© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
December 2018 ended with a mild spell of weather which prolonged the season for many plants and started others into early growth. On January 1st I found, in the garden, flowers on primroses , Bergenia , Kaffir lily, hellebores ( both H. niger, H. orientalis and H. foetidus ), snowdrops , aconites , Pulmonaria and even a border carnation showing colour in a couple of buds. The geraniums , although they are in the shelter of the house, are flowering better than they did in the really hot weather. The begonia corms that made such a good show in the summer are all cleaned off and stored ready for next year. Many of them have quadrupled in size and there is no sign of vine weevil damage so the doses of the insecticide seem to have worked. Every inch of the greenhouse is now packed tight with all the more tender plants; how I managed to get them all in I don't know. However some of the larger fuchsias will have to take their chance outside, tucked up against the wall of the house. On December 13th I sowed the first seeds. This is not as silly as it sound because these are species that need a cold spell to germinate, a process known as stratification. They will stay out in the cold frame over winter. Most of these have been collected from the wild in faraway places such as New Zealand, Korea, Russia and Kazakhstan. I hope I can get them to germinate as some of the packets only contained five or six seeds. Indoors the orchid that I mentioned in October, as it had flowered for the first time in three years, seems to have gone into overdrive. The first flowers lasted for weeks and then as they finished a second flower stem appeared and the buds are about to open. Plants seem to have their own way of doing things. Early in December we had some very strong winds and I was sheltering inside. Looking through the window there were no birds about at all. Suddenly something must have disturbed them as a strangely mixed flock appeared trying to fly into the wind. I counted three buzzards, five crows, three pigeons, two gulls and a heron. Sadly there was no partridge in the pear tree. Flying into the wind must have been hard work and the heron immediately turned away, the buzzards soared up and away with the wind. The crows made steady progress wheeling away and then diving back into the wind. The pigeons used a different approach and hugged the tops of the hedges where the wind was not so strong. The gulls were less affected and flew swiftly on regardless, their flying skills adapted to the blustering winds of the coast. Later in the day the skies were a dull grey lead colour when a shaft of low sunlight lit up a flock of gulls against it. As they wheeled around they disappeared as their grey backs merged with the background only for them to reappear as the sun caught their white undersides. It looked as if someone was switching lights on and off in the sky. It is amazing what sunlight can do. One morning, after a heavy frost, the sun had come out melting the ice and leaving a large drop of water on every leaf. The low angle of the sun behind me refracted through each drop and the field was covered with twinkling "grass jewels". As I turned my head each droplet changed through the colours of the rainbow. A quite spectacular show. Two of the young crows have returned but I am not sure the parents are that glad to see them. The third young one has been seen but not very often and doesn't seem to be part of the group anymore. When I throw some food out one of the older birds caws to tell the others food is there. He doesn't seem to have cottoned on to the fact that this also alerts the magpies and jackdaws that appear from nowhere and the food can disappear rapidly. A cock pheasant is often about but whilst he is aware that something is going on is usually heading in the opposite direction. A solitary black headed gull is a regular visitor although at this time of year they do not have black heads, just a single black "ear" spot on each side of the head. The wood pigeons have been having a feast on the fruit of the golden hornet crab apple. At one time there were seven of them on the tree continually overbalancing as they reached of the fruit, they are really ungainly birds. The over ripe bananas I put out for the blackbirds seemed to be disappearing rapidly. Eventually I spotted the culprit, the grey squirrel was tucking into them. The word must have got round because later there were two of them. They have stocked up well for winter as both of them have very fat stomachs. It is very amusing watching them sitting there munching on a piece of banana. Other sightings that have been sent in from around the village were some noisy muntjacs, a messy tawny owl that had selected a house for a perch and the return of a little egret. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

February 2019

Langham in Rutland
© Mike Frisby - Langham in Rutland
December 2018 ended with a mild spell of weather which prolonged the season for many plants and started others into early growth. On January 1st I found, in the garden, flowers on primroses , Bergenia , Kaffir lily, hellebores ( both H. niger, H. orientalis and H. foetidus ), snowdrops , aconites , Pulmonaria and even a border carnation showing colour in a couple of buds. The geraniums , although they are in the shelter of the house, are flowering better than they did in the really hot weather. The begonia corms that made such a good show in the summer are all cleaned off and stored ready for next year. Many of them have quadrupled in size and there is no sign of vine weevil damage so the doses of the insecticide seem to have worked. Every inch of the greenhouse is now packed tight with all the more tender plants; how I managed to get them all in I don't know. However some of the larger fuchsias will have to take their chance outside, tucked up against the wall of the house. On December 13th I sowed the first seeds. This is not as silly as it sound because these are species that need a cold spell to germinate, a process known as stratification. They will stay out in the cold frame over winter. Most of these have been collected from the wild in faraway places such as New Zealand, Korea, Russia and Kazakhstan. I hope I can get them to germinate as some of the packets only contained five or six seeds. Indoors the orchid that I mentioned in October, as it had flowered for the first time in three years, seems to have gone into overdrive. The first flowers lasted for weeks and then as they finished a second flower stem appeared and the buds are about to open. Plants seem to have their own way of doing things. Early in December we had some very strong winds and I was sheltering inside. Looking through the window there were no birds about at all. Suddenly something must have disturbed them as a strangely mixed flock appeared trying to fly into the wind. I counted three buzzards, five crows, three pigeons, two gulls and a heron. Sadly there was no partridge in the pear tree. Flying into the wind must have been hard work and the heron immediately turned away, the buzzards soared up and away with the wind. The crows made steady progress wheeling away and then diving back into the wind. The pigeons used a different approach and hugged the tops of the hedges where the wind was not so strong. The gulls were less affected and flew swiftly on regardless, their flying skills adapted to the blustering winds of the coast. Later in the day the skies were a dull grey lead colour when a shaft of low sunlight lit up a flock of gulls against it. As they wheeled around they disappeared as their grey backs merged with the background only for them to reappear as the sun caught their white undersides. It looked as if someone was switching lights on and off in the sky. It is amazing what sunlight can do. One morning, after a heavy frost, the sun had come out melting the ice and leaving a large drop of water on every leaf. The low angle of the sun behind me refracted through each drop and the field was covered with twinkling "grass jewels". As I turned my head each droplet changed through the colours of the rainbow. A quite spectacular show. Two of the young crows have returned but I am not sure the parents are that glad to see them. The third young one has been seen but not very often and doesn't seem to be part of the group anymore. When I throw some food out one of the older birds caws to tell the others food is there. He doesn't seem to have cottoned on to the fact that this also alerts the magpies and jackdaws that appear from nowhere and the food can disappear rapidly. A cock pheasant is often about but whilst he is aware that something is going on is usually heading in the opposite direction. A solitary black headed gull is a regular visitor although at this time of year they do not have black heads, just a single black "ear" spot on each side of the head. The wood pigeons have been having a feast on the fruit of the golden hornet crab apple. At one time there were seven of them on the tree continually overbalancing as they reached of the fruit, they are really ungainly birds. The over ripe bananas I put out for the blackbirds seemed to be disappearing rapidly. Eventually I spotted the culprit, the grey squirrel was tucking into them. The word must have got round because later there were two of them. They have stocked up well for winter as both of them have very fat stomachs. It is very amusing watching them sitting there munching on a piece of banana. Other sightings that have been sent in from around the village were some noisy muntjacs, a messy tawny owl that had selected a house for a perch and the return of a little egret. I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .

Notes from a Field & Garden -

February 2019

Langham in Rutland