Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

June 2008

This months News



Nature Notes

Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me
those have always been the two most
beautiful words in the English language.

Henry James, 1934

Well, technically June is the first month of summer.  It remains to be seen if the weather corresponds.  Lord Byron wrote “The English winter – ending in July, to commence in August”!

A big thank you for all those who responded to my request of a “nature watch”.  I was pleasantly surprised; over 10% of the village sent me lists and numbers in various forms.  I think for a first try that is brilliant and I shall do it again so we can compare numbers each year.

It seems that most gardens round the village support similar varieties and numbers.  The most common bird is the House Sparrow, second the Chaffinch, third the Blue tit, fourth Greenfinch, fifth Blackbird.  We all seem to have resident Robins, Wrens and Great Tits.  Also rather surprisingly (or not?) Wood Pigeon, Collared Doves, and Pheasant, and with those Oxhill mallard still present.  Most of us are visited frequently by Starlings, Goldfinches, Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Magpies (I saw no less than 9 sitting on the Chapel roof the other morning.  Most of our gardens still get visited by the resident Sparrowhawk.  Only the mother morning I heard a squawking and, thinking Frank (the cat) had just caught a sparrow, I sprang to the window (well, more a lurch) to shout at him, only to see a male Sparrowhawk drop on to our lawn clutching the still squawking sparrow.  With a deft squeeze of its talons it silenced the bird – they usually take a bird from behind with one foot round the head and neck and with a quick movement can break the neck.  It stood for a while “hooding” its prey – they hold their wings out and down rather like an umbrella in a natural instinct to hide their prey from any other predator.  Then off it went carrying the sparrow to, I suspect, feed its young.  They nest in the centre of the village.  I was asked the other day if songbird numbers were down because of the Sparrowhawk.  Although songbirds are part of their natural diet, they do not have a great impact on numbers.  They are not indiscriminate killers and their predatory habits ensure only the fittest songbirds survive.  They are in fact a sign of good garden health indicating that there is enough food available for them to survive.  This fantastic bird is a sign that you are doing the right thing.

Back to the list.  The Crow family feature on everyone’s list.  We have a large group of about 30 Jackdaws in the centre of the village and I think just about every house has a pair nesting in one of the chimneys.  (Be careful of chimney fires – I know from experience!).  We have a colony of Rooks roosting to the south west of the village, and I saw two Rooks on a lawn the other day, which is unusual.  We also have several pairs of Carrion Crows nesting in various tall trees in the village.  I have mentioned before the pair of walnut-eating Crows that nest near Mrs Rodwell’s house, but I saw something else interesting the other morning in the village centre.  A pair of Crows are nesting near to the Chapel and a Grey squirrel (they also feature all around the village) was obviously making an attempt to steal either eggs or fledglings.  Big mistake.  One of the Crows pursued the squirrel through the trees, and what was interesting was the manner in which the Crow seemed to both fly, run, and abseil down and through the trees pursuing the squirrel through at least four trees until I lost sight of them as the neared the ground.  A minute later the Crow returned, but the squirrel was never seen again!

Thrush numbers are still down, with only seven sightings, as are Dunnock, Siskin,  and Bullfinch.  Interesting sightings were the Redpolls, a pair of Tree Sparrows, a Reed Bunting, and a Redstart.  The Cuckoo has been heard several times, but nothing like it used to be.  Only one toad, one frog (in my kitchen) and just a few hedgehogs.  We have a family of Muntjac that live and breed in the centre of the village.  I was at the top of my garden several weeks ago and I saw one coming along the hedge.  I stood perfectly still and it came to within six feet of me, stood and looked at me for about a minute, suddenly through “Ooh er, a human” and scampered off.

And there is one unwelcome visitor that has been seen frequently, the rat.

Finally, at last, just before I sat down to write these notes, I was sitting out at the top of the garden and there it appeared circling quite low over the trees right in the centre of the village – a Red Kite.  We watched it for quite a long time.  Keep your eyes peeled.

I end these notes with the last line of one of the lists sent: “also ants worms and flies”.

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days

James Russell Lowell 1848

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: June 03, 2008