Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland © 1996 - 2018 Mike Frisby
Writing this towards the end of August and at last we have had some rain. The only significant rain fell in the last few days of July and then that was less than an inch. The garden has really suffered as I only watered the pots and tubs. Even the cannas, which normally love the warmth, failed to flower. They normally flower when they have about seven leaves but they had only produced five before the dry weather and then stopped growing. A few plants did like the warmth. The begonias at the front of the house put on a great display. They were grown in troughs so they had the advantage of water every day. My favourite fuchsias are Triphyllas, the ones with the very long tubes, and they flowered well but made only small plants. Among new varieties I tried this year were Roger de Cooker, Adinda, Stella Ann and Trumpeter. A small window cill phalaenopsis orchid that had stubbornly refused to flower for three years also burst into bloom, the extra warmth must have been what was required. Also flowering well were pink rain lilies which used to be named as Zephranthes robusta but now called Habranthus robustus.
The pink flowers appear before the leaves and put on quite a show. They are easy to grow but originate from Brazil and are not hardy, so one for the greenhouse. The coppiced hazels in Munday’s Close have suddenly shot up from nowhere and are looking in good shape. The seeds of the milk thistle that flowered last year on Mickley Lane have only just germinated. It is a biennial so the young plants will have to survive the winter. I had expected that the warm weather would be ideal for butterflies and the buddleias would attract clouds of them. Unfortunately, for some reason this did not happen, in fact there were fewer than normal. The only ones in any number were small whites along with large and green veined whites in smaller numbers. Numbers of tortoiseshell, red admiral, comma and peacock were down and I only saw one painted lady. Away from the buddleias holly blues seem to do well and also spotted were brimstone, meadow brown and small copper. Speckled woods were seen in Munday’s close but, although it might be my imagination, they seemed smaller than normal. The only thing I can think of is that the earlier prolonged wet spell must have affected numbers. Other insects have done better. There have been plenty of flies, some species of which I have not seen before and couldn’t identify. Speckled bush crickets and shield bugs have also been plentiful, including a nymph of the common green shieldbug and an adult hairy shieldbug. With the onset of the hot weather the small birds seemed to disappear and bird feeders were left almost untouched. A small flock of a dozen or so long tailed tits worked busily through the tree in the front garden for a while before continuing on their way. A robin, that is missing a few feathers behind its head, is the only small bird that I see regularly. Some birds are often heard more than they are seen. The tawny owls can be heard quite early in the evening and the green woodpecker often during the day. I occasionally saw the green woodpecker searching for ants in the field. The larger birds are always around. The jackdaws have even started to come to the bird table and demolish the fat balls. They also spend a lot of time in the field at the back of the house using their beaks to flick over dried horse droppings to devour the dung beetles beneath them. The parents of the three young crows had great difficulty getting them to feed for themselves. If I threw some food for them the parents would bring them to it and then stand back. It was amusing to watch as the three of them looked suspiciously at it then it was a case of you go first, no you go first, I’ll go if you go. After a few minutes one would dart in, grab a piece and rapidly retire. As soon as the parents took a piece of food the youngsters were there, expecting to be fed. I thought I had lost them one day as I heard shooting nearby and didn’t see them for twenty-four hours. However, they were back the day after which was good news as I am sure they do more good eating all the grubs than they do harm. Now that the young are fully grown the adults are less bothered with buzzards and kites. I’ve noticed crows seem to have a different attack method for each of them. With buzzards they tend to get above them and drive them down and away whilst with kites they seem to attack from underneath and drive them up and away. I never tire of watching kites and buzzards. The buzzards are able to hover in the wind or glide for ages with it without a wing beat. The smallest movement of the feathers on the edge of the wing and they can stall and swoop away. I am not sure which I prefer, the kites are more elegant but the buzzards have the edge of flying ability. Looking out of the window at the first lot of decent rain I noticed two wood pigeons on the trellis in most unusual positions. They were both standing at an angle with the left wing raised, after a while they turned left and raised the right wing. It took me a moment or two to realise the wind was driving the rain towards them they were having a shower bath. One day in the first week of August I was sitting having my lunch when I heard awful screams coming from the field at the back of the house. Looking out of the window I could see something caught in the wire right at the bottom. Through the binoculars I could see it was a muntjac. As I know that they die very quickly if stressed I ran over. Somehow it had got the lower part of the square wire in its mouth and the top part behind its antlers. Had I thought first, a pair of wire cutters would have been handy. However, I managed to lift it back over the wire and by this time it had stopped struggling as if it knew I was trying to help. With a bit of pulling and tugging I got it free. When it was released it galloped down the field and jumped back over the wire, successfully this time, and into the trees. I was amazed how heavy and strong muntjacs actually are. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org.
September 2018