(March 2023) Nature Notes

On walking along the footpaths through the fields where Maize was grown last year I was surprised how many of the wild flowers (weeds) were in flower even during the very cold spells in January and February. Particularly noticeable were the blue Speedwell flowers. There are more than 20 species of Speedwell found in the UK but many are rare. If the plants are growing as weeds in arable fields they will almost certainly be the Common Field Speedwell which was introduced to the UK in the 1800s. If the plants are growing amongst grasses on roadside verges or in lawns they are probably the native Germander Speedwell. It is thought the name Speedwell derives from ‘speed you well’ as the plant was considered a good luck charm for travellers.

Megan Gilkes has commented on the large numbers of Lapwings she has seen in the fields around Sibford this Winter. Lapwings have declined in numbers by about 80% since the 1960s and it is now a Red List species for conservation purposes. Numbers during the Winter are supplemented by large numbers of visiting birds from northern Europe. Lapwing eggs used to be collected on a large-scale as food but this caused such a decline in numbers the Lapwing Act of 1926 prohibited this practice. Numbers recovered following this but from the 1940s changes in farming practices are thought to be responsible for further declines.

Andy and Gill Newbold