Writing this towards the end of June I can't remember seeing such a dry month at this time of year. So far I have recorded 3.1mm of rain when the average for the month is around 55mm. At least the dry weather has enabled the parents of newly hatched young birds to rear them successfully. The earliest in the garden were great tits making a noise from one of the nest boxes. I was hoping to watch them leave the nest box but missed them and they disappeared into the shrubs. Two pairs of house sparrows are nesting under the roof tiles and are busy going back and forth. The crows reared two young and for a few days their raucous cries echoed through the trees. The parents collected the food they demanded I put out for them and started to call the young birds down from the trees to be fed. The one I call Russell still collects bits of food and, when he has a beak full, flies a little way away to carefully hide in the grass before returning to repeat the process until it all gone. A song thrush has been tapping away at snails to break their shells before flying off with the contents to feed to feed some young elsewhere.
The first sign that the blackbirds had left the nest was the constant "seeep" sound of the male keeping in contact with the youngsters, they reply with an insistent "chur kweep" of their own. At first it is difficult to spot how many there are as they keep well hidden under the shrubs. Within a day or two they are able to make short flights but not together. The female could then be seen feeding at the bird table. I was watching as she pecked away at the fat balls with the male perching at the side. I thought he was playing the gentleman and letting her feed in peace after her confinement on the nest but when he tried to get a beak full he received a sharp peck for his trouble. Perhaps not being the gentleman but wary of a feisty female. A little later one of the youngsters managed to fly onto the bird table demanding to be fed by the male. The next day there were two youngsters and the day after that a third. The poor male then spent next few days trying to satisfy three hungry mouths. The female didn't seem to take any part in the feeding at all, in fact if she was hungry she would shoo the male and her offspring away so that she could feed in peace. I expect she thought she had already done enough. After a few days the youngsters were the same size as their parents, only distinguished by their speckled breasts, and were able to feed themselves. A wood pigeon was often seen at the edge of the bird table whilst the blackbirds were feeding. The shape of its beak meant it could not get at fat balls directly but it had worked out that the blackbirds dropped a few pieces underneath and it could nip in and grab some before it got a peck. Another wood pigeon appeared with a damaged leg but seemed to be able to perch on the other one and could fly without difficulty. It was impossible to get near it to see what the problem was and it disappeared after a few days. A homing pigeon arrived and seemed to think the kitchen was its loft. It was very tame and fed out my hand. It was in good condition and either tired or temporarily lost. After a couple of days of feed and water it flew off, hopefully to its home loft. I have not heard a cuckoo for a number of years so I was pleased to have a report of one making a brief call just outside the village.I recently spent an afternoon at a private wood the other side of Oakham. It was a lovely setting and common spotted orchids were in full bloom. There were so many of them that in places you had to watch where you put your feet to avoid treading on them. Their colours varied from deep purple to almost white. It was a truly memorable sight.In the garden the shrubs that I massacred last year have all made strong new growth. The extra light proved beneficial to several other plants. The peonies have bloomed particularly well this year. Also a magnolia, I had started from a cutting years ago, had spent all this time looking like a sparsely leaved twig. This year it produced a large number of leaves and flowered for the first time. It had one more surprise. I thought it was magnolia stellata but it turned out to be magnolia soulangiana. I really must label things and not rely on memory. I like to grow unusual plants from seed and a couple of years ago decided to try some arisaemas, also known as the cobra lily. They have unusual colourful pitcher like spathes with strange shaped hoods. Although they can be bought as plants growing them from seed is more of a challenge. Last year I bought seeds of half a dozen species and set them. It warned on the packet that germination was sporadic and not to throw the compost away. In two of the pots a couple of small single leaves appeared and then died back. Nothing else germinated so the pots went under the shelving in the greenhouse. This year I tried a new lot of seeds, again a few single leaves appeared. I then noticed that the old seeds were growing and they produced a different type of leaf. Apparently they germinate and then go dormant before starting into growth again. The trick is in how to break the dormancy. It looks like it will be a long time before I see any flowers.I am always interested in other peoples sightings and comments so don't forget to email me on email@example.com.