Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland ©
Every   year   I   am   fascinated   by   the   way   plants   have   evolved   to   flower   in   a   very   specific order.    The    hedgerows    start    with    blackthorn,    then    hawthorn,    followed    by    elder    and dogwood.   The   change   is   almost   seamless   and   timed   to   perfection.   The   wild   flower   patch in   Munday's   Close   started   when   the   grass   was   short   with   the   cowslips,   then   a   foam   of   cow parsley,   followed   by   ox-eye   daisy .   It   makes   sure   the   plants   are   not   competing   against   taller growing   species   or   for   the   attention   of   insects   for   pollination.   The   insects   also   benefit   as there   is   a   constant   supply   of   flowers   to   provide   nectar.   There   should   be   a   huge   crop   of blackberries     this     year     as     there     are     bramble     flowers     everywhere.     The     verge     on Mickley Lane   is   still   turning   up   some   surprises.   I   found   two   more   plants,   drooping   star of Bethlehem    and   common   cammas    in   amongst   grass   and   nettles.   These   must   be   garden escapes     or     have     been     planted     at     some     time.     Both     seem     to     have     naturalised. The  milk thistle    has   attracted   some   attention   with   visitors   from   outside   the   area   coming   to
look   at   it.   I   must   admit   it   is   quite   impressive   at   over   six   feet,   covered   in   flowers   and   seed   heads . Well worth the effort to protect it. Local   birds   seem   to   be   doing   well.   At   one   point   it   seemed   as   if   chiff   chaffs   were   everywhere with   their   distinctive   call   from   which   they   get   their   name.   Christine   Wheatley   reported   visits   of   song thrushes,   great   spotted   woodpeckers   and   tawny   owls   to   her   garden.   I   hear   the   young   tawny   owls   in the   trees   at   the   back   but   it   is   always   too   dark   to   see   them.   I   love   being   outside   at   one   o'clock   in   the morning.   Sometimes   it   is   so   quiet   that   you   can   hear   the   snails   munching   away   but   often   the   night   is filled   with   all   sorts   of   calls,   the   owls   contributing   many   different   tweeeps   and   tweers   along   with quavering   hooooos.   I   have   also   seen   the   barn   owl   at   close   quarters.   For   the   first   time   I   have   had wood   pigeons   stripping   the   young   buds   and   leaves   from   plants   in   my   garden.   They   have   always   been about   but   have   never   done   so   much   damage.   I   put   up   a   special   woodpecker   nest   box   in   the   field   a couple   of   years   ago.   The   hole   was   chipped   away   around   the   edges   but   never   used.   This   year   it   was commandeered   by   a   family   of   great   tits   which   was   not   what   I   had   in   mind.   No   pheasant   chicks   have been   spotted   this   year   and   I   have   not   seen   even   one   adult   moorhen.   One   pair   of   swallows   nested   in the   barn   and   hatched   three   eggs.   Sadly   over   a   couple   of   days   the   babies   were   found   dead   on   the ground   below   the   nest.   This   was   at   the   time   of   the   very   hot   weather   and   I   think   they   must   have succumbed   to   the   very   high   temperatures   under   the   barn   roof.   Hopefully   there   is   still   time   for   them to   have   another   brood.   The   young   jackdaws   fledged   around   the   middle   of   June   and   soon   a   flock   of fifty   or   more   were   marauding   noisily   around   the   village   like   a   party   of   revellers   after   a   particularly good night out. Fortunately they will soon disperse out into the fields. May   saw   more   butterflies   on   the   wing,   a   red   admiral   on   the   22nd.   and   a   painted   lady   on   the 30th..   The   first   Comma   was   seen   on   the   25th   of   June.   An   easily   overlooked   but   quite   colourful   spider is   the   cucumber   green   orb   spider .   They   are   only   about   5mm.   long   and   rely   on   their   colour   for camouflage.   They   catch   small   flying   insects   in   their   webs.   Whereas   butterflies   life   cycles   are   egg, larva,   chrysalis,   adult   other   invertebrates,   such   as   the   locust,   have   a   life   cycle   of   egg,   nymph,   adult. The   nymphs   have   to   grow   but   because   they   have   an   exoskeleton   (hard   skin)   they   have   to   moult several   times,   growing   rapidly   before   the   new   skin   hardens.   The   stages   between   the   moults   are known   as   instars.   The   picture   on   the   website   version   of   this   article   is   of   the   final   instar   of   the red legged shieldbug . I    have    not    seen    any    muntjac    deer    recently    but    Ruth    Burdett    reported    one    in    her    wood. Mike Frisby   reported   seeing   several   bats   in   his   garden   and   there   has   been   the   odd   one   catching insects   attracted   by   the   street   light.   A   pair   of   grey   squirrels   kept   me   amused   for   a   while   running backwards and forwards along the wall as they collected food from the bird feeders next door. The   banana   tree   in   the   garden   failed   to   make   it   through   the   winter.   It   was   not   the   cold   that killed   it   but   it   rotted   of   from   the   inside.   I   made   the   mistake   of   packing   the   straw   insulation   too   tight so   the   moisture   could   not   escape.   Some   plants   that   have   done   well   are   the   sisyrinchiums   which   have self   seeded   into   the   cracks   between   the   paving.   Only   a   few   inches   high   with   stiff,   grass   like   leaves they   have   pretty   blue   flowers.   I   grow   a   larger   relative   with   yellow   flowers    which   is   short   lived   but readily   self   seeds.   The   Daturas   have   just   started   to   flower.   They   have   spectacular   flowers   and   are often   called   "Angels   Trumpets".   There   are   two   main   types,   the   annual   varieties   are   usually   known   as Datura   whilst   the   more   shrubby   perennials   are   Brugmansia.   All   parts   of   the   plant   are   toxic.   They   are related   to   the   American   "Jimson   weed"   used   by   native   american   shaman   to   induce   a   trance   like   state. I   remember   reading   a   book   in   the   late   1960's   entitled   "The   Teachings   of   Don   Juan:   a   Yaqui   Way   of Knowledge"   by   Carlos   Castaneda   which   was   supposedly   part   of   his   study   of   anthropology   at   U.C.L.A. and   gave   accounts   of   his   experiences   with   one   such   shaman.   Whatever   their   reputation   they   are certainly spectacular plants in their modern form.
August 2017