Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

April 2005


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Nature Notes

The Spring month or Cuckoo’s month.  In Anglo-Saxon: Eostramonath – the month of the dawn goddess Eostra.  It is from this pagan goddess that the English get the name Easter.  Her sacred animal is the hare, perhaps the ancestor of the Easter bunny. 

On two consecutive evenings while driving back from work I saw between Honington and Whatcote a flock of about 20 Golden plover.  I can’t even remember seeing Golden plover in south Warwickshire before.  I understand that this is now a very scarce bird due to its breeding range contracting steadily during this century.  It is a wader and in autumn and winter forms flocks, moving south to feed on estuaries and farmland.  In summer they are to be found on northern open moorlands where they breed, and their mournful call note and liquid song (not unlike the Curlew) supposedly helped shepherds find their lost sheep.   In the fells they are still known as sheep’s guide!

In the winter they often join and mix in with feeding flocks of lapwings.  Years ago when I travelled a lot around East Anglia, particularly in Norfolk, I can remember seeing vast flocks of both these birds feeding on farmland, and when disturbed the flocks split in the air into their two separate groups and then on landing will regroup and mingle.  In winter plumage Golden plovers look greyish, losing the conspicuous black under-parts which extend from the cheeks almost to the tail, bordered on the head and shoulders with a band of white.  Burns wrote of the Golden plover in the line “The deep toned grey, wild whistling on the hill”.

In flight their small pointed wings are noticeable and like most waders, they fly in a compact group, rising, falling and swerving in perfect coordination.  I suspect the small group I saw were making their way north for their breeding season.  Now on the protected list, up until about ten years ago they were legal quarry, shot in small numbers mainly on estuaries by wildfowlers.  I have some 30 years ago in Scotland eaten a Golden plover soup.  My recollection is that it was very good, but not worth the death of these wonderful little birds.

April 6th is old Lady Day and historically swallows begin to appear.  If current theories on global warming are correct, these should appear around the 3rd or 4th.

In whatsoever house the swallow breedeth, the Goodman of the house is not there made cuckold, what day soever he be married on.” – Accedence of Armory, 1562.

On April 21st the Sun enters the House of Taurus: “The woman shall be effectual, labouring and a great liar.  She shall have many husbands and many children.  She shall be at her best estate at sixteen years; but then sickly, and if she escape shall live seventy-five years.  She ought to bear rings and precious stones about her” – Kalendar of Shepheardes, 1604.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: April 03, 2005