© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
Once again the weather seems to go from one extreme to the other. Periods that were very dry then torrential rain, a whole months rain falling on the11th June. It certainly makes things difficult for both plants and animals. It has been good to see so many young birds this year, among those seen being fed in the garden were blackbird, blue tit, robin and chaffinch. I have only seen one young crow being fed in that field at the back of the house. Normally by now there are three youngsters wanting to be fed. I think the parents must be two of last year's youngsters; perhaps their first breeding season has not been quite so productive. At the moment I am being plagued by larger birds eating all the food I put out. I have had to remove the saucer from underneath the seed feeder as a pair of pigeons were emptying it within two or three hours of it being filled. The bird table is only a yard or so from the dining room window and the fat balls, which I have been putting out for years, used to last the small birds for ages. Unfortunately the jackdaws have now discovered them and a small flock of them can devour two fat balls in no time. Even standing at the window doesn't scare them off for long. The bee box that I put last year was, for a couple of days, was a hive of activity. There must have been twenty or so mason bees around it, both male and female, although I am not sure what species of bee they were. When the activity died down I noticed all the ends of the bamboo pieces had been filled in so plenty of eggs must have been laid. Other insects that have not done so well are the butterflies. After the initial flurry of lots of orange tips, holly blues and brimstones sightings of any species have been few and far between apart from a few speckled woods in Munday's close and a single painted lady appeared in the garden on the 24th June. Anthony Wright reported a cinnabar moth on the 31st May, easily recognised they have deep black and red upper wings and red under wings. Over the next few days I saw three in the garden, all flying in north westerly direction. They had probably hatched from where the caterpillars had been feeding on a ragwort plant in the allotments. I have had several reports of sightings from around the village. Anthony Wright reported several things from Ashwell Road, just outside the village. He saw a stoat run across the road just in front of him and moments later run back again with a baby rabbit in its mouth, also, from the same area a snake, several foxes, a badger and an invasion of baby frogs in his garden. Clare Martin reported seeing a dozen mallard ducklings in the brook. I wonder how many have survived. Marian Markham sent me some lovely pictures of a young great spotted woodpecker on her bird feeders. She has seen the male, the female and two young, although not all together. The young have a full red patch on the top of the head which is reduced to a smaller patch towards the back of the head in the adult male. The female has no red on the head at all. Gill Frisby brought up the survey of spittle bugs that had been in the papers. Spittle bugs or froghoppers are small bugs, the nymphs of which protect themselves with a layer of foam, often called cuckoo spit. The survey was set up to find more details about the distribution of spittle bugs so they know where they are if the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria arrives in this country. The bugs themselves are not the problem but as they are sap suckers they can spread the disease from plant to plant. This is the bacteria that has devastated the Italian olive groves and is spreading this way. There is no cure and the consequences of finding it are extreme. " If found in the UK, all host plants within 100m would need to be destroyed and there would be immediate movement restrictions on some plants within a 5km radius for up to five years. " I'm not sure what all the host plants are but obviously olives, also rosemary, lavender and some native trees. Let's hope it doesn't get here. I found some cuckoo spit on my lavender bush and the picture on the website shows the nymph from inside the foam. I don't know which it is of the ten or so species found in this country. New research by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh gives some hope for the native British bluebell. It found reduced fertility in the non-native bluebells. "It is as if most or all of the non-native bluebells in the UK are hybrid, rather than any being ‘pure’ Spanish. Although hybrids between many plant species can be fertile, a likely explanation is that there are some genetic incompatibilities between native British bluebells and Spanish bluebells which has led to reduced fertility". So hopefully we shall not be seeing the end of the native bluebells. I have been trying to eliminate Spanish bluebells from the garden for ages but they still keep appearing. Other plants I have been waging war on because they have outgrown their welcome are grape hyacinths, herb robert, welsh poppies, caper spurge and hellebores. All fine plants if only they would stay in one place instead of seeding themselves all over the garden. Elsewhere in the garden two pots of tree peony seed have decided to germinate having been in outside for two winters. A strange seedling appeared in a pot of lily seeds. It turned out to be a walnut, that wretched squirrel had been at it again. As the leaves of Arum italicum start to die back the flower spathes can be seen more clearly. The Tibetan cowslips Primula florindae sown last year are flowering and already nearly 2ft high. They are usually yellow but one is a more bronze colour. If big bold flowers are your thing then some of the named varieties of Hippeastrum (Amaryllis) are it. The picture on the website is " Minerva ". It produced two stems 30in high with five flowers on each. Each flower was 9in across. If you prefer something that is, quite frankly weird, have a look at cobra lilies. Three that I have grown this year are pictured on the website, Arisaema tortuosum , A. consanguineum and A.costatum . I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

August 2019

Langham in Rutland
© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
Once again the weather seems to go from one extreme to the other. Periods that were very dry then torrential rain, a whole months rain falling on the11th June. It certainly makes things difficult for both plants and animals. It has been good to see so many young birds this year, among those seen being fed in the garden were blackbird, blue tit, robin and chaffinch. I have only seen one young crow being fed in that field at the back of the house. Normally by now there are three youngsters wanting to be fed. I think the parents must be two of last year's youngsters; perhaps their first breeding season has not been quite so productive. At the moment I am being plagued by larger birds eating all the food I put out. I have had to remove the saucer from underneath the seed feeder as a pair of pigeons were emptying it within two or three hours of it being filled. The bird table is only a yard or so from the dining room window and the fat balls, which I have been putting out for years, used to last the small birds for ages. Unfortunately the jackdaws have now discovered them and a small flock of them can devour two fat balls in no time. Even standing at the window doesn't scare them off for long. The bee box that I put last year was, for a couple of days, was a hive of activity. There must have been twenty or so mason bees around it, both male and female, although I am not sure what species of bee they were. When the activity died down I noticed all the ends of the bamboo pieces had been filled in so plenty of eggs must have been laid. Other insects that have not done so well are the butterflies. After the initial flurry of lots of orange tips, holly blues and brimstones sightings of any species have been few and far between apart from a few speckled woods in Munday's close and a single painted lady appeared in the garden on the 24th June. Anthony Wright reported a cinnabar moth on the 31st May, easily recognised they have deep black and red upper wings and red under wings. Over the next few days I saw three in the garden, all flying in north westerly direction. They had probably hatched from where the caterpillars had been feeding on a ragwort plant in the allotments. I have had several reports of sightings from around the village. Anthony Wright reported several things from Ashwell Road, just outside the village. He saw a stoat run across the road just in front of him and moments later run back again with a baby rabbit in its mouth, also, from the same area a snake, several foxes, a badger and an invasion of baby frogs in his garden. Clare Martin reported seeing a dozen mallard ducklings in the brook. I wonder how many have survived. Marian Markham sent me some lovely pictures of a young great spotted woodpecker on her bird feeders. She has seen the male, the female and two young, although not all together. The young have a full red patch on the top of the head which is reduced to a smaller patch towards the back of the head in the adult male. The female has no red on the head at all. Gill Frisby brought up the survey of spittle bugs that had been in the papers. Spittle bugs or froghoppers are small bugs, the nymphs of which protect themselves with a layer of foam, often called cuckoo spit. The survey was set up to find more details about the distribution of spittle bugs so they know where they are if the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria arrives in this country. The bugs themselves are not the problem but as they are sap suckers they can spread the disease from plant to plant. This is the bacteria that has devastated the Italian olive groves and is spreading this way. There is no cure and the consequences of finding it are extreme. " If found in the UK, all host plants within 100m would need to be destroyed and there would be immediate movement restrictions on some plants within a 5km radius for up to five years. " I'm not sure what all the host plants are but obviously olives, also rosemary, lavender and some native trees. Let's hope it doesn't get here. I found some cuckoo spit on my lavender bush and the picture on the website shows the nymph from inside the foam. I don't know which it is of the ten or so species found in this country. New research by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh gives some hope for the native British bluebell. It found reduced fertility in the non- native bluebells. "It is as if most or all of the non- native bluebells in the UK are hybrid, rather than any being ‘pure’ Spanish. Although hybrids between many plant species can be fertile, a likely explanation is that there are some genetic incompatibilities between native British bluebells and Spanish bluebells which has led to reduced fertility". So hopefully we shall not be seeing the end of the native bluebells. I have been trying to eliminate Spanish bluebells from the garden for ages but they still keep appearing. Other plants I have been waging war on because they have outgrown their welcome are grape hyacinths, herb robert, welsh poppies, caper spurge and hellebores. All fine plants if only they would stay in one place instead of seeding themselves all over the garden. Elsewhere in the garden two pots of tree peony seed have decided to germinate having been in outside for two winters. A strange seedling appeared in a pot of lily seeds. It turned out to be a walnut, that wretched squirrel had been at it again. As the leaves of Arum italicum start to die back the flower spathes can be seen more clearly. The Tibetan cowslips Primula florindae sown last year are flowering and already nearly 2ft high. They are usually yellow but one is a more bronze colour. If big bold flowers are your thing then some of the named varieties of Hippeastrum (Amaryllis) are it. The picture on the website is " Minerva ". It produced two stems 30in high with five flowers on each. Each flower was 9in across. If you prefer something that is, quite frankly weird, have a look at cobra lilies. Three that I have grown this year are pictured on the website, Arisaema tortuosum , A. consanguineum and A.costatum . I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

August 2019

Langham in Rutland