March 2012

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Gannets Bempton
March has been yet another dry and warm month. The average daily maximum temperature has been 14.70C where the average for March is only 9.30C and the average nightly minimum has been 4.60C where we would expect 2.40C. Our warmest day was 28th when the temperature reached 23.20C and we only experienced one night where the temperature dipped below zero. Rain fell on only 7 days rather than the expected 12 and we only had 41.1mm rather than the average of 67mm. As we have not had the hoped for long spell of rain we are now sadly experiencing our first hosepipe ban for many years. We shall be trying to conserve water as much as possible by such means as watering the pots with washing up and vegetable water. We are considering buying a second water barrel so that we can collect as much rainwater as possible. The unseasonably warm weather has brought plants on at an alarming rate. A month ago we were still in winter but since then we have had wonderful shows of daffodils, cherry and blackthorn blossom, the woods are full of wood anemones and I noticed today that bluebells are coming into flower a month earlier than I would expect. I have read that the Lincs Trust are holding a Bluebell day in their Rigsby Wood Reserve on 6th May. At this rate they will be finished by then. I noticed today (6th April) that Bradley woods is carpeted with wood anemones so get out there and revel in our wonderful spring flowers.
We began March on a beautiful mild and still day and Heather and I decided to go for a bike ride to Tetney Lock, along the Haven to the sea lock gates and then along the sea wall to return via Cleethorpes. It was hazy over the river and the ships seemed to float in the air. We heard a whimbrel calling and had excellent views of both short eared owl and ring-tailed hen harrier, so called as the juveniles and females are similar and have a barred tail. Both sexes have a white rump and the male is a beautiful bird with grey back and black wing tips. It is a long time since I have seen either of these birds on Tetney Marshes so it was a real treat. Whilst thinking about raptors I had wonderfully close views of a sparrowhawk on both 2nd and 4th. On the second I was visiting a friend in Keelby when a female flew into a perch right outside the window with prey and then flew off to devour it in the apple tree. On 4th we had superb views of another female in our neighbour’s cherry tree.
By the middle of the month Spring was well on the way. Coltsfoot was in flower, the leaves of horse chestnut and hawthorn were beginning to unfurl, butterbur, violets and celandine were also showing well. On warm days large numbers of bees were busy collecting pollen and nectar. Willows were also looking magnificent as the pussy willow turned the trees into clouds of yellow. By the end of the month there were magnificent displays of wood anemone in local woods and the first bluebells were appearing.
On 10th March, our son Thomas and myself journeyed to Helmsley in North Yorkshire to compete in the first mountain bike orienteering race of the season. Our ride took us along forest tracks towards Rievaulx Abbey where we had the most wonderful view of the abbey itself nestling in the valley. Whilst quietly mending a puncture at one point we were approached by a roe deer which was not aware of us and came quite close. Suddenly sensing our presence it stopped and then cantered off into the trees. What a treat.
Despite the weather being dull and grey between the 12th and 14th of the month cherry blossom was opening well and beginning to look a picture. In the garden I was fascinated to see chaffinches eating the buds and flowers of the cherry trees at the end of our garden; something I had not seen before. I was also delighted to watch a pair of song thrushes in the garden – what beautiful birds they are.
The 22nd March dawned bright and warm and I decided that it would be opportune to visit Kirkby Moor Lincolnshire Trust reserve near Woodhall Spa to see if the adders were showing. It was a beautiful day and several butterfly species were in evidence: peacock, small tortoiseshell, comma and brimstone. We also heard a little owl calling as well as the more expected green woodpeckers, yaffling, as they flew through the trees. I was pleased to find three adders and managed photographs although they were not as confiding as I have known them before. I fear they maybe suffering from unreasonable disturbance and I have heard tales of them being lifted out into the open with sticks in order to secure photographs. This is uncalled for and those who indulge in nature photography or even just nature watching should remember the all important rule that the welfare of the subject is paramount and nothing should take precedence over that. No photograph is worth endangering the subject.
A visit right at the end of the month was to Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve near Bridlington for some seabird flight photography. Heather and I had an absolutely fabulous day. The weather was amazing (I got my head burnt, not for the only time this year, I am sure) and the birds were plentiful. The most majestic are the gannets as they fly along the cliffs and busy themselves with courtship on the colonial nesting ledges. This is the only mainland gannet colony in the UK so really special. I was fascinated to see them flying up onto the grassy cliff tops to collect nesting materials. Other seabirds were also present: kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots, razorbills and if you are lucky, puffins.