Monday 19 February 2024

Wet, windy, a big freeze, mass flooding - just a normal January?

Not that I'm a weather nerd or anything but I do keep a rough journal of what's happening out there via my garden birds records and by my reckoning there were just 10 days between the last week of December up until the end of January when it wasn't either pouring down with rain or blowing a hoolie. No wonder I've felt as if I've been hibernating! 

Part of that 'retreat' was because I wasn't always feeling at my best but, as always, getting out and walking in the fresh air trumped staying in and sitting on my arse every single time - even when it was freezing cold. And cold it was during that mini freeze in the middle of January but strangely enough when everything else seemed to be locked into cold storage I spotted my first wild flowers of the year, a spread of beautiful Winter Aconites on a roadside verge in Thornton nr the Pocklington Canal.

Winter Aconites, Thornton, 16/01/2024

That cold snap didn't last long but as ever produced some magical winter wonderland spectacles out there - 

Bubwith Ings from Aughton church, 19/01/2024

Bubwith Ings from Aughton church, 19/01/2024

Common Snipe, Blacktoft Sands, 18/01/2024

Somewhat foolishly I trecked out to Blacktoft Sands expecting it to be less frozen over on the Humber and hence more birds but it was just the same and all I managed was a close up Snipe in front of one of the hides looking for something soft to probe its beak into! 

Flooded path at Howsham, 01/01/2024

Such a topsy turvy month weatherwise - a couple of weeks earlier, just after New Year it was unseasonally mild with blue skies and sunshine, but just like eveyone else in the country we had floods to contend with after a very wet December, wettest on record up here. A planned walk along the River Derwent at Howsham was abruptly halted by flooded paths and I had to head up to the hills and Howsham Woods to escape the mud -  such is life in this climate change world!

Howsham Woods, 01/01/2024

Bilsdale, 07/01/2024

Another trek up into the hills saw me trudging up Bilsdale in the North Yorks Moors. It was a trudge too, good exercise and some fine scenery but hardly another living thing to be seen save a few Red Grouse! Always an outside chance of Hen Harrier up there and that was certainly in my mind when I set off but after 3 hrs worth of walking (most of which seemed to be uphill) I called it quits and popped into Birch Wood on the way back and ticked off Nuthatch and Treecreeper off the year list.

Bilsdale, 07/01/2024

Flamborough Head, 09/01/2024

One trip to the coast to twitch long staying Red Headed Bunting at Flamborough was ruined by near gale forces winds (bad planning!) and let's say the bird had its head down somewhere warm and cosy😜... but in more sheltered Bridlington Bay I at least got some nice waders on the shoreline including a small flock of Grey Plovers.

Grey Plovers, Bridlington Bay, 09/01/2024

After much more January precipitation most of the Lower Derwent Valley was submersed again after briefly becoming almost passable earlier in the month, and viewing was tricky. The bridge at Bubwith is always worth a mooch around at such times and this pleasing flock of Dunlin cheered me up on a dull day.

Dunlin, Bubwith Bridge, 19/01/2024

The rains abatted towards the end of the month and it was almost a local event when access to the last bird hide at Wheldrake Ings was finally possible, albeit with big wellies, and it was a bittersweet moment to be able walk past that noisy windmill again, as photogenic as it is!

Wheldrake Ings, 26/01/2024

Lesser Redpoll, Southcliffe Common, 05/01/2024
In between the rain deluges I somehow managed 2 trips to Southcliffe Common, I like it around there mainly because nobody else seems to bother with it, but it is quite an impressive patch of ancient field systems, ditches and drains with scattered woodland that eventually connect with the Market Weighton Canal. I get Marsh Harriers there nearly every time I go, had Jack Snipe in the canal, Green Sandpiper in the drains and Green Woodpecker in the woodlands. 

This time around produced 4 Marsh Harriers, no doubt from the nearby Humber populations, Lesser Redpoll and one of the biggest flocks of Brambling I've had for many a year - about 170 in 2 distinct flocks across the patch. It has been a good Brambling year, I wonder if it's coincidental that it's also been a good Waxwing year; both Northern European winter visitors.

Southcliffe Common, 11/01/2024

Southcliffe Common, 05/01/2024

All in all, not a bad haul for a January that was full of unsettling weather, few opportunities to get out to be frank better for consuming box sets than bird watching! And the month ended on a high in more ways than one with a cracking gig in Leeds - went to see Margaret Glaspy on her UK tour, and a few days before another first for the year list, a couple of Scaup at Wheldrake along with a female Smew.

Scaup, Wheldrake Ings, 26/01/2024

Margaret Glaspy, Leeds Brudenell club, 31/01/2024

As per usual, a few more pics from round and about this month .......

World's End, Strensall Common, 12/01/2024

Top of Bilsdale, 07/01/2024

River Derwent at Howsham, 01/01/2024