Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland ©
At   the   time   of   writing,   early   January,   the   hedgerows   have   already   been   stripped   of   most   of their   fruits.   It   will   be   difficult   for   some   of   the   birds   to   find   food   if   we   have   a   prolonged   cold spell.   The   lack   of   these   fruits   may   be   the   reason   that,   so   far,   I   have   not   seen   a   single fieldfare   or   redwing.   As   usual   Mickley   Lane   and   Munday’s   close   are   good   places   to   see birds.   I   have   had   regular   sightings   of   bullfinches,   chaffinches,   goldcrests,   blue   tits,   great tits,   robins,   blackbirds,   hedge   sparrows,   house   sparrows   and   goldfinches.   In   the   field   the pair   of   mallard    have   returned   and   resumed   their   place   with   the   pheasants   for   the   evening feed.   Buzzards,   barn   owl   and   red   kite   are   seen   from   time   to   time   the   last   of   these   very   low over   Mickley   Lane   on   the   fourth   of   January.   The   jackdaws   are   appearing   in   increasing numbers    much    to    the    disgust    of    the    resident    crow    who    I    think    must    be    one    of    the offspring   the   late   Russell.   He   already   has   plenty   to   do   seeing   off   the   buzzard   and   sparrow hawk.   Apart   from   crows   and   jackdaws,   wood   pigeons   and   magpies   are   always   present. Very   few   reports   of   sightings   have   been   sent   in   recently   so   don’t   forget   to   email   me   your sightings,    comments    or    photographs    at    Look    out    for
some    of    your    photographs    in    the    photographs    section    of    Nature    Notes    on    the    village    website. Tim Maskell   sent   in   a   very   detailed   description   of   two   birds   he   caught   sight   of   in   his   garden.   The   only bird   he   could   match   with   them   was   a   spotted   nutcracker.   Unfortunately   he   was   unable   to   take   a photograph   for   them   to   be   verified.   This   would   have   been   an   excellent   record   as   they   are   extremely rare   in   this   country.   Richard   Braithwaite   recorded   a   great   spotted   woodpecker,   jackdaws ,   hedgehog and   grey   squirrel   in   his   garden.   He   tells   me   the   squirrel   makes   a   determined   effort   to   enter   the   house through the bedroom window. Whilst   clearing   one   of   the   plant   troughs   I   came   across   a   dead   hornet .   It   must   have   succumbed to   the   cold   before   finding   a   suitable   place   to   spend   the   winter.   Tucked   away   behind   some   wood   were a    collection    of    harlequin    ladybirds .    They    had    obviously    found    a    suitable    place    to    hibernate. The batteries   for   the   electric   fencing   in   the   field   are   protected   by   old   feed   buckets.   When   I   went   to replace   one   of   the   batteries   I   lifted   the   bucket   off   and   surprised   a   pair   of   field   voles   that   had   decided this   made   a   suitable   home.   They   soon   disappeared   separately   into   two   holes   they   had   made   to   get up   into   the   bucket.   Several   brown   rats   are   regularly   seen   around   the   feed   store   which   they   seem   to have   made   home   for   the   winter.   Helen   Wheeler   reported   a   fox   making   an   early   morning   appearance in the field at the back of the house. Several   people   have   mentioned   they   would   be   interested   in   more   notes   from   a   garden   so   I   will include   some   reflections   on   this   area.   I   lifted   and   dried   my   begonia   tubers   in   after   the   first   frost   and dried   them   in   the   greenhouse.   Recently   little   piles   of   debris   have   appeared   around   nearly   all   of   them. Unfortunately   this   is   a   sign   of   attack   by   the   vine   weevil.   On   cutting   into   the   tubers   many   c-shaped, white,   brown   headed   grubs   were   found.   These   are   the   larva   of   the   vine   weevil .   The   adult   beetles   are dull   grey   black   with   a   few   yellow   marks   and   can   be   found   at   night   time.   They   feed   on   leaves   during the   summer   but   rarely   do   much   damage   to   the   plants.   It   is   the   grubs   that   overwinter   in   the   soil   and eat   roots   and   tubers   that   cause   a   major   the   problem.   Most   of   the   damage   occurs   in   pots   and containers   rather   than   in   open   ground.   Chemical   and   biological   controls   are   available   but   prove   to   be expensive if you have a large number of containers to treat.    Another   of   last   year’s   experiments   started   with   the   fly   tipping   of   a   black   bag   containing   kitchen waste   along   Mickley   Lane.   By   the   side   of   it   I   noticed   a   cape   gooseberry   (Physalis   peruviana)   in   good condition   and   wondered   if   the   seeds   would   germinate.   Originally   from   Peru   the   name   stems   from their   cultivation   around   the   Cape   of   Good   Hope   in   the   early   19th   century.   The   orange   fruit   inside   the brown   “lantern”   yielded   a   large   number   of   seeds   which   germinate   like   mustard   and   cress.   After potting   on   and   hardening   off   I   planted   some   in   the   garden,   where   they   made   plants   about   four   feet high.   By   accident   they   were   planted   with   some   red   castor   oil   plants    (Ricinus   communis   ‘Carmencita   ‘) and   the   combination   was   quite   dramatic.   The   flowers    tended   to   be   formed   under   leaves   but   were attractive   when   looked   at   closely.   Later   the   “lanterns”   formed,   at   first   green    but   later   turning   into   a fine   brown   network .   I   saved   some   to   try   this   year   and   intend   to   start   them   a   little   earlier.   They   are   not hardy   and   the   first   frosts   put   paid   to   the   plants   overnight.   The   cape   gooseberry   is   related   to   the   more familiar   Chinese   lanterns   (Physalis   alkekengi   )   which   has   bright   red   lanterns.   I   haven’t   grown   these   for some   time   so   will   give   them   a   go   this   year   and   compare   the   two   species.   Both   are   of   the   nightshade family and related to the tomato and potato. Having   decided   that   the   garage   was   in   need   of   a   good   turn   out   I   was   surprised   to   find   a   small plastic   pot   containing   something   I   hadn’t   seen   since   the   move   from   Church   Street   thirty   years   ago.   It was   a   resurrection   plant    (Selaginella   lepidophylla).   This   is   quite   a   novelty   because   it   can   dry   out completely   but   after   a   few   hours   in   water   opens   up   and   becomes   green   again .   It   can   go   through   this cycle   for   a   number   of   times   even   though   the   plant   is   not   alive.   The   plant   is   a   type   of   clubmoss   and reproduces   by   spores.   A   native   of   Southern   and   Central   America   the   plant,   when   dried   out,   can   break away   and   rehydrate   if   it   ends   up   in   a   suitable   location.   There   seems   to   be   a   debate   as   to   whether   the whole   plant   can   re   grow,   whether   it   regenerates   from   the   tips   of   the   fronds   or   if   it   simply   produces spores to re colonise the new area.
February 2017