© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
Here we are at the end of October and it's raining again, this is the fifth month in a row that the rainfall has been over 100mm. March rainfall was also over the 100mm mark, the total for those six months was over 700mm which is considerable when the long term twelve month average for this area is only a little over 600mm. The last couple of weeks have seen water lying in the field in places where it has never collected before. It seems strange that at times we were hoping for rain as everywhere was so dry. A much better pattern would be for the rain to be spread more evenly rather than coming in isolated downpours. Some of the showers were very heavy with a rain rate of over 150mm an hour. A good job they only lasted a short time. The graph shows one particularly heavy shower at midday on the 2nd of June, 155mm/hr or just over 6in/hr in proper measurements! The other line shows the corresponding drop in pressure. The wet ground must have brought worms and insect grubs to the surface as the birds were busy pecking away. They were mainly larger birds and I was surprised there were no blackbirds or thrushes; these seem to have deserted the gardens for the hedgerows where there is a plentiful supply of berries. The main feeders in the field were jackdaws, wood pigeons, crows and magpies. The black headed gull also made a couple of appearances, I hadn't seen him all summer; perhaps he went to the seaside for his holidays. One day there seemed to be a lot of magpies so I started counting, one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, (this looks promising). Yes one more six for gold, jackpot! I was just thinking what to do with the lottery win when a seventh appeared. Oh dear, seven for a secret never to be told, now I'm wondering what that is. It was probably my own fault the last one appeared as I forgot to follow the old custom of saluting the magpie and asking how he and his family were. Talking of old customs I am writing this on Halloween, the old celtic pagan festival of Samhain that celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Forget all the ghosts and ghouls here are some biological things to worry you that I read about recently. Firstly our native Atlantic salmon is at risk from the Pacific pink salmon. They were first seen in British rivers in 2017 where they spawned. They spend two years at sea so the young should be returning this year. The Pacific salmon is native to Alaska but was introduced into Russian rivers in the1960's and they have progressed along the northern coasts to here. It is feared they may introduce diseases and parasites that would infect our native salmon and trout and compete with them for food. It is urged that any caught should not be returned to the water. Secondly do you have any box bushes in your garden? Are any of the leaves turning brown and falling, with black streaks and die back on young stems? You might have box blight, a fungus disease that spreads rapidly in warm humid conditions and is difficult to control. Correct identification is important as another fungus disease, Volutella blight, has similar symptoms but is less serious. Visit the RHS website for more details. Thirdly an insect that could be heading our way is the s p o t t e d lanternfly. They are native to  China , are a pest to dozens of plants and trees. They can trigger sap leakage, wilting, leaf curling and dieback. The   UK   has   been   designated   a   'medium   risk' area,   along   with   much   of   Eastern   Europe,   while   the   eastern   US   and California   are   deemed   to   be   high   risk,   along   with   parts   of   France, Portugal,    Italy,    Russia    and    Ukraine.    The US Government tells people to kill them on sight. The fourth relates to arachnids, specifically ticks. Most people are aware that ticks can carry Lyme disease but recently some have been discovered in Thetford Forest, Norfolk and around the Hampshire and Dorset border that were carrying the encephalitis virus. They were found on deer but they can also be found on dogs. According to Public Health England the risk of infection is very low but it is better to safe than sorry if walking in areas where ticks are known to be present. Precautions include keeping skin covered, using insect repellent and inspect skin and dogs for ticks. There is a vaccine available for people travelling abroad to areas where the disease is prevalent. It is believed to have come to the UK on migrating birds. All of these examples show how difficult it is to keep our borders biologically secure. It seems only recently I was celebrating an empty greenhouse. It is now full again as all the tender plants are back inside. The door is now closed for most of the time, much to the annoyance of a wren that has been in and out all summer looking for spiders. Now is the time for fungi to make their appearance. Not all of them are umbrella shaped like a mushroom. One shaped like minute white fingers appeared in Munday's Close. It is called candlesnuff as it looks similar to a snuffed candle wick. The trees thought to have been black walnut have now been verified as correct examples of that species. There are only three other records in Rutland and Leicestershire. There is just room for a few of quick notes. September was a good month for dragonflies, I have not seen so many on the wing at that time of year. A young grass snake was unfortunately run over by a car on Ashwell Road. The squirrel has taken to carrying two walnuts at a time and I managed to get a photograph of him through the dining room window as he was deciding which pot to bury them in. In the garden a clump of nerines are putting on a vibrant display. 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 -

December 2019

Langham in Rutland