© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
I wrote in the last issue "Once again the weather seems to go from one extreme to the other", the same holds true for July and August. July had double the average rainfall but it seemed a dry month as 74mm of that fell in the last four days. The temperature for most of the month was about average apart from three days when it was above 30°C, peaking on the 25th at 36.6°C. August was equally unusual, again double the average rainfall but 90mm of that fell in four days, the 9th 11th 14th & 15th. Also on those days the temperatures were low for August. The highest temperature recorded in August was 33.3°C on the 26th but it felt a lot hotter than that. Having seen very few butterflies in July the beginning of August saw the arrival of a large number of painted ladies along with red admirals, tortoiseshells and peacocks. On the 3rd August I counted eleven species in the garden, all feeding on the buddleias. In addition to the four already mentioned there were large white, small white, green veined white, meadow brown, speckled wood, comma and brimstone. Through the whole of August the number of butterflies was quite exceptional, even now, at the end of August, there are still quite a few on the remaining buddleia flowers. In the last issue I mentioned seeing cinnabar moths and so I decided to leave a ragwort plant, their preferred food plant, to see if any eggs were laid. Despite not seeing any more moths at the end of July I noticed ten tiny little caterpillars with the distinctive orange and black stripes of the cinnabar moth . Unfortunately after all the heavy rain they disappeared either washed off the plant or succumbed to the cold and wet. I left the plant for a while but just as I decided to pull it up noticed another hatch of caterpillars. These seem to have survived and are now quite large. Weeding some willow herb I found a young elephant hawk moth caterpillar Deilephila elpenor so I had to leave some of them for it to feed on. I hope it survived as I have not seen it since then. Another unknown caterpillar decided to make its way up the outside of a window. It was making very slow progress laying a mat of silk on the glass before inching forward and laying a bit more. When I went back an hour or so later to see how far it had progressed it had disappeared, either eaten by a bird or simply fallen off. The barn has been eerily quiet this year as there were no swallow nests. This is the first blank year for as long as I can remember. It was strange not hearing their noisy chatter and not having to duck as they swooped in and out of the barn with mouthfuls of food for their chicks. There were none hawking low across the field and I feared their numbers had crashed as I only saw the odd single bird over the summer. However all may not be lost as at the end of August, at evening time, I have seen flocks of a dozen or so skimming over the trees at the back of the field. I am not sure what has caused the decline in numbers. Was it weather that upset their migration, were they decimated by offshore wind farms, or had something happened in their winter habitat? Another fall in numbers has been recorded for house sparrows, although the numbers around here seem to be holding up well. I read a recent article that claimed avian malaria to be responsible. Research in London revealed that since 1995 numbers were down by 71% and that three-quarters of the population were infected with the avian malaria parasite, making them lethargic and unable to eat, killing many through starvation. Another interesting occurrence I read about happened in September (so by the time you read this you will have missed it) was that for the first time since the 1600's magnetic north and geographic north will align in London. Those of you who are walkers will know that magnetic north, which is controlled by the earth's core, moves around geographic or true north and you have to allow for this when using a compass. I have received some sightings from the village. Marian Markham saw a tawny owl flying in Munday's Close on the 27 July. What was unusual was this was about 2'oclock in the afternoon. Maybe the heavy night had left it unable to feed during the night. Emily Murison sent in a photograph of a bright green beetle for identification. It turned out to be a female swollen thigh beetle (only the males have the swollen thighs!) Oedemera nobilis . They were first recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland in 2008 but have rapidly increased in numbers. In Munday's Close the sweet chestnut tree has produced has produced a lot of mast this year so we can expect to see some fat squirrels. I have added a new species for area, wild majoram Origanum vulgare , which may have been there before but I have only just noticed it. Three trees that were assumed to be common walnut Juglans regia, like the one on the island in Ashwell Road, we now think are black walnut juglans Juglans nigra . The details have had to be sent off for verification as there are several species of walnut that may have been planted and they are not always easy to identify. There is not much room left for notes on the garden except to say that I can at last turn round in the greenhouse now that the majority of plants are outside. Just in time to take cuttings of tender perennials to overwinter. 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 -

October 2019

Langham in Rutland
© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
I wrote in the last issue "Once again the weather seems to go from one extreme to the other", the same holds true for July and August. July had double the average rainfall but it seemed a dry month as 74mm of that fell in the last four days. The temperature for most of the month was about average apart from three days when it was above 30°C, peaking on the 25th at 36.6°C. August was equally unusual, again double the average rainfall but 90mm of that fell in four days, the 9th 11th 14th & 15th. Also on those days the temperatures were low for August. The highest temperature recorded in August was 33.3°C on the 26th but it felt a lot hotter than that. Having seen very few butterflies in July the beginning of August saw the arrival of a large number of painted ladies along with red admirals, tortoiseshells and peacocks. On the 3rd August I counted eleven species in the garden, all feeding on the buddleias. In addition to the four already mentioned there were large white, small white, green veined white, meadow brown, speckled wood, comma and brimstone. Through the whole of August the number of butterflies was quite exceptional, even now, at the end of August, there are still quite a few on the remaining buddleia flowers. In the last issue I mentioned seeing cinnabar moths and so I decided to leave a ragwort plant, their preferred food plant, to see if any eggs were laid. Despite not seeing any more moths at the end of July I noticed ten tiny little caterpillars with the distinctive orange and black stripes of the cinnabar moth . Unfortunately after all the heavy rain they disappeared either washed off the plant or succumbed to the cold and wet. I left the plant for a while but just as I decided to pull it up noticed another hatch of caterpillars. These seem to have survived and are now quite large. Weeding some willow herb I found a young elephant hawk moth caterpillar Deilephila elpenor so I had to leave some of them for it to feed on. I hope it survived as I have not seen it since then. Another unknown caterpillar decided to make its way up the outside of a window. It was making very slow progress laying a mat of silk on the glass before inching forward and laying a bit more. When I went back an hour or so later to see how far it had progressed it had disappeared, either eaten by a bird or simply fallen off. The barn has been eerily quiet this year as there were no swallow nests. This is the first blank year for as long as I can remember. It was strange not hearing their noisy chatter and not having to duck as they swooped in and out of the barn with mouthfuls of food for their chicks. There were none hawking low across the field and I feared their numbers had crashed as I only saw the odd single bird over the summer. However all may not be lost as at the end of August, at evening time, I have seen flocks of a dozen or so skimming over the trees at the back of the field. I am not sure what has caused the decline in numbers. Was it weather that upset their migration, were they decimated by offshore wind farms, or had something happened in their winter habitat? Another fall in numbers has been recorded for house sparrows, although the numbers around here seem to be holding up well. I read a recent article that claimed avian malaria to be responsible. Research in London revealed that since 1995 numbers were down by 71% and that three-quarters of the population were infected with the avian malaria parasite, making them lethargic and unable to eat, killing many through starvation. Another interesting occurrence I read about happened in September (so by the time you read this you will have missed it) was that for the first time since the 1600's magnetic north and geographic north will align in London. Those of you who are walkers will know that magnetic north, which is controlled by the earth's core, moves around geographic or true north and you have to allow for this when using a compass. I have received some sightings from the village. Marian Markham saw a tawny owl flying in Munday's Close on the 27 July. What was unusual was this was about 2'oclock in the afternoon. Maybe the heavy night had left it unable to feed during the night. Emily Murison sent in a photograph of a bright green beetle for identification. It turned out to be a female swollen thigh beetle (only the males have the swollen thighs!) Oedemera nobilis . They were first recorded in Leicestershire and Rutland in 2008 but have rapidly increased in numbers. In Munday's Close the sweet chestnut tree has produced has produced a lot of mast this year so we can expect to see some fat squirrels. I have added a new species for area, wild majoram Origanum vulgare , which may have been there before but I have only just noticed it. Three trees that were assumed to be common walnut Juglans regia, like the one on the island in Ashwell Road, we now think are black walnut juglans Juglans nigra . The details have had to be sent off for verification as there are several species of walnut that may have been planted and they are not always easy to identify. There is not much room left for notes on the garden except to say that I can at last turn round in the greenhouse now that the majority of plants are outside. Just in time to take cuttings of tender perennials to overwinter. 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 -

October 2019

Langham in Rutland