Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

September 2003


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Nature Notes

September, the month of Harvest, Hops and Apples.  The seventh month of the Roman calendar.

The Buzzard’s latin name Buteo buteo is imitative of its mewing call.  Over the past month on hot days I have been alerted by these distinctive mewing calls, and on most occasions saw through my binoculars three buzzards soaring on the thermals.  The can gain great height incredibly quickly, but continually keep in touch with their mewing.  On two occasions while watching, I observed two birds soaring very close together and suddenly one would go into a “stoop”; they fold their wings over their backs, dip the head down and just plummet like a stone.  This is done when they see prey on the ground or beneath them.  On this occasion though the stoop was short-lived and the bird quickly pulled out and rejoined its companion.  It repeated this behaviour for some time and I can only assume that this was an adult bird showing its new offspring how to hunt.

Buzzards have successfully bred in a small wood very close to Oxhill.  They are impressive birds with a wingspan of four feet and standing 20 to 22 inches in height.  They feed on a variety of prey from rabbits, rodents, small birds, insects, even earthworms.  Ten to fifteen years ago you wouldn’t have seen one in Warwickshire; at the beginning of the twentieth century they were virtually extinct due to persecution, and in the 1950s and 60s declined again, probably due to myxomatosis in rabbits.  Now this magnificent large bird of prey is, after the Kestrel, one of the most commonly seen hawks.

Did you know that those hugely expensive and desirable residences in London known as Mews were once the site of medieval buildings where falcons and hawks were kept especially while they were moulting, and the name Mews in this case comes from the old French “muer” – to moult.

Towards the end of the month Michaelmas daisies come into full bloom.  This garden flower was introduced from New England in the 1640s, but the native blue-purple Sea aster and the white Feverfew are also called Michaelmas daisies in some counties.  The 29th September sees Michaelmas, the feast of St Michael the Archangel and the greatest of the Autumn festivals.  St Michael is the patron saint of knights and warriors and of high places (i.e. St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall ).  He is also the guardian of the souls of the dead, whose good and bad deeds he weighs in his scales.

“If you eat roast goose at Michaelmas Day, you will never want money all the year” – The English Housewife, 1683.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: January 02, 2004