Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

October 2004


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Nature Notes

Well done to Geoff Stewart for catching that wonderful shot of the male sparrowhawk in his garden (August edition) entitled “not your usual garden bird”, although I believe it is becoming a more common garden bird.  In the countryside many habitats have disappeared, but around the villages we put out food all the year round for birds, we put in ponds for our own enjoyment and plant shrubs, bushes and fruit trees.  Slugs, snails, insects of all shapes and sizes, frogs, newts, grass snakes, dragonflies and several types of rodent abound, some in great numbers in our gardens – in short our gardens have become the “new” countryside.  For several years now the sparrowhawk has been a regular visitor to our garden, on one occasion colliding with the summerhouse door and knocking himself out!   A couple of mornings ago I saw a dead blackbird by the church gate, the top of its head gone and a neat 50p piece sized hole in the breast where the flesh had been removed – a typical sparrowhawk indicator.  I have noticed over the last couple of years that fieldfares, redstarts, long-tailed tits and bull finches, normally birds of farmland, have started feeding in our garden.  This is of course good news as nature does have its ways of adapting, so as well as putting out food for the birds, if you can put aside a corner of the garden with an assortment of old logs, twigs etc, maybe with a pile of leaves over the top, for all those animals about to hibernate.

This summer the woodpeckers and starlings seem to have done exceptionally well.  The other morning down Manor Lane I saw three green woodpeckers busily probing the mown verge for ants, and on one of the few sunny days I counted 25 young starlings sitting on our television aerial all with beaks agape waiting for parents to arrive with food.  The young starlings are beautiful birds, mouse-brown in colouring with a wonderful speckled breast and pale grey head with a long jet-black bill and a line that goes round the eye and down the cheeks, looking as if they are wearing mascara.  Brash, aggressive and a ruthless opportunist, it is the tearaway of the bird world, a noisy swaggerer that bullies other birds away from feeding grounds.  As they group for their autumn roost they form a fluttering, pulsating mass which soars, dives, divides and rejoins, drop down to smother trees and bushes, or “rope” themselves along telegraph wires and cables.  The word “starling” with the related stare and starnel are very close to the Anglo-Saxon Staer and Staerlinc.  The name stare comes from the Greek and alludes to the white-flecked winter plumage which wears off gradually and by early spring the bird has a glossy, almost oily, browny-black breeding plumage with iridescent green and purple that catches the light.

The other morning when returning along Main Street from an early morning walk, my dogs made excited moves towards two parked cars.  I assumed there was a cat underneath, but imagine my surprise when a young hare (leveret) bolted out and ran off down the middle of the road towards the church.

While walking one lunchtime in Church Meadow I noticed quite a large bird that kept moving from tree to tree ahead of me.  I eventually caught it up by the tall trees near the bridge and was surprised to see what I thought was a Short-eared owl.  Although they are day flying birds, they are very rare in the Midlands and not common throughout the British Isles.  The resident population is increased by summer visitors from Scandinavia.  I know that they have been recorded on the Kineton Army Camp, mainly around the conifer plantations, but that was some years ago.  Anyway when chatting to Tom Heritage recently he confirmed my suspicions when he told me that in the drive to his farmyard he saw an unusual owl sitting on a post, and as he was in his vehicle he was able to get quite close and noticed small “ear tufts”.  He too came to the conclusion that it was a short-eared owl and so a rarity for Oxhill.

October 18 – St Luke’s Day.  Fine weather, called St Luke’s Little Summer is to be expected around this date.  St Luke, the Greek writer of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles is the patron saint both of doctors and of painters and other artists.  This day is also a lucky day to choose a husband.  On going to bed repeat three times “St Luke, St Luke, be kind to me, In dreams let me my true love see” and in your dreams your future husband will appear “very plain and visible to be seen”!!

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: November 08, 2004