News-Blog

Wildlife Diary and News Blog 2019 – notes from a small wood. 

Observations from Groves Bank, Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage and Groves Coppice, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

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14 May 2019     A Whitby Day
While Buttercup (the Twingo) was being serviced and MOTed, I had a lovely potter around town. Buns from Bothams, a Glaisdale pork pie (the best in the world) from Landers, a coffee (and buns) at John Freeman Studio, up the 199 Steps (yes, all still there), visit the new café at the Abbey gatehouse, down on the free-but-temporary Secret Shuttle Bus to Dock End, a cinder toffee ice-cream from Beacon Farm, then back to the garage. VERY pleasant.

13 May 2019     Dry, sunny and warm at Al Fresco’s
It took 5 of us to cope with coffee al fresco on the patio, with an early appearance of Aldrin the Buzzard being harried by a Carrion Crow. A spectacular dog-fight ensued, until they drifted into the territory of our local pair of Carrion Crows and the intruder Crow was soon sent packing, leaving Aldrin to carry on wafting over the wood.
ID brought 2 more sticks (Unique Walking Sticks for sale at Dunsley Hall Hotel) and we sawed and stacked what was in the woodyard, before bring down the last of the windfall Ash and doing it, too. Then some gleaning of ‘dead but standing’ Ash, Oak and Blackthorn, before sawing and bagging that for immediate use (chilly nights, occasional grass frost).
Finally, we coppiced a dozen long, straight rods from the Middle East Hazel Coppice and finally, finally finished-off the South wall of the polebarn, where the windfall Willow from Groves Dyke is now cut and stacked for next winter.
Finally, finally, finally we collapsed in the shade and ate Magnum ice creams.

09 May 2019   Chain-sawing in the polebarn
The 4th wet day this week and CM is rained-off most of his jobs this week, so he spent a couple of hours chain-sawing the Willow from the front lawn. I completed the last of 8 loads of laundry, all of which had to be dried indoors this week – three cheers for the wood-burning stove. Tumble dryer? Only in urgent emergencies!

06 May 2019     Wet spell begins
Completely overcast, light drizzle nearly all day, cool. A 15-minute bird count from the kitchen window 1.15 to 1.30pm gave: Blackbird 3, Robin 3, Blue Tit 2, Bullfinch 2, Chaffinch 2, Great Tit 2, Mallard 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Coal Tit 1, Collared Dove 2, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, plus 1 Bank Vole.

05 May 2019     Swifts return
Delighted to see our first 2 Swifts flying over the River Esk and our garden, together with about 20 House Martins. No Swallows yet…
Much less swiftly, we sawed, split and stacked the last of the Willow from the beck. It was surprisingly reluctant to split, with lots of knots and twists from where it was leaning over the beck. The woodshed is now 2/3 full, with just less than 1/3 still to burn this Spring, and just over 1/3 now seasoning for next winter…

04 May 2019     Tour de Whitby
We checked the routes and the times for both the Women’s and the Men’s Races, planning to avoid any delays on out trip to Guisborough, but got a great (if unwanted) view of the women hurtling along the Guisborough road and down towards Egton and the waiting steam engines at Grosmont level crossing. Seems the cold, wet and windy weather delayed them and we were stuck in an endless queue of traffic as dozens of Police motorcyclists and stewards created a very impressive rolling roadblock for them. It was high tide with a strong Northerly wind by the time the Mens’ Race went through Sandsend, with the occasional big wave overtopping the road. Seems they have never encountered that particular road hazard before – but then it happened again on the final sprint along the North Bay in Scarborough!

01 May 2019     Mayday – good or bad?
Great that a House Martin has safely found its way home from Africa or worrying that it is still only one House Martin so far…
ID and I took the longest pole saw up to the awkward Cherry just above Derry (‘the Oak grove’). We have, over the last 3 years, opened up the poor confined Whitebeam by removing a Cherry, an Ash and now another Cherry. But this one is awkward, with an 8 inch limb branching out against the natural fall of the main trunk, so normal felling would just drop the whole think on top of the tree we are trying to rescue. Perhaps, if we can saw off that offending limb with the pole saw at full stretch, it would fall clear… which it eventually did, letting some more sunlight onto the Whitebeam. We spent the rest of the day sawing it into manageable lengths (both), carrying them down (ID) and using the 2-wo/man crosscut saw to saw into 15-inch drums and stacking under cover in the woodshed. Phew!

Met Readings for April 2019
It has been a very dry month, with ‘Extreme Fire Risk’ banners on all the moor roads. The heatwave over Easter led to record numbers of visitors – and possibly a record temperature, too. Max 22.9 degrees C (74F), Actual at 9.30am 16C (60F), Min 1.5C (34F). Rainfall 0.4 inches.

30 April 2019     First House Martin of the year
Great to see ‘my’ House Martin flying excitedly around the house and up under the eves to last year’s nest. Only one? It arrived late in the evening and is the very first Hirundine I’ve seen near the house this year.

29 April 2019     See, saw and stack
I worked my way through the cord of Ash branches, sawing them into 15-inch long stove logs and stacking them into the woodshed, which is now 1/3 full of this winter’s felling / thinning / coppicing. The good news is that it is also almost 1/6 full of last winter’s felling, which we haven’t used yet. Forgive my maths, but I make that nearly almost half full.
CM strimmed all the lawns, part of the wildflower bank and covered the small burnt patch (on the lawn by the gateway) with the turfs from the newly dug Raspberry bed. We checked the mason bee egg-laying tubes and removed 2 which were clay-capped at both ends, meaning they now contain eggs, and replacing them with empty ones. The capped ones are now stored in the laundry and they will all be sent back to the Project Office in September. Woopee!

28 April 2019     Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Strawberry
While I pulled the horizontal Rhubarb stems and made some Rhubarb Crumples, B planted the Lettuce, weeded the Strawberries and moved some Raspberries. Some heavy showers last night, as Storm Hanna swept us with her tail, and the rain gauge now reads 0.4 inches so far this month. Cool, overcast but with a Buzzard soaring over the house, so that’s ok.

27 April 2019     Oakley Walls to Danby Moors Centre
The newly erected ‘Extreme Fire Risk’ banners on all the moor gates seems to have done the trick, with occasional heavy showers to damp everything down a bit. Lapwings (perhaps 4 at a time) were flying around the back roads, with just a single Curlew flying across our route. Gone are the days when either species was standing along the verge, with one or more every 100 yards for miles on end.

26 April 2019     Pick swim, lunch, Goathland and Beck Hole
After a nice swim we had a toastie in town, a potter around the shops and then finished-off distributing Guidebooks to the rest of Goathland. Could have done with a full-trained assistant, IJ! Sadly (gladly!) the Birch Hall Inn in Beckhole was closed, so we may have to go there again…

25 April 2019     Snow? And Oak before Ash
Just before dusk last night there was a flurry of ‘snow’ past the windows as a blustery wind got up. It turned out to be a flurry of Apple blossom and Cherry blossom off the orchard! This morning it was finally clear that the Captain Cook Oak leaves are bursting just a tad before the Big Leaning Ash buds – so ‘Only a splash’ then. Having said that, we had heavy showers this afternoon, which is probably the first rain we have had this month.

24 April 2019     Guidebooks to Goathland
After a swim at Pickering and lunch at Thornton-le-Dale, we carried on distributing Whitby Guidebooks around Goathland – where ITV’s ‘Heartbeat’ and Aidensfield are still flourishing. We ran out of Guidebooks, so we will just have to go back again to finish off the village and visit the hamlet of Beckhole as well… any excuse! After years of ‘training’, we hope IJ will be able to join us next year…!

22 April 2019     Another hot, sunny Bank Holiday
Sometimes we have hot, sunny weather and sometimes we have Bank Holidays, but it’s not often that they coincide. TDH* again for me. Lunched by the riverbank at Chain Bridge Café in Ruswarp, but only 1 Swallow hawking over the weir. *Too Damn Hot.

21 April 2019     Warmest Easter Sunday on record
Another new record for the UK, and just a few days after Sir David Attenborough’s documentary on Climate Change (which gave the human race just 10 years to make significant changes before a climate tipping point is reached) – and the News is full of how nice it is to have a hot, sunny Bank Holiday weekend (and never even mentioned the Attenborough documentary). Ok then, humans – good luck…

20 April 2019     Heat wave continues: 22.9 degrees C!
Almost too hot for me, but B enjoys the heat. Frantic phonecall from Whitby Park and Ride where they have just run out of Whitby Guidebooks. But I gave them 10 boxes on Thursday! Took them another 12 boxes to see them through (?) the Easter Weekend. They now have 4 shuttle buses running – and 2 of them are double deckers!

19 April 2019     Mists and mellow Froglessness
Another lovely misty morning, clearing as the hot sun burns it away. Only seen 1 Frog in my pond so far this year, and that was weeks and weeks ago. Very odd. No spawn this year. Guidebook distribution again, this time with lunch at the Shepherds’ Hall café, followed by coffee at The Hub in Fryup. Any excuse!

17 April 2019     Mason Bee pupae out and Helmsley check-up
The weather is much more settled now, without any overnight frosts, so I put the 2 dozen pupae out to stay (they had been commuting daily between the outdoor hatchery and the indoor conservatory). Then off to Pickering for a swim before lunch at Beck Café in Helmsley. A nice potter around Helmasly Walled Garden (still a bit too early) and then peer over the new wall at the newly tiled open air heated swimming pool. Excellent! All it needs now is the contractor off site and some nice warm water added…

16 April 2019     Guidebooks up the coast
A nice day spent distributing hundreds of Whitby and District Tourism Association’s free Guidebooks to Hinderwell, Staithes and Runswick Bay. See www.VisitWhitby.com and click on Online Guidebook. Where is IJ this year?  I could do with my usual assistant…!

15 April 2019     Winter tyres off. Summer tyres on
Summer or not, it’s too late now! Hope we have no more overnight frosts…

14 April 2019     Top soil indeed!
Cool, sunny with showers and a pesky cold wind. Poor Goths!
Having bought a brand new ‘planter on legs’ (Lidl £19.99) yesterday, and searched for peat-free compost to fill it with (Lidl had run out locally), I foolishly settled for 2 small bags of ‘Topsoil’ from a garden centre. It didn’t say it was Peat-free, but I was assured that it ‘probably was – and if not, it was from a well-managed peat bog’. Ha! As one-time Warden of Brackagh Bog National Nature Reserve in Co Armagh, how does anyone think you can strip the peat from a bog and still think it is ‘well managed’? All you can ever do is wait another 10,000 years for it to grow back again… Assuming it was peat-free, I foolishly bough a couple of bags and tipped them into the new planter. It looked good – apart from a few bits that might have been poorly composted stems – or bits of peat bog. Oh dear!

12 April 2019     Guidebooks and Award frames
We continue to deliver boxes of Whitby and District Tourism Association’s 2019 ‘Whitby Guidebooks’ all around the area, to hotels, shops, etc, etc. Only 49,000 to go… We also found 2 matching picture frames for the newly delivered ‘Customers’ Choice Award’ for Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage (for Reevoo scores of 9.5 or 10/10 over the past year) and also for the slightly older ‘Green Award’ (from Wyndham Vacations Inc) which Groves Dyke has had for a few years. Both Awards are now proudly displayed in Groves Dyke.

10 April 2019     Taz, Oz, fence and log
Catching up with ID after his month’s holiday in Australia. Sounds wonderful! We repaired the top fence, where the naughty neighbour’s horses have been breaking into my wood for grass and shelter (who could blame them?). After lunch we crossed the swamp (still dry) to saw up and retrieve the windfall Ash from the last gale. Useful logs, too! We saw where Amey tree surgeons (for Northern Powergrid) had trimmed the Willows (from Flag’s Folly) which had grown too near the high-voltage lines. Little stove-value in the Willow logs, so just not worth the effort of dragging them across the swamp and down to the woodyard. The Ash, on the other hand, is very well worth the effort, so we did!

09 April 2019     Catching up again
Just back from a lovely few days in the lake District, where Spring is about 2 weeks behind the North York Moors. First Chiffchaff when I walked around my wood this morning. Bright, dry, sunny and calm. A 15-minute bird count (09.40-09.55) from my kitchen window gave: Bullfinch 2, Robin 2, Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1. Also Rabbit 1, Bank Vole 1.

01 April 2019     April Fool vs Brexit in the House of Comedians
This year April Fool’s Day has been cancelled, because nobody can tell the difference.

Met records for March 2019:
March really was ‘In like a Lion and out like a Lamb’ this time. Storm Freya at the beginning of the month, then cool, then the beginnings of Spring after the Spring Equinox. Max 18.6C, Actual 15C, Min 1.4C (my old Fahrenheit Max / Min thermometer is now suspect, but it sez: 58F, 50F and 42F, which is clearly wrong as far as the Min is concerned)!

25 March 2019     Threatened Mason Bees arrive
Once CM had strimmed all the grass for the second time this year, we put up the new Mason Bee release box and the nesting tubes (immediately above) on the front of the potting shed. They have to be in full sun, especially morning sun, with no shade, so that was about the only place. Now we wait until the Apple blossom is out AND the temperature has risen to 12 to 14 degrees C, when the pupae will open, the tiny mason Bees emerge, feed, grow, mate and then lay their eggs in the perfectly-designed tubes. Come September, the end of each tube will have been capped to protect the eggs within, and we can post them back to www.masonbee.co.uk to be counted, overwintered and redistributed (with another batch of tubes) next March…

24 March 2019     Finches can’t read
Delighted to still have both Bullfinch and Goldfinch using my feeding station daily, but why are they eating the ‘wrong’ seeds? Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands and noted that the finches on each island were all slightly different, with each species adapting to exploit the particular seeds on each island: one species with big, heavy bills for cracking the big seeds found on one island, and a different species on a neighbouring island with fine, tweezer bills for opening the tiny seeds there. Based on this, and other evidence, he wrote the ‘Origin of Species’ and introduced the Theory of Evolution. All good so far. So why are my Bullfinches eating the tiny Niger seeds, while my Goldfinches on the big, chunky Sunflower hearts?? Hence my ‘Birds can’t Read’ Theory! Perhaps they just need ‘extra’ items in their Spring diet?

21 March 2019     Super Moon
At midnight last night the bright, bright moonlight cast deep shadows across the lawns, and this morning there was the first proper dawn chorus. It could be Spring.

20 March 2019     Spring Equinox 50/50
Bright, dry, mild and a bit sunny so today really does feel a bit like Spring. The Green Woodpecker has been calling from the wood for several days, the Roe doe was feeding around the woodyard yesterday evening, the Marsh Marigold is bursting into flower in my pond and the Bank Orchard is a magnificent show of Daffodils just now.

17 March 2019     Phil and Stu the compost twins
Our first nice day for a bit of gardening and the 2 compost bins came into their own. While Phil is filling, Stu is stewing, so when Phil is finally filled, Stu will have stewed and he can be emptied onto the veg patches, and then the lids swopped, so the new and empty Phil can be slowly filled, while the new and full Stu can slowly stew…
We forked the compost into the 3 veg beds nearest the beck and planted the Onions in the Far West one (A).

14 March 2019     Siskin returns
A single Siskin feeding on the Niger seed feeder was a welcome return for this species. Still windy but also very sunny.

13 March 2019     Storm Gareth last night
A VERY wet and windy night, with over 1.5 inches of rain since the start of this month. Luckily, the wind was from the North West so we were nice and sheltered down here. A walk around the wood was a walk on a carpet of newly-snapped twigs, but no major trees or branches came down overnight.

12 March 2019     New Whizkid sorts my elderly laptop
Thanks to CG and 2 hours of health-check today, my laptop is now sorted and is working properly’ for the first time in yonks. Redundant programs have been identified and uninstalled, viruses have been removed and everything is running SO much better than before. Unlike my local GP Health Centre, which seems to be on its last legs, under-funded and under-staffed and very, very keen for me to use their new online services for all my health needs. NEVER! If they think I would ever entrust my healthcare to all this NHS ‘high tech’ in general, and my very elderly laptop in particular, then they are very mistaken.

11 March 2019     Logging-up, then Whitby Harbour
CM spent a couple of hours chain-sawing the felled Ash for cordwood, and the leaning Willow for stove-logs stacked under cover in the woodshed. This afternoon I attended the 2nd Whitby Esk Estuary Water Quality workshop. This is funded by the Environment Agency and organised by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust – in the person of AC, daughter of RC who Anthea and I knew at the New University of Ulster Bird Club, and also spent 2.5 weeks with on an uninhabited island (Inishnabro) in The Blaskets, Co Kerry as part of a Joint Universities Seabird Expedition ‘way, ‘way back about 1970. Wow!

Great to see another generation taking the reins…

10 March 2019     More cold, wet and windy
Not a nice day to be out, so we drove to Scarborough and spent the day in the garden centres and big shed stores. Lots of walking involved, but all indoors.

05 Mar 2019     After Storm Freya
The storm itself didn’t seem so bad here (did I sleep through it?) but there have been a few windfalls. An 8-inch diameter Ash fork above the swamp split and snagged across a nearby tree. I was able to saw through the strap (see-saw!) and make it safe. Also collected lots of snapped-off long-dead Ash branches, scattered throughout the wood and sawed them into stove logs for immediate use. Then felled a 6-inch diameter Ash which had become very unbalanced and was threatening the woodyard bridge and woodshed. Another busy day.

04 Mar 2019    Willow down and out
The leaning Willow which stood in the beck beside the patio and threatened the weirs, the flume, the clothesline and the Langdale greenslate patio table, is now down safely, logged-up and carried out of the garden, into the woodyard and stacked safely in the woodshed. Busy day!

02 Mar 2019     Potting, sawing and stacking
While B replanted the patio pots at Groves Dyke, I started sawing and stacking the long-dead Apple and dodgy Willow. Then a nice stroll around the wood, returning with more long-dead Oak and Ash to saw, bag and take indoors to the stove. Breezy. Then off to Perry’s River Gardens, which reopened today for the season, to celebrate with Apricot Flapjack and Manchester Tart. The show of Daffodils in Groves Bank Orchard is absolutely magnificent just now, thanks to all the strimming last autumn by CM.

01 Mar 2019     Just Nature’s way
Since this was the warmest UK February on record, and February last year was the really cold Beast from the East, then this is just Nature’s way of telling Donald Trump that Climate Change IS real and IS happening, and we really ought to do something to slow it down a bit. But then I’ve been saying that for decades and nobody wants to actually change anything significant, so – Good Luck.

Met Records for February 2019:
A remarkably warm month, described by the Met Office as ‘The warmest Feb on record in the UK’, with 20.2 degrees C at Kew. My new digital max and min thermometer reads:
Max 16.1 degrees C, Actual 9.30am today 8.7, Min 2.2 (but occasional grass frost).

27 Feb 2019     Orchard replanted at Larpool walled garden
Together with the Endeavour Rotary Club of Whitby and the Whitby and District Development Trust, we planted 11 half-standards of traditional varieties of local Apple, Pear and Gage. Weather was perfect, warm, dry and sunny. Step 1 of a new community garden for Whitby…

24 Feb 2019     Woodyard cant almost pollarded
We worked in glorious weather to pollard (ie coppicing above deer-browsing height) the Ash and Sycamore patch (ie cant) just behind the woodyard. Lots of useful firewood stacked in cords for next winter, as well as a ‘habitat heap’ of cut Elder (useful for wildlife, drinks of Elderflower cordial and Elderberry wine – but useless as firewood).

19 Feb 2019    Super Daffs, splitting, stacking and moon
Yesterday and today have been sunny and pleasant and a joy to be out of doors. The First Dozen Daffodils are in flower, together with Snowdrops and Crocus, with the First Hazel and Willow catkins on the garden and woodland trees. CM has almost finished coppicing the self-sown Ash and Sycamore saplings in Groves Bank orchard (despite the precipitous slope) and the resulting cordwood is now moved to the woodyard and stacked. I finished splitting the windfall Ash from last autumn’s gale and it’s now safely stacked in the woodshed. What a super day – with another Super Moon due this evening (and possibly another grass frost by dawn).

17 Feb 2019     Hope, Daffs and Catkins have now sprung
Many, many thanks to GK my Whizkid, who has just solved the editing problems with this site. Woopee! No stopping me now…

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07 Feb 2019 Hope Springs Eternal
There is hope that the editing problems on this elderly WordPress website may soon be solved and that the News Blog will continue with new editing software…
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