© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
Although we have missed the worst of the rain, this February has still been the wettest in the last ten years. I don’t recall the ground being this saturated. Water is just laying on the surface unable to soak away. The total rainfall for February was 134.6mm, almost double the next highest for this month in the last ten years. Air temperatures have also remained high with only fourteen days falling below zero in the four months from November through to February. The lowest temperature was only -2.7ºC. Together with the absence of any significant snow this makes it a most unusual winter. My mention of the lack of small birds visiting feeders this year resulted in several emails on the subject. Only one said that they had not seen any difference, all the rest confirmed that they too had seen a decline. However, the frequency of different species does not seem to be uniform. Goldfinches were one example. I have only seen one pair recently, but greater numbers have been seen at the other end of the village. Birds where numbers appear to be down are particularly blackbirds and house sparrows. One theory I have seen put forward is the lack of food due to the hot weather in June and July last year, with ground feeding birds suffering the most. There have been some sightings of blue tits, coal tits, great tits, long tailed tits and collared doves but not in large numbers. Larger birds seem to be doing much better. Large numbers of wood pigeons have been seen in the field at the back of the house. One day they were everywhere but I kept losing count once I had got over thirty. Jackdaws and magpies are seen in increasing numbers. The jackdaws are becoming a particular nuisance. They have become very bold and are now appearing on the bird table that is only a few feet from the dining room window. The other birds are not getting a look in. If I put food out on the table, the jackdaws are there before I have got inside, and the food is all gone in seconds. Unusually, the young crow is still with its parents; normally they would have driven any young off by now. One day, a fourth crow was with them and I wondered if it might be a mate for the young bird. Normally no other crows are tolerated. However, it was the only sighting and I haven’t seen it since. I had not seen any buzzards for a few months but recently I heard a familiar call and saw one overhead. A few days later I noticed a pair over the field. The crows were not amused and soon drove them off. Buzzards are not the crows only problem at the moment. My dining room window looks towards the Severn Trent compound off Mickley Lane. I can’t see any of it as there is a high hedge at the bottom of the field. However, there is a tall lamp stand that just clears the hedge and a black headed gull seems to have made the top of it a regular resting spot. Again, the crows did not like this and made dive bomb attacks to dislodge the gull. This time they seem to have met their match and the gull didn’t move. After a while they gave up in disgust. Incidentally, that light must be on a movement sensor as, when it is dark, it is flicking on and off all the time. It intrigues me as to what is triggering it. Could it be foxes, badgers, cats or muntjacs? Mentioning muntjacs I saw one in the field one afternoon recently, it moved around the hedge line before jumping the wire into the trees. The six male pheasants I mentioned last time have now been reduced to one. He has obviously seen off the other five and now has a harem of nine females. They often wander around the field in a group. Other reports were more worrying. Three people have recorded seeing an otter which coincides with reports of fish being lost from ponds. All were convinced it was an otter but, as there is no photographic evidence, I can’t be convinced that it is not a mink. As we don’t come across either species very frequently it is difficult to make a definite identification from what is usually a fleeting glimpse. This website gives a good guide as to which is which . If anyone manages to get a photograph, I would be interested to see it. If it is a mink, then the outlook for a lot of wildlife is not very good. The last time we had a mink in the village it cleared out several ponds of fish and over the course of a few days took all the moorhen and pheasant chicks from the field. Mink are such a menace that control programmes are in force in several areas. The warm winter has been good for the spring flowers. The snowdrops have been particularly good this year. They are dying back now, as are the chionodoxa and crocus, but the daffodils are taking over and the snowflakes are just coming out. The aconites are over, but the geraniums have now survived their second winter outside and are still flowering. I must take some cuttings this year as they can’t go on forever. Other plants now flowering are daphne, forsythia, hellebore, pulmonaria, bergenia, primrose, primula variabilis and denticulata, japanese quince and iris reticulata. A good display for the end of February. One plant that has surprised me is one of the alstroemerias. They normally die right back and the roots only survive under a thick mulch. However, this particular plant has a mass of green shoots about six inches high that have not died back at all. I am always interested in other people’s sightings and comments so don’t forget to email me .
Notes from a Field & Garden - April 2020
Langham in Rutland
© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
Although we have missed the worst of the rain, this February has still been the wettest in the last ten years. I don’t recall the ground being this saturated. Water is just laying on the surface unable to soak away. The total rainfall for February was 134.6mm, almost double the next highest for this month in the last ten years. Air temperatures have also remained high with only fourteen days falling below zero in the four months from November through to February. The lowest temperature was only -2.7ºC. Together with the absence of any significant snow this makes it a most unusual winter. My mention of the lack of small birds visiting feeders this year resulted in several emails on the subject. Only one said that they had not seen any difference, all the rest confirmed that they too had seen a decline. However, the frequency of different species does not seem to be uniform. Goldfinches were one example. I have only seen one pair recently, but greater numbers have been seen at the other end of the village. Birds where numbers appear to be down are particularly blackbirds and house sparrows. One theory I have seen put forward is the lack of food due to the hot weather in June and July last year, with ground feeding birds suffering the most. There have been some sightings of blue tits, coal tits, great tits, long tailed tits and collared doves but not in large numbers. Larger birds seem to be doing much better. Large numbers of wood pigeons have been seen in the field at the back of the house. One day they were everywhere but I kept losing count once I had got over thirty. Jackdaws and magpies are seen in increasing numbers. The jackdaws are becoming a particular nuisance. They have become very bold and are now appearing on the bird table that is only a few feet from the dining room window. The other birds are not getting a look in. If I put food out on the table, the jackdaws are there before I have got inside, and the food is all gone in seconds. Unusually, the young crow is still with its parents; normally they would have driven any young off by now. One day, a fourth crow was with them and I wondered if it might be a mate for the young bird. Normally no other crows are tolerated. However, it was the only sighting and I haven’t seen it since. I had not seen any buzzards for a few months but recently I heard a familiar call and saw one overhead. A few days later I noticed a pair over the field. The crows were not amused and soon drove them off. Buzzards are not the crows only problem at the moment. My dining room window looks towards the Severn Trent compound off Mickley Lane. I can’t see any of it as there is a high hedge at the bottom of the field. However, there is a tall lamp stand that just clears the hedge and a black headed gull seems to have made the top of it a regular resting spot. Again, the crows did not like this and made dive bomb attacks to dislodge the gull. This time they seem to have met their match and the gull didn’t move. After a while they gave up in disgust. Incidentally, that light must be on a movement sensor as, when it is dark, it is flicking on and off all the time. It intrigues me as to what is triggering it. Could it be foxes, badgers, cats or muntjacs? Mentioning muntjacs I saw one in the field one afternoon recently, it moved around the hedge line before jumping the wire into the trees. The six male pheasants I mentioned last time have now been reduced to one. He has obviously seen off the other five and now has a harem of nine females. They often wander around the field in a group. Other reports were more worrying. Three people have recorded seeing an otter which coincides with reports of fish being lost from ponds. All were convinced it was an otter but, as there is no photographic evidence, I can’t be convinced that it is not a mink. As we don’t come across either species very frequently it is difficult to make a definite identification from what is usually a fleeting glimpse. The following website gives a good guide as to which is which. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/how-to/identify-wildlife/how-to-tell- the-difference-between-an-otter-and-a-mink/ If anyone manages to get a photograph, I would be interested to see it. If it is a mink, then the outlook for a lot of wildlife is not very good. The last time we had a mink in the village it cleared out several ponds of fish and over the course of a few days took all the moorhen and pheasant chicks from the field. Mink are such a menace that control programmes are in force in several areas. The warm winter has been good for the spring flowers. The snowdrops have been particularly good this year. They are dying back now, as are the chionodoxa and crocus, but the daffodils are taking over and the snowflakes are just coming out. The aconites are over, but the geraniums have now survived their second winter outside and are still flowering. I must take some cuttings this year as they can’t go on forever. Other plants now flowering are daphne, forsythia, hellebore, pulmonaria, bergenia, primrose, primula variabilis and denticulata, japanese quince and iris reticulata. A good display for the end of February. One plant that has surprised me is one of the alstroemerias. They normally die right back and the roots only survive under a thick mulch. However, this particular plant has a mass of green shoots about six inches high that have not died back at all. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me .
Notes from a Field & Garden - April 2020
Langham in Rutland