Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Photographer’s Tale

Tuesday was another lovely sunny but cold winter’s day.

Not wanting to waste the weather, after lunch we set off for RSPB Fairburn Ings. We weren't expecting lots of exciting birds but it’s a good walk to the far end of the reserve from the visitors’ centre. It was cold and sunny but the overnight frost hadn't melted leaving some of the paths white and icy.
Lots of the lakes were still iced over leaving the birds to walk on water.
As we made our way to the far end of the reserve, we stopped off a couple of times to sample the viewing from the hides. On the main lake there was a little ice free water in the middle and most of the birds had congregated in this area of unfrozen water. At the end of the reserve as I looked over the lake an unmistakably flash of orange and blue skimmed along the water and into some trees. It was so fast I didn't get chance to take a picture. After a few minutes in the hide at the end of the reserve we decided to head back to the visitor centre. 

As we walked we had a little chat about me spotting the kingfisher. Had I really seen one? That sort of thing. I knew roughly where the kingfisher had flown to but didn't really expect to see it again. Then I spotted it perched in a tree and as I began to explain to Sue where it was it took flight and headed off further down the small stream. We headed after it and soon spotted it again in good Kingfisher pose but in a very poorly lit spot. Camera at the ready I looked into the viewfinder and all I could see was a black screen. I checked to see if the lens cap was on but it wasn't. I switched the camera on and off. No difference just a black screen. The battery was dead and by now the kingfisher had disappeared. I swapped the dead camera battery for a spare but couldn't believe the battery had died at such a critical time.
As we headed back to the visitor centre the sun was starting to set. As we approached the “Kingfisher screen” where on all our visits to the reserve we have never ever seen a kingfisher one of the RSPB wardens whispered as loudly as he dared that there was a kingfisher. I was now glad I had a spare camera battery. 
Well at least I got a photo this time. The tree branch is nicely in focus but that’s not exactly what I wanted. We started a discussion with the warden about how we never saw a kingfisher at this spot when another or maybe the same one appeared by the water marker post. I was a little more prepared this time and managed a sort of half decent shot of a kingfisher.
Notice that the kingfisher has chosen not to use the ready made kingfisher post which you can just see part of in the top right hand corner of the photo.

Having failed completely to get any sightings let alone photos of a kingfisher here before this year we've had a pretty good year for spotting and photographing this spectacular little bird in 2014.

Contrary to the forecaster’s predictions the early hours of New Year’s Eve produced our coldest night of the current cold snap. The temperature fell to -3.3°C the coldest since it fell to -2.4°C on the 24 March so New Year’s Eve becomes our coldest day of the year.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

How Cold?

I keep seeing and hearing about it being the coldest day or night of the year so far but to be honest whilst it’s been cold and frosty in Ossett the thermometer hasn't plunged all that low on a night. Then to be fair it hasn't risen very high through the day either.
We've certainly had a cold snap over the last few days with the temperature struggling to get above 5°C. The coldest night during this spell was on 29 December with a low of -1.6°C, the lowest since 09 March 2014 when the temperature fell to -2.4°C, the coldest night of 2014. The lowest average daily temperature of this current cold spell was on 28 December with an average of 1.5°C the lowest since 12 January 2014 when we recorded 1.4°C. So for us in Ossett not quite the coldest temperatures of the year but of course it could have been different where you live.

The sunny mornings have given me a chance to try to photograph our female blackbird who is nearly always first onto the bird table. She’s prepared to perch in the magnolia tree and get very close to me but should I make eye contact she moves further away. 
Balancing some bird food a camera and trying not to look at the subject you want a photograph of is a bit tricky. These are my best two pictures to date. I haven’t spent too long outside trying to get the best pictures as for one thing it’s been pretty cold first thing on a morning and Mrs blackbird is fairly keen to get her breakfast. 

Monday, 29 December 2014

Wentworth Castle - A Winter Wonderland

Sunday morning was bright and sunny after a bitterly cold night with the temperature falling to -1.6°C.

We decided on a visit to Wentworth Castle to see the deer being fed. Between Christmas and the New Year the deer are treated to some extra food to tempt them into coming close to the fence where they can be watched at close quarters.

It’s only a 14 mile trip to Wentworth Castle but we found a different world when we got there.
Rather than just the light covering of snow we’d had at home there was a good few inches making the parkland look very scenic.
As expected the deer came alongside the fence to feed providing some excellent photographic opportunities.
After a walk around the parkland we were ready for a hot cup of coffee in the cafe.

I also managed to take a little bit of video too which you can watch below.

We've also added our photographs to our Zenfolio portfolio which can be found here.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

No More Snow but Cold

After the snow of Boxing Day Saturday wasn't too bad a day with some long spells of wintry sunshine but it remained cold all day with the temperature only managing a high of 3.8°C.

On Saturday morning I took a photo of the greenhouse with snow on the roof. The sun was shining and I thought I’d better get a picture before the sunshine thawed the snow and ice. As it turns out I needn't have been in such a rush as despite the sunshine nothing too much in the way of melting took place and on Sunday morning the greenhouse roof was still mostly covered in snow and ice.
As you can see nothing much has thawed and Sunday morning is another lovely sunny winter’s morning.

I noticed one of our blackbirds attempting to break the ice on our birdbath to get a drink.
The frost had made some wonderful patterns in the water and it seemed a shame to destroy them by adding some hot water but the birds welfare takes precedence.
The ice patterns disappeared with the addition of a kettle full of boiling water. I'm not sure how long the water will remain ice free as the temperature remains around 0°C. I may be out with the kettle of hot water again today.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Little Bit of White Stuff

As forecast we got a little bit of snow on Boxing day. It began as light rain in the late afternoon and turned into light snow after dark.
The photo above was taken around 20:00 on Friday night. There was still a little snow falling but not very much.  
This is how the greenhouse looked on Saturday morning as the winter sunshine got to work melting the snow on the greenhouse roof. In the end we didn't get very much. There was just about enough to cover the ground but certainly we didn't have a heavy snowfall.
It’s been cold enough overnight to freeze the snow and our side road is covered with a mixture of snow and ice. Cars make a wonderful crunching noise as they travel over the frozen surface. The real pity is it snowed on Boxing day as of course a day earlier would have given us a white Christmas. 

Friday, 26 December 2014

More Like December

Christmas Day turned out bright and sunny but the milder above average December temperatures disappeared to be replaced by values more associated with the end of December. The Christmas day high was 7.7°C.

Boxing day has started off cold over the UK as the temperatures at 08:30 show on the map below.

Rain snow and sleet is already approaching Ireland, Wales and the West Country and the Met Office have a snow warning in force for parts of the UK.
We might just be in this warning area on its north eastern limits. The forecast is for the colder weather to continue for the remainder of the month.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Christmas Vegetables

Tuesday was another very mild December day, at least the strong to gale force winds of the last week abated to produce just a very breezy day. The rain was just about holding off so we decided on a trip to the plot to harvest some vegetables for Christmas dinner.
After a few years of having a complete crop failure with sprouts we've grown this variety called Crispus, a club root resistant type, for the last couple of years with much better results. 
We also managed to harvest a few more seasonal vegetables too which looked pretty good once they’d had a quick wash. The savoy at the top of the picture is Resolution another first for us this year. We’re hoping that this variety along with a variety called Wintessa are going to give us savoys to harvest over the next couple of months.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Mild and Windy Weather Continues

Monday came very close to being our mildest December day as the temperature managed to make it to 14.0°C. As it turned out it was our mildest December day since Boxing Day in 2011 when the temperature managed 14.2°C. 
It did manage to produce the mildest average temperature for December though as the overnight temperature only fell back to 11.7°C giving a daily average of 12.6°C just above the previous highest of 12.3°C on that Boxing Day in 2011.

The wind continued to blow and December 2014 has easily become the windiest December of the last few years.
The wind resulted in lots of flights from Leeds and Bradford Airport being diverted to other airports around the country. This flight from London Heathrow attempted a landing before aborting the attempt and heading off to Manchester.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Rubbish Collection

The weather has remained remarkably mild over the weekend but we've had hardly any let up from the continuous battering from gale force winds. The last few Decembers have been windy but this December is now the windiest. So far it hasn't had the strongest gusts of wind it’s just been very persistent. The forecast is for a windy week to come.

Our council collect plastic recycling every couple of weeks but their method of collecting isn't very good especially in windy weather. On Monday morning our front garden was littered with plastic pop and milk bottles. Our collecting crate was full but fortunately I have a spare that was once deposited in our garden on a previous windy collection day. 
The council have been on their round and emptied the crates and look what we've now been left with. It looks like someone’s old waste bin which has finished up being blown into our garden. Perhaps it was left out to be recycled as plastic rubbish who knows. All I know is that it’s now my rubbish and I’ll have to get rid of it. 

The council are talking about changing their collection method but they've been talking about it for years. We live in hope.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Freezing Gale Force Winds

If the only thing you consider for Friday is the temperature, which managed around 8.0°C during the daytime, then you’d think it was a decent sort of a day for December. We even had a few sunny spells thrown in too. The only problem was the freezingly cold gale force wind that blew for most of the day and was at it worst around teatime.
Recent Decembers have all been windy and we have to go back to the bitterly cold December of 2010 to find a calm month.

I'm hoping that our broadband issues have now been sorted out. We've had to invest in a broadband extender kit so that our signal can be transferred around the house using our electrical wiring circuit rather than me having to thread Ethernet cables around the house and through various walls. After a bit of a false start it seems to be working well.
The final test is adding a photo to a blog post. Yesterday our wireless connection behaved a bit like an old dial up connection where you watched a picture appear gradually line by line if you were lucky. It’s now back up to speed and I'm hoping it’s going to stay that way.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Broadband Issues

The last couple of days have been pretty mild for December but that’s all the weather’s had going for it. Along with the mildness it been wet and windy and not very pleasant at all. That cold crisper winter weather is much preferred.

We've had some broadband problems this week so if you follow my live online weather details you may have noticed some interruptions to the data. For most of one day we had no broadband connection at all which somehow all of its own accord returned the following day. The broadband engineer has visited and rectified the problem. All well and good you might think apart from the fact that our broadband router has now been relocated as far away from our PC’s as it’s possible to be. Our wireless signal is almost none existent so I've now got to fathom out how to get our PC’s connected to our broadband router. 

Superfast it is not!!

I've given up trying to add a photo to this post as it isn't possible with the current broadband speed I've got. You can only spend so much time watching little blue circles go round and around.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Feeding Time

Sunday and Monday weren't too bad for December and so far winter is progressing nicely without any serious weather issues. We had some wintry sunshine on both days and although the daytime high was only around 6°C, about the expected value for the middle of December, we avoided any more overnight frosts.

Even if we don’t have any frosts the garden birds are eagerly waiting for me to put out fresh supplies of seed and suet pellets each morning. Last year we had a male blackbird, affectionately  known as “Hoppy” due to his leg injury, who was usually first to the bird table. This year it’s a female blackbird who’s taken on the first to the table role.
She’ll happily perch in our magnolia tree no more than an arm’s length away from me as the food is spread on the bird table and move in for the kill as soon as I turn away.
She has to be quick off the mark because it’s not long before the heavy mob move in taking over the whole bird table for a few minutes scattering food in all directions. Once they've moved off a few other birds get their chance to enjoy a little breakfast.
Whilst there’s not much to do outside I'm going to try to manoeuvre the bird table and my camera into slightly better positions for taking photos. I'm not expecting for one moment the birds won’t notice the changes but whilst I’d like to improve the photo opportunities I don't want to stop the birds getting their morning feed. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Coldest Day Since March 2014

Friday and Saturday have been a cold couple of days. Both days had some good sunny spells but only enough to lift the temperature fractionally above 5°C.
Overnight Friday into Saturday the temperature dropped to -1.4°C our coldest night, or should I say early morning because that low temperature was recorded at 08:40, since 24 March 2014 when the temperature fell to -2.4°C.

I do hope our plants are surviving in the cold greenhouse. When I took this picture the temperature in the greenhouse was down to -1.3°C very little different to that outside. Perhaps that covering of fleece will make all the difference.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Lucky Break

Thursday was cold and showery with some sunny intervals. Over the last few days we've had lots of heavy showers and these are starting to add up to a considerable amount of rainfall.
Temperature and Rainfall Records from Wednesday 10-12 December 2014
Those showers over the last few days have added up to 25.0mm of rainfall bringing the monthly total up to 36.4mm.

In the lead up to Christmas there are steam hauled charter trains visiting some of the Christmas Markets. Last week they were heading to Lincoln and this week they’re heading for York. We made the short trip out to the East Coast Main Line to photograph The York Yuletide Express from Norwich.
We arrived with a bit of time to spare but the weather wasn't looking too promising as the rain poured down. I wasn't planning on getting out of the car in the middle of a downpour on a freezing cold day.
As showers do it passed by with the help of a strong wind and blue sky appeared in time for the arrival of the Yuletide Express. Rather lucky really.

Copyright: Original post from A Gardener's Weather Diary author M Garrett

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Weather Bombed?

The overnight gales relented by daybreak and throughout the day on Wednesday we had a few spells of wintry sunshine mixed in with some very heavy blustery showers.

I’d not heard of the term “weather bomb” but it seemed to cause a bit of a stir in the newspapers and TV that a weather bomb was approaching the UK. Apparently the term is used to describe a weather phenomenon  when the barometric pressure falls by 24mb in less than 24 hours.
Barometric pressure and Temperature from Friday 05 to Thursday 11 December 2014
Our Ossett weather bomb happened on Tuesday as the barometric pressure fell from a high of 1027.0mb at 01:50 to 1003.8mb at 21:05. Hence the question mark in the title as we managed a fall of 23.2mb not quite managing the 24 required for an official weather bomb.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

New Meaning to Cold Greenhouse

Monday was coldish with sunny spells and Tuesday was cloudy and dull with the wind picking up to gale force into Tuesday evening and the early hours of Wednesday morning. Nothing unusual for December.
We've had a couple of days now where the day’s high temperature has occurred during the night. On Tuesday the highest temperature of 11.9°C occurred at 21:20 before falling back quite rapidly to just above 4°C in the early hours of Wednesday morning. 

I always assume it will be warmer in the greenhouse than outside although in spells of prolonged cold weather without any sunshine the temperatures inside and out become more or less equal. Very unusually with the outdoor temperature rising quickly and only for a short time in the hours of darkness the greenhouse highest temperature has been lower than the outside temperature. Inside the greenhouse reached only 8.5°C by 21:20 compared to 11.9°C outside before falling away as the outdoor temperature fell sharply.

At least the plants inside the greenhouse avoided the wind and showers.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

A Topsy Turvy Day

After the super weather on Saturday, Sunday didn't turn out anything like as good. Strangely the temperature peaked at 10.3°C at 05:40 in the early hours of the morning and then fell steadily throughout the rest of the day. 
The day itself was a mixture of sunshine and showers with a strong gusty wind making it feel even colder. The week ahead is forecast to be a mixture of everything apart from some decent winter weather.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Steam to Lindum Fayre and an Afternoon Walk

Friday and Saturday were both sunny and cold December days but thankfully Thursday’s gloomy weather had disappeared.

I’d planned another steam train photography session combined with a visit to a nature reserve for Saturday providing the weather was anything like decent. So on a beautiful clear and frosty Saturday morning we set out for Lincolnshire. The plan was to capture two steam locomotives hauling charter trains to Lindum Fayre a traditional Christmas Market held in the City of Lincoln every year. In the afternoon the plan was to visit Whisby Nature Reserve run by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.
4965 Rood Ashton Hall with The Lyndon Christmas Fayre from Birmingham
60009 Union of South Africa with The Lyndon Fayre from London Kings Cross
Even at lunchtime the ground was still white over with frost around Lincoln as the temperature refused to rise much above freezing point. Once the trains had made they way to Lincoln and the Christmas market we headed for the nature reserve for lunch and an afternoon walk around the reserve. It was our first visit to the reserve so we didn't know what to expect but we’d certainly picked an excellent day weatherwise to visit.
There were some lovely views around the reserve in the afternoon sun making up for the fact that some of the birds were a little too far off for any really good photos. 
This robin posed nicely by the side of the path giving me just enough time to get a couple of shots before it disappeared off into the bushes. 
By the time we headed back to the cafe for a cup of coffee, before journeying back up the A1 and home, the sun was setting on what had been a beautiful December day.  

Friday, 5 December 2014

Just Typical

After a couple of lovely sunny days Thursday turned back into dull and gloomy. The cooler temperatures remained and typically this was the day I'd planned a little bit of steam train photography followed by a visit to a nature reserve either Potteric Carr or RSPB Fairburn Ings.
Our steam train was due to arrive in York around lunchtime. Fortunately it was on time but it still felt pretty cold even though we were only waiting a short time for The Cathedrals Express to pass by. We decided against a visit to either nature reserve after the train had passed and disappeared off into the murk towards York.  As it was cold and a bit misty we didn't think the weather was very conducive to any good bird photography.
4464 Bittern only has one more charter train to haul before it’s withdrawn for the steam train equivalent of an MOT at the end of the year. The main difference is that this MOT will probably come with a bill in excess of £500,000.

A Little Extra Video
Our local news programme on the BBC covered this story about a cute baby goat which I thought you might enjoy.