Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

July 2003


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Nature Notes
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Nature Notes

July – named in honour of Julius Caesar, and is the month of haymaking.

On 3rd July the hot and unhealthy "Dog Days", when Sirius the Dog Star is in the ascendant, begin and continue until about 11th August (we hope!).

Take your minds back to the morning of Oxhill’s car boot sale, a hot and pleasant morning. We were having breakfast in the garden when I was alerted by a continuous purring coo, repeated in groups of two to five. This was a sound I haven’t heard for quite a long time. I went into the pub car park, and there at the top of the dead ash tree I spotted it – a single Turtle dove, its pink breast and red brown mottled back marking it out from the slightly larger Collared dove (very numerous in Oxhill). The number of Turtle doves has dropped dramatically over recent years and it is now officially a species of conservation concern. A bird of woodland and hedgerows, it is rarely seen in towns or villages. A summer visitor from winter quarters in sub-tropical Africa, they arrive late April through to late May. The name "turtle" originated from the Latin turtur and imitates its soft rippling call. The bird’s role as a mark of affection is old and it is believed that they pair for life and if one or the other dies, the remaining bird will never take another mate. Shakespeare also remarked on their supposed faithfulness:

When arm in arm they both come swiftly running
like a pair of loving turtle-doves,
That could not live asunder, day or night

(Henry VI part I Act 2 Scene 2)

Perhaps this single bird I saw had just arrived from its long arduous journey and was calling for its mate. It stayed around for about an hour. Unfortunately many are shot as they fly over France and Spain (although it is now against the law). I sincerely hope this one’s mate didn’t end up on a French table. 

15th July is St Swithin’s Day. The feast of St Swithin, a humble and much loved Saxon Bishop of Winchester. On his deathbed he ordered his body to be buried among the poor in the common churchyard, but so many miracles occurred at his graveside, the monks removed his remains to a splendid shrine in Winchester Cathedral on 15th July, whereupon it is said the saint wept in protest, causing a continuous downpour which lasted forty days.

And here are a few other July feasts: 20th July – St Wilgefortis or Uncumber, the original bearded lady, 22nd July – St Mary Magdalen, 25th July St Christopher and St James the Greater, and July 26th – Feast of St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary. And if you celebrate all of these, make sure you are well stocked up with Rennies and Alka-Seltzer!

Grenville Moore  

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Last modified: January 02, 2004