Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

January 2012

This months News



Nature Notes

Hark, the cock crows, and yon right star
Tells us, the day himself’s not far;
And see where, breaking from the night
He gilds the western bill with light
With him old Janus doth appear,
Peeping into the future year,
With such a look as seems to say
The prospect is not good that way

Charles Cotton, 1655 ‘The New Year’ 

Isn’t it wonderful that in these days of the media constantly spreading news of doom and gloom that we in Oxhill live in such a lovely area of the country.  Each morning as I watch the wild birds on our feeders, my heart lifts and it sets me up for the day.  Several people have recently told me that they have observed changing feeding habits of our garden birds; some vanish for a day or two and then reappear, and in some gardens numbers of birds, mainly tits and sparrows, seem to have declined.  Whilst there is a sparrowhawk that does circuits of the village to collect his “take away” I do not think this is the reason; you only have sparrowhawks where there is a plentiful supply of food.  I think it may be down to the food we put out – they have so much choice and will visit the gardens with the ‘best’ food.  For instance, we regularly had a pair of bullfinches who visited our finch food feeder daily.  When we changed the brand, they simply stopped coming.  We changed back to the original brand and almost to the day they have reappeared.  Birds have an uncanny sense of locating the best food for their needs.  Talking of birds’ senses, a week or two ago I was watching a great spotted woodpecker feeding on nuts; suddenly he became motionless, the feeder stopped swaying he didn’t move a feather and remained motionless for it must have been two or three minutes.  Then a sparrowhawk flashed through the garden, passing within inches of the woodpecker, who didn’t flinch.  Within seconds of the sparrowhawk leaving, the woodpecker carried on pecking away.  He had obviously heard warning cries from other birds and sensed that the hawk was coming his way and to move could have had disastrous results.

Those of you who came to the excellent talk from Matt Willmott of Natural England will be aware, but others may not know, that this small area of South Warwickshire – the Stour valley and Vale of the Red Horse – is an exceptional area for wildlife.  Matt and his colleague have just finished a survey on the Upton Estate and he told me they had recorded a short-eared owl in fields at the bottom of Edgehill.  Off I went in the late afternoon, and sure enough there it was.  They hunt in daylight and at dusk.  I managed to get within about 20 metres as it sat on its hunting post.  This really is a fabulous bird with its bright yellow eyes and short tuft feathers on the side of its head.  Many local names make reference to this as in Cat Owl, Catafact and Catyogle.  The wings are astonishingly long for the size of the bird; the body is tawny owl size and it has the longest wings of all the European owls.  The owl I was watching was a male, the underparts and wings a beautiful creamy beige with a very distinct barred tail.  It was so graceful in flight, briefly hovering and dropping to within inches of the ground, then up again.  Its diet is almost exclusively small rodents and occasionally small birds.  This is a bird of open rough ground, fens, marshes, moorland and sand dunes and is a ground nesting bird.  It is a rare bird for Warwickshire, and I think this one was an October migrant.  There have been two sightings in Northamptonshire and one at Brandon Marsh.  I have to say this is my “best” bird sighting of the year.

The flock of lapwings I have regularly seen between Ilmington and Halford has now grown to between 250 and 300.  I haven’t seen numbers like that for many years so it’s really good news and shows that the Environmental Stewardship Scheme is working.

January 21 – St Agnes Day – the Sun enters the House of Aquarius:

“The woman shall be delicious and have many noises for her children; she shall be in great peril at twenty-four years and thereafter in felicity.  She shall have damage by beasts with four feet; and shall live seventy-seven years after nature”. 

The Kalendar of Shepheards, 1604 

Happy New Year!

 Grenville Moore

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Last modified: January 11, 2012