Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland ©
April   was   certainly   a   month   of   contrasting   weather.   The   high   daytime   temperatures varied   between   11 0 C   and   23 0 C   but   the   night   time   lows   were   mostly   between   10 0 C   and   5 0 C with   only   three   nights   where   the   air   temperature   fell   below   freezing.   An   air   frost   is   when the   air   temperature   is   below   the   freezing   point   of   water   at   a   height   of   at   least   one   metre above   the   ground.   A   ground   frost   is   when   ice   forms   on   the   ground   where   the   surface   has a   temperature   below   the   freezing   point   of   water.   When   the   ground   cools   quicker   than   the air,   a   ground   frost   can   occur   without   an   air   frost.   A   grass   frost   occurs   when   other   surfaces -   such   as   road   surfaces   -   don't   experience   a   frost,   due   to   their   being   better   at   holding   onto any   warmth.   Tall   plants   can   therefore   sometimes   suffer   frost   damage   at   the   bottom   whilst the   top   remains   untouched.   Rainfall   was   less   than   half   of   the   average   for   April   and   wind speeds   generally   light,   although   one   day   brought   gusts   of   over   20mph.   It   was   unusual   to have to water potted plants at this time of year.
The   warm   days   saw   the   first   butterflies   with,   as   usual,   the   first   a   Brimstone   on   15th   March closely   followed   by   a   Tortoiseshell.   The   first   Orange   Tips   were   seen   on   8th   April   and   the   first   speckled wood   29th   April.   An   insect   to   watch   out   for   at   this   time   of   year   is   the   carpet   beetle.   The   beetle   itself lives   outside   but   enters   the   house   through   small   gaps   and   even   on   cut   flowers.   Once   inside   it   lays   its eggs   which   hatch   into   the   larvae   and   it   is   these   that   do   the   damage.   They   are   very   small,   only   about 2mm   to   3mm.   The   picture   on   the   website   edition   of   this   article   is   of   a   Varied   Carpet   Beetle ,   one   of the   commonest.   A   heavy   infestation   is   difficult   to   eradicate   but   regular   vacuuming,   particularly   of dark   places,   is   the   best   way   to   prevent   them   getting   established.   The   British   Pest   Control   Association claims that it is now the major textile pest, more so than the clothes moth. The   primroses   (Primula   vulgaris)   and   cowslips    (Primular   veris)   in   Munday's   Close   have   flowered well   this   year.   At   the   time   of   writing   the   wild   flower   meadow   area   is   a   sea   of   yellow   cowslips.   If   you look   carefully   at   the   flowers   of   the   primrose   you   will   see   they   are   two   types.   One   type   has   the   stigma at   the   top   of   the   flower   tube   and   is   known   as   pin-eyed .   The   other   has   the   anthers   at   the   top   of   the flower   tube   and   is   known   as   thrum-eyed .   This   arrangement   ensures   that   each   flower   is   pollinated from   another   flower.   There   is   another   species,   the   ox-lip   (Primula   elatior),   which   is   much   rarer   and looks   like   a   cross   between   a   primrose   and   a   cowslip   but   it   is   a   separate   species.   Unfortunately   all   the species   cross   pollinate   so   hybrids   do   occur   that   look   like   ox-lips.   I   have   several   in   the   garden   and   all are   slightly   different   but   look   like   large   flowered   cowslips .   This   link    has   photographs   of   some   of   the hybrids     that     can     be     found.     Another     primula     flowering     in     gardens     now     is     the     auricula   (Primula auricula).   There   are   two   types,   the   alpine   auricula   which   can   be   grown   in   the   garden   and   the show    auricula    which    has    a    powdery    meal    or    "farina"    on    the    leaves    and    needs    protection. The   yellow auricula ,   illustrated   in   the   web   version,   is   directly   descended   by   offsets   from   plants   grown by   my   grandfather   and   is   a   very   old   variety.   Among   other   plants   that   appeared   in   Munday's   Close were   cuckoo   flower    (lady's   smock),   spring   squill    and   grape   hyacinth ,   the   later   probably   a   garden escape.   The   early   hawthorn   blossom   at   the   end   of   April   was   that   of   the   two-styled   hawthorn   which flowers earlier than the common hawthorn. The   hedge   alongside   the   footpath   by   the   Severn   Trent   compound   has   not   regenerated   very well   and   the   area   appears   to   have   been   sprayed   which   means   it   will   not   even   be   populated   by   other plants.   The   rare   milk   thistle   has   survived   the   winter   and   will   hopefully   flower   -   if   it   remains   uncut! In an   attempt   to   protect   it   an   agreement   was   made   with   the   contractor   not   to   mow   it   and   a   traffic cone   was   placed   there   so   he   would   know   where   it   was.   Unfortunately,   someone,   for   reasons   best known to themselves, kept moving the cone and eventually removed it completely. April was a good month for birds, I counted 36 species during the month. The red kite was seen several   times   flying   very   low   and   giving   a   good   sight   of   its   size.   A   little   egret   made   several   visits staying   in   the   field   for   several   hours   at   a   time.   Three   yellow   wagtails   and   a   grey   wagtail   were   seen along   with   the   usual   pieds.   The   yellow   wagtails,   two   males   and   a   female,   were   feeding   right   under the   horses   hooves   and   had   to   keep   jumping   out   of   the   way.   A   stock   dove   is   nesting   in   the   barn   and has   laid   2   eggs.   Collared   doves   have   almost   disappeared   as   the   sparrow   hawk   has   been   very   busy. A pair   of   mistle   thrushes   were   looking   for   worms   in   a   damp   area.   I   saw   the   first   swallow   on   23rd   April and   a   pair   are   now   investigating   the   barn   as   a   possible   nesting   site.   I   hope   they   decide   it   is   a   good place   as   last   year   there   were   no   nests   in   there.   In   Munday's   Close   chiffchaffs   were   very   vocal   and   a pair   of   bullfinches   were   seen   feeding   on   young   hazel   buds.   The   jackdaws   were   busy   collecting   hair moulting   from   the   horses.   One   even   decided   to   go   straight   to   the   source   of   supply   and   was   seen standing on the back of one of the horses plucking out the hair. Sightings   emailed   to   me   from   around   the   village   include   frogs,   toads   and   newts   emerging   from hibernation.    Anthony    Wright    is    pleased    to    have    his    hedgehogs    back    and    reports    sightings    of long - tailed   tits,   great   spotted   woodpecker   and   starlings   in   his   garden.   I   was   going   to   say   I   not   seen many   starlings   recently   and   thought   the   local   population   had   crashed   dramatically,   then   on   the   last day    of    April    a    flock    of    more    than    thirty    appeared.    Anthony    also    reports    mallard    ducklings    on Robin Williamson's   pond.   The   adults   from   the   pond   have   taken   to   flying   down   to   the   barn   when   I arrive   at   the   field   gate   to   take   advantage   of   the   corn   fed   to   the   pheasants.   Four   mallard   drakes   were seen in the field at one point.
June 2017