Langham in Rutland
Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
It   is   the   beginning   of   January   as   I   write   this   and   the   snow   and   ice   has   gone,   at   least   for the   time   being.   My   dog   is   quite   disappointed   as   he   loves   to   use   his   nose   as   a   snow   plough to   shovel   through   it.   I   got   my   exercise   clearing   a   wall   of   snow   where   the   snow   plough   had blocked   the   entrance   to   the   drive.   As   the   snow   began   to   melt   I   took   the   dog   through Munday's   Close   and   heard   a   couple   of   whooshing   noises   amongst   the   trees.   I   soon   found out   what   it   was   as   a   mini   avalanche   of   snow   slipped   from   a   nearby   branch   which   snapped back   into   place   like   a   whip.   A   lucky   escape   from   being   covered   in   snow   which   was   repeated the   next   day   when   I   went   to   post   a   letter,   the   snow   slid   off   the   village   hall   roof   and   landed just   behind   the   post   box.   On   some   of   the   days,   when   it   was   not   too   cold,   I   spent   some   time in   the   garage   making   a   nest   box   for   tawny   owls   which   will   go   up   in   Munday's   Close   at   some point.   Tawny   owls   prefer   a   deep   tube   like   box   whilst   barn   owls   prefer   a   larger   area   in   which to raise their young.
During   the   cold   weather   the   birds   are   returning   to   the   gardens   in   search   of   food.   It   is   important   to keep   feeders   stocked   up   and   have   ice   free   water   available   for   them.      One   bird   that   has   been   appearing in   larger   numbers   this   year   is   the   goldfinch,   with   up   a   dozen   birds   at   a   time   on   the   feeders.   They   are particularly   attracted   to   nyjer   seed.   Although   they   don't   use   the   feeders   several   flocks   of   long-tailed   tits have   worked   their   way   through   the   trees   in   the   garden.   Other   birds   that   seem   to   be   doing   well   are   the dunnock,   great   tit,   robin   and   wren   all   of   which   can   be   seen   regularly   in   Munday's   Close   and   along Mickley   Lane.   The   resident   pair   of   bullfinches   in   that   area   have   also   been   joined   by   a   second   female and   all   three   were   seen   feeding   together.   Numbers   of   blackbirds   seem   to   be   well   up   and   at   the beginning   of   January,   in   the   field   at   rear   of   the   house,   I   noticed   thirteen   all   feeding   in   a   very   small   area. A   shower   of   rain   that   had   just   passed   may   have   brought   the   worms   up   to   the   surface.   They   were certainly   busy   finding   something   to   eat.   It   is   amazing   how   bird   populations   change.   In   the   space   of twenty   minutes   I   saw,   from   the   dining   window,   a   buzzard,   a   red   kite   and   little   egret.   A   few   years   ago   it would   have   been   rare   to   see   any   of   these,   now   they   are   a   common   sight.   The   little   egret   that   has   been around   for   a   couple   of   years   has   found   a   mate.   I   first   saw   the   two   of   them   together   in   the   middle   of November   and   for   a   couple   of   days,   at   around   ten   o'clock   in   the   morning,   they   flew   into   the   trees   in Ashwell   Road.   Maybe   we   will   see   some   little   little   egrets!   Two   birds   missing   this   year   are   fieldfares   and redwings.   The   hawthorn   berries   and   sloes   disappeared   early   this   year   and   there   was   no   sign   of   these birds   in   the   hedges   along   Mickley   Lane.   In   previous   years   you   could   always   guarantee   seeing   them along there. Other   than   birds   there   have   not   been   many   new   sightings.   An   adult   hawthorn   shieldbug    was   found hibernating   in   my   compost   bin   but   the   weather   has   been   too   cold   for   many   insects   to   be   about. Anthony   Wright   reported   a   hedgehog   in   his   garden   in   November,   hopefully   looking   for   somewhere   to hibernate. Garden   plants   often   surprise   me   as   to   how   hardy   they   can   be.   As   soon   as   the   snow   had   melted after   Christmas   the   snowdrops   were   just   showing   a   tinge   of   white   as   the   flowers   got   ready   to   open.   A week   later   they,   and   the   aconites,   were   in   flower.   The   geraniums,   I   mentioned   in   the   last   issue,   that   I was   going   to   throw   out   have   got   a   reprieve.   They   are   still   flowering   so   maybe   they   will   survive   outside.     It   must   be   the   little   bit   of   extra   protection   provided   by   their   position   beneath   the   kitchen   window.   Even more   unusual   were   some   lobelia   plants.   These   were   self   sets   from   a   hanging   basket   the   year   before last. They had seeded in between the block paving and had made nice little clumps of blue flowers until the   snow.   I   assumed   that   would   be   the   end   of   them   but   when   the   snow   melted   they   were   still   there,   no longer   flowering   but   certainly   not   dead.   Some   love   in   a   mist   plants   self   seeded   over   last   summer   and produced   a   carpet   of   seedlings.   Despite   them   usually   being   grown   as   annuals   these   little   plants   have been   unaffected   by   the   cold.   A   plant   that   gave   a   really   good   late   show   of   flowers   was   the   false   castor   oil plant   ( Fatsia   japonica ) .   Set   against   its   rather   exotic   leaves   the   creamy   white   spires   of   flowers   looked spectacular   and   were   much   appreciated   by   late   season   insects.   Elsewhere   in   the   garden   it   has   been severe pruning time. Many of the shrubs are thirty years old and getting past their best. Rather than dig them   up   and   replace   I   thought   I   would   give   them   a   chance   to   rejuvenate   themselves.   A   cut   back   to basically   bare   stumps   will   give   them   two   chances,   grow   or   be   removed.   This   treatment   certainly   works for   overgrown   pinks.   I   cut   some   back   to   next   to   nothing   in   the   autumn   and   within   weeks   they   started putting   out   new   shoots.   They   are   now   nice   compact   plants   but   I   was   convinced   I   had   killed   them.   In   the greenhouse   some   velthemias   are   coming   into   flower.   These   bulbous   plants   come   from   South   Africa hence they flower at this time of year. I   am   always   interested   in   other   peoples   sightings   and   comments   so   don't   forget   to   email   me   on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .
February 2018