Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

April 2003


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Tysoe Fire Station
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25 Years Ago
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PC Report 18 March 2003
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Nature Notes

April – The Roman Aperilis, from aperio, to open or display – the month when the Earth opens.

If there is one ornithological signpost each year more widely recognised than the arrival of the first swallow, it is the sound of the first cuckoo of spring. For decades this singular event has been a regular matter for the correspondence columns of the national press. It has long been said that the first cuckoos arrive in Sussex or Kent on 14th April and within seven to ten days are then heard in the north of England . There is much folklore surrounding the cuckoo (or ‘gowk’ in Scots) and one should be sure to react promptly and properly should you hear one.

It is lucky to be walking when you hear the first cuckoo and to be sitting when you see your first swallow, but unlucky if you hear your first cuckoo from your bed. If you have no money in your pocket when she calls, you will be poor all that year, but if you immediately sit down and take off your left shoe, you will find in it a hair of exactly the same colour as that of your true love!

Sadly the numbers of cuckoos are on the decline, and it is thought this may be due to the fall in population of their host birds. Indeed last year there seemed only to be one pair in and around the village, although in previous years I can remember getting rather tired of their constant “cuckooing” especially in the early morning.

The cuckoo is commonly mistaken for a sparrowhawk which is is similar in colour and outline, both having a barred breast with mainly grey upper parts. The resemblance to a sparrowhawk might also explain the old belief that cuckoos turn into hawks in autumn.

In April come he will
In May he sings all day
In June he changes tune
In July he prepares to fly
In August go he must
If he stays until September
Tis as much as the oldest man can remember

The other morning I had just got up when I heard an amazing cacophony going on outside, and looking out of the window I saw what I estimated to be 90 to 100 crows and jackdaws circling over the area above the telephone box. The noise was alarm mixed with aggression. As I watched, birds kept diving out of the melee and swooping down to the entrance to Mrs Swan’s drive. I rushed down to see what it was and on the ground was a rolling bundle of black and brown feathers, which broke up as I approached, and a sparrowhawk and a jackdaw flew away. The sparrowhawk had obviously swooped down on what it may have though to be a blackbird (large prey even for a sparrowhawk) and was surprised by the size and fighting spirit of its catch. What amazed me was that it was not only the immediate group of 20 – 30 jackdaws that live in the area, but other groups including crows that came to give support to one of their own. The escaped jackdaw seemed completely unhurt.

23 April – St George’s Day: beware of dragons:

To save a Maid, St George the Dragon slew
A pretty tale, if all is told be true
Most say, there are no Dragons, and tis said
There was no George; Pray God there was a maid.

John Aubrey 1688

Grenville Moore  

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Last modified: November 29, 2003