Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

November 2007

This months News



Nature Notes

November is the month that marks the transition of autumn into winter.  The last leaves fall from our deciduous trees and many creatures will start their hibernation.  Traditionally for people living close to the land, it has marked the final preparation for the cold dark months ahead.  November is the month we should stock up on winter fuel and salt, and hang our meats, and store or preserve our summer fruit and vegetables.  Thomas Hood in 1844 wrote:

                No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful case,
                No comfortable feel in any member –
                No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
                No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds

At the end of last month’s Nature Notes you may recall I mentioned seeing two ravens flying low across Mrs Rodwell’s field.  After a bit of investigation it seems that these two ravens have been nesting at Idlicote for the past three years, but as far as we can tell, they have had no offspring.  Recently they seem to be regular visitors to Oxhill and most days now I see or hear them.  They have a powerful voice with an unmistakable deep throaty quality.  The note is typically described as a “croak” although ravens do have a wider vocabulary and the Romans (who revered the bird) differentiated 65 separate vocalisations and it is also renowned for its ability to mimic speech.  To illustrate this, several days ago I saw two ravens flying directly overhead.  One dropped its flight path slightly and seemed to take an interest either in me or more likely, I suspect, in our small black terrier, Susan, who at the time was snuffling about in small circles.  Whether the Raven thought this was a corvid in distress or even under attack by me I’m not sure, but it starting circling above us and its call note changed to short rapid notes that sounded like Oi, Oi, Oi – Oi, Oi, Oi.  In the meantime its mate had flown on and was out of sight, but I could still hear the familiar deep croak.  Realising that Susan was in fact a dog, and moreover that its partner had disappeared, it accelerated away whilst calling in rapid high-pitched notes, which sounded exactly like wait – wait – wait, and off it sped.  Like all corvids, ravens are well-known for their aerial repertoire and equally a sense of fun.  I came across this passage in one of my books:  “Whilst snow bathing, (the raven) rolled on to its side and then on to its back, and being on a slope, started sliding.  After sliding about three metres it stopped, righted itself and, with typical long gait, hopped back to its starting point and repeated the manoeuvre two or three times.  Its mate, which had been watching from a short distance, came to the same spot, began snow bathing, and as its partner, rolled on to its back and slid at about 3 – 5 kph down the slope.”

The ravens’ present scarcity – just 4300 pairs despite a steady recovery from persecution – have made it a bird to be valued and enjoyed, so keep your eyes open for “our” ravens.

All the corvids display wonderful characteristics if you watch them.  Only yesterday my attention was caught by a crow plummeting like a peregrine “stooping” with folded wings towards the ground.  There were two of them and taking turns they would repeatedly fly straight upwards for about 30 – 40 feet carrying something round in their bills and then drop it and immediately fold their winds and plummet after it to the ground.  I quietly tried to approach them to see what held their attention, but every time I got close they would pick up the object and hop away from me keeping a distance of about 20 paces between us.  I know crows do this with nuts to break them, and gulls also drop shellfish on to rocks.  I can only assume these were nuts of some sort or perhaps snails – but very entertaining.

Grenville Moore


A Literal “Footnote”

Pavements form an integral part of the street scene; the materials – paving stones, kerbstones, cobbles and setts – traditionally came from nearby and were laid with skill – a link with all the feet that have trodden there gives significance to all our tracks and walkways.  Barry Joyce writes:  “As with roofing and walling, each area had its own tradition of paving based on locally available materials – what survives is a little regarded but important part of the country’s heritage – the quality and rarity in stone pavements, and the patina achieved by decades of feet is now much sought after.  We have taken our pavements for granted and poor, unattractive surfaces such as concrete slabs and tarmac are replacing good old causeways.  As with nature, we must start to care for the ‘nature of things about us’; it is important or all is lost forever.  Our country is a land of extraordinary variety, rich in buildings, landscapes, peoples, wildlife, customs and traditions, and even quirkiness – we must guard against creating a bland empty countryside – look to the commonplace, the local, the vernacular, and the distinctive.”

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: October 29, 2007