Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
© 1996 - 2019 Mike Frisby
Langham in Rutland
I am writing this on the last day of February after several days of the most glorious weather. Yesterday the temperature in the shade peaked at 16.4oC. I checked back in my records and the highest temperature on the last day of February in 2018 peaked at minus 3.5 o C. It has recently been very dry, although the rain earlier in the month meant the monthly average was about normal. The ground looked ideal to work so I forked over some of the borders and found it perfect for producing a nice tilth. As there is quite a bit of clay in the ground it is usually quite difficult to catch it just right. The snowdrops have been a picture but the flowers don't seem to have lasted quite as long as usual. Both crocuses and daffodils are also in flower. The crocuses have been the focus of attention for quite a few bees collecting pollen. Hellebores have put on good show. It seems the experiment of cutting all the old leaves off has paid dividends. The flowers look much taller and stand out really well. It remains to be seen if the plants produce plenty leaves during the summer. If they do I will certainly continue to cut them back in late winter. The warm spell might not be all good news. If fruit trees are tempted to flower early a sharp frost may destroy the blossom. Even slightly cold weather would prevent bees doing the pollinating. I saw the first Brimstone butterfly on the 22nd of February, the earliest I have recorded. Insects emerging too early are also prone to be caught out by a cold spell. Many birds are already making preparations for nesting and again if they are too early there may be insufficient amounts of insects to feed their young. So we must keep our fingers crossed for the next few weeks. One concern is that the seeds I put in the cold frame for
cold treatment may not have been cold enough, although a single shoot has appeared in a pot of Fritillaria persica. This plant produces multi-flowered stems of deep purple apparently reaching up to three feet high. It will take a few years for the bulbs to reach flowering size, if they survive. The opposite is happening in the greenhouse where it has been too warm with temperatures of 15oC. Fuchsias, cannas and begonias are all starting to shoot which is far too soon. One day I saw two gulls in the field and assumed that the black headed gull I mentioned last time had found a companion. Closer inspection found the second one to be a common gull . They do not get on and usually appear at different times. If they do appear together neither can settle and both end up flying off. I find gulls hard to identify with their different adult and juvenile plumage and different summer and winter appearance. The very young ones are even more difficult. Luckily there are only four gulls regularly seen around the village. The great black back gull is easiest for obvious reasons although there is a lesser black backed gull. The black-headed gull is fine in summer because of the black head (actually dark brown) but, as I mentioned last time it doesn't have this in winter, just dark ear spots. They have red bills and legs. The common gull has a yellow-green bill and legs of a similar colour. In winter it looks browner particularly marking on the head. The herring gull is larger with a distinctive red spot on a yellow bill and pinkish legs. I think we'll forget about the glaucous, iceland, yellow-legged, mediterranean, kittiwake and little gull! One day I put some food out for the crows and eight black headed gulls appeared. They did not go for the food itself but waited until one of the crows flew off with a beak full of food and then harried it in an attempt to make the crow drop it. They were not successful and had to fly off hungry. The crows were on the offensive when a pair of buzzards landed in the trees, within seconds the crows were there and drove them away. A buzzard that perched on a fence post was a little different from the normal ones having a lot more white on it. I looked it up and apparently there is a pale variant. This is the last picture of buzzards on the posts as the fence has been removed. There must be an awful lot of insects and grubs in the field as every day it is picked over by numerous birds. Apart from the crows (all five are still around) there are flocks of wood pigeons and jackdaws along with a pair of mistle thrushes and pied wagtails. They always seem to find something to eat. A little egret spent a couple of hours preening itself in the trees and a couple of days later was down on the ground quite near the house. I managed to get a photograph through the window before sneaking out and trying to get a shot from round the corner of the house. Of course it sensed a movement but I just managed to press the shutter as it flew off . The pictures on the website version of this article show the little egrets distinguishing feature; black legs and yellow feet. It makes it look quite comical, as if it was wearing a pair of slippers. I have not seen any at the back of the house but David Suter reported seeing very large mixed flocks of redwing and fieldfare earlier in the month. One of the gulls was also seen on his pond. A pair of great tits were seen investigating the nest boxes in my garden. In the middle of the month the only other notable sighting was a muntjac deer taking a leisurely stroll across the field, in the middle of the afternoon, before leaping the fence into the trees. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .
April 2019
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Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
© 1996 - 2019 Mike Frisby
I am writing this on the last day of February after several days of the most glorious weather. Yesterday the temperature in the shade peaked at 16.4oC. I checked back in my records and the highest temperature on the last day of February in 2018 peaked at minus 3.5 o C. It has recently been very dry, although the rain earlier in the month meant the monthly average was about normal. The ground looked ideal to work so I forked over some of the borders and found it perfect for producing a nice tilth. As there is quite a bit of clay in the ground it is usually quite difficult to catch it just right. The snowdrops have been a picture but the flowers don't seem to have lasted quite as long as usual. Both crocuses and daffodils are also in flower. The crocuses have been the focus of attention for quite a few bees collecting pollen. Hellebores have put on good show. It seems the experiment of cutting all the old leaves off has paid dividends. The flowers look much taller and stand out really well. It remains to be seen if the plants produce plenty leaves during the summer. If they do I will certainly continue to cut them back in late winter. The warm spell might not be all good news. If fruit trees are tempted to flower early a sharp frost may destroy the blossom. Even slightly cold weather would prevent bees doing the pollinating. I saw the first Brimstone butterfly on the 22nd of February, the earliest I have recorded. Insects emerging too early are also prone to be caught out by a cold spell. Many birds are already making preparations for nesting and again if they are too early there may be insufficient amounts of insects to feed their young. So we must keep our fingers crossed for the next few weeks. One concern is that the seeds I put in the cold frame for cold treatment may not have been cold enough, although a single shoot has appeared in a pot of Fritillaria persica. This plant produces multi-flowered stems of deep purple apparently reaching up to three feet high. It will take a few years for the bulbs to reach flowering size, if they survive. The opposite is happening in the greenhouse where it has been too warm with temperatures of 15oC. Fuchsias, cannas and begonias are all starting to shoot which is far too soon. One day I saw two gulls in the field and assumed that the black headed gull I mentioned last time had found a companion. Closer inspection found the second one to be a common gull . They do not get on and usually appear at different times. If they do appear together neither can settle and both end up flying off. I find gulls hard to identify with their different adult and juvenile plumage and different summer and winter appearance. The very young ones are even more difficult. Luckily there are only four gulls regularly seen around the village. The great black back gull is easiest for obvious reasons although there is a lesser black backed gull. The black-headed gull is fine in summer because of the black head (actually dark brown) but, as I mentioned last time it doesn't have this in winter, just dark ear spots. They have red bills and legs. The common gull has a yellow-green bill and legs of a similar colour. In winter it looks browner particularly marking on the head. The herring gull is larger with a distinctive red spot on a yellow bill and pinkish legs. I think we'll forget about the glaucous, iceland, yellow-legged, mediterranean, kittiwake and little gull! One day I put some food out for the crows and eight black headed gulls appeared. They did not go for the food itself but waited until one of the crows flew off with a beak full of food and then harried it in an attempt to make the crow drop it. They were not successful and had to fly off hungry. The crows were on the offensive when a pair of buzzards landed in the trees, within seconds the crows were there and drove them away. A buzzard that perched on a fence post was a little different from the normal ones having a lot more white on it. I looked it up and apparently there is a pale variant. This is the last picture of buzzards on the posts as the fence has been removed. There must be an awful lot of insects and grubs in the field as every day it is picked over by numerous birds. Apart from the crows (all five are still around) there are flocks of wood pigeons and jackdaws along with a pair of mistle thrushes and pied wagtails. They always seem to find something to eat. A little egret spent a couple of hours preening itself in the trees and a couple of days later was down on the ground quite near the house. I managed to get a photograph through the window before sneaking out and trying to get a shot from round the corner of the house. Of course it sensed a movement but I just managed to press the shutter as it flew off . The pictures on the website version of this article show the little egrets distinguishing feature; black legs and yellow feet. It makes it look quite comical, as if it was wearing a pair of slippers. I have not seen any at the back of the house but David Suter reported seeing very large mixed flocks of redwing and fieldfare earlier in the month. One of the gulls was also seen on his pond. A pair of great tits were seen investigating the nest boxes in my garden. In the middle of the month the only other notable sighting was a muntjac deer taking a leisurely stroll across the field, in the middle of the afternoon, before leaping the fence into the trees. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .
April 2019