Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
July    and    August    provided    plenty    of    challenges    for    our    wild    life    with    the    extremes    of temperature   and   rainfall.   One   bird   that   was   affected   was   the   barn   owl,   their   feathers   are not   as   waterproof   as   most   birds   and   on   two   occasions   I   saw   one   out   early   in   the   evening before   it   was   dark.   The   previous   nights   there   had   been   heavy   rain   and   they   had   obviously not   been   able   to   hunt   and   were   desperate   to   eat   or   feed   their   young.   The   young   tawny owls   have   left   the   trees   at   the   back   of   the   house   and   could   be   seen   on   the   telegraph   poles and   roof   tops.   Anthony   Wright   reported   one   flying   over   his   garden   and   perching   in   a nearby   tree.   The   green   woodpecker   was   busy   in   the   field   after   the   rain   which   must   have brought   the   ants   up   to   the   surface.   Another   unusual   sight   was   the   little   egret   perched   on the   top   of   a   high   hedge   seemingly   eating   something   on   the   branches.   There   must   have been   a   hatch   of   some   sort   of   insect   as   several   swallows   were   diving   about   close   over   its head.   I   spent   ten   minutes   or   so   watching   some   small   birds   flitting   about   at   the   rear   of   the
Severn   Trent   compound   before   I   was   able   to   identify   them   as   reed   warblers.   They   had   probably nested   in   the   reed   beds   within   the   compound.   The   milk   thistle   has   now   died   but   its   seed   heads   have provided   a   source   of   food   for   several   goldfinches   that   frequent   that   area.   A   pair   of   bullfinches   are around   in   Munday's   Close   and   I   have   seen   them   close   to   the   ground   feeding   on   small   weed   seeds such   as   orache.   Gill   Frisby   reported   another   pair   feeding   on   the   honeysuckle   berries   in   her   garden.   A bird   not   seen   very   much   recently   is   the   sparrow   hawk.   This   coincides   with   the   lack   of   collared   doves which   seem   to   be   one   of   its   favourite   foods.   The   swallows   had   started   a   nest   in   the   barn   but   it   was very   quickly   taken   over   by   a   pair   of   wrens   who   covered   it   over   with   a   roof    giving   a   whole   new meaning   to   barn   conversions.   Once   the   young   had   hatched   the   parents   became   less   shy   which enabled   me   to   stand   and   watch   them   backwards   and   forwards   every   few   minutes   with   tasty   insects for    their    brood.    The    young    fledged    successfully    and    spent    a    day    in    the    feed    store     before disappearing   into   the   hedgerow.   There   were   two   other   surprise   hatchings.   After   losing   the   first brood   to   the   heat,   as   mentioned   last   time,   the   swallows   fledged   two   young.   The   first   time   I   knew   they were   there   they   were   out   of   the   nest   and   calling   for   the   parents   to   feed   them.   They   flew   off   within   a day.   The   second   surprise   was   in   late   August   when   I   spotted   a   hen   pheasant   with   five   young.   The young were just about able to fly so she had kept them well hidden for some time. A   trip   around   the   allotments,   particularly   around   the   edges   of   the   plots   and   any   that   have   been abandoned,   is   always   fruitful.   Several   new   species   were   recorded   including   l arge   flowered   evening primrose ,   greater   knapweed    and   great   mullein .   Also   seen   was   what   might   have   been   wild   parsnip   but   because   it   was   growing   on   an   abandoned   allotment   it   may   have   seeded   from   a   cultivated   variety. A   number   of   orange   and   black   striped   larvae   of   the   cinnabar   moth    were   found   feeding   on   a   patch   of ragwort.   Devil's-bit   scabious    and   nettle-leaved   bellflower    were   found   in   the   wild   flower   meadow   and in   the   woodland   at   the   back   of   the   field   a   red-leaved   rose    (Rosa   ferruginea).   There   is   very   little chance   of   picking   any   hazel   nuts   in   Munday's   Close   this   year.   The   gateway   is   covered   with   the remains of nut shells. The squirrels have got there first! The   warm   days   saw   plenty   of   butterflies   on   the   buddleias.   Red   admirals   and   tortoiseshells were   the   prominent   species   along   with   commas   and   painted   ladies.      I   saw   very   few   peacocks, although   Nigel   Webb   reported   he   had   seen   plenty   of   peacocks   but   at   that   time   no   painted   ladies.   It seems   populations   can   vary   across   a   very   small   area.   There   also   seemed   to   be   fewer   large   white, small   white   and   green   veined   white   around   here.   Another   visitor   to   the   buddleia   was   a   humming- bird   hawk-moth.   A   day   flying   moth   which,   as   its   name   suggests   hovers   in   front   of   the   flowers   probing them   for   nectar   with   its   very   long   proboscis.   In   the   field   there   were   meadow   browns   and   gatekeepers but   rather   fewer   in   number   than   usual.   The   verge   along   Mickley   Lane   was   a   good   place   to   see   holly blues,   ringlets   and   large   numbers   of   female   orange   tips   (which   don't   have   orange   tips   to   the   wings!).   I spent   ten   minutes   in   Munday's   close   watching   the   mating   flight   of   a   pair   of   speckled   woods   as   they twisted and twirled right in front of me before they moved off into the trees. Plenty   of   hover   flies   have   been   about   but   it   is   difficult   to   get   them   to   stay   still   for   long   enough to   take   a   photograph.   I   did   manage   to   get   a   picture   of   a   brightly   coloured   one,   ( Chrysotoxum bicictum ),   which   does   not   appear   to   have   a   common   name.   The   adult   hover   flies   feed   on   nectar   and the   larvae   are   useful   as   many   of   them   feed   on   aphids.   Another   fly   I   managed   to   get   a   photograph   of was   a   rose   sawfly   ( Arge   ochropus ) .   The   larvae,   as   you   would   expect   from   the   name,   feed   on   rose leaves,   the   adults   feed   on   nectar   and   pollen   from   hogweed   and   tansy.   This   one   was   found   on hogweed   close   to   a   patch   of   tansy.   Another   sawfly   that   can   be   a   problem   for   gardeners   is   the Solomon   seal   sawfly,   the   larvae   of   which   can   strip   the   leaves   of   this   plant   in   no   time.   This   is   the   first year   I   have   not   been   troubled   by   it,   I   think   because   I   recently   planted   some   pyrethrums   next   to   it. Pyrethrums   have   been   grown,   probably   for   thousands   of   years,   as,   when   powdered,   they   are   a   useful insecticide.   Maybe   just   the   plant   alone   has   deterred   the   sawflies.   A   line   was   missed   from   the   printed August   edition   that   mentioned   an   example   of   an   instar   stage   of   a   life   cycle.   The   picture   on   the August website version shows the final instar of the red legged shieldbug.
October 2017