Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

May 2008

This months News



Nature Notes

The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit.  For, like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in like wise every lusty heart that is any manner a lover, springeth, burgeneth, buddeth, and flowrisheth in lusty seeds.  For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May.  Sir Thomas Malory, Morte d’Arthur 1470.

Now May is by tradition the month of merrymaking, but there are some superstitions that are not quite as merry.  It is said to be a bad time to marry (“Marry in May, rue for aye”), and a bad time to give birth, but don’t worry, for ill health in May can be a good thing: “Whoever is ill in the month of May, for the rest of the year is healthy and gay!”(?)  In the west country it was considered unlucky to buy a broom – you might be considered a witch!  On the up side though, you ladies who spend money on those “stay younger” face creams – forget it - instead go out on the 1st of May and collect May dew, wash your face in this potent dew and it is said your complexion will be restored to beauty.

A big thank you to those of you who have sent me a note of your sightings.  The ones I have received so far are very interesting, but I hope a few more will come in.  There is still time, so drop me something in over the next week or two.  I will report in June’s Nature Notes.

It is quite interesting the different birds you will see in slightly different surroundings.  At the moment I am working in Darley Green, just north of Warwick.  The area is predominantly pasture land and pony paddocks with very small fields and lots of hedgerow trees, once part of the ancient Forest of Arden.  Every day in this garden we see just about all the finches and tits, a trio of Jays, and a pair of Nuthatches, which I am told breed in the garden every year.  I have never seen a Nuthatch in Oxhill.  This is a really pretty little bird – pinky orange breast with a blue-grey back and a jet black eye stripe with white chin.  What catches your attention though is their ability to shuffle up, down and round the tree trunk, and not only in an upright position, but upside down as well.  The Nuthatch is the only British bird that can travel down a tree and it used to be thought that they roosted head down.  One of the pair I was watching would spend five to ten minutes motionless upside down.  Their main diet is nuts which they jam into a crevice in the bark and hammer until they crack the shell.  Many of their old colloquial names relate to this – Nut Topper, Nutcracker, and Nuthack.  The Nuthatch will also tap tree trunks in the manner of a woodpecker, which earns it the names Woodhacker and Woodcracker.  They choose holes in tree trunks or walls as places to nest, and make the entrance smaller by stopping it up with mud until it is exactly the right size – hence the names Mud Dabber and Mud Stopper.

May 19th is St Dunstan’s Day – west country legend has it that St Dunstan was a keen brewer of beer who made a pact with the Devil to ensure the destruction of the apple crop on which his rivals, the cider makers, depended.  In exchange for the soul of St Dunstan, the Devil agreed to blight the apple trees with frost on the 17th, 18th and 19th May, at the height of their blossom.

Don’t forget, there is still time to send me your “sightings”.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: April 29, 2008