst further spring signs have included an increase in bird song, especially amongst the Tits, Robins and Thrushes.

Meanwhile a micro species of moth was noted on the outside of the kitchen window this evening, this turning out to be a Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana), one of the more common micro moths on the wing at this time of year. This is the second species of moth to have been recorded at Woldgarth so far this year.

Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana)
Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana)

3rd February 2017, Friday
6.0 C to 10.0 C / 3.0 mm / 6.1 hours / SE 4-5
A bright and breezy day with plenty of February sunshine throughout, and with temperatures again up into double figures it felt rather mild and indeed even spring-like, at least out of the wind. Clear at first in the evening, this allowing a touch of frost for a time, but cloud would increase overnight with a short period of heavy rain after midnight (12.0 mm/h). However the rain would soon clear with skies again becoming clear by dawn.

Woldgarth – A real spring-like feel to the weather today, with plenty of sunshine and temperatures around 50 degrees, the February sun feeling quite warm, at least in the shelter of the walled garden. The Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) have rapidly increased during the past week with the number of flowers now apparent having increased to 59 (30 in the spring bed & 29 elsewhere), this compared to just 5 only five days ago (see 30th Jan). The first pastel blue Crocus ‘spike’ has also appeared in the garden, whilst other flowers in this area of the garden include an ever increasing number of Snowdrops and the odd Cyclamen here and there.

The warm-ish sunshine also encouraged a few flies to bask on the ivy covered south-facing wall, this part of the garden always providing interest throughout most of the year. Most were ‘bluebottle’ type flies (of at least two different species), though a slender hoverfly species was also spotted (possibly Meliscaeva auricollis?). A probable Wasp (Vespa vulgaris) was additionally noted flying through the garden at one point, though the short view I had of it means I cannot be a 100% sure about this particular observation. However the size, yellow colour, and direct flying style were certainly strongly suggestive of Wasp.

Syrphini species (Meliscaeva auricollis?)
Hoverfly species (possibly Meliscaeva auricollis)

Syrphini species (Meliscaeva auricollis?)
Another view of the possible Meliscaeva auricollis

? Physcia tenella and Xanthoria parietina ?
Colourful lichens (Physcia tenella & Xanthoria parietina)

4th February 2017, Saturday
1.4 C to 7.2 C / 0.6 mm / 7.8 hours / S 2-3
Another sunny and clement early Feburary day with an abundance of sunshine throughout, though it was somewhat cooler than yesterday. Remaining clear in the evening and at first overnight, this allowing temperatures to dip below freezing, but mist and fog would form later with outbreaks of rain arriving shortly prior to dawn.

Swinemoor & Weel Carrs – Cycled down to the nearest local wetlands on the other side of Beverley, arriving beside the swollen and muddy river Hull prior to dawn. The lack of light meant that I was restricted to identifying the birds by call alone, this revealing hundreds of Teal (Anas crecca) and quite a few Wigeon (Anas penelope) out on the winter floods, as well as Greylag Geese (Anser anser), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) and at least one Redshank (Tringa totanus). Further down the river a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) was flushed up from the river bank at Grovehill, this area also hosting at least two beautifully singing Song Thrushes (Turdus philomelos), a cheering sound on what was a chilly sort of February morning. On the riverbank I also came upon a nice clump of Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) flowering beside the road to Weel, a flower I do not encounter very often up here. To my eyes it always looks very similar to Butterburr, albeit with less dense flowers and generally only half the size.

Dawn near Weel (East Yorkshire)
Dawn near Weel

Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)
Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans)

Woldgarth – This week’s garden bird count took place on what was a sunny and clement early February afternoon, the warm-ish sunshine again drawing a few species of fly and the odd hoverfly (see yesterday) to bask on the ivy bedecked south-facing wall. Bird-wise things were largely quiet with very few birds species proving numerous, though despite this some 32 birds of 13 species were recorded, and were as follows; Blackbird x1, Blue Tit x6, Bullfinch x3, Chaffinch x2, Coal Tit x1, Dunnock x1, Goldcrest x1, Goldfinch x1, Greenfinch x8, Great Tit x1, Long-tailed Tit x1, Robin x1, and Wood Pigeon x5. Fly-over records meanwhile included Sparrowhawk x1, Magpie x1, and Common Gull x2.

5th February 2017, Sunday
-1.5 C to 5.5 C / trace / 0.0 hours / W 1-2
A dull, murky and damp morning with low cloud over the Wolds and outbreaks of mostly light rain, and whilst things would slowly improve as the morning wore on, it would remain cloudy and grey for the rest of the day (in stark contrast to the sunshine we enjoyed at the coast today). Remaining cloudy throughout the evening and much of the night but skies would clear latterly, this allowing mist to form and temperatures to quickly fall, a decent hoar frost covering the ground by dawn.

Haisthorpe – About half a dozen Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) were seen in the cereal fields between Burton Agnes and Carnaby this morning, these beautiful mammals chasing each other around the open and bleak fields of this part of the East Riding.

RSPB Bempton Cliffs – We enjoyed our first trip up to Bempton this morning on what was an improving morning, indeed when we left home it was still raining and low cloud and murk enveloped the Wolds, but thankfully by the time we arrived at Bridlington things had drastically improved with spells of sunshine bathing the coast of East Yorkshire. Indeed with light south-easterly winds it even felt quite warm on the cliff tops, at least when the sun shone, and all in all we spent a very enjoyable morning and early afternoon at this premier RSPB reserve which we are lucky enough to have within 45 minutes of our home.

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis)
Fulmar pair (Fulmarus glacialis)

Razorbill (Alca torda)
Razorbill (Alca torda)

Being only early February we had anticipated a fairly quiet morning on the cliffs, but to our surprise thousands of Guillemots (Uria aalge) were already on the narrow chalk ledges, whilst thousands more were out on the relatively calm waters of the North Sea. I even managed to pick out a couple of ‘bridled’ or ‘spectacled’ Guillemots amongst the throng, always a pleasing observation. The odd Razorbill (Alca torda) was also in their usual spots near the cliff tops, though again far more were seen out at sea, whilst their was also a report of at least one Puffin (not seen by me), a remarkably early record.

Guillemots (Uria aalge). Note the 'bridled' bird in the centre.
Guillemots (Uria aalge). Note the ‘brindled’ bird.

Gannet (Morus bassanus)
Gannet (Morus bassanus)

Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

Razorbill (Alca torda) close up
Razorbill (Alca torda)

Gannets (Morus bassanus) and Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) were also seen in excellent numbers cruising along the cliffs, indeed I don’t think I have ever seen so many Fulmars at Bempton before, whilst gulls included Herring, Black-backedCommon and even the odd Kittiwake (a Glaucous Gull was reported today but I missed it unfortunately). On the sea a few Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) were noted swimming and diving into the frigid waters below our vantage points, and further observations from the cliffs included at least one Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus) below Staple Newk Viewpoint.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)
Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola)

Away from the cliffs a few other ‘good’ birds were about, including 2 to 3 Stonechats (Saxicola rubicola), one of which seemed determined to pose for as many photos as possible, whilst it was also good to hear a few singing Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) over the cereal fields immediately west of the cliff-tops. However best of all was at least two Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus) quartering over the rough fields south of the visitor centre, my first SEO since one was spotted on my ‘home-patch’ back in late November. The number of Short-eared Owls at Bempton in recent weeks was the main reason I wanted to visit the reserve today, and I am glad to say I wasn’t disappointed, two of the owls chasing each other at one point, whilst another settled down no more than 100 yards away from where we watched. All in all a cracking sort of day with plenty to see and enjoy.

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)
Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)

Bempton Cliffs & Staple Newk
Bempton Cliffs

6th February 2017, Monday
-2.6 C to 6.7 C / 8.5 mm / 2.3 hours / SE 3
A cold, misty and frosty morning with weak sunshine shining through the thin cloud, though as the day wore on this thin cloud would gradually thicken with skies becoming cloudy and grey by mid-afternoon. Cloudy but dry in the evening but overnight rain would arrive from the south-east, becoming persistent for a time.

7th, February 2017, Tuesday
-0.4 C to 6.6 C / 0.9 mm / 0.0 hours / E 2
A wet start to the day with persistent moderate rain but by midday things would become drier, albeit remaining dull and overcast for the remainder of daylight hours. Mostly cloudy in the evening and overnight with mist and murk forming during the night.

8th February 2017, Wednesday
3.0 C to 4.0 C / 1.1 mm / 0.0 hours / E 2-3
A dull and raw day with little to commend it, the easterly breeze bringing progressively lower temperatures as the day wore on. Indeed the outbreaks of rain which arrived in mid-morning would become wintry as the day wore on with showers of ice pellets in the afternoon. Overcast and raw overnight.

Woldgarth – The green spikes of Wild Arums (Arum maculatum) are now starting to appear in the usual parts of the garden, ie. along the south wall, a pleasing sight on what was otherwise a grey, damp and chilly early February day.

9th February 2017, Thursday
1.2 C to 2.9 C / 1.9 mm / 0.0 hours / E 3
A cold, dull and wintry day with light snow pellets and snow grains in the air pretty much throughout, typical February weather. Further wintry showers in the evening and overnight, some of which were a bit heavier at times, but otherwise cold and overcast.

North Cliffe Wood – We paid a brief visit to the wood this morning as we made our way home after collecting some hazel shafts for stick-making, spending a couple of hours wandering around this peaceful reserve. As ever we had it completely to ourselves, and despite the low temperatures and the chilly easterly breeze which carried snow grains on the air, we had a thoroughly enjoyable and bracing stroll. Bird-wise the best observations came in the shape and form of winter finches, a flock of Lesser Redpolls (Acanthis cabaret) being encountered amongst the alders along the western perimeter, whilst Siskins (Spinus spinus) were noted in the heart of the wood. A couple of Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) and a Jay (Garrulus glandarius) on the path were other notable highlights, whilst other avian notes included a singing Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), 100+ Fieldfare in the fields west of the heath, Marsh Tits and my first drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) of the year. It was also good to see that the hazel catkins have now started to open (roughly 30-40% are now flowering), whilst the diminutive red female flowers were also noted here and there.

Fungus species

Fungus species

10th February 2017, Friday
0.5 C to 3.2 C / 6.7 mm / 0.2 hours / NE 4
A cold morning with outbreaks of snow pellets and occasional wet snow, the snow heavy enough to produce the odd slushy dusting from time to time. Becoming drier for a time during the middle of the day, indeed the odd short break would even allow some sunny spells, but this wouldn’t last long with further showers of sleet, pellets and wet snow during the evening and overnight. Raw.

11th February 2017, Saturday
0.6 C to 4.1 C / 6.6 mm / 0.0 hours / NE 4-5
A thoroughly wet and raw late winter’s day with intermittent spells of sleet, pellets and rain throughout the morning, and again during the second half of the afternoon, evening and overnight. However it was somewhat drier for a time during the middle of the day. Cold again with a fresh NE breeze making it feel particularly raw out in the open.

12th February 2017, Sunday
1.8 C to 4.9 C / 3.6 mm / 0.0 hours / E 4-5
A thoroughly wet morning and early afternoon with spells of rain throughout, this making conditions particularly muddy and mucky after all the recent rain, sleet and wet snow. However by the end of the afternoon things would begin to dry up, but despite this the sky would remain grey and overcast throughout the rest of the day, evening and overnight. Feeling chilly, especially in the fresh ENE breeze.

Hull Valley – Rain (and sleet) yesterday, throughout the night, and most of today meant that the field ditches, drainage cuts and rivers of the Hull valley area were running rather high, indeed in places they were not far from over-topping when we enjoyed a rather soggy drive up to Wansford and Nafferton. The river Hull will likely peak at high tide today (about 18:00) and again tomorrow morning at around 07:00, and will certainly be the highest it has been at any point during the past winter.

13th February 2017, Monday
2.3 C to 7.0 C / 0.0 mm / 2.2 hours / E 4
A dull and raw start to the day with a fresh ENE breeze, but by late morning things would begin to brighten up with even some spells of sunshine developing by midday and into the first part of the afternoon. However this welcome sunshine wouldn’t last long with skies becoming cloudy and grey once more by mid-afternoon, and would remain so into the first half of the evening. Clear spells developing thereafter with temperatures eventually dipping low enough for a hoar frost by dawn.

14th February 2017, Tuesday
1.1 C to 8.3 C / 0.2 mm / 7.7 hours / SE 2-3
A largely clear and sunny Valentine’s Day with wall to wall sunshine in the morning and again in the second half of the afternoon. Feeling milder as well, especially with lighter winds. However in the evening cloud would quickly increase with skies becoming overcast overnight, this cloud thick enough to produce some light rain for a time. Becoming increasingly murky by dawn.

River Hull – A quiet walk along the river this morning on what was a clear morning with a light hoar frost covering the ground and roads (a bit icy in places!). Bird-wise it was pretty quiet, bar the odd singing Wren, Dunnock and Song Thrush, though a trio of Teal and a single Grey Heron flying northwards did provide some extra interest. On the riverbank the clump of Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) has now passed its best, though it is just about still flowering, one of very wildflowers currently to be found in the otherwise bare February countryside.

15th February 2017, Wednesday
4.9 C to 11.7 C / 7.0 mm / 0.5 hours / SW 2-3
A dull and overcast morning but becoming slowly brighter, at least for a time, in the early afternoon. Feeling mild as well, with temperatures up into double figures. Cloud increasing in the evening with a period of heavy rain (peak rate of 7.0 mm/h), though by midnight this rain would begin to clear away with some clearer spells developing in the second half of the night.

Woldgarth – The local Song Thrushes were in good song this morning, these wonderful songsters being joined by a lone Mistle Thrush, plenty of Great Tits, a few Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Dunnocks and Robins. The Robins are already paired up and they even seemed to be looking for nesting sites amongst the ivy this morning! Meanwhile about a dozen Greenfinches joined the 5 or so Bullfinches and the half dozen Goldfinches at the bird feeding station today.

16th February 2017, Thursday
4.1 C to 9.8 C / 0.3 mm / 3.5 hours / W 4
A largely fine day with some good spells of sunshine, though the odd brief shower would drift over from the west from time to time. Feeling chilly as well, especially in the moderate westerly breeze. Cloud increasing in the evening with cloudy skies for the remainder of the night.

Woldgarth – As I worked outside a small raptor flew over in late afternoon, the diminutive size and flying style certainly make me consider that the bird in question was a Merlin (Falco columbarius), a bird which I know well from the Moors but which I have never seen here at Woldgarth itself. It’s a shame I couldn’t ID the bird with 100% certainty as it would have been a great new addition to the garden list!

17th February 2017, Friday
5.0 C to 11.6 C / trace / 6.2 hours / S 2-3
A cloudy and misty start to the day but soon brightening up with good spells of sunshine for the remainder of the morning and much of the afternoon, the sun feeling quite warm and indeed spring-like. However in mid-afternoon cloud would increase with the subsequent evening and night remaining cloudy, the cloud thick enough to produce the odd spot of rain at times.

Woldgarth – A beautiful spring-like day with plenty of sunshine and temperatures up in double figures. In the garden the first of the Winter Aconites have now already begun to fade, though just shy of 100 golden yellow blooms can still be enjoyed, whilst the purple Crocus varieties are now widely apparent throughout much of the garden, the flowers fully open in the February sunshine. The odd yellow Crocus is also just beginning to appear, whilst Snowdrops are still going strong in the usual favoured spots.

Meanwhile the warm spring sunshine meant that the birds were in good song, including ‘cheew-ing’ Greenfinches, the distinctive accelerating chorus of notes delivered by Chaffinches, and even the odd singing Skylark drifting over from the nearby pastures, plus  all the birds I listed and described only two days previously. However the big highlight of the day was my first bumblebee of the year, this turning out to be a Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), more than often than not the first species to be recorded in most years. I wonder when the first butterfly will also appear?

Crocuses in the late winter sunshine


Yellow Crocuses

18th February 2017, Saturday
5.6 C to 10.4 C / 0.0 mm / 0.1 hours / S 3-4
A mostly cloudy and grey day, especially compared to yesterday, though it was relatively mild again, at least for the time of year. Mostly cloudy overnight but becoming clearer later.

Woldgarth – I conducted the garden bird count at around 9 am this morning on what was a mild and grey start to the weekend, the number of bird species on show proving to be the best yet so far this year. Indeed 63 birds of 21 species would be noted, including  a very handsome cock Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) which has recently taken up residence in the garden, as well as the following; Blackbird x2, Blue Tit x4, Bullfinch x6, Chaffinch x4, Coal Tit x1, Dunnock x1, Goldcrest x1, Goldfinch x6, Greenfinch x8, Great Tit x1, Great Spotted Woodpecker x1, Jackdaw x2, Magpie x1, Mistle Thrush x1, Pheasant x1, Robin x2, Rook x2, Sparrowhawk x1, Starling x7, Wren x1, and Wood Pigeon x10. As ever the full report can be seen here.

19th February 2017, Sunday
5.7 C to 12.0 C / trace / 7.0 hours / W 4-5
A beautiful spring-like morning with an abundance of sunshine and temperatures climbing up to 12 C, but as the afternoon wore on cloud amounts would begin to increase with skies becoming cloudy by the end of the day. Remaining cloudy overnight.

Woldgarth – The first of the garden daffodils has now come into flower, the cheering sun-like bloom now brightening up the area beside the front door. Another is also about to flower, and hopefully with some fine weather the rest will join them in the not too distant future. Meanwhile a Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria) was found outside, the third species of moth to be recorded this year.

Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria)
Dotted Border (Agriopis marginaria)

First daffodil

Yorkshire Wolds – Our drive up to the Esk Valley took us through the very pleasant countryside of the Wolds, the whole area now taking on the appearance of ‘pale spring’ as the crops and the grass begin to ‘green’ and grow again in response to the strengthening sun. As well as widespread Snowdrops, and a superb display of Winter Aconites at the old vicarage at Wetwang, the roadside verges are also now beginning to host the sun-like flowers of Lesser Celandines (Ficaria verna), a particularly good number being noted between Bainton and Tibthorpe.

Grosmont – Just a short visit up to the cottage this morning on what was a sunny and warmish pale spring day. Up on Sleights Moor the Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) were showing well and appeared restless, perhaps already beginning to display in response to the warming and improving weather. In total 25+ were noted, the largest count for a few months. I wonder when the Curlews will return? Meanwhile a male Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) was beside the A169 near the top of Sleights Moor.

In the village itself it was most pleasing to note that at least one of the Primroses on the banks of the old iron works has already come out, though this solitary plant is very much a pioneer with all of the other primroses plants showing little signs of flowering yet. However it won’t be long till its a riot of colour! Further notes including a few Droneflies (Eristalis tenax) sunning themselves on the laurels, and plenty of noisy Jackdaws, these small handsome crows being abundant around the village.

Stonechat, a common sight at the top of Sleights Moor

20th February 2017, Monday
8.1 C to 14.3 C / 0.0 mm / 1.7 hours / W 5-6
A mostly cloudy but bright day with the occasional sunny spell, though the most noticeable feature of the weather was the unseasonable warmth, the temperature climbing up to 14.3 C by midday. Becoming very windy for a time in the afternoon, the wind gusting up to 42 knots at one point, but the wind would ease by the evening, skies also clearning for a time. Variable amounts of cloud overnight though skies would become mostly clear again by dawn.

21st February 2017, Tuesday
5.9 C to 12.6 C / 0.9 mm / 3.8 hours / W 4-5 (6-7)
A sunny and bright morning, mild once again, but as the morning progressed the sunshine would become increasingly hazy as high cloud moved in from the west, skies becoming cloudy and grey by the afternoon. The cloud would be thick enough to produce some rain for a time in mid to late afternoon, and again in the evening, but overnight the main feature of the weather would be the strong wind which buffeted the homestead, the wind gusting up to 42 knots for a time.

Walkington – A pleasant cycle up to and around this area on what was a typical late winter / pale spring morning with clear skies and a drying breeze, the dawn sky showing a bit of colour for a time. In the sheltered dip near the turn off for Bishop Burton I noticed my first ‘green-ing’ hawthorn of the year, many of the hedgerows in this immediate area often being the first to leaf in the Beverley district, whilst over the arable fields a small number of Skylarks were in song, a most pleasing sound. Meanwhile the pastures of Beverley Westwood hosted both Common Gulls and Black-headed Gulls, a few of the BHG’s already sporting full black-heads and breeding plumage. Spring is definitely just around the corner… maybe!

22nd February 2017, Wednesday
6.8 C to 11.0 C / 8.0 mm / 6.4 hours / W 5
A bright and breezy day for the most part, though it did become somewhat cloudier for a time during the middle of the day. Cloud increasing in the evening with a period of rain after midnight, this becoming persistent and quite heavy at times. The rain was also accompanied by a fresh to strong wind at times with many gusts in excess of gale force.

23rd February 2017, Thursday
5.7 C to 8.8 C / 4.0 mm / 1.1 hours / W 6
A windy day with a mixture of rain, showers and brighter spells, the wind gusting up to 42 knots at times in late morning and early afternoon. However compared to many parts of Britain this part of the country survived “Storm Doris” pretty much totally unscathed. A more persistent period of rain in the evening but overnght some breaks in the cloud would develop, the breeze also easing as the night wore on.

24th February 2017, Friday
2.7 C to 8.0 C / 3.6 mm / 3.4 hours / S 4
A much calmer day than yesterday with lighter winds and a mixture of sunny and cloudy spells, the sun feeling pleasantly warm when it did indeed shine forth. Clear spells going into the evening but outbreaks of rain would arrive later, this rain becoming quite heavy for a time latterly.

25th February 2017, Saturday
4.5 C to 10.6 C / 1.3 mm / 0.7 hours / S 4-5
A mostly dull and overcast morning, the cloud thick enough to produce some spots of rain at times, though in the afternoon things would brighten up somewhat with even some spells of sunshine latterly. However cloud would increase again during the evening with further intermittent rain overnight, though this would clear by dawn.

Woldgarth – A Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) was seen around the rabbit shed this afternoon, the first ‘confirmed’ sighting at Woldgarth this spring. Indeed it actually felt quite pleasant in the shelter of the garden this afternoon.

26th February 2017, Sunday
7.0 C to 11.7 C / 4.7 mm / 0.5 hours / S 4-5
A mostly cloudy and breezy day but not without some brighter periods from time to time, especially during the middle of the day. Cloud increasing and thickening by the end of the afternoon with a period of rain in the evening, this rather heavy for a time with a peak rate of 23.6 mm/h being recorded. However this rain would soon clear with some decent clear spells developing for a time overnight, but cloud would increase later with showers arriving by dawn.

North Cliffe Wood – A bright if somewhat breezy walk around this delightful wood, my youngest niece and nephew joining us this morning. The woodland floor continues to be cheered by the widespread appearance of the leaves of many flowering plants, including of course Bluebells, Primroses and Wood Sorrel, whilst on the edge of the oak wood the first bit of Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) has now come up, a real signal that spring is almost, if not already, with us. The hazels are now covered in fully-open lamb-tails, any closer examination of the branches also revealing the tiny but beautiful red blooms of the female flowers, whilst further botanical observations including Wild Arums (Arum maculatum) and Nettles coming into leaf on the woodland floor, and a good amount of flowering gorse out on the heath, the vivid yellow flowers giving off just a hint of scent if you sniffed close enough.

Despite the fresh southerly breeze the flowers of the gorse attracted at least a couple of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera), my first of the year (?), though at first I actually thought they were droneflies before a closer look revealed my mistake. A few 7-spot Ladybirds (Coccinella septempunctata) were also noted on much of the gorse, though the highlights from the heath included a repeatedly ‘yaffling’ Green Woodpecker, singing Skylarks and my first displaying Lapwing of the spring over the nearby cereal fields. A flock of winter thrushes, dominated for the most part by Fieldfares, was a reminder that our winter visitors are still very much here, after all it is still only February, whilst in the heart of the birch wood we encountered a good flock of mixed finches, including 30+ Lesser Redpolls (Acanthis cabaret), my best count of the winter thus far. Further notes of interest included a Roe deer, whilst a Blue Tit was observed inspecting one of the many nest boxes scattered around the reserve.

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)
Dogs Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)
Dogs Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

26th, Woldgarth – More Daffodils have now come out in the garden with at least four around the front and a couple around the back. In the front garden the blue flowers of the Balkan Anemones have also appeared, at least when the sun shines, whilst the Crocuses are now abundant throughout the area, with blue, yellow and purple varieties currently brightening up the pale spring garden. The southern most of the male Yew trees is now ‘smoking’, any breeze releasing great puffs of white pollen to hopefully fertilise the more common female Yews, the currently southerly wind no doubt aiding the trees in this regard.

27th February 2017, Monday
5.4 C to 9.0 C / 5.5 mm / 0.4 hours / SW 3
A showery day with frequent showers drifting in from the south-west, some of these showers being rather sharp (peak rate of 21.8 mm/h) with even some hail mixed in at times. However between the showers there were some brighter periods, including some sunshine, whilst temperatures were slightly above average for the time of year. Showers becoming lighter and more intermittent by the evening, and indeed eventually dying out overnight, clearing skies allowing temperatures to dip below freezing by dawn.

Beverley Parks – A displaying Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) was seen over the pastures near the Riding School this morning, the first I have seen or heard this spring in the Parklands. A Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) was in the southern-most fields of the livery, whilst Skylarks were also in good song over the now greening winter cereals. However I still haven’t heard a singing Yellowhammer so far this year, whilst the local Grey Partridges have proved elusive since the New Year.

Woldgarth – My first Common Frog (Rana temporaria) of the year was stumbled upon this evening as I headed out to give the animals their evening feed. I wonder if it was one of the one’s I saved last year when we were clearing out part of the garden for the rabbits and chickens back in October / November.

28th February 2017, Tuesday
-0.8 C to 7.2 C / 0.3 mm / 3.9 hours / W 3
A frosty start to the last day of the meteorological winter, widespread ice causing a few problems at first, but it would soon melt in the abundant morning sunshine. Becoming cloudier for a time around the middle of the day but sunny spells would return by mid-afternoon, skies remaining relatively clear into the evening. However around 9 pm a short spell of rain would drift in from the west, but this would soon clear with skies likewise becoming clearer after midnight, this allowing temperatures to dip low enough for a ground frost by dawn.

Woldgarth – The first of the garden Lungwort (Pulmonaria) has now come into flower, the blue and purple flowers usually providing a popular draw for the early season species of bee such as Hairy-footed Flower-bees and the already active Honey Bees. Indeed the annual appearance of this perennial flower in the garden marks a turning point in the year for me as the pre-spring flowers give way to the more varied and rich blooms of spring proper.