Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

March 2007

This months News



Nature Notes

March takes its name from Mars (Martius) the god of war – this is the month when military campaigns generally began after the end of winter.  In the early Roman calendar it was the first month of the year.  March is also the first month of Spring:

“He is Nature’s Old Forester, going through the woods and clothing the trees with green, to mark out the spots where the future leaves are to be hung.  The sun throws a golden glory over the eastern hills, as the village clock from the ivy-covered tower tolls six, gilding the hands and the figures that were scarcely visible two hours later a few weeks ago.  The streams now hurry along with a rapid motion, as if they … were eager to rush along the green meadow lands, to tell the flowers it is time to awaken” (Chambers Book of Days – 1864)

As I write this at the end of February, the early spring flowers, crocus, snowdrops are everywhere, primroses will follow shortly, and many birds and animals are beginning their courtship rituals. Most Corvids are already paired – I think practically every chimney in Oxhill has a pair of Jackdaws nesting in it.  The Common and Great-crested newts in our pond are gliding in and out of the weeds, the males displaying their magnificent dragon “sails” and flipping over to show off their resplendent orange and black undersides.  But alas this year as yet, not a frog or toad have I seen.  In years gone by Back Lane at night would see the march of the toads and invariably there would be the odd fatality from passing cars, but this year nothing.  I would be interested to hear if other pond owners in the village have either frogs or toads this year.

I was thrilled to see a Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) on our bird feeder a few days ago.  It is a member of the warbler family.  Normally thought of as a spring or summer visitor, with its rich and liquid notes bringing it the title of “King of the warblers” the Blackcap’s status as a winter visitor is another recent development.  Most of our breeding Blackcaps migrate southwards to the Mediterranean areas of Europe and North Africa.  Although the year-round presence gives the impression that some birds are resident, the winter population is also migratory, arriving from Germany and Austria usually about the time the summer breeding birds are leaving.  Today the winter total is estimated at several thousand, a rise that I am sure is due to the increased feeding of birds during the winter.

Unfortunately for the Blackcap, it is still seen as a delicacy in many Mediterranean countries, especially Greece, Cyprus and Malta, and is still sold in restaurants.  Many years ago we were offered a tray of about 20 little roasted birds in a Greek taverna – we declined!  The Mediterranean trapping of songbirds is illegal under European law and has been the subject of several British conservation campaigns, but amazingly it still goes on.  Across the whole region the annual total of spring and autumn migrants being killed is estimated at a whopping 900 million!  Apparently being migrants they are carrying large amounts of fat which gives them the required flavour.

On a lighter note, I was pleased to see a flock of about 200 Fieldfares in the long meadow below the Church the other morning and on several occasions I have also noticed Redwings (also Thrush family), the wonderful rusty chestnut underwing colouring only visible in flight.  The Redwing is more nervous than other British thrushes so is often more difficult to see, so keep your eyes open for it in the next few weeks when this beautiful bird will once again leave the British Isles and make its way  north.

March 26 – March hares now breeding:  “It is found by Experience that when one keeps a Hare alive and feedeth him, till he have occasion to eat him, if he tells him before he kills him, that he will do so, the hare will thereupon be found dead, having killed himself.” (John Aubrey – Remains of Gentilism, 1688).

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.

©2007 Oxhill Village (Terms and Conditions of use)

Last modified: March 07, 2007