The   hedges   also   provide   a   home   to   several   climbing   plants.   Quite   common   are   the   berries of   woody   nightshade .   This   is   not   deadly   nightshade   which   is   a   completely   different   plant. Woody   nightshade   is   a   member   of   the   potato   and   tomato   family   which   can   clearly   be seen   if   you   compare   the   flowers   of   the   two   plants.   The   berries   are   toxic   but   rarely   fatal.   It is   said   that   they   taste   extremely   bitter   and   hence   it's   other   name   of   bittersweet.   I   don't recommend   that   you   try   to   verify   this   fact!   The   leaves   have   a   distinctive   shape    which distinguishes   it   from   other   climbing   plants   such   as   black   bryony.   Another   climber   is   hops   which   seem   to   have   grown   well   this   year.   Those   of   you   that   brew   your   own   beer   might   like to   find   a   plant   and   give   it   a   try!   Hops   have   had   many   uses   in   herbal   medicine   for   instance in   cases   of   insomnia   (especially   I   should   imagine   if   the   hops   were   taken   in   the   form   of your home brew!) Thank   you   to   those   of   you   who   have   got   back   to   me   with   your   comments   and   sightings. A nuthatch    has    been    making    frequent    visits    to    a    garden    the    sighting    of    which    was followed   a   few   days   later   with   a   mention   in   a   newspaper   that   this   had   been   happening more frequently this year.
Notes from a field - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
The   nuthatch   is   unique   in   being   able   to   move   down   a   tree   with   its   head   facing   the   ground   as   quickly   as it   can   go   the   other   way.   A   hobby   has   also   been   spotted.   A   falcon   it   is   slightly   smaller   than   a   kestrel   with distinctive   white   cheeks   and   throat.   They   are   never   seen   hovering   and   in   flight   resemble   a   large   swift with   their   speed   and   agility.   I   saw   a   large   flock   of   long-tailed   tits,   maybe   twenty,   moving   along   the hedgerow    keeping    up    a    constant    twittering.    These    have    always    been    one    of    my    favourite    birds. Less welcome   is   the   sighting   of   a   mink   which   was   reported   after   the   loss   of   fish   from   a   pond.   I   was concerned   a   couple   of   months   ago   that   one   might   be   around   as   the   disappearance   of   the   moorhen chicks   coincided   with   the   loss   of   fish   from   a   neighbours   pond.   However   having   seen   no   sign   of   it   I hoped   that   this   was   not   the   case.   Its   presence   might   also   explain   why   I   saw   no   pheasant   chicks this year. Recently   I   have   only   seen   one   adult   moorhen   so   it   seems   the   rest   have   been   lost.   The   mink   in   this country    are    American    mink,    the    European    mink    is    a    different    species    and    never    existed    here. They were   first   recorded   in   1948   and   confirmed   as   breeding   in   the   wild   in   1956,   the   result   of   escapes from     mink     farms     or     deliberate     releases.     Although     a     beautiful     looking     creature     they     are "an indiscriminate   killer   of   birds,   fish   and   small   mammals   that   decimate   ground-nesting   birds   and tackle   fish   as   large   as   themselves".   Hopefully   it   is   a   lone   mink   that   will   move   on   in   search   of   a   mate   or when   its   food   supply   becomes   scarce.   I   watched,   for   several   minutes,   a   pair   of   kites   and   a   pair   of buzzards   engaged   in   a   battle   for   air   supremacy.   The   power   of   the   buzzards   was   matched   by   the   agility of   the   kites.   The buzzards   were   victorious   and   circled   around   calling   repeatedly   as   the   kites   flew   off. I have    had    a    report    of    fifteen    kites    being    seen    on    the    ground,    their    numbers    seem    to    be increasing rapidly.