Notes from a field - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
The good weather has enabled more time to be spent outside, the peace only broken by bird song and the irritating whine of Grob 115E trainers that seem to be constantly flying round and round on the Eastern side of the village. Warmer weather in August was ideal for butterflies. Some species seem to have fared better than others.  Whilst I have seen more ringlet, holly blue, gatekeeper and speckled wood than usual there appeared to be fewer meadow brown, painted lady and small copper. A once common butterfly, the wall, once again, so far, has failed to put in an appearance. The last time I saw one was 6th June 2013 and that was only a single sighting. The holly blue has two broods a year. The first brood appears in April and May and eggs are laid on holly, dogwood and ivy. The second brood appears in August and females lay their eggs solely on Ivy. I managed to take a photograph of a female laying her eggs on ivy flower buds where the caterpillars will burrow into the closed flowers.
I recently managed to acquire, after many years of waiting, a 1914 first edition of FW Frowhawk's "Natural History of British Butterflies". It is in two large, heavy volumes and is an incredible work. He bred every species of British butterfly and drew all the stages of each from egg through to adult. Not surprisingly it took him twenty four years to complete! Patches of nettles are good places to look for butterfly larvae. I found a comma larva that had strayed from the nettles onto a water container, presumably looking for somewhere to pupate. The white patch on its body contrasting with the brown is supposed to act as camouflage resembling a bird dropping. Another insect I found, or at least the presence of it, was an artichoke gall. This gall is formed by another species of parasitic wasp (Andricus foecundatrix) to the one I mentioned in February that formed the knopper gall.  An interesting spider I saw was a female nursery web spider, she was carrying her eggs in a ball beneath her. Just before they hatch she builds a tent like web and puts them inside. Later I found the web with a dark ball inside it. When I touched the web the ball broke into a mass of scurrying tiny little spiders that ran all over the web. Like butterflies bird populations seem to vary from year to year. Last time I mentioned the large number of jackdaws seen, and heard, this year. In July they disappeared almost overnight. The young birds now being old enough they all migrated into the fields. Small birds have done well this year, I don't recall ever seeing so many wrens. Everywhere there seemed to be an angry wren chattering away to warn it's young that there was somebody about. Goldcrests have also done well. For several days in August Munday's Close and Mickley Lane were alive with them. The first sign they are there is their constant cries but actually seeing them is not so easy as they are tiny and quick. The best way is to stand still and look at where the sound is coming from. Concentrate on one place and don't try to look around. If you are lucky they will move into that area and once you have seen them it is not too hard to keep a track of their movements. They are not at all shy and you can get quite close to them. Taking a photograph is an entirely different matter! They move around so quickly that by the time you focus the camera they have gone. I tried for three consecutive days and ended up with nothing but pictures of leaves. Long-tailed tits have also done well. I saw a flock flying across Mickley Lane from the Severn Trent compound into Munday's Close. I counted thirty one but I think I missed a few more. A bird I have seen hardly at all is the greenfinch. I have only seen one pair. Has anyone seen any at their bird feeders? For the first time in ages there were no swallows nesting in the barn. One bird investigated possible sites in there but failed to attract a mate. They must have nested somewhere as later in the season I counted more than twenty adults and youngsters around the edge of some standing water in the field. I later found that David Suter had "stolen" them all! He had several nests and one pair managed to rear three broods. I shall have to find out his secret to entice them back as it's not the same without the swallows. The rain that followed the warm spell in August provided an opportunity for a pair of pigeons nesting in next doors leylandii to take a shower. They were leaning to one side, lifting the opposite wing over their backs to allow the rain underneath and then preening the feathers. This was repeated several times before the other side was given the treatment. It took me a while to work out what they were doing as I first thought they were injured. I have photographed more wild flowers and they have been added to "Langham Flora" on the website. A few examples are hairy st. john's wort, a much smaller relation to the garden hypericum, hairy tare, a tiny flowered vetch the seeds, or tares, of which will be familiar to anglers as bait for roach and nettle leaved bellflower, a campanula uncommon in Leicestershire and Rutland with only about half a dozen records. It seems these will be lost from Langham as the wild flower meadow area of Munday's Close has again been mown to ground level. I doubt many of the plants will survive. It seems a shame that even such a tiny area cannot be left for rarer plants and the insects they support. To contact Bob with your nature observations - please email
October 2016