Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

February 2009

This months News



Nature Notes

February comes in like a sturdy country maiden with a tinge of the red, hard winter apple on her healthy cheek, and as she strives against the wind, wraps her russet coloured cloak well about her, while with bent head, she keeps throwing back the long hair that blows about her face, and though at times half blinded by the sleet and the snow, still continues her course courageously … the mellow-voiced blackbird and the speckle-breasted thrush make music among the opening blossoms of the blackthorn, to gladden her way; and she sees faint flushing of early buds here and there, which tell her the long miles of hedgerows will soon be green.

Chambers Book of Days 1864

During my ramblings last month I mentioned that unlike man, birds rarely if ever offer unprovoked violence to each other.  How wrong could I be.  Having done some research I can now reveal the dark side of our lovely feathered friends.  All the following have been observed:  Herring gulls and Jackdaws regularly preying on Puffin, killing and disemboweling them and swallowing the fledglings whole; Black-backed gulls slaughtering Manx shearwaters; Water Rail drowning small passerines (House sparrows, Great tits, Blue tits, Dunnock and Chaffinch) – they have been observed beating to death (in the manner of a Thrush breaking snails) all the above birds and then eating them; Great tit killing and carrying off a Goldcrest; Great tit  killing a Blue tit at nest; Robin killing Song thrush nestlings (it is worth noting here that a Robin has also been recorded feeing nestling thrushes); Robin killing Robin; Dunnock killing Dunnock; Starling killing nestling Blackbirds; and of course not forgetting the ‘serial killers’ of the bird world, the birds of prey – ruthless, quick and efficient, apart from Buzzards and Kites, which are predominantly scavengers.  However, there have been odd records of Shelduck in unison diving and attacking Marsh Harriers, also Carrion crows will regularly harass and drive off birds of prey, and there are accounts of Crows killing Kestrels.  So next time you put food out for the birds, beware, there are killers lurking in the bushes!

Talking of feeding the birds, the recent cold snap has brought a plethora of birds into our gardens, and apart from the regulars, we have had visits from Pied wagtails, Goldcrests, Great tits, Coal tits, Fieldfares, Redwings, and a chattering class of bumbarrels (Long-tailed tits).  I have heard from George (Ed.) that he has had a pair of Grey wagtails in his garden.  I have on occasion seen them in Janet’s field next to the chapel – nice one George!  He also reports in his garden a “bedraggled” Redpoll.

Harking back to killers – I can report a curious account.  We spent the New Year in Salcombe in Devon with some friends who live there who told us a strange story from back in the summer.  They were spending a quiet afternoon sitting in their garden enjoying the sunshine when they were alerted by a steady buzzing drone, which they recognised as swarming bees.  They looked up to see indeed a swarm of bees moving along from tree top to tree top.  As they watched, as if from nowhere a large group of Dragonflies, they calculated about 30 individuals of several different species, began to fly into the swarming bees and could be seen attacking and then carrying off their victims.  This behaviour carried on as the two groups flew out of view.  Dragonflies of course feed on other flying insects and are very fast and efficient in their pursuit.  I have seen a Hawker take a butterfly, but never a bee.  Why weren’t they stung?

February 20th – the Sun enters the House of Pisces.  “The man born under Pisces shall be a great goer, a fornicator, a mocker and covetous;  he will say one thing and do another.  He shall trust in his sapience, he shall have good fortune;  he will be a defender of widows and orphans.  He shall be fearful on water: he shall soon pass all adversities and live seventy-two years after Nature.

The woman shall be delicious, familiar in jests, pleasant of courage, fervent, a great drinker.  She shall have sickness of her eyes and be sorrowful by shame, needlessly.  Her husband shall leave her, and she shall have much trouble with strangers.  She shall travel much, have pain in her stomach, and live seventy-seven years.”

Kalendar of Shepheardes, 1604

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: February 03, 2009