© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
Although the weather has been less than ideal there is always something to see. The moorhens have hatched a second brood of chicks and at just a day old the parents have them out in the field. It is always amusing to see five black tennis balls running around. Something I have never seen before is the chicks from the first brood helping to feed the younger ones. The mother moorhen is very protective and will fly at anything that gets too close to her brood. Even the grey squirrel makes a run for the nearest tree. Most of the female pheasants have disappeared either nesting or finding plenty of food elsewhere. Only "Brownie", another female and a cock bird remain. Brownie was hatched in the field two years ago, one of the few to survive. Pheasants seem to be poor parents and mortality amongst the chicks is high. Brownie is now very tame, she follows me around and will eat out my hand. A pair of partridges are around but much more secretive than the pheasants. Perhaps because of this they seem to make much better parents and rear more of their chicks. The numbers of collared doves fluctuates wildly, mainly due to the sparrow hawk , if the piles of feathers are anything to go by. Cleverly the hawk never wipes them out completely and always seems to leave a pair to breed again. Collared doves are easy to recognise by their brown grey almost pinkish feathers and black half collar around the neck. The wood pigeon is a much larger bird with white neck patches. Usually seen in the company of the collared doves and wood pigeons are stock doves. They are smaller than the wood pigeon and easily distinguished as they have a glossy green patch on the neck instead of a white one. Russell, the crow, arrived three years ago unable to fly due to a damaged wing. Somehow, with some extra food, he managed to survive and was able to fly again. He soon found a mate and every year brings the youngsters to show them where the food is. He will sit and caw loudly until thrown some bread which he then takes away piece by piece and carefully hides it in the grass. I am not sure if he does this to save it for later or if he is showing the youngsters how to search for food. This year he has just arrived with four young. Badgers make their nocturnal visits carefully digging holes to use as latrines. Occasionally a fox is seen out and about during the day. The rabbits are multiplying as only rabbits can despite the best efforts of the buzzards and a large ginger cat which is a regular visitor. The buzzards are less frequent visitors at this time of year. They may be nesting but if they do appear the crows soon see them off. At other times of the year they coexist reasonably happily. Look out for the kite now an almost daily visitor. Kites are easily distinguished from buzzards by their narrower wings and deeply forked tail. Another, less regular, visitor has been a little egret . Smaller than a heron it is pure white with black legs and yellow feet. Plant life is of course showing at its best at this time of year with yellow being the predominate colour. Buttercups are the most obvious ones. There are several species of buttercup the most common ones being the meadow buttercup, the tallest one, the creeping buttercup, which spreads rapidly by runners and the bulbous buttercup, which has a swollen base to the stem and is the earliest flowering. Another yellow flower seen in increasing numbers in the field is yellow rattle . It gets its name from the dry seed heads which have loose seeds inside them and do indeed rattle when shaken. The plant can grow on its own but grows best when its roots can penetrate grass roots and draw nutrients from them. Thus it is disliked by farmers as it weakens the grass but is loved by growers of wild flower meadows as it grows quickly in spring and slows the growth of the grass. One day I must make a count of the number of different species of yellow flowers found in the field. The following contributions have been made by Anthony Wright. He reports seeing a pair of mallard on a neighbour's pond. (These are the same pair that regularly visit the field. In fact the female sees me arrive at the gate and flies from the pond down to the barn where she quacks loudly until I have given her some corn, then flies back again). Other birds he mentions are large numbers of house martins (this is good news as the swallows seem to be declining over the last few years, only one pair made it back to the barn this year), starlings nesting, great tits and blue tits, both nesting in his garden, pied wagtails, green woodpecker and spotted woodpecker. (I have not seen the great spotted woodpeckers this year. In previous years they have been regular visitors and their hammering could be heard over a large distance. The green woodpecker is always about and spends a surprising amount of time on the ground looking for ants . Their feet are unusual in that they have two toes at the front and two at the back to aid climbing.) A pair of herons and a flock forty or fifty Canada geese were also seen. Anthony has also noticed conkers already forming on the horse chestnut Trees on Ashwell Road. Finally he mentions a dead Muntjac deer at the side of the road between Barleythorpe and the old Showground. (Muntjacs have been seen in field during daylight but are more often picked up on trail cameras at night. Earlier on in the year they could be heard barking in the early hours of the morning).

Notes from a Field & Garden -

August 2015

Langham in Rutland
© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
Although the weather has been less than ideal there is always something to see. The moorhens have hatched a second brood of chicks and at just a day old the parents have them out in the field. It is always amusing to see five black tennis balls running around. Something I have never seen before is the chicks from the first brood helping to feed the younger ones. The mother moorhen is very protective and will fly at anything that gets too close to her brood. Even the grey squirrel makes a run for the nearest tree. Most of the female pheasants have disappeared either nesting or finding plenty of food elsewhere. Only "Brownie", another female and a cock bird remain. Brownie was hatched in the field two years ago, one of the few to survive. Pheasants seem to be poor parents and mortality amongst the chicks is high. Brownie is now very tame, she follows me around and will eat out my hand. A pair of partridges are around but much more secretive than the pheasants. Perhaps because of this they seem to make much better parents and rear more of their chicks. The numbers of collared doves fluctuates wildly, mainly due to the sparrow hawk , if the piles of feathers are anything to go by. Cleverly the hawk never wipes them out completely and always seems to leave a pair to breed again. Collared doves are easy to recognise by their brown grey almost pinkish feathers and black half collar around the neck. The wood pigeon is a much larger bird with white neck patches. Usually seen in the company of the collared doves and wood pigeons are stock doves. They are smaller than the wood pigeon and easily distinguished as they have a glossy green patch on the neck instead of a white one. Russell, the crow, arrived three years ago unable to fly due to a damaged wing. Somehow, with some extra food, he managed to survive and was able to fly again. He soon found a mate and every year brings the youngsters to show them where the food is. He will sit and caw loudly until thrown some bread which he then takes away piece by piece and carefully hides it in the grass. I am not sure if he does this to save it for later or if he is showing the youngsters how to search for food. This year he has just arrived with four young. Badgers make their nocturnal visits carefully digging holes to use as latrines. Occasionally a fox is seen out and about during the day. The rabbits are multiplying as only rabbits can despite the best efforts of the buzzards and a large ginger cat which is a regular visitor. The buzzards are less frequent visitors at this time of year. They may be nesting but if they do appear the crows soon see them off. At other times of the year they coexist reasonably happily. Look out for the kite now an almost daily visitor. Kites are easily distinguished from buzzards by their narrower wings and deeply forked tail. Another, less regular, visitor has been a little egret . Smaller than a heron it is pure white with black legs and yellow feet. Plant life is of course showing at its best at this time of year with yellow being the predominate colour. Buttercups are the most obvious ones. There are several species of buttercup the most common ones being the meadow buttercup, the tallest one, the creeping buttercup, which spreads rapidly by runners and the bulbous buttercup, which has a swollen base to the stem and is the earliest flowering. Another yellow flower seen in increasing numbers in the field is yellow rattle . It gets its name from the dry seed heads which have loose seeds inside them and do indeed rattle when shaken. The plant can grow on its own but grows best when its roots can penetrate grass roots and draw nutrients from them. Thus it is disliked by farmers as it weakens the grass but is loved by growers of wild flower meadows as it grows quickly in spring and slows the growth of the grass. One day I must make a count of the number of different species of yellow flowers found in the field. The following contributions have been made by Anthony Wright. He reports seeing a pair of mallard on a neighbour's pond. (These are the same pair that regularly visit the field. In fact the female sees me arrive at the gate and flies from the pond down to the barn where she quacks loudly until I have given her some corn, then flies back again). Other birds he mentions are large numbers of house martins (this is good news as the swallows seem to be declining over the last few years, only one pair made it back to the barn this year), starlings nesting, great tits and blue tits, both nesting in his garden, pied wagtails, green woodpecker and spotted woodpecker. (I have not seen the great spotted woodpeckers this year. In previous years they have been regular visitors and their hammering could be heard over a large distance. The green woodpecker is always about and spends a surprising amount of time on the ground looking for ants . Their feet are unusual in that they have two toes at the front and two at the back to aid climbing.) A pair of herons and a flock forty or fifty Canada geese were also seen. Anthony has also noticed conkers already forming on the horse chestnut Trees on Ashwell Road. Finally he mentions a dead Muntjac deer at the side of the road between Barleythorpe and the old Showground. (Muntjacs have been seen in field during daylight but are more often picked up on trail cameras at night. Earlier on in the year they could be heard barking in the early hours of the morning).

Notes from a Field & Garden -

August 2015

Langham in Rutland