Langham in Rutland
Notes from a field & Garden - Bob Sheridan
Langham in Rutland
The   last   two   months   have   certainly   seen   a   variety   of   weather   conditions,   rain,   hail, snow   and   some   very   cold   days,   which   made   the   crisp,   bright   days   all   the   more   welcome.   It produced   some   wonderful   light   conditions.   Who   could   not   be   moved   when,   against   a   slate grey   sky,   a   shaft   of   sunlight   lit   up   the   trees   or   a   flock   of   pure   white   gulls   flying   in   front   of   it? Despite   all   that   has   been   thrown   at   them   the   spring   flowers   continue   to   bloom.   Aconites, snowdrops,   crocus   and   iris   all   managed   peep   through   the   snow.   Bird   populations   seem   to have   come   through   the   winter   well,   at   least   if   the   numbers   coming   to   the   bird   feeders   are anything   to   go   by.   Goldfinches    continue   to   be   prominent   along   with   great   tits ,   blue   tits, coal   tits ,   robin   and   dunnock.   Numbers   of   coal   tits   are   well   up   this   year,   there   always   seem to   be   several   flying   to   the   feeder,   taking   a   morsel   of   food   and   flying   of,   only   to   return   a   few seconds   later   for   another   mouthful.   The   goldfinches   tend   to   spend   a   longer   time   at   the feeder   eating   their   fill   before   flying   off.   A   welcome   return   has   been   of   two   greenfinches, not    seen    for    some    time.    Lorna    Burger    reported    four    at    her    feeders.    Let's    hope    the
population   is   recovering.    The   only   problem   I   have   is   with   wood   pigeons.   I   bought   plastic   saucers   that   fit on   the   bottom   of   the   feeders   to   prevent   wastage   of   seed   but   unfortunately   they   provide   ideal   perches for   the   pigeons   which   make   short   work   of   the   food   and   deter   the   other   birds.   I   have   been   putting   some over    ripe    bananas    on    the    bird    table    and    the    blackbirds    have    loved    them.    Speaking    of    blackbirds Margaret   Carlile   reported   seeing   them   having   a   good   scrap.      It   is   getting   near   nesting   time   and   the males   are   marking   out   their   territory.   I   have   also   seen   robins   exhibiting   the   same   behaviour   and   they are   equally   vicious.   The   male   pheasants   are   another   bird   marking   out   territories,   although   they   prefer   a lot   of   display   and   running   around   with   only   the   occasional   set   to.   The   fact   that   they   are   having   to squabble   over   territory   is   a   good   sign   that   populations   are   in   good   health.   If   populations   were   low   there would be more room and less to argue over. In   the   last   issue   I   mentioned   that   I   had   not   seen   many   redwings   or   fieldfares.   Jenny   Stratton reported   seeing   around   15   to   20   Fieldfares   eating   the   cotoneaster   berries   in   her   and   her   next   door neighbour's   garden   in   Ranksborough.   She   also   mentioned   that   the   blackbirds   had   become   very   tame and   will   take   sultanas   from   her   hand.   A   few   days   after   sending   in   the   article   I   found   a   dead   redwing   along   Mickley   Lane.   Why   it   had   died   I   don't   know   as   there   was   no   obvious   sign   of   injury.   A   week   later and   the   field   seemed   covered   in   redwings.   I   counted   up   to   fifty   and   then   gave   up.   Strangely   there   were no   fieldfares   with   them.   Since   then   I   have   seen   some   fieldfares   but   not   in   large   numbers.   One   day   there were,   at   the   same   time,   four   members   of   the   thrush   family   in   the   field   at   the   back   of   the   house, fieldfare, redwing, mistle thrush and blackbird. Watching   birds   through   the   dining   room   window   has   been   much   more   exciting   during   the   last couple   of   months.   A   buzzard    has   taken   up   residence   in   the   field   at   the   back   of   the   house   and   I   have been   able   to   watch   his   activities   at   close   range.   No   matter   how   many   times   I   see   them   buzzards   always give   me   a   thrill,   they   are   such   majestic   birds.   However   I   have   had   to   revise   my   idea   of   their   feeding habits.   I   was   surprised   how   much   time   they   spend   on   the   ground.   He   has   several   favourite   perches   in the   trees   around   the   field   or   on   the   fence   posts .      (I   say   he   but   I   have   no   idea   if   it   is   a   male   or   a   female). From these perches he seems able to see the smallest movement anywhere in the field and glides down to   what   I   presume   is   some   sort   of   food.   He   must   be   feeding   on   insects,   earthworms,   small   amphibians or   mammals.   Whatever   it   is   must   be   very   small   as   even   with   binoculars   I   can't   identify   it.   I   used   to   think buzzards   sat   on   posts   waiting   for   an   unsuspecting   pheasant   or   rabbit   to   pounce   on.   I   have   been watching   for   weeks   now   and   although   pheasants   and   rabbits   have   passed   close   to   him   I   have   never seen   him   show   the   slightest   interest.   One   day   I   was   watching   a   mistle   thrush   when   the   buzzard   flew straight   at   it.   It   could   have   easily   taken   the   thrush   but   ignored   it   and   took   whatever   the   thrush   was feeding   on.   I   have   since   seen   a   similar   pattern   where   the   buzzard   waits   for   a   smaller   bird   to   find something and then moves in to take it. It seems buzzards don't do much killing and if seen on a carcass that   animal   was   most   likely   already   dead,   such   as   a   road   kill.   The   only   birds   bothered   by   the   buzzard   are the   pair   of   resident   crows.   If   he   is   on   the   ground   they   fly   in   and   land   either   side   of   him   and   annoy   him. The   buzzard   totally   ignores   them   but   after   a   while   gets   fed   up   with   their   attentions   and   flies   off.   The crows   are   not   afraid   of   the   buzzard   and   can   actually   attack   him   if   there   is   food   about.   If   you   want   to   see just   how   brave   they   are   I   have   put   a   short   slide   show   taken   from   my   trail   cam   on   the   website,   go   to   flora and   fauna   -   nature   notes   -   photographs .   Writing   this   at   the   beginning   of   March   and   haven't   seen   much of   him   for   a   few   days,   apart   from   once   on   a   post   during   a   blizzard    looking   very   forlorn.   The   frozen   snow covered ground is useless for finding food. I   am   always   interested   in   other   peoples   sightings   and   comments   so   don't   forget   to   email   me   on wildlife@langhaminrutland.org .
April 2018