Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
It   was   early   September   when   David   Suter   called   me   over   into   his   field   to   look   at   some large   wasps.   Tentatively   I   looked   around   in   the   general   area   he   indicated   and   located   a hornet's   nest.   The   nest   was   in   an   old   fence   post    that   had   split   and   was   probably   hollow.   The hornets   had   sealed   most   of   the   crack   with   the   paper   like   material    they   use   for   their   nests. As   I   only   had   my   phone   with   me   it   meant   getting   close   to   get   a   good   a   good   photograph. Hornets   are   not   supposed   to   be   as   aggressive   as   wasps   so,   carefully   avoiding   their   flight path,   I   was   able   to   get   within   a   couple   of   feet   to   take   a   few   shots.   I   was   there   for   several minutes   and   the   hornets   were   not   bothered   at   all.   I   walked   back   to   David   who,   for   some reason,   was   keeping   a   safe   distance.   As   I   got   near   him   he   warned   me   there   was   a   hornet around   my   head,   foolishly   I   tried   to   swat   it   away   and   got   a   sting   for   my   trouble.   Had I   just kept   walking   it   probably   would   not   have   attacked.   Not   surprisingly   I   did   not   find   this   as amusing   as   David   seemed   to!   On   somewhat   safer   ground   David   reported   how   many   late broods of birds he had seen. One robin, near his barn, had three broods during the year.
The   female   pheasant   with   chicks,   reported   last   time,   managed   to   rear   three   to   adulthood.   This   is probably   above   the   average   for   most   broods.   With   the   corn   cut   the   pheasants   are   returning   to   the field   looking   for   a   reliable   source   of   food.   Also   returning   were   a   pair   of   collared   doves,   the   first   seen for   some   time.   Walking   through   Munday's   Close   in   the   middle   of   September   I   saw   a   large   flock   of small   birds   working   their   way   through   the   trees.   I   was   able   to   watch   them   for   some   time   and   it turned   out   to   be   quite   a   mixed   flock.   The   majority   of   them   were   long   tailed   tits.   They   are   wonderful acrobats   and   they   were   not   the   least   bothered   by   my   presence.   Other   birds   in   the   flock   were   blue tits,   great   tits   and   chiffchaffs,   though   in   much   smaller   numbers.   A   few   days   later   a   small   flock   of   even smaller   birds   were   seen.   They   were   goldcrests   and   again   untroubled   by   me   watching   them.   Being   so small   and   quick   moving   made   it   impossible   to   count   them   but   I   think   there   must   have   been   at   least half   a   dozen.   Towards   the   end   of   October   I   heard   a   wafting   noise   and   looked   up   to   see   a   swan   flying quite low overhead. They are quite majestic birds when on the wing. The   cooler   weather   means   there   are   fewer   insects   about   although   there   are   still   some   to   be   seen. A   large   ungainly   insect   flew   into   me   and   landed   on   the   drive   in   front   of   me.   It   turned   out   to   be   an adult   red-legged   shieldbug ,   the   immature   state   of   which   I   mentioned   last   time.   The   large   amount   of flowering   ivy   along   Mickley   Lane   provided   much   needed   food   for   large   numbers   of   hover   flies   and wasps.   Another   insect   found   on   there   was   a   noon   fly   (Mesembrina   meridiana) .   A   relative   of   the   house fly   it   is   easily   identified   by   its   black   colour   and   orangey-gold   on   the   base   of   its   wings,   feet   and face.   The last butterfly seen was a red admiral in late October. The   flowering   plants   are   now   starting   to   die   back   ready   for   the   winter.   A   couple   of   fungi   were spotted,   a   field   blewit    and   a   jelly   ear .   Some   smaller   non   flowering   plants   tend   to   get   overlooked   but are   none   the   less   interesting.   Liverworts   are   a   good   example.   They   are   the   flat   green   growths   found in   damp   shady   places   and   often   on   the   surface   of   the   compost   in   plant   pots.   Their   reproduction   is   by two   methods.   They   frequently   reproduce   asexually   and   little   cups   appear   on   the   surface    and   produce cells   that   are   distributed   by   rain   drops   and   will   grow   into   new   plants.   Older   plants   produce   male   and female   organs   like   little   umbrellas,   some   liverworts   produce   them   on   the   same   plant   others   on separate   plants.   The   male   ones   look   like   fully   covered   umbrellas   and   the   female   ones   look   like   just the ribs without the cover .  The picture on the website is the liverwort Marchantia. In   the   garden   the   success   story   of   the   year   have   been   the   alstomerias .   They   have   flowered   for months   and   are   still   flowering   now.   They   were   grown   in   pots   last   year   and,   as   they   are   slightly   tender, planted   out   quite   deeply   in   late   autumn.   They   make   excellent   cut   flowers   and   I   used   a   tip   that   I   read somewhere   on   how   to   harvest   them.   The   secret   seems   to   be   not   to   cut   them   but   to   gently   pull   the whole   stem   from   the   ground.   New   shoots   should   grow   from   the   area   around   where   they   were   pulled. This   seems   to   have   worked   as   there   has   been   a   nonstop   supply   this   year.   I   am   writing   this   at   the beginning   of   November   and   an   unusual   number   of   other   plants   still   have   flowers.   This   may   be   due   to lack   of   frosts   but   also   October   was   a   very   dry   month,   I   recorded   only   24.6mm.   The   lack   of   moisture probably   prevented   the   spread   of   fungal   diseases   which   thrive   in   a   moist   atmosphere.   I   counted more   than   twenty   types   of   plant   that   still   flowering.   Among   these   were   canna,   clematis,   begonia, geraniums   and   a   triphylla   fuchsia ,   all   of   which   have   usually   given   up   by   now.   The   greenhouse   is   now overflowing   with   tender   plants   brought   inside   for   the   winter.   The   cymbidium   and   blettila   orchids came   in   a   couple   of   weeks   ago   followed   by   eucomis,   speckelia   and   potted   cannas.   The   cannas   in   the ground   have   still   to   be   dug   up   and   the   fuchsias   can   stay   out   a   little   longer   until   they   have   lost   their leaves.   They   will   be   fine   in   the   garage   as   they   don't   need   too   much   warmth   over   winter.   There   will   be no room for geranium cuttings so they will be discarded and tiny plug plants purchased in the spring.
December 2017