1st March 2017, Wednesday
1.0 C to 8.3 C / 1.8 mm / 4.0 hours / SW 3-4
A bright start to the meterological spring with alternating sunny periods and cloudier spells, the sunshine feeling pleasant enough out of the breeze. A few showers would sweep through in the afternoon however, a few of which were quite heavy (5.0 mm/h), but these would die out again by the end of the afternoon. Clear spells in the evening and at first overnight, this allowing temperatures to dip low enough for a ground frost, but cloud would increase later with some outbreaks of rain arriving shortly before dawn.
Woldgarth – The first day of the meteorological spring brought a mixture of sunshine and showers, and during the sunny spells it even felt rather spring-like, at least in the shelter of the walled garden anyway. The warm-ish sunshine encouraged a few insects on to the wing, including a single Wasp (Vespula vulgaris), a couple of Droneflies (Eristalis tenax), and the same species of hoverfly which was noted back in February (possibly Meliscaeva auricollis). A few species of diptera were also noted, all well beyond my ID skills I’m afraid, but nevertheless their mere presence was reason enough to be cheerful.
Fly species enjoying the early spring sunshine
Beverley Parks – A lone Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) was in the winter cereal field beside the main drain at the north end of Long Lane this afternoon, this once rare bird being almost within the borders of the town and barely a few hundred yards away from the Minster. This is the first time I have recorded this beautiful species of bird within the Parks, the 105th species of bird to be recorded here since 2010, and it could be that this species becomes more and more common in the coming years. Other sightings included a couple of Buzzards (another formally uncommon bird around here), good numbers of Common Gulls (Larus canus) and a large and impressive Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) in the flooded fields of the riding school.
Meanwhile the Cherry Plum (?) blossom at the north end of Long Lane is now widely coming out, the appearance of the beautiful white blooms helping to lift the spirit as spring begins to win out over winter (at least for now…). Given fine weather it is to be hoped that the local Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) will soon be back with us too, these heralds of spring usually returning to the Parklands (and Woldgarth) by the end of March, an event much anticipated year after year.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
2nd March 2017, Thursday
0.6 C to 9.2 C / 0.0 mm / 5.2 hours / W 4-5
After early rain cleared away, conditions would quickly brighten up with some good spells of sunshine developing during the remainder of the day. However a brisk breeze meant it felt quite cool, especially out in the open. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight.
Woldgarth – The almost pure white egg of a Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) was discovered in a quiet corner of the garden this afternoon, the egg appearing to have hatched within the past couple of days. Whether the chick will survive is debatable, especially given the forecast of rain in the next few days, but nevertheless it was pleasing to tick off the first confirmed breeder of the year at the old homestead. I wonder which species will be next?
3rd March 2017, Friday
3.4 C to 7.5 C / 7.9 mm / 0.0 hours / SE 3
A cloudy and dull day with outbreaks of persistent rain arriving in the afternoon, this rain continuing for the rest of the day and into the evening. The rain would become lighter and more patchy overnight with conditions becoming murky as low cloud descended, visibility becoming especially poor up on the Yorkshire Wolds.
Beverley Parks – A pair of Coots (Fulica atra) has taken up residence in the drainage ponds where Minster Way joins Hull Road, this otherwise common water-bird once being just an uncommon visitor to the Parklands area. However the construction of Minster Way has created a number of decent sized drainage lagoons, these bodies of water helping to attract larger species of waterbird to an area which was in the past was unsuitable for them (apart from grazing feral Greylags, Mallards and Moorhens). However given Beverley’s continuing expansion I do fear for the long-term prospects of these burgeoning new habitats and indeed much of the wildlife and nature which takes sanctuary in the fields and pastures south of the town.
Coot (Fulica atra)
The coming of March often sees a build up of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) in the pastures of the area, these handsome winter visitors feeding up as they prepare to head back across the North Sea to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia, and indeed a dozen or so were seen and heard in the fields north of Halfway House this morning. It will be sad to say goodbye to the Fieldfares and Redwings for yet another winter, but no doubt they will be back with us come October and November.
Further observations this morning included a few Buzzards (Buteo buteo), a pleasing number of singing Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), and perhaps most interesting of all, ‘greening’ hawthorn alongside the busy A164 (Victoria Road). The hedges here are often amongst the earliest to leaf in the borough as they no doubt benefit from the microclimate created by the presence of the road and the large number of motor vehicles which utilise this road which connects Beverley to nearby Hull.
4th March 2017, Saturday
5.2 C to 11.2 C / 0.0 mm / 3.3 hours / S 3
A grim and dreek start to the day with outbreaks of early rain and murk for much of the morning, visibility being particularly poor up on the Wolds, but things would quickly improve by midday with sunny spells developing in the afternoon, feeling pleasantly warm in the sunshine. A day very much of two halves. Clear spells in the evening and overnight but remaining frost-free.
5th March 2017, Sunday
3.9 C to 10.0 C / 4.0 mm / 3.1 hours / NW 4
A fine morning for the most part with some good spells of early spring sunshine, though cloud would increase as the morning wore on. Indeed by the afternoon outbreaks of rain would arrive from the SE with the rest of the day seeing further spells of rain, this rain continuing into the evening and the night, albeit becoming more intermittent and lighter. Clearing by midnight with even some breaks and clear spells developing latterly.
Woldgarth Moths (4th/5th) – The presence of good numbers of moths whilst heading back home yesterday evening encouraged me to put the moth trap out last night, though clear spells and temperatures down to 3.9 C meant it was hardly prefect conditions in the end. Nevertheless I was most pleased to discover my first Orthosia species of the year when I went to empty the trap at dawn, this turning out to be a fine example of Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta). This species will always be a favourite of mine, this spring species being the first moth I ever recorded with my garden trap (along with a single Satellite) when I started “mothing” some five years ago.
Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta)
Beverley Parks – I heard my first singing Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) of the year this morning, the delightful chorus of notes finished off with a long “cheese” being one of those sounds which mean that spring is here. Indeed up to three individual males were heard and hopefully more will start singing in the coming weeks. I also heard my first Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) of the year this morning, whilst the Skylarks were in fine song over the winter cereal fields, these same fields also hosting a few Hares and the odd Rabbit, rabbit numbers perhaps showing signs of recovering after drastically falling during the past year.
The roadside verges meanwhile are now widely covered in flowering Lesser Celandines (Ficaria verna), with nettles also now making a widespread appearance as life returns to the countryside around Beverley. Along Long Lane I noted the first leaves starting to unfurl amongst the Elders (Sambucus nigra), another pleasing springtime observation, while the Cherry Plum (?) blossom at the north end of Long Lane (near Keldmarsh) is now looking resplendent when the sun does indeed shine.
6th March 2017, Monday
2.9 C to 9.6 C / trace / 1.4 hours / W 3-4
A mostly cloudy morning, though not without some clearer and brighter spells, especially during mid-morning, though during the middle of the day conditions would become more generally cloudy, the cloud thick enough to produce the odd spot of rain from time to time. Becoming brighter again by mid-afternoon with some sunny spells for the rest of the day, though again cloud would increase in the evening, this bringing a short period of rain around 9 pm. Becoming dry thereafter with variable amounts of cloud for the rest of the night, temperatures dipping down to 2.7 C by dawn.
7th March 2017, Tuesday
2.7 C to 10.4 C / 6.7 mm / 8.3 hours / S 3-4
A beautiful spring-like day throughout with an abundance of sunshine pretty much from dawn to dusk, the sunshine feeling warm and pleasant in the shelter of the walled garden. However in the evening cloud would increase with rain arriving prior to midnight, this rain proving heavy at times (9.0 mm/h). Becoming drier by the end of the night and feeling mild.
Woldgarth Moths (6th/7th) – Apart from a brief shower around 9 pm, conditions last night were pretty promising for mothing, at least in the early evening with temperatures around 7 C, but after the rain temperatures would fall away, eventually reaching a chilly 2.7 C by dawn. Nevertheless a couple of March Moths (Alsophila aescularia) were attracted to the low-power 15W Actinic Skinner trap, a new addition to the year list, the recording doubly welcome as this moth is not usually that numerous here at Woldgarth with less than 10 previous records. Maybe they are going to have a good year this spring.
March Moth (Alsophila aescularia)
Woldgarth – A mostly sunny and very spring-like day with temperatures just about reaching double-figures, the March sun feeling warm in the shelter of the walled garden. Such conditions usually bode well as regards early invertebrate activity and indeed a number of good observations were made during the middle of the day, the main highlight being the first butterfly of the year in the shape and form of a Comma (Polygonia c-album). This first butterfly of 2017 come’s five days earlier than last year. At least one confirmed Buff-tailed Bumblebee (B. terrestris) was also noted, along with up to three Droneflies (Eristalis tenax), several Wasps (Vespula vulgaris), and numerous unidentified flies and diptera, whilst a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) was photographed, my first of the year.
Woldgarth Moths (7th) – Heavy rain was forecast overnight but since conditions were relatively good during the evening I decided to put the trap out for a few hours before retiring to bed. In the end this proved to be a good idea, the trap luring my first Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) of the year, as well as a single March Moth (Alsophila aescularia). The start of the 2017 season is certainly proving much better than last year, though that isn’t saying much!!!
8th March 2017, Wednesday
5.6 C to 12.3 C / 0.0 mm / 4.5 hours / W 4-5
A dull morning, everything rather wet after last night’s heavy rain, but things would quickly brighten up after midday with some long spells of unbroken sunshine in the afternoon. Feeling very mild as well, especially for the time of year, with temperatures climbing up to 12.3 C. Mostly clear at first overnight but becoming cloudier later.
9th March 2017, Thursday
4.4 C to 12.9 C / 0.0 mm / 9.0 hours / NW 4-5 (6-7)
A mild and sunny day for the most part, though the main feature of the weather, especially during the morning, was the strength of the north-westerly wind with gusts of up to 44 knots for a time in late morning. However in the afternoon this wind would quickly ease to leave a pleasant and sunny end to the day. Becoming cloudy overnight but remaining dry.
Woldgarth Moths (8th/9th) – With good conditions forecast for the next week I have decided to make hay, so to speak, on the mothing front and tonight had both the 125W MV and 15W Actinic traps working, the MV in the main garden, and the Actinic round the front, a location I have never previously trapped in. However conditions proved colder than expected (down to 4.4 C), whilst it also became rather windy by dawn, but despite this a couple of moths were found in the trap come morning. Best of these was our first Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla) of the year, a moth species which has always proved to be quite common here, especially in spring, whilst the other was a Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta).
Beverley Parks – 50+ Fieldfares were in the ploughed fields immediately east of Old Hall Farm this morning, these birds almost certainly being migrants preparing to head back to Scandinavia as spring returns. Meanwhile a single displaying Lapwing was calling and tumbling in their characteristic manner near the drainage pond beside Minster Way and Long Lane, whilst I also noted that even down here some of the hawthorn hedges are starting to leaf and ‘green’.
Woldgarth – On what was a rather windy day here in East Yorkshire (the wind gusted up to 44 knots at one point this morning), conditions in the shelter of the walled garden were in comparison very spring like indeed, the temperature, despite the wind, climbing up into the mid-teens. The warm sunshine bathing the south-facing wall (the wind was from the NW) meant that it was again a major draw for a range of diptera, though the highlight of the day would actually come thanks to a hymenopteran with not one but two Tree Bees (Bombus hypnorum), my second bumblebee species of 2017. A Buff-tailed bumblebee (B. terrestris) was additionally today, though I am still waiting to see my first Woldgarth Honey Bee of the year.
Another most welcome and pleasing observation from the garden today was the first flowering Early Dog Violets (Viola reichenbachiana) of the year, the cheering little flowers having now appeared in their usual spot in the NE corner of the garden. A suspected, but not confirmed, Tapered Dronefly (Eristalis pertinax) was also noted in late afternoon, whilst in the same area of the gardens I also encountered several active Flea Beetles. An exceptionally early flower on the ‘white’ broom has also appeared in recent days, though this single flower is considerably well-ahead of the rest of the plant. Spring is certainly ‘springing’ at the moment!
10th March 2017, Friday
3.7 C to 11.6 C / 0.3 mm / 0.1 hours / S 2
A cloudy and grey day, the cloud thick enough to produce a period of drizzle in the afternoon, but despite the grey skies it was another mild day with temperatures again in double figures. Remaining overcast and mild overnight with a low of just 7.8 C.
Woldgarth Moths (9th/10th) – Another dry night meant another night of moth trapping at the old homestead, though with clear skies, a large moon, and temperatures falling as low as 3.7 C, I wasn’t confident of catching much. In the end three moths of two species were recorded, included our first Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) of 2017, and two Clouded Drabs (Orthosia incerta), the latter species proving the most common moth in the garden so far this spring with four records.
Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica)
Woldgarth – The first flower amongst the Great Periwinkle (Vinca major) has now appeared, whilst the ‘pom’pom’ like double flowers on the Kerria are also starting to grace the garden. This shrub has come into flower much later than usual, indeed in past winters the first flowers have appeared as early as January, though this may perhaps be a reaction to the pruning the shrub received back in October whilst we were clearing out that part of the garden for the rabbits and chickens.
11th March 2017, Saturday
7.8 C to 12.6 C / 0.7 mm / 0.0 hours / SE 1
Another dull and overcast day but remaining dry, at least during daylight hours. Mild as well with temperatures again up into the mid-fifties. Remaining mild and overcast overnight, though the cloud would be thick enough to produce some occasional drizzle and rain, including a somewhat heavier spell around 2 am.
Woldgarth Moths (10th/11th) – A very mild night for March with temperatures dipping no lower than 7 C, though the threat of drizzle and rain meant I decided to utilise the low powered 15W Actinic instead of the MV trap. In total two moths of two species were attracted to the trap, with one each of Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) and Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta), though it was interesting to note that whilst the Quaker looked fresh and in good condition, the Clouded Drab already looked a bit ‘tired’.
Common Frog (Rana temporaria) in the garden
12th March 2017, Sunday
8.8 C to 14.6 C / trace / 1.4 hours / W 3 (4)
A dull morning with occasional spells of rain and drizzle, but in the afternoon things would begin to brighten up with even some spells of sunshine developing. Feeling very mild, indeed almost warm, with temperatures climbing up towards 15 C for a time. Variable amounts of cloud in the evening and overnight, but becoming clearer towards the end of the night. As a result it was colder than recent nights with a low of 2.9 C shortly after dawn.
Woldgarth Moths (11th/12th) – An exceptionally mild night for the time of year (a low of just 8.8 C) meant that I was hopeful of catching a few more moths last night, though with some spells of light rain and drizzle during the night I was forced to use the lower powered but waterproof 15W Actinic trap. I also decided to try trapping around the front of the house for a change, primarily in the hope of perhaps attracting a few different species from the nearby woods. Indeed I am hoping to use this part of the homestead more often in the coming weeks and months, and it will be interesting to see how, if at all, the moth species differ here compared to those usually encountered in our walled garden.
In total four moths of four species would be recorded, including an exceptionally early Pale Mottled Willow (Caradrina clavipalpis), a partially migratory species which is usually on the wing from May onwards, though earlier records are not totally unknown. Nevertheless mid-March records up here in Yorkshire are very few indeed. Other moths recorded included the first Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) of 2017, along with one each of Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica) and Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta). The year list has also now reached double figures, not bad considering we are still in the first half of March.
Beverley Parks – Despite exceptionally dull skies and murky conditions, it felt distinctly spring-like down in the Parklands this morning, temperatures barely below 10 C even at 7 am. At the Minster Way/Long Lane lagoon a pair of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) was noted, along with a couple of Greylag Geese, whilst over the fields displaying Skylarks and at least one Lapwing made themselves known. The odd Meadow Pipit was also about (though not displaying), and in the pastures of the livery up to 20 Redwings (Turdus iliacus) were noted. A trio of their larger cousins in the shape and form of Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) were also noted in the area, the sound of this lovely songster still being heard daily throughout most of the borough.
On the phenological front a pleasing observation came thanks to the now flowering Willows (Salix caprea) around Keldmarsh, the yellow flowers of the male trees clearly obvious in this area of the borough. However it is worth noting that the willows in the Parklands are not flowering yet, though this area is now full of cheering Cherry Plum blossom. Further spring notes included the first unfurling Hazel (Corylus avellana) leaves, as well as a small clump of pink Hyacinths in a private garden along Long Lane.
13th March 2017, Monday
2.9 C to 12.8 C / 0.0 mm / 5.0 hours / W 4-5
A fine start to the morning although feeling much colder than of late, but in the abundant spring sunshine things would soon warm up as the morning progressed. However in the afternoon things would cloud over, the cloud accompanied by a moderate to fresh westerly breeze which made it feel quite cool, especially out in the open. Becoming clearer again in the evening and overnight, though a variable layer of thin cloud veiled the near full moon and the stars, whilst the breeze would also pick up again towards the end of the night.
Woldgarth Moths (12th/13th) – With the warm and eventually sunny conditions yesterday afternoon things looked good for mothing, though a moderate breeze in the first half of the night, plus clearing skies and falling temperatures later, meant that conditions weren’t quite as good as I had hoped. Nevertheless the placing of two traps around the old homestead (the 15W Actinic around the front & the 125W MV in the walled garden) did bring our first double figure count of the year, a total of 12 moths of 4 species being recorded.
The best of these proved to be a new moth for the garden list in the shape and form of a Pale Brindled Beauty (Phigalia pilosaria), a moth I have recorded at Grosmont in the past but never here. Interestingly this moth was recorded with the 15W trap, perhaps indicating that a different range of species may well be recorded at this new trapping location. The other moths included eight Common Quakers (Orthosia cerasi), two Hebrew Characters (Orthosia gothica) and a single Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta).
Woldgarth – The moth trap also brought a new species of Cicadellidae (Leafhopper) to the garden, a small (~5 mm) and interestingly marked specimen eventually being tentatively identified as a male Metidiocerus rutilans. This species is seemingly at its northern limit, indeed I can find only one other reference to the species here in VC61, though three records have come from neighbouring VC63. However as with the species recorded back in January (Acericerus heydenii) the exact status of many of Britain’s leafhopper species is unclear, the sheer lack of records being the biggest hindrance to understanding this cryptic group of diminutive bugs.
The return of warmer weather is also encouraging more and more invertebrates and bugs to appear in the garden, Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) being particularly abundant at the moment. Indeed in the last five years or so this invasive Asiatic species has come to dominate the garden, native species now being relatively uncommon, a worrying and sad decline. A Flower Bug (Anthocoris nemorum) was a more welcome observation, a largish specimen (~4 mm) being found on the north facing side of the Stevenson Screen as I headed out to do the morning weather observations. It is good to see the bugs and beetles again.
In the garden the daffodils are now looking wonderful and are providing a fine display of varying shades of yellow throughout the area, though the early flowering varieties of Crocus are now fading away, as are the last of the Snowdrops. More Early Dog Violets have appeared as well, with one even flowering beside the relatively shaded rabbit shed, whilst on the lawn the first Speedwell flower has also appeared. The morning sunshine also brought a few insects out, including my second Comma (Polygonia c-album) of the year (see 7th), plus the odd Tree Bee (Bombus hypnorum), a probable Buff-tailed bumblebee (B. terrestris), a number of Common Wasps (Vespula vulgaris), and of course a variety of sunbathing (but sadly unidentified) diptera.
Beverley Parks – The local frogs are certainly now active throughout the borough, at least judging by the number of unfortunate squashed ones on the roads this morning. It seems such a wasteful end for those amphibians (and indeed any organism) which do manage to make their way through the winter to suffer such a pointless end. However on a much more cheery note it was good to see (and hear) a singing male Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) at the Minster Way pond, the handsome male bird accompanied by at least two females, whilst the pond hosted a pair of Greylags and a pair of Mallard. A small flock of about eight Linnet (Linaria cannabina) were in the Ash trees along Long Lane as well, their twittering calls a delight to hear on what was such a fine morning.
14th March 2017, Tuesday
5.7 C to 15.0 C / 0.0 mm / 4.2 hours / W 4-5
A cloudy and breezy morning for the most part, though going into the afternoon some breaks would develop allowing spells of mid-March sunshine, indeed skies would become mostly clear by the second half of the afternoon. Feeling warm with temperatures climbing up to 15 C for the first time this year. Becoming cloudier again as the evening wore on with mostly cloudy skies overnight.
Woldgarth Moths (13th/14th) – The 15W Actinic was again placed around the front of the house in the small woodland which lies beside Woldgarth, this area certainly providing huge amounts of promise considering it is still only mid-March. In total eleven moths of eight species were recorded, one of which was a new species for not only the garden but also my lifetime list. The moth in question, an Early Moth (Theria primaria), is actually thought to be fairly common, though due to its flight period which extends from January through to mid-March, it is relatively under-recorded as most “moth trappers” do not trap in the depths of winter.
Meanwhile one of the more beautiful moths on the wing at this time of year was presented in the shape and form of a single Shoulder Stripe (Earophila badiata), this only the second ever record of this species at Woldgarth (the other record coming on the 8th April 2015). Other macro moths recorded included Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) x3, Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) x2 and Hebrew Character (Orthosia gothica), whilst three species of micro were also recorded last night, two of which were NFY’s with one each of March Tubic (Diurnea fagella) and Common Plume (Emmelina monodactyla). The other micro was a probable Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana), though as it was a larger than usual specimen (21-22 mm) I also considered Agonopterix ciliella (Large Carrot Flat-body) as well. However the cilia at the base of the forewing were damaged and therefore I was unable to pursue my suspicions any further.
Beverley Parks – The big highlight of the whole day came along Long Lane this morning with the spotting of a female/juvenile Merlin (Falco columbarius) hunting along the drainage ditch on the eastern side of the road near the new kennels. As the bird approached I assumed it to be just a thrush, though as it grew closer it soon become clear that it was indeed a raptor, the bird eventually passing me and giving me a fantastic view of this diminutive bird of prey. Whilst Merlin are relatively common winter visitors to lowland East Yorkshire (especially Holderness), this is nevertheless the first I have ever recorded in the Parklands.
Less exciting but just as equally interesting was approx. 40-50 Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) in the winter cereal fields north of the Parkland Plantation, whilst the hedge along the bottom end of Shepherd’s Lane hosted a pair of squabbling male Yellowhammers (Emberiza citrinella), a colourful spectacle! Meanwhile the Horse Chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum) are now showing widespread evidence of bud-burst, this species of tree always being amongst the first to leaf, with further phenological interest being provided by the first of the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) blossom in the hedgerows. Spring is certainly motoring along at the moment!
Woldgarth – A pair of Treecreepers (Certhia familiaris) were in the garden this morning, one of which was singing intermittently as it made its way up the trunk of the Swedish Whitebeam. I have not seen a Treecreeper in the garden all winter so it was especially pleasing to see a pair. Other observations from the garden today included further Tree Bees (B. hypnorum), this species currently the most abundant species of hymenoptera on the wing (alongside Common Wasp), as well as active Black Ants (Lasius niger).
Black Ant (Lasius niger)
15th March 2017, Wednesday
5.8 C to 14.7 C / 0.0 mm / 9.6 hours / W 3-4
A sunny and pleasant mid-March day with clear blue skies throughout the afternoon, temperatures again climbing up into the mid-teens as this April like spell of weather continues. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight with a heavy dew upon the ground by dawn. (With half of March now concluded the average temperature for the month currently stands at 7.9 C (46.2 F), 1.5 C above the long term average for the entire calendar month).
Woldgarth Moths (14th/15th) – Another unseasonably mild night meant that the 15W actinic trap was again placed out in the neighboring wood, the trap soon luring a number of visitors. One of the first arrivals was another wonderful Shoulder Stripe (Earophila badiata), this particular specimen being undoubtedly different from the one caught yesterday after comparing photographs. Indeed I do not like to trap night after night as I do feel that excessive trapping can do more harm than good, but when I do (as I have been doing so recently) I always make sure to release the moths from the night before as far away from the trap as possible. Other moths caught last night included nine Common Quakers (Orthosia cerasi), two Clouded Drabs (Orthosia incerta), a pair of Early Grey (Xylocampa areola), and a couple of March Tubic (Diurnea fagella). All in all 16 moths of 5 species were recorded.
March Tubic (Diurnea fagella), a common micro-moth in early spring
Beverley Parks – My first Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) of the year came this morning, a single singing bird being heard along Lincoln Way. This true herald of spring has been reported at a few locations in East Yorkshire already, but it was good to finally hear my own. Interestingly this is the earliest date I have on my records for the first Chiffchaff of the year. Over the arable fields of the Parklands the Skylarks were in good song, these being joined by a couple of ‘tumbling’ Pewits, whilst the hedgerows hosted a whole host of songsters, including at least three singing Yellowhammers. At the pond a Reed Bunting was again seen and as I watched a pair of Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) flew past, but unfortunately there was no sign of yesterday’s Merlin. Further observations included leafing Weeping Willows as well as bud-burst on a few of the Field Maples.
Woldgarth – Seventeen Carrion Crows (Corvus corone) were in the Sycamores at dawn this morning, the birds making quite a racket. This behaviour is not something I have seen before in the garden and it will be interesting to see if they gather again either this evening or tomorrow morning. Meanwhile a large skein of 80-100 Pink-footed Geese (Anser brachyrhynchus) passed right over the house at 6:30 am, their distinctive calls ringing out as they headed NNW. Hopefully they will all make it safely back to their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland, and will return to our shores for yet another winter come September and October. (Another skein were heard in late evening, these flying distantly away to the east by the sound of it).
The abundant afternoon sunshine meanwhile brought out a whole host of natural delights, including my second butterfly species of the year in the shape and form of a remarkably fresh looking Peacock (Aglais io), as well as my first White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) and at least a couple of male Hairy-footed Flower bees (Anthophora plumipes). Another Comma (Polygonia c-album) butterfly was also seen in the garden this afternoon, whilst both Tree Bee (B. hypnorum) and Buff-tailed Bumblebee (B. terrestris) were noted. The sun-bathed west-facing wall of the house hosted at least three female Zebra Spiders (Salticus scenicus), other spiders in this area including a species of “Wolf Spider”(Lycosidae) and a few Winter Spiders (Zygiella x-notata).
Additional observations from the gardens today included a pair of soaring Buzzards (Buteo buteo) overhead, budburst and early leafing amongst both the Blackcurrants and Gooseberries, the first of the flowering Forsythia, and even some obvious bud-swelling amongst the crab apple trees. Hopefully the blossom-buds will escape the destructive attentions of the local Bullfinches this year?
16th March 2017, Thursday
4.7 C to 12.7 C / 0.3 mm / 6.0 hours / W 3-4 (5)
A sunny mid-March morning again, the ground initially covered in a very heavy overnight dew, but as the morning wore on cloud would begin to slowly increase from the west with skies becoming mostly cloudy by midday. Remaining largely cloudy in the afternoon, though not without some decent clearer and sunnier spells from time to time, especially in mid-afternoon, but cloud would increase and thicken further by dusk with some outbreaks of rain for a time shortly after dark. Becoming breezy for a time as well but soon easing again. Variable amounts of cloud overnight with some clearer spells around midnight, but becoming grey and overcast by the end of the night. Cooler.
Woldgarth Moths (15th/16th) – The almost April-like weather continues to make for some excellent early mothing conditions, last night bringing 23 moths of 7 species. With just over half of the month gone some 79 moths of 17 species have already been recorded this March, this proving to be the best start to the season since at least 2012. The best moth uncovered in the trap this morning proved to be a lone Pale Pinion (Lithophane socia), only the second ever record here at Woldgarth (the other coming on 22.04.16), and a moth with less than a 100 previous records in VC61. One of my favourite moths in the shape and form of a Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) was another new addition to the year list, this typically autumn flying species reappearing in small numbers every spring.
Other macro moths included ten Clouded Drabs (Orthosia incerta), this possibly one of the largest ever counts of this species at Woldgarth, five Common Quakers (Orthosia cerasi), three Early Greys (Xylocampa areola), and two Hebrew Characters (Orthosia gothica). The only micro turned out to be a relatively uncommon Red-letter Flat-body (Agonopterix ocellana), this becoming a new addition to the garden list (the 3rd so far this year!), and a moth with less than 20 previous records in VC61. With the weather set to become cooler and more unsettled from henceforth, last night may well have been the last ‘good’ night for a while. (A single Bombus terrestris was also found in the trap this morning but few other bycatches have turned up lately, bar the leafhopper species on the 13th).
Woldgarth – Fifteen Redwings (Turdus iliacus) were in the garden this morning, these soon taking flight when I went out to do the morning weather observations. As with the Fieldfares in the Parklands these are probably migrants on their way back to Scandinavia. In the morning sunshine a few more male Hairy-footed Flower-bees (Anthophora plumipes) were about, especially around the Lung-wort, whilst bumblebees on the wing included at the very least Tree Bees (B. hypnorum) and Buff-tailed Bumblebees (B. terrestris). Meanwhile in the nearby woods and pastures the first of this years Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa) have started to flower, whilst more flowering Speedwell has appeared on the lawn (I have yet to identify exactly which type).
17th March 2017, Friday
3.5 C to 12.1 C / 0.3 mm / 0.0 hours / W 5 (6)
A grey and dull start to the day with a brisk and chilly breeze sweeping across the fields, and it would remain mostly cloudy and cool (at least compared to recently) throughout the day, the cloud thick enough to produce a period of rain in the afternoon. Becoming drier but remaining cloudy overnight, though the main feature of the weather during the night would be the strong and gusty wind with several gusts in excess of gale force being recorded after midnight.
Woldgarth Moths (16th/17th) – Colder and breezier conditions last night (including a bit of rain in early evening) meant that far fewer moths were uncovered in the woodland 15W trap this morning, a return to reality perhaps after what has been such a great start to the year. Still five moths of three species were added to the annual moth logbook, with one each of Early Grey (Xylocampa areola) and March Tubic (Diurnea fagella) and a trio of Clouded Drabs (Orthosia incerta). With further cooler and unsettled weather in the forecast I will probably be trapping far less frequently in the coming week.
Beverley Parks – A cold and brisk wind swept across the arable fields of the Parklands this morning, and it certainly felt far much more like March than it has of late, but nevertheless the Skylarks were in fine voice once more, whilst a trio of Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) danced and tumbled about on the aforementioned breeze. In the recently drilled fields near Old Hall Farm a pair of Stock doves (Columba oenas) were searching for food, and as I watched them a dozen or so Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) flew overhead, calling out their distinctive ‘chaka-chaka’ call. At the pond a single Coot (Fulica atra) joined the resident Mallard pair, with other observations from this area including a singing Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) and a lone Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) overhead.
18th March 2017, Saturday
6.6 C to 14.4 C / 1.3 mm / 0.3 hours / W 4-5
A cloudy and breezy day for the most part, the cloud thick enough to produce the odd bit of rain in late morning and early afternoon, but there was also the odd brighter period as well, especially around midday. Mild again as well with temperatures climbing up into the mid-teens. Remaining cloudy in the evening and overnight with a period of more persistent rain for a time, but this would clear away by midnight to leave a cloudy, breezy and exceptionally mild night with a low of just 9.9 C.
Vale of Pickering – The sheltered climate and favorable micro-climate of this part of Ryedale (especially the countryside between Malton & Pickering), always means that things are often a little further along compared to back home at Woldgarth, a few early flowers amongst a field of Oilseed Rape near Low Marishes being confirmation of this fact. The roadside verges near Thornton-le-dale also hosted some nice clumps of flowering Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) and the odd Primrose (Primula vulgaris) here and there.
Sleights Moor & Grosmont – With spring having arrived since our last visit to the cottage, I was hopeful of seeing a few spring migrants up here in the beautiful Esk Valley in the heart of the North York Moors National Park. As we crossed Sleights Moor a few Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) were displaying near the top of this 300 metre high moor, as were a small number of Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis), the first I have seen displaying this year, and a good number of Skylarks (Alauda arvensis), their beautiful and evocative songs filling the area with a chorus of notes. However the main highlight, at least phenologically, was my first moorland Curlew (Numenius arquata) of the spring, a single bird drifting over and calling out that most magical of moorland sounds.
Down in the village a number of flowering Primroses now brighten up this former industrial community, the hawthorn hedges likewise now showing a widespread flush of fresh green growth (indeed the hedges are further along up here than back home in the East Riding). A walk along the station platform in search of moths attracted to the lights brought a blank as regards nocturnal lepidoptera, but ample compensation came in the form of a couple of singing Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita), and a single Small Tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae), this being my first Small Tort of the year and my third butterfly species of 2017.
19th March 2017, Sunday
9.9 C to 14.0 C / 5.8 mm / 0.1 hours / SW 4
A cloudy and breezy morning, though the most notable feature of the weather was the warmth, the temperature already up to 12 C at 9 am. Remaining cloudy, breezy and very mild into the afternoon with a period of rain and drizzle for a time, this becoming quite persistent and heavy for a time (peak rate of 15.2 mm/h) in mid-afternoon. However the rain would clear by early evening with some clearer spells developing for a time, but cloud would again increase overnight with further outbreaks of mostly light rain and drizzle.
Woldgarth – Whilst the weather has become cloudier, breezier and a little damper in the past couple of days, the temperatures remain very much on the mild side and are more typical for April rather than mid-March. As a result many of the trees and plants are continuing to respond rapidly to the unseasonable conditions, the apple trees in the orchard now showing signs of widespread bud-burst. On the usually productive crab-apple tree from which we produce our annual supply of crab-apple jelly, the leaves have continued to unfurl and are now clearly obvious as they take advantage of the fine early spring weather.
20th March 2017, Monday
7.8 C to 11.3 C / 1.8 mm / 3.0 hours / W 4-5
A mostly cloudy morning with periods of rain & drizzle at times, the rain becoming heavier and more persistent towards the end of the morning and around midday. However in the afternoon things would become drier and by mid-afternoon skies had likewise cleared to leave a fine and sunny end to the day. Very much a day of two halves! Clear spells in the evening and at first overnight, but blustery showers would develop later. Cooler.
21st March 2017, Tuesday
2.6 C to 9.7 C / 3.5 mm / 7.9 hours / W 5
A blustery day with a fresh westerly breeze, the brisk breeze making it feel quite chilly, but despite this it was a largely fine day with good spells of sunshine. However in early afternoon a short but quite sharp hail shower would pass over, this giving a short-lived dusting of ice pellets. Cloud increasing in the evening with a period of persistent and fairly heavy rain (5.5 mm/h) during the night, though this would clear by dawn.
22nd March 2017, Wednesday
4.0 C to 9.0 C / 4.5 mm / 0.1 hours / SE 4-5
A dull and overcast morning with a brisk south-easterly breeze making it feel particularly cool, the cloud thickening further in the afternoon with a period of persistent rain for a time. Becoming more showery by the end of the afternoon, the odd break allowing just the odd burst of sunshine, the cloud continuing to break after dusk with some clear spells for a time. However cloud would increase again overnight with some bits and pieces of rain towards the end of the night.
23rd March 2017, Thursday
2.8 C to 10.8 C / 0.0 mm / 8.5 hours / NE 4
A damp start with some early outbreaks of rain, but these would soon clear with conditions brightening as the morning wore on. Indeed by midday some good spells of sunshine would develop with a fine and sunny afternoon following, and out of the breeze it would feel quite warm, the strength of the post-equinox sun now obvious. Remaining mostly clear in the evening and overnight with temperatures dipping low enough for a touch of ground frost.
Woldgarth – A single Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) was sunning itself on the holly trees this afternoon, my first Red Admiral of the spring. This is the third species of butterfly to be recorded here at the homestead so far this month (the others being Comma & Peacock), whilst it also the fourth butterfly species that I have recorded this year. Can I record a fifth before the end of March ?
24th March 2017, Friday
1.0 C to
A clear and chilly start with a touch of ground frost in the usual prone spots, but in the abundant morning sunshine things would quickly warm up with a fine spring day following.
Beverley Parks – Despite conditions becoming somewhat cooler of late (at least compared to last week), things have continued to move along in the local countryside with trees such as Horse Chestnut obviously leafing throughout the borough, whilst the hedgerows likewise continue to green, splashes of white provided by increasingly apparent Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). On the roadside verges Red-dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) is widely apparent in flower, these joining the now dwindling Celandines, and along Long Lane the first of the Butterburs (Petasites hybridus) has begun to appear in the usual spots. Further notes this morning included the odd bit of early flowering Oilseed Rape in the northern most fields, whilst at least two singing Chiffchaffs (Phylloscopus collybita) were heard as I cycled into town.
Woldgarth – The first of this year’s Forget-me-nots is just starting to flower along the wooded edge of the garden, the garden itself now full of colour thanks to all the daffodils, hyacinths, dwarf tulips and other bulbs that we have planted over the course of the last 20 or so years. The warm spring sunshine (out of the breeze!) meant that a few bees were on the wing, including Buff-tails (B. terrestris), Tree (B. hypnorum) and several male Hairy-footed Flower-bees (Anthophora plumipes), though the biggest highlight of the day was provided by our first Red-tailed Bumblebee (B. lapidarius) of the year. A single butterfly was also seen this afternoon, this coming in the shape and form of a lovely Peacock (Aglais io).
25th March 2017, Saturday
A clear and initially cold start with a light frost, but with clear blue skies and wall to sunshine things would quickly warm up with a fine and sunny day following, the temperature climbing to just over 15 C in the afternoon.
Woldgarth – An abundance of sunshine meant it was another busy day in the garden for a whole host of insects, including three species of butterfly, a variety of bees, and active ground beetles and bugs. The highlight was a single Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) in the afternoon, my first of the year and my fifth butterfly species so far this spring, whilst other butterflies included a couple of Comma (Polygonia c-album) and a single Peacock (Aglais io). Another major highlight of the day was our first Dark-bordered Bee-fly (Bombylius major) of the year, this bizarre looking bee-mimic with its extended proboscis being one of those insects whose emergence signifies that spring is moving into its next stage.
On the hymenopteran front it was the Red-tailed Bumblebees (B. lapidarius) whom dominated, yesterday’s first sighting of this easily identifiable species being followed by numerous records today, whilst others included Buff-tailed (B. terrestris) and Tree Bee (B. hypnorum). Hairy-footed Flower-bees (Anthophora plumipes) were again widely in evidence, though as of yet I have only seen males this year and have yet to record any of the larger and darker females. Meanwhile at least two species of Ground Beetle (Carabidae) were active, but since I was busy with family I didn’t have time to collect and photograph them for identification. However one of the species was definitely an Amara beetle of some kind (possibly Amara aenea) whilst the other looked like a species of Bembidion beetle.