October 2016

1st, Grosmont – Enjoyed a short stroll along the Esk Valley this morning on what was a perfect autumn morning up here in the North York Moors National Park. Overhead it was great to spot my first PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Anser brachyrhynchus) of the autumn, the distinctive call of this species helping to identify it, though rather unusually it was by itself and not part of a larger skein. Perhaps it had become lost somehow. Around the church of St. Mathew’s a few Nuthatches (Sitta europaea) were heard in the beeches which surround this relatively modern building, As I made my along further I came across a gentleman picking blackberries, a risky thing to do considering that we have now passed Michaelmas (traditionally it is bad luck to pick blackberries after the 29th of September). Further interest was provided back at the cottage courtesy of a Vine Weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) which was found crawling up the front door, a new species for me at least.

2nd, Grosmont – As I headed out this morning I heard the high-pitched calls of REDWINGS overhead, these being the first I have heard this autumn. Hopefully autumn proper is just around the corner.

2nd, Darnholm – The short but pleasant stroll from Goathland station to Darnholm brought plenty of interest this morning, the weather being sunny but somewhat cool, especially in the moderate to brisk northerly breeze which was coming in off the nearby sea today. Fungi brought the most interest with specimens of what looked like Sickeners (Russula emetica), a few otherwise difficult to identify species of Brittlegill, a few old and damaged Blushers (Amanita rubescens), a particularly good example of Penny Bun (Boletus edulis), a few Fly Agarics (Amanita muscaria) and of course numerous other species which were well beyond my current mycological knowledge.

With October now here the rowan trees and laden with berries, the most exposed trees having already lost their leaves, whilst on the higher slopes the bracken is already rapidly turning. By the end of the month the autumn colours should be at their best. However a few reminders of summer still persist including numerous Common Darters (Sympetrum striolatum), a few Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria), and a few lingering House Martins and late singing Chiffchaffs. Two new species of invertebrate were also found along the walk with a Parent Bug (Elasmucha grisea) and a Snail Hunter Beetle (Cychrus caraboides), the latter proving to be rather confiding as I lay back amongst the bracken above Eller Beck. The diversity of nature never ceases to amaze.

3rd, Woldgarth – Following my first record of REDWINGS (Turdus iliacus) up at Grosmont yesterday morning, it was good to hear further birds passing over this morning back home near Beverley. Indeed their high-pitched calls were heard throughout the morning. Further observations today included a single and well-marked Buzzard over the old homestead, plus a few late butterflies enjoying the October sunshine, species recorded including Large White and Comma.

4th, Woldgarth & Beverley Parks – A Grey Partridge (Perdix perdix) was heard calling in the fields near Halfway House Farm this morning, a sound which does at least confirm that the small local population is still just about hanging on in the fields around our home. Meanwhile fewer Redwings were heard this morning though as I took the weather observations I did hear a few Skylarks & the odd Pipit passing overhead.

Later in the morning I was joined by a species of spider on the window-sill of my study, this proving to be a probable Winter Spider (Zygiella x-notata), a very common British species which is at its most frequent in early autumn (August to October). The species is particularly associated with man-made structures, especially windows and window-frames, and can easily be found on most buildings and houses at any time of year, even in mid-winter (hence the common name).

Winter Spider (Zygiella x-notata)
Winter Spider (Zygiella x-notata)

5th, Beverley Parks – More Redwings heard this morning though numbers remain fairly modest, whilst down in the low fields a couple of Roe deer were gleaning in the stubble fields. At the pond a single Teal joined the 40 or so Mallard, and a lone Kingfisher also made a brief appearance, always a welcome sight.

6th, Beverley Parks – The single female Teal (Anas crecca) was again with the Mallards at the small flight pond this morning, the number of Mallards now up to 50+, a new record for this particular location.

6th, Woldgarth – The moth trap was put out during the evening but due to the unexpected arrival of rain, which hadn’t been forecast, I had to put it away shortly prior to midnight. Unsurprisingly only a few moths were discovered when I inspected the trap the following morning with one each of Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa), Large Yellow Underwing (Noctua pronuba), Common Marbled Carpet (Dysstroma truncata), Pale Mottled Willow (Caradrina clavipalpis) and Light Brown Apple Moth (Epiphyas postvittana). Hopefully better conditions will return by the weekend.

Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa)
Square-spot Rustic (Xestia xanthographa)

7th, Woldgarth – Inclement weather meant that large numbers of Redwings were heard streaming over throughout the morning, the easterly wind, low cloud and outbreaks of rain being perfect conditions. Indeed a few birds also appeared in the garden, attracted to the current abundance of haw and yew berries, and this is the joint earliest date for their arrival at Woldgarth, equaling the 2013 record. What this will mean for the coming winter is probably meaningless, since the winter of 2013/14 was exceptionally mild, whilst in 2010, when the Redwings also arrived early, the December which followed was exceptionally cold and snowy. Only time will tell I suppose but it is always fun to conjecture.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus)
Redwing (Turdus iliacus)

7th, Beverley Parks – A single female Teal remains with the abundant Mallards at the usual location, four Moorhens also being here this morning, whilst the recently drilled fields hosted about half a dozen Mistle Thurshes. Two dozen Greylags were also in the now established OSR fields just north of Woodmansey, a quick scan of the group not producing anything of note.

8th, Woldgarth – A brief moment of excitement was provided this afternoon by a single WOODCOCK (Scolopax rusticola) flying low and fast through the garden, the bird in question arriving from the north-east and heading into the woods south of the old homestead. Whilst woodcock can sometimes be encountered in the local woods, especially in late autumn and winter, this was only the second ever record for the garden. Overhead Redwings were heard throughout most of the day, whilst a few Wagtails were also spotted, including at least one Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea). Finally a Red Admiral was noted enjoying the sunshine among the ivy, this plant always providing a good place to enjoy autumn butterflies.

9th, Woldgarth – Only a handful of moths were in the trap when I emptied it this morning, the largely clear skies and low temperatures meaning that conditions were not that favourable. Nevertheless the lack of moths was still disappointing, though on the plus side one was a new addition to the year list, this coming in the shape and form of a Blair’s Shoulder-knot (Lithophane leautieri), one of the more common moths recorded here at Woldgarth in autumn. The other moths meanwhile were Angle Shades (x1), Light Brown Apple Moth (x1) and a somewhat late Diamond-back Moth (x1).

The light of the moth trap also attracted a number of Caddisflies, all of which appeared to be Limnephilus lunatus (x6), along with a few species of Cranefly and a species of Harvestman, this appearing to be Paroligolophus agrestis judging by the pale dots along the body and the thick ‘thighs’ which help to ID this species. Paroligolophus agrestis, which doesn’t have a common name (at least as far as I can find out), is one of the most common species of Harvestmen you will find in the garden or indeed the wider countryside, especially from late August through to early winter. Indeed in milder winters it can even be encountered well into January!

Blair's Shoulder-knot (Lithophane leautieri)
Blair’s Shoulder-knot (Lithophane leautieri)

9th, Yorkshire Wolds – I enjoyed a gentle ramble around the Huggate area of the Wolds this morning, my eldest sister, eldest niece and their Red Fox Labrador joining me once more. The weather was mostly fine, though the odd shower would drift in from the north-east, especially at first, whilst temperature wise it was perfect for walking with temperatures in the low teens and a moderate north-east breeze helping to keep us cool. Hopefully we have finally seen the last of the unpleasant warmth and humidity which we had to endure for much of August and September this year!

Nature wise a few good observations were made, including my first FIELDFARES (Turdus pilaris) of the year in the hawthorns at the top of Horse Dale, whilst towards the valley bottom a male and a female pair of STONECHATS (Saxicola rubicola) were at the point where Horse Dale meets Holm Dale. I have seen Stonechats at this location in the past but not for a few years. I wonder if they will overwinter again? Meanwhile these grassy dales still host a number of Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis), though numbers have obviously dropped since the spring and summer months, whilst birds of prey included up to three individual Kestrels (Falco tinnunculus) and two Buzzard (Buteo buteo).

Being October plenty of Pheasants and Partridges are in the high fields and around the cover crops, the presence of freshly fired shotgun cartridges that had been missed by the game-keeping & beating staff showing that the new season has already had at least one shoot at this location (though rather strangely the few I did find seemed to be No.9 cartridges!). Shooting does bring in good money to the rural communities of the Yorkshire Wolds, whilst land management for gamebirds also provides additional benefits to wild birds too, especially in winter, but I do believe that some shoots, especially those operated by farms as just an extra means of income, do need a degree of better regulation, especially at a time when shooting is under greater scrutiny than at any time in the past.

Further nature notes from our walk included a few bumblebees still going strong, indeed a few flowers can still be encountered here and there, including some late Scabious in Horse Dale, though the best sighting of the morning was a single Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) near Glebe Farm, my first sighting of one of these beauties since August (I think). In the fields most crops have now been safely gathered, though some fields of potatoes are still waiting to be lifted, whilst already the tender shoots of winter wheat are coming up in one or two fields. The farming year never really ends!

15th, Woldgarth – A Speckled Wood butterfly was in the garden, attracted out no doubt by the relatively mild and sunny conditions in the afternoon. However apart from a few ‘Whites’ in the garden and the very odd Red Admiral or Comma elsewhere, the number of butterflies now on the wing is very few.

16th, Woldgarth – A succession of Fieldfares (and the odd Redwing) were observed and heard passing over the old homestead in early afternoon, their movement south-westwards coinciding with the clearance of the morning rain. Considering how scarce Fieldfares were last winter, indeed I hardly saw any until late March, their relatively early arrival this year is certainly worthy of some extra note.

17th, Woldgarth – A Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) was seen in the garden again this afternoon, the butterfly in question favouring the area around the Yew and Cypress trees. Speaking of the Yews, these handsome trees are currently adorned in a mass of red berries, these providing food for the local thrushes, the visiting winter thrushes, and of course the large local population of Grey Squirrels.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
Grey Squirrel

19th, Swinemoor – Cycled down to Weel and Hull Bridge prior to dawn this morning, hoping to hear a few winter wildfowl out on Swinemoor Common, but in the end all I heard were Mallards and a few Plovers. I didn’t stop to see how the floods are coming along, though judging by the lack of birds heard, I would guess that the flood waters are either very limited or indeed non-existent. It was a very dark morning though with cloudy skies, so perhaps the birds were just keeping silent.

19th, Woldgarth – At least two skeins of PINK-FOOTED GEESE (Anser brachyrhynchus) were seen passing overhead this morning, the evocative cries of these winter visitors alerting me to their presence as I worked away in my study with the windows open. I always keep an open ear for migrants at this time of the year, especially the Pink-feet, and it was good to finally see a skein this autumn (see 1st). A good number of Redwings (Turdus iliacus) were also in the garden today, the birds feasting on the abundant red berries of the garden Yew trees. I do love this time of year.

21st, Woldgarth – A single adult WHOOPER SWAN (Cygnus cygnus) was seen flying north-westwards this morning, the bird in question flying fast and somewhat erratically. It is unusual to see Whoopers by themselves, whilst the strange behaviour of the bird possibly suggests that it had lost its herd. This is first ever record of a Whooper Swan at Woldgarth and only my second ever in the Beverley area.

Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)

22nd, Woldgarth – The garden Bullfinches have been conspicuous by their absence for a few weeks now, indeed I was starting to get worried about them, but thankfully a female was seen on the feeders today, perhaps signalling that they are starting to return to the garden after dispersing in late summer and early autumn to the surrounding countryside. Hopefully more will return in the coming days and weeks.

Meanwhile whilst clearing a much neglected corner of the garden, where we are hoping to perhaps keep chickens in the near future, I discovered a good clump of Parasol Mushrooms growing around and upon what used to be a compost heap. I am not sure which species of Parasol they are but they are darker and smaller than those I am more accustomed to seeing in the wider countryside. I also found a Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) hiding under some stones, which unfortunately I had to move, but I did make sure to relocate the lovely little amphibian in another hidden away part of the garden where he can hopefully spend the rest of the autumn and winter in safety.

Further interest today was provided shortly before dusk as five WHOOPER SWANS (Cygnus cygnus) were seen passing over Woldgarth, interestingly heading in exactly the same direction as the single Whooper which I observed yesterday. At the time I was attending to a bonfire and it was the unmistakable call which alerted me to their presence as they passed relatively high above me, the sound instantly bringing back fond memories of witnessing those wonderful winter spectacles which one can enjoy down in the Ouse Washes of the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk Fenlands.

Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)
Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

23rd, Woldgarth – Plenty of Fieldfares continue to arrive, with hundreds seen heading westwards shortly after dawn as I attended to the bonfire again. In the garden itself a few Redwings were also about, whilst as I worked away at clearing the garden I was joined by a couple of friendly Robins and roving bands of Long-tailed Tits, two of my favourite common garden birds.

24th, Woldgarth – More clearing of the garden unearthed yet more amphibians, with one Common Frog and at least five Common or Smooth Newts (Lissotriton vulgaris). Thankfully I was able to collect them all and re-homed them in another suitable corner of the garden where hopefully they will be able to survive the coming winter in safety & thrive when spring comes once more to this corner of the East Riding.

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
Common Frog (Rana temporaria)

25th, Woldgarth – With winds switching around to the south, and eventually south-west come the end of the day, fewer birds were about in the skies above Woldgarth, though despite this a number of Skylarks, Pipits and ‘chack-ing’ Fieldfares were heard heading inland, especially in the morning and during the second half of the afternoon. The garden yews also hosted a few Redwings once more, as well as the always charming and diminutive Goldcrests (Regulus regulus), one of my favourite garden birds.

27th, Woldgarth – With winds having turned around to the south-west, it was noticeably breezier today, indeed in the afternoon and the evening it was quite windy, and as result of these stronger winds the first of the now rapidly goldening beech leaves rained down upon the garden, something which I both love and loathe in equal measure. Meanwhile a single Cormorant was seen above the garden during the afternoon, not a particularly common sight here at Woldgarth, whilst shortly after dusk a group of Pink-footed Geese were heard passing over, always a lovely sound. We also enjoyed a rather beautiful sunset this evening, the sky showing various reddish hues as yet another busy day of garden work concluded here in this peaceful little corner of the East Riding of Yorkshire.

Sunset 27.10.16
A colourful end to the day

29th, Grosmont & Goathland – We spent a good day up in the Esk Valley area of the North York Moors today, the weather proving bright and sunny for the most part, though latterly it did become cloudy and eventually overcast as low cloud began to cloak the high moors. However prior to this the morning and early afternoon sunshine really helped to bring out the wonderful autumn colours that this part of the world enjoys, the oaks, limes, larches and extensive bracken looking particularly attractive in the golden autumn light. The best colours were up around Water Ark between Goathland and Beck Hole, and since today was also hosting a special NELPG event at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway we had a perfect excuse to spend a few hours in this beautiful part of the world.

On the nature front the sound of Redwings were heard throughout the woodlands of the area, especially around Grosmont and Beck Hole, and here Treecreepers and Nuthatches were also observed amongst the Oaks, two birds which are always nice to see. Overhead a skein of Pink-footed Geese were seen and heard heading south-westwards, though the best observation of the morning came near Fylingdales with the spotting of not one but two Merlins (Falco columbarius), a blackbird sized bird of prey which is very much at home up here on the Moors. A further note of personal interest was the coming across of the Saltergate Hunt near Levisham, the foxhounds of this small hunt being exercised just north of the nearby community of Lockton.