At the time of writing, early January, the hedgerows have already been stripped of most of their fruits. It will be difficult for some of the birds to find food if we have a prolonged cold spell. The lack of these fruits may be the reason that, so far, I have not seen a single fieldfare or redwing. As usual Mickley Lane and Munday’s close are good places to see birds. I have had regular sightings of bullfinches, chaffinches, goldcrests, blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds, hedge sparrows, house sparrows and goldfinches. In the field the pair of mallardhave returned and resumed their place with the pheasants for the evening feed. Buzzards, barn owl and red kite are seen from time to time the last of these very low over Mickley Lane on the fourth of January. The jackdaws are appearing in increasing numbers much to the disgust of the resident crow who I think must be one of the offspring the late Russell. He already has plenty to do seeing off the buzzard and sparrow hawk. Apart from crows and jackdaws, wood pigeons and magpies are always present. Very few reports of sightings have been sent in recently so don’t forget to email me your sightings, comments or photographs at email@example.com.. Look out for
some of your photographs in the photographs section of Nature Notes on the village website. Tim Maskell sent in a very detailed description of two birds he caught sight of in his garden. The only bird he could match with them was a spotted nutcracker. Unfortunately he was unable to take a photograph for them to be verified. This would have been an excellent record as they are extremely rare in this country. Richard Braithwaite recorded a great spotted woodpecker, jackdaws, hedgehog and grey squirrel in his garden. He tells me the squirrel makes a determined effort to enter the house through the bedroom window.Whilst clearing one of the plant troughs I came across a dead hornet. It must have succumbed to the cold before finding a suitable place to spend the winter. Tucked away behind some wood were a collection of harlequin ladybirds. They had obviously found a suitable place to hibernate. The batteries for the electric fencing in the field are protected by old feed buckets. When I went to replace one of the batteries I lifted the bucket off and surprised a pair of field voles that had decided this made a suitable home. They soon disappeared separately into two holes they had made to get up into the bucket. Several brown rats are regularly seen around the feed store which they seem to have made home for the winter. Helen Wheeler reported a fox making an early morning appearance in the field at the back of the house.Several people have mentioned they would be interested in more notes from a garden so I will include some reflections on this area. I lifted and dried my begonia tubers in after the first frost and dried them in the greenhouse. Recently little piles of debris have appeared around nearly all of them. Unfortunately this is a sign of attack by the vine weevil. On cutting into the tubers many c-shaped, white, brown headed grubs were found. These are the larva of the vine weevil. The adult beetles are dull grey black with a few yellow marks and can be found at night time. They feed on leaves during the summer but rarely do much damage to the plants. It is the grubs that overwinter in the soil and eat roots and tubers that cause a major the problem. Most of the damage occurs in pots and containers rather than in open ground. Chemical and biological controls are available but prove to be expensive if you have a large number of containers to treat.Another of last year’s experiments started with the fly tipping of a black bag containing kitchen waste along Mickley Lane. By the side of it I noticed a cape gooseberry (Physalis peruviana) in good condition and wondered if the seeds would germinate. Originally from Peru the name stems from their cultivation around the Cape of Good Hope in the early 19th century. The orange fruit inside the brown “lantern” yielded a large number of seeds which germinate like mustard and cress. After potting on and hardening off I planted some in the garden, where they made plants about four feet high. By accident they were planted with some red castor oil plants(Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita ‘) and the combination was quite dramatic. The flowerstended to be formed under leaves but were attractive when looked at closely. Later the “lanterns” formed, at first greenbut later turning into a fine brown network. I saved some to try this year and intend to start them a little earlier. They are not hardy and the first frosts put paid to the plants overnight. The cape gooseberry is related to the more familiar Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi ) which has bright red lanterns. I haven’t grown these for some time so will give them a go this year and compare the two species. Both are of the nightshade family and related to the tomato and potato.Having decided that the garage was in need of a good turn out I was surprised to find a small plastic pot containing something I hadn’t seen since the move from Church Street thirty years ago. It was a resurrection plant(Selaginella lepidophylla). This is quite a novelty because it can dry out completely but after a few hours in water opens up and becomes green again. It can go through this cycle for a number of times even though the plant is not alive. The plant is a type of clubmoss and reproduces by spores. A native of Southern and Central America the plant, when dried out, can break away and rehydrate if it ends up in a suitable location. There seems to be a debate as to whether the whole plant can re grow, whether it regenerates from the tips of the fronds or if it simply produces spores to re colonise the new area.