Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

December 2004


This months News
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004


December 1
January Issue
Cover Picture
Local Burglaries
Alcester Male Voice Choir
For Sale
Service Times
Xmas Tree Festival
Festival Choir
Church Decorations
Carol Singing
Seasons Greetings
Parish Council
Toddler's Party
Adult Leanrning
Nature Notes
Christmas Candy
Tysoe Marionettes
Village Hall News
WI Report

Back ] Next ]

Nature Notes

The tenth month in the Roman Calendar and in Anglo-Saxon Giuli – the month of Yule.

It seems the sparrowhawk keeps rearing its beautiful head in the Oxhill News.  I read with great interest Ann’s piece on village history, especially the paragraph on the sparrowhawk given as a down payment for rent and her comment that it was presumably to be trained for use in crop protection or for sport.  This sent me scurrying to my reference books on falconry.  The English statutes of the Middle Ages stipulated the kinds of hawks and falcons which the different levels of society were allowed to possess.  For instance a Duke would have a peregrine, a knight a goshawk, and priests and junior members of the clergy had sparrowhawks.  The sparrowhawk was easily trained and in plentiful supply.  Ann was correct in her assumption that they were used for crop protection, and indeed up until the beginning of the First World War they were used to frighten away or catch blackbirds and thrushes from fruit trees and bushes and in particular cherry orchards.  Their ability to be released quickly from the wrist and fly low and fast, jinxing between obstacles, made them ideal for this purpose.  They also hunted for the table, the chosen quarry being landrail (corn crake), quail and partridge.  The Sparrowhawk is mentioned by Chaucer in his Assembly of Birds as being a favourite at that period for the purpose of taking quails.  In 1815 a Captain John Verner caught 150 partridges in about three months with a sparrowhawk which he had trained himself.

It is interesting to note that in his book Falconry published in 1973, Humphrey ap Evans writes “Sparrowhawks have vanished altogether from many districts.  The next ten years may be crucial for them, showing whether they are set on the slope to extinction like the beautiful and little known hobby, now fewer than 100 pairs strong in Britain, or whether they can hold on and recover”.  The numbers were declining because of the use of DDT as a pest control on crops.   Small birds would eat seeds and fruit etc that had been treated and this would be transferred to the sparrowhawk.  It didn’t kill them, but it made the shell of their eggs very thin so they would break before hatching.  However when the use of DDT was stopped and the killing of birds of prey made illegal, the sparrowhawk was able to make a strong comeback.

Listen out for robins singing their winter song which they will often sing at night, especially if there is street lighting (thankfully none in Oxhill).  The Anglo-Saxons called the robin rudduc for the ruddiness of its breast, a usage that still survives today in some parts.  Belief has it that the robin’s red breast came about as he picked thorns from Christ’s crown of thorns and was stained by Christ’s blood.  The first postmen, whose uniform included a bright vermillion waistcoat, were known as “Robins” and this is one of the reasons why robins are not only featured on Christmas cards, but often shown with a letter in the beak, delivering the mail.

Remember on no account bring mistletoe into your house until Christmas Eve,  “Most powerful of all against evil is the rare oak mistletoe which should be gathered at New Moon without the use of iron, and never allowed to touch the ground: but mistletoe grown on apple trees or the sacred hawthorn is also especially worth having.  Some women have worn mistletoe around their necks or arms, thinking it will help them conceive.”

(William Coles: Adam in Eden 1657).

A very Merry Christmas to all Oxhill News readers, and while you feast on Christmas day, don’t forget the birds (not the one on your plate!)

Grenville Moore

This site is maintained by villagers of Oxhill for the benefit of the community and those interested in the history, news and activities that make the village such a pleasant place to live.

Send mail to the editor of the Oxhill News at news-editor@oxhill.org.uk.

©2004 Oxhill Village (Terms and Conditions of use)

Last modified: November 28, 2004