Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

March 2012

This months News



Nature Notes

March takes its name from Mars (Martius) the god of war.  This was the month when military campaigns generally began, after the end of winter.  In the early Roman calendar it was the first month of the year: 

            I Martius am!  Once first, and now the third!
            To lead the Year was my appointed place;
            A Mortal dispossessed me by a word
            And set there Janus with the double face
            Hence I make war on all the human race.

On a lighter note, I have been cheered over the last few weeks by watching a pair of bullfinches on one of our feeders.  In Chaucer’s The Romaunt of the Rose he refers to bullfinches as Alpes and other finches as “jolly briddes smale” and he described them filling the air of a May morning with “the sweetness of hir melodye”.  Other names for the bullfinch exist such as Oif, Hoop, Mawp, Blood Olp, Black Nob Monk, Budding bird and Lum Budder; these last two make reference to the birds’ partiality to fruit buds.  Chaucer makes reference in the Romaunt garden to “many hoomly trees” among them ash, apple, plum, pear, medlar and cherry, all very agreeable to this finch.  They have distinct preferences as to variety, favouring James Grieve and one or two other dessert apples to cookers.  It is interesting to note that amongst the cherries, only Morello buds are really appreciated; Conference, Williams and Dr Jules pears are eagerly sought, though Comice and Hardy are ignored.  All types of plum seem to be relished, gages in particular.  The bullfinch will feed greedily on early buds with a capacity for eating 30 buds a minute, causing immense damage to orchards and fruit bushes.  This led to persecution.  In Elizabethan England a statute was passed outlawing the ‘bulfynch’ with a bounty of a penny a head, and until relatively recently many thousands were killed every year by commercial fruit growers.  Thankfully today it is illegal to kill or trap bullfinches (except under special licence) because of the disastrous downward trend in the British population.  They are truly a delight to see in the garden, especially with the sun catching the deep warm red breast of the male, which is set off by the glossy jet black cap, bib and tail.  The female is more of a gentle buff-pink and they always seem to be in pairs, although I can find no reference to them pairing for life.  You can attract them into your garden by putting out a feeder with a good quality finch mix containing sunflower seeds. 

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;
In the Spring the wanton Lapwing gets himself another crest;
In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnished dove;
In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love

Tennyson, 1841

Don’t forget though, March is not always a pleasant month:

“March is the month that God designed to show those who don’t drink what a hangover is like”.

Garrison Keillor

 Grenville Moore

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Last modified: March 03, 2012