© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
A few days into the New Year and a good time to look at last year’s weather patterns. The lowest temperature recorded was -6.5⁰C on 31st January and the highest 36.6⁰C on 4th July. Rainfall was exceptional last year. January, February and April were dry with rainfall below average. May was about average but March was very wet with rainfall of just over 100mm. The months of June through to November were very wet, all recording levels of over 100mm. December just avoided making it seven months of over 100mm by recording 88.6mm. The total rainfall for the year was 1157.7mm. I started recording measurements seriously ten years ago and the previous highest total was in 2012 at 1043.9mm. The intervening six years averaged out at 783.3mm. It is dangerous to draw any conclusions from this data as climate changes need to be looked at over much longer time scales, maybe even hundreds of years. I am wondering what has happened to all the small birds recently. Yes, there have been the odd visitors to the bird feeders, tits and house sparrows mainly and dunnocks and robins in the garden but not in any numbers or with any frequency. I was filling the feeders almost every day until recently but now not even once a week. I wonder if this is just here or has anyone else noticed it? The larger birds are still around in large numbers, particularly wood pigeons in flocks of fifty or more. One unusual sight was that of six male pheasants all feeding together as a group. Obviously they have not started marking out their breeding territories. Black headed gulls, still in their winter plumage, have also been making an appearance. The tawny owls have recently been very vocal during the night and seem to have paired up ready for the breeding season. The wet weather left a lot of standing water in the field at the back of the house which was much appreciated as a bathing area for many of the birds. Wood pigeons and crows have been the most frequent users. One day the three crows were having a great time walking into the water and flapping their wings sending spray everywhere. Then out they would come have a quick shake and back in again. They were there for quite some time. I have also been watching how different birds react to food thrown out to them. Although the crows are the dominant species, they are also the most careful and wary in their approach to feeding. They land some distance away and sidle forwards, rarely in a straight line, all the time looking around them for any threat. When they get to the food they make a few tentative prods at it, jumping back each time, before filling their beaks and flying off to a safe distance to either eat it or hide it in the grass. The other birds show no such finesse. The magpies are usually first to arrive, often before I have got back in the house. They land, grab as much as they can carry and fly off. The jackdaws always amaze me. There do not seem to be any jackdaws about but soon one will spot the food and within a few seconds there may be ten or a dozen of them. Their technique is to fly in swiftly, grab some food, and away as quickly as possible. The black headed gulls arrive in a small flock and circle around for a while before swooping in and grabbing a piece on the wing. They are easily spooked and then go into another round of circling before returning to feed. They also have a habit of mobbing the jackdaws and try to make them drop their food. If they manage this they are agile enough catch it before it hits the ground. The wood pigeons are rather dozy; it is almost as if they are asking “What’s going on here?” They land and wander about pecking at crumbs whilst mayhem is going on around them. As you can imagine the food doesn’t last long, so by the time the crows have decided everything is safe there is not much left. However, what remains is theirs and the other birds stay clear, apart from the wood pigeons that haven’t a clue what is going on and are tolerated by the crows that seem to regard them as something so far beneath them that they don’t exist. The mild weather has seen the spring bulbs appearing above ground very early with the snowflakes the first to appear followed by the daffodils. The border that I dug over and carefully removed all the grape hyacinths from, now looks as if I had sown grass seed. These are all the tiny little bulbs that I missed. It looks like it will have to be gone over again before I plant anything. The first day of January saw primroses and aconites in flower. Now is the time when all those lovely seed catalogues arrive. I have resolved this year to not be tempted too much and cut down on ordering. We will see how well that goes! At the moment I have restricted myself to a few primula species including P. alpicola, a long-stemmed violet flowered species from Tibet and P. burmanica, a very tall fuchsia flowered species from Yunnan and Burma. I hope they are as successful as the P. florindae that flowered this year. I am always interested in other people’s sightings and comments so don’t forget to email me .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

February 2020

Langham in Rutland
© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
A few days into the New Year and a good time to look at last year’s weather patterns. The lowest temperature recorded was -6.5⁰C on 31st January and the highest 36.6⁰C on 4th July. Rainfall was exceptional last year. January, February and April were dry with rainfall below average. May was about average but March was very wet with rainfall of just over 100mm. The months of June through to November were very wet, all recording levels of over 100mm. December just avoided making it seven months of over 100mm by recording 88.6mm. The total rainfall for the year was 1157.7mm. I started recording measurements seriously ten years ago and the previous highest total was in 2012 at 1043.9mm. The intervening six years averaged out at 783.3mm. It is dangerous to draw any conclusions from this data as climate changes need to be looked at over much longer time scales, maybe even hundreds of years. I am wondering what has happened to all the small birds recently. Yes, there have been the odd visitors to the bird feeders, tits and house sparrows mainly and dunnocks and robins in the garden but not in any numbers or with any frequency. I was filling the feeders almost every day until recently but now not even once a week. I wonder if this is just here or has anyone else noticed it? The larger birds are still around in large numbers, particularly wood pigeons in flocks of fifty or more. One unusual sight was that of six male pheasants all feeding together as a group. Obviously they have not started marking out their breeding territories. Black headed gulls, still in their winter plumage, have also been making an appearance. The tawny owls have recently been very vocal during the night and seem to have paired up ready for the breeding season. The wet weather left a lot of standing water in the field at the back of the house which was much appreciated as a bathing area for many of the birds. Wood pigeons and crows have been the most frequent users. One day the three crows were having a great time walking into the water and flapping their wings sending spray everywhere. Then out they would come have a quick shake and back in again. They were there for quite some time. I have also been watching how different birds react to food thrown out to them. Although the crows are the dominant species, they are also the most careful and wary in their approach to feeding. They land some distance away and sidle forwards, rarely in a straight line, all the time looking around them for any threat. When they get to the food they make a few tentative prods at it, jumping back each time, before filling their beaks and flying off to a safe distance to either eat it or hide it in the grass. The other birds show no such finesse. The magpies are usually first to arrive, often before I have got back in the house. They land, grab as much as they can carry and fly off. The jackdaws always amaze me. There do not seem to be any jackdaws about but soon one will spot the food and within a few seconds there may be ten or a dozen of them. Their technique is to fly in swiftly, grab some food, and away as quickly as possible. The black headed gulls arrive in a small flock and circle around for a while before swooping in and grabbing a piece on the wing. They are easily spooked and then go into another round of circling before returning to feed. They also have a habit of mobbing the jackdaws and try to make them drop their food. If they manage this they are agile enough catch it before it hits the ground. The wood pigeons are rather dozy; it is almost as if they are asking “What’s going on here?” They land and wander about pecking at crumbs whilst mayhem is going on around them. As you can imagine the food doesn’t last long, so by the time the crows have decided everything is safe there is not much left. However, what remains is theirs and the other birds stay clear, apart from the wood pigeons that haven’t a clue what is going on and are tolerated by the crows that seem to regard them as something so far beneath them that they don’t exist. The mild weather has seen the spring bulbs appearing above ground very early with the snowflakes the first to appear followed by the daffodils. The border that I dug over and carefully removed all the grape hyacinths from, now looks as if I had sown grass seed. These are all the tiny little bulbs that I missed. It looks like it will have to be gone over again before I plant anything. The first day of January saw primroses and aconites in flower. Now is the time when all those lovely seed catalogues arrive. I have resolved this year to not be tempted too much and cut down on ordering. We will see how well that goes! At the moment I have restricted myself to a few primula species including P. alpicola, a long-stemmed violet flowered species from Tibet and P. burmanica, a very tall fuchsia flowered species from Yunnan and Burma. I hope they are as successful as the P. florindae that flowered this year. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

February 2020

Langham in Rutland