Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

October 2009

This months News



Nature Notes

In Anglo Saxon, Wintirfyllith – the month of the winter moon.  If the October moon comes without frost, expect no frost till the full moon on November.

         This month hot drinks and meals be good
         To keep thy health and nourish thy blood
          Provide warm clothes, and go foot-dry
         Thou shalt escape much danger thereby.

    Neve’s Almanac, 1633

If the sunny days continue into October you will still see many butterflies on the wing – brimstone, small tortoiseshell, and feeding on the fallen fruit, painted ladies, peacocks and red admirals.  I missed the perfect photo opportunity a few years ago when we had a peacock, a painted lady and a red admiral all feeding on one single fallen plum, and all seemed drunk!  Also watch out for the large dragonflies, especially the green southern hawker; a very inquisitive dragonfly, it will fly round and round you.  I have on one occasion held my arm outstretched and one landed on my hand.  Young grass snakes are still about.  I came down the garden the other day to find one basking in the sun on the warm stones outside the back door.  They are useful creatures as they eat slugs and snails.  However, I spotted two young grass snakes (no more than 8 to 10 inches long) doing what I can only describe as “synchronised swimming” across the water and they quickly disappeared into the reeds.  Shortly after a larger snake appeared slowly sliding across the top of the water.  Every so often it would pause and gently push its head down under the water searching amongst the vegetation.  All of a sudden its head rose up out of the water with the head and shoulders of a common newt in its jaws.  It straightened its neck and slowly but surely swallowed the poor newt whole; the last thing seen was the newt’s thrashing tail – then it was gone!

October sees tremendous movements of birds, both departures and arrivals.  Our swallows seem to have had a very good year and some seem to have had three broods.  I was at a house near Stow on the Wold the other day and there must have been at least 200 swallows diving and sweeping around the building.  It was a real treat to watch.  I think we have about 50 to 60 in Oxhill, but has anyone else counted them?  As the swallows leave our winter guests will arrive; brambling, woodcock, snipe, redwing, and my favourite, the fieldfares.

Recently whilst visiting friends in Devon we were sitting in their small overgrown garden when we became aware of a small bird twisting and flitting in a very agile manner between the bushes surrounding us, then flying back to the fence where it would start the whole procedure again.  It seemed completely unfazed by our close proximity, arm’s length at times.  One could only describe it as an SBJ (small brown job) apart from its whitish breast and belly.  Its call note was no more than a thins squeaking small ‘tweet’ or ‘chait’, indeed in Worcestershire it is known as a chait, in Yorkshire as a wall chat, and in Devon as a wall plat.  It was in fact a spotted flycatcher.  Rather strangely it isn’t spotted (although the young are) but it does catch flies.  The bird will adopt a fencepost or tree stump as a vantage point where it waits alert and upright watching for flies, moths, butterflies, or beetles.  It will then launch itself in acrobatic pursuit, returning after a few moments to its perch.  It is apparently not averse to taking wasps and bees as well as flies.

The following day over the same garden we watched two peregrine falcons giving a curious aerial display.   (Interesting to note our friends’ house is almost in the town centre of Salcombe).  At times they were very low over our heads.  It was curious because I suspect they were two males and one was trying to see the other one off by climbing high then stooping on the other bird, just pulling short of hitting it.  This went on for about 15 minutes, then one decided to take itself away.

Please don’t forget the Oxhill Wildlife Survey (OWLS) finishes at the end of October.  Did you know the rarest animal in Warwickshire is the common wood mouse!  Well, it isn’t really, it’s just that no-one has ever entered it on a survey.  So please write down everything you have seen and post your lists through my letterbox (next door to the Pub) at the end of the month or you can give them to other members of OWLS.

A final note for gardeners and farmers:

         In October, dung your field
        And all your land its wealth will yield


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Last modified: October 12, 2009