January 2017

1st January 2017, Sunday
4.5 C to 5.7 C / 1.6 mm / 0.0 hours / N 4
A dull and wet start to the New Year with outbreaks of rain throughout the morning, though by early afternoon the rain would clear away to the south to leave a grey and blustery afternoon, the northerly breeze making it feel quite chilly. However around dusk skies would begin to clear with some good clear spells developing during the evening and overnight, though a few showers would also sweep down from the north, some of which were a little icy and wintry at times. These would clear by the end of the night though with a light frost and icy patches by dawn.

Woldgarth – Brightly shining Venus and the thin crescent Moon made for a spectacular sight in the early evening, the pair being relatively close in the south-western night sky. To the south-east Orion stood proudly above the homestead, the hunter forever chasing his prey, whilst the bull of Taurus was higher yet, the nearby bright blue stars of the open cluster Pleiades appearing to be almost right over head. The Seven Sisters (or M45) have always been one of my favourite objects in the night sky, and on a clear night like tonight they shone like diamonds.

2nd January 2017, Monday
0.7 C to 4.7 C / 0.0 mm / 6.5 hours / W 4
A clear and cold start with widespread ice, and it would remain sunny and crisp throughout the day, a moderate WNW breeze making it feel particularly chilly, especially in any exposed locations. Clear spells in the evening and for much of the night, this allowing another ground frost, but cloud would increase later.

Woldgarth – As I cleaned the bird feeding station on what was a clear and chilly January morning with a light frost upon the ground, a quietly ‘twirling’ and ‘whistling’ Bullfinch kept me company throughout, a most delightful and pleasing sound. Recently at least eight Bullfinches have been visiting the bird feeders, with four males and four females having been individually identified, though it could well be that more are also in the area. We have had double figure counts in previous winters here at the old homestead so I will continue to keep an eye out for any more of these always welcome and colourful garden visitors.

In the evening the crescent Moon and Venus made a fine spectacle again, though this time the moon was to the east of Venus, whilst Mars also got in the act and was located above the moon, the celestial trio neatly aligned in line with the celestial equator.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

3rd January 2017, Tuesday
0.3 C to 7.5 C / 0.0 mm / 0.2 hours / W 4-5
A mostly cloudy, cool and blustery day, the fresh WNW breeze again making it feel particularly cold in exposed locations. Clearer for a time in early evening but cloud would increase again later with mostly cloudy skies for the rest of the night. Becoming slightly milder during the evening as well.

A magnitude 3.9 earthquake occurred this evening (18:50 GMT) 100 miles off the coast of Scarborough, the tremor being the largest quake recorded in the British Isles for almost a decade. However it was not felt here at Woldgarth, whilst I have yet to hear or read any reports from other parts of Yorkshire either.

Since 2000 we have had at least three ‘tremors’ here in East Yorkshire (to my knowledge), two of which were felt and the other escaping our notice. The most significant tremor came on the 26th/27th February 2008 when a 5.2 quake rocked the old homestead at 1 am, indeed it was large enough to wake up the whole household and warranted an inspection immediately after for any damage. Thankfully no damage was caused here by this tremor which was centred just north of Market Rasen (Lincolnshire), though damaged properties (usually already vulnerable chimney stacks etc.) were reported in some parts of the local area, especially in northern Lincolnshire and South Yorkshire.

4th January 2017, Wednesday
4.5 C to 6.2 C / 0.6 mm / 1.3 hours / NW 4
A dull morning with a chilly northerly breeze, though by midday some brighter periods would develop with some sunny spells for a time in the afternoon. However blustery showers would also drift down from the north during the course of the afternoon, though most of these would be largely brief and light affairs. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight with a few further showers during the middle of the night, though latterly skies would become clearer with temperatures dropping below freezing by dawn.

Woldgarth – The first few Snowdrops of the year are starting to come out by the front door, whilst elsewhere in the garden most bulbs are now widely apparent. The mild winter has allowed a single Oxeye daisy to survive in flower, whilst other flowers currently in bloom include Winter Jasmine, a few daisies on the lawn, winter pansies, the odd wallflower here and there, and a single (and rather sorry looking) rose upon a bush rose right outside the back door.

The first Snowdrop of the year

Tundale – With Rosie (my sister’s labrador) slowly recovering following her spaying prior to Christmas, we have been only lightly exercising her for the past fortnight or so. However her recovery is now going well and we decided to give her a good walk along the length of Tundale this morning, this wooded valley lying between Huggate and Wayrham near the top of the Yorkshire Wolds. Conditions were notably colder up here compared to back home, the wind being particularly cold up on the exposed field tops, whilst down in the sheltered dales the ground was still frozen with patches of ice covering the puddles.

Wildlife wise things were exceptionally quiet, January perhaps being the quietest month of the year up on these rolling chalk uplands, though the woods did host a few Goldcrests moving through the trees, as well ‘teacher-teacher’ calling Great Tits and most of the other typical tits and finches one would expect to find at this time of year. In the fields Common Gulls and Hares were noted among the green and unusually lush winter cereals, whilst above us a few Buzzards and an impressive pair of Great Black-backed Gulls passed over.

Candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)
Candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Upper Tundale
The top end of Tundale Plantation

Lower Tundale

Woldgarth – In the afternoon at least seven male Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) graced the bird feeding station, a beautiful and spectacular sight, these seven males being joined by two females as well. This now increases this winter’s minimum count to 11 individuals (7 males & 4 females), and I wonder if this number may yet increase.

5th January 2017, Thursday
-0.3 C to 4.5 C / 0.0 mm / 1.6 hours / S 2
A bright and chilly start to the day with a light frost and patches of ice, though it would become cloudier by mid-morning and would remain so until midday. However thereafter things would once more brighten up with some nice spells of crisp winter sunshine during the afternoon. Clear at first in the evening with temperatures quickly dipping below freezing, but cloud would increase as the evening wore on with mostly cloudy skies for much of the night.

Woldgarth – The local foxes have been heard on a few nights recently, one waking me up at 4 am this morning as it called loudly in the neighbouring woods. The local population of foxes is relatively small, probably no more than 3 or 4 individuals, but they are highly treasured by me despite the problems they cause me as regards keeping rabbits, chickens etc. Indeed a Red Fox in full health has to be one of the most beautiful of all mammals to inhabit the British Isles!

6th January 2017, Friday
-1.1 C to 8.2 C / 2.1 mm / 0.0 hours / S 3-4
A dull and overcast day with periods of rain and drizzle from late morning and throughout the afternoon, the top of the Yorkshire Wolds becoming shrouded in low cloud. However despite the grey skies and inclement weather it was fairly mild. The outbreaks of rain would die out by mid-evening to leave a mostly cloudy night, though latterly some breaks would begin to develop.

Cleaving Coombe – An exceptionally dull and damp stroll around this curiously named dale which cuts into the Wolds western escarpment between Londesborough and Nunburnholme. The tops of the dale was up in the clouds, visibility no more than 50 metres, though lower down things were much better, the vast expanse of the Vale of York stretching away to the west before us. The poor conditions meant that wildlife was once again conspicuous by its almost complete absence, a flock of about a 100 Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) being the only observation worthy of note. However despite the weather it was a good stroll to blow away the proverbial cobwebs, whilst my sister’s labrador thoroughly enjoyed her run, especially when it came to splattering about in the thick mud where the spring runs through the bottom of the valley.

Woldgarth – A skein of Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) were heard passing over as I drifted off to sleep this evening.

January woods
Mist and low cloud near Nunburnholme Wold

A murky Cleaving Coombe
Looking up towards Cleaving Coombe

7th January 2017, Saturday
2.0 C to 9.5 C / 0.0 mm / 0.6 hours / W 1-2
A bright start to the day but this wouldn’t last long with cloud and grey skies soon arriving from the west. Remaining dull, overcast and mild for the remainder of the day with little change through the evening and for much of the night.

Woldgarth – Whilst conducting one of our winter garden bird counts (see full report here), a single Common Pipistrelle Bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) was observed hunting around the house. January records of active bats are very few and far between here at the old homestead, indeed I can’t remember the last time I saw a bat in January, but since the weather was mild today (9 C) perhaps it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, especially since we had an equally unseasonal record in early December as well. As regards the bird count some 64 birds of 17 species were recorded, species recorded as follows; Blackbird x4, Blue tit x5, Bullfinch x2, Chaffinch x3, Crow x1, Dunnock x1, Goldcrest x1, Goldfinch c.30, Great tit x1, Greenfinch x2, Jackdaw x2, Long-tailed tit x3, Magpie x1, Redwing x1, Robin x1, Starling x3, and Wood Pigeon x3.

8th January 2017, Sunday
4.0 C to 9.2 C / trace / 1.7 hours / S 3
A dull, overcast and mild start to the day, though by late morning things would begin to quickly brighten up with some spells of early January sunshine developing by midday. Remaining sunny and mild during the afternoon, though by the evening cloud would again increase, skies remaining overcast throughout the night. The breeze would also freshen from the south as the night wore on. Very mild.

Woldgarth Moths (7th/8th) – The first mothing session of the year took place tonight on what was a mostly cloudy night, though the skies did clear for a time around 3 am, this allowing temperatures to dip as low as 4 C for a time. In the end just two moths of one species were recorded, with two very different looking specimens of Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana), the larger of two probably being female and the smaller and more typically marked individual being male.

Light Brown Apple Moths (Epiphyas postvittana)

8th, Woldgarth – A noticeable increase in bird song this morning, the mildness of the morning (7 C at 6 am) making it feel and sound quite spring-like. Later in the morning I also noticed that the Magpies have started to investigate their old nest in the hawthorn, with one bird moving some of the sticks around.

9th January 2017, Monday
5.8 C to 9.2 C / 2.1 mm / 0.3 hours / W 4
An overcast and exceptionally mild start to the day, the moderate to fresh southerly breeze feeling quite warm, whilst after 10 am a period of rain would also arrive from the SW, this rain continuing on and off until mid-to-late afternoon. Becoming drier in the evening with clear spells developing overnight.

10th January 2017, Tuesday
2.7 C to 11.8 C / 0.0 mm / 3.5 hours / W 4
A largely sunny and pleasant mid-January day, feeling quite warm in the sunshine with temperatures climbing to just shy of 12 C. However a freshening breeze would make feel it somewhat cooler, this wind continuing to strengthen overnight with frequent gusts in excess of gale force by the end of the night.

Woldgarth – A thorough check of the garden for any more flowering plants added a few more specimens to the New Year list, with ten species in total being recorded (I only found 7 when I casually looked on the 4th). The new species included one rather miserable looking Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) around the front of the house, along with a species of red flowering Lily, the exact identity of which I have been unable to nail down with any certainty. In the main garden the strongly scented flowers of Sweet Box (Sarcococca confusa) made themselves known, the relatively mild and bright conditions this afternoon encouraging the plant to give out plenty of pleasing perfume. This small shrub is one of very few strongly scented winter plants at Woldgarth, and is a good draw for any bees or other pollinators whom happen to emerge a little too early. It also has attractive foliage and large glossy black berries and all in all it is a wonderful little plant which will suit most gardens.

Other flowers included a few Wallflowers, a single Snowdrop, a Winter Jasmine covered in pleasing yellow blooms, a couple of very sheltered but now rather tatty Oxeye daisies, the odd Winter Pansy, a few Daisies on the lawn, and a couple of Roses (the exact identity of which I do not know). However there is no sign of the Winter Aconites just yet.

This year I have also decided to learn more about organisms I have previously overlooked, today the mosses and lichens of the garden catching my eye. Trying to ID these wonderful organisms is certainly proving hard-work, often the case when you are completely new to a subject, but the challenge is half of the fun to be honest. Indeed even if you can’t ID them they still make wonderful photogenic subjects, the vivid green of mosses and the extraordinary miniature world of lichens proving that they are far from dull and boring. Of the three types of moss I encountered I have tentatively identified them as Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis), this species proving abundant along the eastern wall of our house, a species of Feather Moss (possibly Rough-stalked Feather-moss / Brachythecium rutabulum), and another species I have yet to ID. Lichens meanwhile included common specimens such as Physcia tenella and Xanthoria parietina, these conspicuous species being found in profusion on the branches of our Blackcurrants, as well as upon the Crab Apple tree, whilst on the stone slabs Lecanora muralis (or Chewing Gum Lichen) was seemingly widespread. However the two species photo-graphed growing on the walls of our house are proving trickier to identify, though the orange crusty type might be Candelariella vitellina ?

Xanthoria parietina
Xanthoria parietina

Physcia tenella and Xanthoria parietina
Physcia tenella and Xanthoria parietina

? Lecanora muralis ?
Lecanora muralis

? Brachythecium rutabulum ?
Feather-moss species (possibly Brachythecium rutabulum)

Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis)
Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis)

11th January 2017, Wednesday
5.7 C to 8.2 C / 0.0 mm / 4.8 hours / W 6-7
A bright day for the most part, though the main feature of the day was the strong to near gale force winds which swept through the East Riding, the wind peaking at 46 knots (53 mph) in mid-morning. Becoming somewhat calmer by the evening with the winds continuing to ease overnight. Clear spells overnight with variable amounts of cloud.

12th January 2017, Thursday
2.3 C to 4.5 C / 2.1 mm / 0.5 hours / W 4
A mostly cloudy and cold day, a keen westerly breeze making it feel particularly cold out in the open, though around dusk the cloud would begin to thin and clear, this also accompanied by a drop in the wind. As a result temperatures would begin to fall, eventually reaching -0.5 C overnight, though increasing cloud and a period of snow towards the end of the night would see temperatures begin to rise again.

13th January 2017, Friday
-0.5 C to 4.7 C / 0.0 mm / 0.4 hours / W 5-6
A snowy start to the day with a period of moderate snowfall at dawn, but this would soon clear leaving a wet covering of about 2 to 3 cm of the white stuff. However temperatures started to rise after the snow cleared, and as a result the lying snow would quickly thaw with most of it completely gone by mid-afternoon. Remaining cloudy and windy for most of the day, conditions feeling very raw out in the open, though by the end of the afternoon skies would begin to clear, this allowing temperatures to dip below freezing overnight. However it would remain breezy during the night, and by dawn the ground was very hard with a ‘wind frost’ penetrating deep into the ground.

Woldgarth – The first snowfall of the winter arrived here this morning, with a light band passing through around 6 am, and a moderate to heavy band shortly prior to 8 am. The flakes were large and fluffy for a time, but since the snow was very wet it quickly began to thaw after it stopped, this additionally aided by temperatures also climbing up above 3 C by 9 am. In total about 2 to 3 cm fell, this already exceeding all that fell in the whole of last winter!

A period of snowfall at dawn this morning

14th January 2017, Saturday
-1.1 C to 4.7 C / 3.5 mm / 7.0 hours / W 4
A crisp winter’s day with clear skies throughout and a biting north-westerly breeze, the kind of weather we so little of these days. Cloud increasing overnight however with outbreaks of rain, which was sleety initially, arriving by the end of the night.

North York Moors – A crisp day on the moors with a ‘thin’ wind blowing across the exposed hilltops, though to be honest I love this kind of weather, cold winter sunshine being much better than the wind and the murk we otherwise have to put up with during the winter months. Much of the snow which fell yesterday had already melted, especially below 150 metres where only patches survived in the shadier spots, but up on Goathland, Sleights, and Wheeldale Moors a light covering persisted. Best of the wintry conditions were around Cropton Forest and the curious communities of Stape and Raindale, the roads here still covered in snow and ice in places.

A panoramic view across the Esk Valley

Wildlife wise little was about, which is not all that surprising given the wintry conditions, though the male Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) which usually resides along the A169 was spotted in his usual haunt near the turn off to Goathland and Beck Hole at the top of Sleights Moor. I always look for this colourful little fellow on the drive up to Grosmont and he rarely disappoints.

At Cropton Forest a flock of Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) was heard somewhere deep amongst the pines which make up this vast commercial forest, but try as I might I failed to actually spot any. Crossbills are one of my ‘bogey’ birds and one I have rarely seen well, though many moons ago whilst climbing Ben Nevis with my father, we did enjoy some outstanding views in Leanachan Forest of these colourful and curious finches. One day I will get a photo of one… hopefully. Elsewhere the ever present Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus) were widely evident, whilst down on the lowlands a few flocks of Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) were seen in the arable fields of the Vale of Pickering in the company of Lapwings and Common Gulls.

Rutmoor Beck
Rutmoor Beck

Wheeldale ford
Wheeldale Gill

Cropton Forest near Tranmire Bog
Cropton Forest

Winter sun
A low winter sun over Wheeldale Moor

15th January 2017, Sunday
1.1 C to 8.8 C / 3.5 mm / 0.2 hours / NW 2
A damp and dull morning with outbreaks of rain &/or drizzle, though by midday conditions would begin to improve, indeed in the afternoon some brighter periods would manage to develop for a time. However this would prove short-lived with further periods of drizzle in mid-afternoon and early evening, and whilst it would become drier for a time, further outbreaks of rain and drizzle would arrive overnight, this becoming more persistent latterly. Milder.

16th January 2017, Monday
2.8 C to 4.9 C / 0.6 mm / 0.0 hours / SE 1
A dull and damp morning with periods of rain and drizzle, and whilst it would become drier in the afternoon, it would nevertheless remain dull and overcast, all in all a day to forget. Overcast and murky overnight with some periods of drizzle at times.

17th January 2017, Tuesday
3.4 C to 6.2 C / 0.6 mm / 0.0 hours / S 2-3
Another dull and overcast day with little to commend it. Remaining overcast during the evening and overnight with conditions becoming murky and drizzly at times. Mucky weather!

Woldgarth – The very first Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is just starting to push up through the ground beneath the Swedish Whitebeam. The yellow flower is just about visible but it will be a few days before the flower properly opens. The flower buds of the Snowdrops are also starting to show in this part of the garden, but are still a week or two from opening (weather dependent of course).

18th January 2017, Wedneday
3.7 C to 8.7 C / 0.2 mm / 0.0 hours / W 0-1
Overcast, murky and drizzly yet again with no sign of any brightness whatsoever (no sun has been recorded for three successive days now). Little change in the evening and overnight with some light drizzle at times.

Woldgarth – Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) have been reported to be on the move across the region, and whilst none have been seen or heard at Woldgarth lately, it was interesting to read many of the reports coming in via social media. Jonathan Pomroy, a wildlife and landscape artist based at Ampleforth (see link) reported a particularly curious incident (link) on the 17th.

19th January 2017, Thursday
5.8 C to 8.0 C / 0.0 mm / 0.0 hours / SW 0-1
The grim period of ‘anticyclonic gloom’ which has dominated the weather of late continued into a fifth day, with no sun or even a breeze of any kind. Little change in the evening and overnight, though unlike recent nights the cloud base was much higher with no murk or drizzle.

Woldgarth Moths (18th/19th) – Just a single Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana) was found around the trap this morning, the moth appearing to be a male specimen. After three trapping sessions so far this year just 3 moths have been recorded in 2017, all LBAM’s.

Woldgarth – Whilst conducting a garden bird count I noticed that the Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) were obviously courting, three males pursuing, calling and displaying, albeit subtly as is typical for the species, two females. The males would occasionally try to and get alongside the females, but they were having none of it and took flight, the males setting off in pursuit. The Magpies meanwhile were also seen in their old nest this afternoon, signs of spring now beginning to appear despite the anticyclonic gloom which has descended upon the East Riding during recent days.

The results of the garden bird survey meanwhile was as follows; Blackbird x2, Blue Tit x5, Bullfinch x6, Chaffinch x3, Dunnock x3, Goldcrest x1, Goldfinch x2, Great Tit x2, Greenfinch x5, Jackdaw x2, Magpie x2, Redwing x1, Robin x1, Starling x3 and Wood Pigeon x3 (for full results see here).

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) pair
Bullfinch pair (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

20th January 2017, Friday
5.2 C to 7.8 C / 0.0 mm / 3.2 hours / SE 1
An overcast start to the day, though as the morning wore on it would steadily brighten, indeed by midday some sunshine would even manage to break through with a fine afternoon following, a welcome tonic after all the grim and grey weather of late. Clear spells in the evening and at first overnight, this allowing temperatures to dip below freezing for a time, but cloud would increase after midnight with overcast skies by dawn.

Woldgarth – Yesterday evening I discovered a species of Cicadellidae on the outside of the rabbit shed, the bug perhaps attracted to the area by the actinic moth trap which I had placed in this location only the night before. Leafhoppers are generally very difficult to identify, and indeed I have been struggling to find a solid ID for the specimen in question, though considering the lack of willow or poplar in the area this does perhaps narrow it down to the Acer loving species of the family, Sycamores being abundant in our garden. The leafhopper measured 6.5 mm in length and 2.2 mm in width, and this relatively large size, plus a few other features, make me incline towards Acericerus heydenii, a species which is considered to be a new arrival to the British Isles with just a few records from the south of England (link). However if you think differently please get in touch, any thoughts would be much appreciated.

? Acericerus heydenii ?
Acericerus heydenii (top view)

? Acericerus heydenii ?
Acericerus heydenii (top view)

? Acericerus heydenii ?
Acericerus heydenii (diagnostic front view)

? Acericerus heydenii ?
Acericerus heydenii (side view)

21st January 2017, Saturday
-0.8 C to 5.0 C / trace / 0.0 hours / E 1
A disappointing day with overcast skies and periods of drizzle, the temperature stuggling to just 5.0 C. Little change in the evening and for much of the night, though latterly skies would clear with temperatures quickly plummeting by dawn, eventually falling to a rather chilly -2.4 C.

22nd January 2017, Sunday
-2.4 C to 2.7 C / trace / 1.1 hours / W 1-2
A clear and very frosty start to the day, a rare joy in what has otherwise been another grey and mild winter, though unfortunately the crisp winter sunshine wouldn’t last with grey skies arriving by late morning, the cloud becoming thick enough to produce some spots of rain and drizzle in the afternoon. Feeling particularly raw as well with temperatures rising no higher than 2.7 C. Remaining cloudy throughout the evening and much of the night, though skies would begin to clear later, this allowing temperatures to drop rapidly with another good frost by dawn.

North Cliffe Wood – A couple of hours at this nature rich woodland brought plenty to enjoy, even if the weather was not quite so joyful with grey skies and a cold breeze sweeping across the bracken, rush and ling covered heath. Such dull and chilly weather doesn’t usually bode well for birding prospects, though it was nice to catch up with a party of Siskins (Spinus spinus) in the southern birch woods, a bird, which I at least, have seen few of this winter down on the East Yorkshire lowlands. A check for any Redpolls among them proved fruitless, but it was good to catch up with a few Marsh Tits (Poecile palustris) in amongst the roving mixed tit flocks. Out on the heath a Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) was heard, as were a couple of ‘mewing’ Buzzards (Buteo buteo), though perhaps the biggest surprise came in the heart of the wood where 6 to 7 Teal (Anas crecca) were flushed up from one of the dark and stagnant ditches which run through this wood.

Bramble leaves + Bramble Rust (Phragmidium violaceum)
Bramble showing Bramble Rust (Phragmidium violaceum)

Frosted brambles
Frosted brambles

Flowering gorse
Gorse flowers

Frosted rush flowers

Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola) were far less numerous than during our last count, but nevertheless four were flushed up, this undoubtedly just a fraction of the actual number which call this wet woodland their home during the winter months. Out on the cereal fields west of the reserve a good number of winter thrushes were feeding, with around 50 Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) and roughly 10 Redwings (Turdus iliacus) searching for food, though the most welcome sight and sound here was a couple of Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), not singing yet but making their presence known nonetheless. A further observation came in the shape and form of a hovering Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), the falcon in question showing a particularly rich and colourful plumge.

Blushing Bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa)
Blushing Bracket (Daedaleopsis confragosa)

? Yellowing Curtain Crust (Stereum subtomentosum) ?
? Yellowing Curtain Crust (Stereum subtomentosum) ?

Hoof Fungus (Fomes fomentarius)
Hoof Fungus (Fomes fomentarius)

As is usual at this woodland the water table is continuing to slowly rise with most of the ditches and the bogs now nearly full and saturated, this despite the fact that this winter has been largely dry with just 46.8 mm of rain since the beginning of December. No doubt water levels will continue to rise in coming weeks, usually peaking in March regardless of actual rainfall in any given year, though for the time being water levels are below the access paths, this making access no problem at all for even the most ill-prepared.

Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)
Velvet Shank (Flammulina velutipes)

Yellow Jelly (Brain) Fungus (Tremella mesenterica)
Yellow Jelly (Brain) Fungus (Tremella mesenterica)

? Birch Woodwart (Hypoxylon multiforme) ?
? Birch Woodwart (Hypoxylon multiforme) ?

Leaf-miner (Chromatomyia primulae)
Leaf-miner species (Chromatomyia primulae)

Holly Leaf miner (Phytomyza ilicis)
Holly Leaf-miner (Phytomyza ilicis)

Further observations during our Sunday morning stroll included evidence of two common leaf miners, including Holly Leaf-miner (Phytomyza ilicis) on, yes you guessed it, Holly, and Chromatomyia primulae, a common leaf-miner often found on Primrose and Cowslip. Incidentally the new leaves of this year’s Primroses are now starting to appear in the shelter of the hazel coppice, a cheering sight, whilst the green spikes of Bluebells are also everywhere to be seen. Meanwhile a Fox (Vulpes vulpes) was encountered along the central path, the beautiful mammal slinking off into the thick undergrowth as soon as it spotted us, and further mammalian interest was provided by a handsome Hare (Lepus europaeus), one of my favourite British mammals.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

New Primrose leaves (22.01.17)
New Primrose leaves (Primula vulgaris)

Grey skies and mist at North Cliffe Heath
Wintry scene at North Cliffe Heath

23rd January 2017, Monday
-1.2 C to 4.6 C / 0.0 mm / 4.6 hours / W 1-2
A clear and frosty start again, the ground nice and hard underfoot, and it would remain sunny and crisp for most of the day with plenty of late January sunshine. Clear and frosty at first overnight but freezing fog would form latterly, this becoming thick at times.

24th January 2017, Tuesday
-2.4 C to 6.4 C / trace / 4.8 hours / S 2
Freezing fog at first, this making for another beautiful frosty morning once the fog had cleared by mid-morning, though this transient beauty wouldn’t last long with the frost soon melting in the abundant winter sunshine. Remaining bright and sunny in the afternoon, with clear skies following in the evening, though overnight fog would return. However unlike last night it remained above freezing with a just few patches of ice and frost come morning.

25th January 2017, Wednesday
-0.8 C to 3.8 C / 0.0 mm / 2.7 hours / S 2-3
A foggy start to the day, everything dripping wet, but things would brighten up as the morning progressed with some good spells of sunshine developing by midday. Remaining sunny and bright in the afternoon, though it was on the chilly side with temperatures rising no higher than 3.8 C. Becoming cloudy after dusk with mostly cloudy, and eventually overcast skies throughout the night.

Woldgarth – A skein of approximately 60 to 70 Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) were seen heading north-west around 1.30 pm, always an impressive spectacle to behold. Presumably these are part of the general movement northwards which has been witnessed elsewhere in the country during the past week or so, signs perhaps that spring is just around the corner?

26th January 2017, Thursday
-0.2 C to 0.8 C / 0.0 mm / 0.0 hours / S 2-3
A dull and cold day with overcast skies and temperatures barely rising above freezing, a brisk southerly wind making it feel particularly raw out in the open (up on the Wolds the temperature remained below freezing all day). Back here the temperatures would fall below freezing by 3 pm, and it would remain sub-zero throughout the evening and night, some clearer spells latterly allowing temperatures to dip down to -4.7 C, making this the coldest night of the winter thus far.

27th January 2017, Friday
-4.7 C to 5.5 C / 1.9 mm / 0.3 hours / SE 2
A beautifully crisp and cold start to the day, the ground hard as rock underfoot, with some pale winter sunshine also managing to break through from time to time. However skies would become overcast by 10 am, these grey skies bringing warmer temperatures with it, the magical frost soon melting. Remaining dull and raw for the rest of the day, whilst in the evening and overnight outbreaks of rain would arrive from the south, signalling an end to the quiet and frosty spell of weather we have enjoyed of late.

28th January 2017, Saturday
-3.0 C * to 6.8 C / 0.6 mm / 0.4 hours / S 2-3
A dull and grey morning with occasional spells of mostly light rain, though after midday things would brighten up somewhat with even some short spells of sunshine managing to develop in the afternoon. Milder than of late. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, though latterly skies would clear with temperatures dipping below freezing by dawn.

29th January 2017, Sunday
-0.1 C to 5.9 C / 1.7 mm / 4.8 hours / NW 1-2
A clear and frosty start to the day with widespread ice making for slippery conditions under foot, though this would soon melt in the abundant January sunshine. Remaining sunny into the first half of the afternoon, though skies would become steadily cloudier with skies becoming grey by dusk, this thickening cloud bringing periods of drizzle and rain during the evening and the first half of the night. Clearing later but remaining overcast and damp for the rest of the night.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – The annual RSPB garden bird survey took place this weekend, our hour-long count taking place this morning between 09:30 and 10:30 on what was a sunny and crisp January morning. Half an hour prior to the count I made sure all the feeders were full, and placed some bread and seed in the middle of the lawn to attract gulls and corvids, and then sat back and watched. In the end 18 species of bird were counted, the bread attracting three species of Gull (Black-head, Common & Herring) and two species of Corvid (Magpie and Carrion Crow), whilst all the usual passerines were recorded at the feeding station, though unfortunately no Goldfinches showed up during the hour (typically they appeared about quarter of an hour too late). The complete list of birds recorded was as follows; Black-headed Gull x4, Blackbird x2, Blue Tit x4, Bullfinch x5, Carrion Crow x5, Chaffinch x5, Coal Tit x1, Common Gull x2, Dunnock x2, Goldcrest x1, Great Tit x2, Greenfinch x4, Herring Gull x2, Long-tailed Tit x1, Magpie x1, Robin x2, Starling x3, and Wood Pigeon (x3). Fly-over records included Jackdaw (x3), Sparrowhawk (x1), Feral Pigeon (x8), and more Black-headed, Common and Herring Gulls besides those which were attracted down into the garden (for the full report click here).

30th January 2017, Monday
1.2 C to 7.4 C / trace / 0.0 hours / SE 3-4
A grey and cloudy day with little worthy of mention. Remaining cloudy overnight.

Woldgarth – A few Dunnocks (Prunella modularis) were singing and displaying this morning, this being the first time I have noted this behaviour this year. In the spring garden at least five Winter Aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) are now clearly evident, though they are not fully flowering yet, whilst the white buds of more and more Snowdrops are also appearing in this same area of the garden. Meanwhile a Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) with a missing leg was in the vicinity today, one wondering how the leg came to be lost?

31st January 2017, Tuesday
4.2 C to 7.9 C / 15.5 mm / 0.0 hours / SE 3
A mostly cloudy start to the day, the greyness of the morning temporarily brightened by a short-lived fiery dawn sky, though by mid-morning things had once again become overcast with some periods of light drizzle drifting in from the SE. Thereafter the rest of the day would remain grey and cloudy with occasional spells of rain &/or drizzle, whilst in the evening the rain would become heavier and more persistent, this rain continuing for most of the night with some rather squidgy and muddy conditions underfoot by dawn.

Woldgarth – The always impressive sight of a flying Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) was witnessed at Woldgarth this morning, the bird in question flying just above the tree tops as it headed southwards. The lack of water at our private nature reserve means that a Grey Heron has never actually been recorded in the woods or gardens, though fly-over records are fairly frequent as birds move from site to site.