Oxhill News

www.oxhill.com / www.oxhill.org.uk

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

February 2012

This months News



Nature Notes

The Regimen for Winter: December, January and February

In winter be clothed in thick gowns of rough cloth, high shorn, well furred with fox, for it is the warmest furring that is, and cats, conies, lambs and divers other thick furs that be good and wholesome.  In winter eat beef, and brawn of harts, hinds and all manner of venison, partridges, pheasants, hares, fowls of the river and other meats.  In this time also drink oft strong wines after your complexion, bastard wine or osey.  Two or three times in the week use good spices in the meats.  For this is the most wholesome time of all the year, in which cometh no sickness, but by great excess and outrages done to nature, or by evil government.”

Kalendar of Shepheards, 1858

If you read last month’s nature notes you will recall my piece on the short-eared owl seen outside Radway.  Since writing that I have had reports of a second owl joining the first.  Apparently this winter has seen a huge influx of these migrating owls from continental Europe with sightings now coming in from South Warwickshire.  Eleven have been seen at Priors Hardwick and an amazing twelve outside Shipston on Stour.  The short-eared owl’s principal diet is small mammals, particularly voles, and the bird numbers have long been observed to fluctuate with the supply of prey.  In 1893 one eye witness in Scotland reported travelling mile after mile with at least a dozen short-eared owls visible at any one time, while in Dumfriesshire alone it was estimated there were at least 500 pairs of breeding birds.  No similar concentration has since been recorded, but it is encouraging to have so many birds outside their normal breeding areas here in South Warwickshire. 

At the moment almost every time I glance out at our feeders there is that familiar black-and-white bird the great-spotted woodpecker.  In the last seven years the numbers have risen from about 27,000 pairs to between 34,000 to 44,000 – one of nature’s success stories.  The greater-spotted’s success is partly down to adaptation to the man-made environment and especially visiting our bird tables where they will be quite aggressive in defence of what they consider “their” food.  The bird’s dietary versatility even extends to raiding other nests and stealing young chicks.  Some years ago one pair was known to systematically work through a house martin colony of 40 nests, hammering holes through the mud sides and seizing about 100 eggs and young to feed their chicks.  It’s easy to tell the sexes apart as only the male has the scarlet patch at the back of the neck and an interesting fact is that none breed in Northern Ireland.

It seems all my younger friends are playing on-line Scrabble.  You can play with many people at the same time and more or less anything goes – so if any Scrabble enthusiasts are reading this, here are some nature crackers!  OUABAIO – an African tree, ZYXMYIA – a type of fly, PNYXIA – and another, XYZZORS – a nematode, O-O – a bird, COCCACEAE – a bacterium, and DIXID – yet another fly.

            Birdsong in February

            The birds sing again.  They sing
            not of cold brown earth
            nor wind whistling through branches
            not of mist low on the hills bringing rain
            nor woodsmoke from fires lit early.

            In their song I hear the summer,
            hawthorn in bloom, hay making,
            drinks on the lawn, a far blue sky.

            They sing a song almost forgotten
            to bring the Spring a little sooner.

Felicity Manning Long Held Notes

Footnote:  since starting these notes, the Radway owls have now increased to four and I have seen three just outside Whatcote.  Short-eared owls – ten a penny!!

Happy New Year!

 Grenville Moore

This site is maintained by villagers of Oxhill for the benefit of the community and those interested in the history, news and activities that make the village such a pleasant place to live.

Send mail to the editor of the Oxhill News at news-editor @ oxhill.org.uk.

©2012 Oxhill Village (Terms and Conditions of use)

Last modified: February 05, 2012