Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

April 2009

This months News



Nature Notes

April is the first month of spring (the word alone lifts the heart and puts a ‘spring’ into our step).  Deciduous trees produce new leaves and blossoms, daisies, cowslips, violets and bluebells appear on verges, fields and woodland.  Birds build their nests and fill the air with song, especially at dawn in April, when the dawn chorus starts, rising to a crescendo in May.  But why a dawn chorus, why not a lunchtime chorus or an evening chorus.  Many theories abound.  Song or lack of it may reveal a vacant territory after a night death (nights can still be extremely cold).  Apart from the joy of singing, it has also been observed that male birds are probably establishing their territory and vying with each other males to attract a mate (some birds stop singing after pairing).  Some areas resound with more song than others, river birds singing less than birds of the woodland edge.  Mature gardens emulate woodland edges so we all here in Oxhill will be privileged to have an early morning symphony, so open the windows, switch off the alarm clock and let the birds rouse you from your slumber.  The chiffchaff calls out its name with hardly a break, the wren hammers out 56 notes in 5.2 seconds, the chaffinch sings more than four hundred songs in an hour, the song thrush hones its song by repeating each phrase three times over.  While you count these phrases you will hear the rest of the orchestra; greenfinch, goldfinch, dunnock, linnet, blackcap, willow warbler, blackbird, robin, pheasant, wood pigeon, collared dove, supported by the tit family and not forgetting the fly past of the honking Canada geese.

Some of those of you of more mature years, like myself, may be thinking “I’m sure the dawn chorus was much louder years ago”.  Well, you are correct.  About ten years ago the RSPB reported that 27 million birds have simply vanished in a quarter of a century.  We have four million fewer blackbirds, half the song thrushes and two-thirds of mistle thrushes; linnets are down by one-third, house sparrows by seventy-five percent, and yellow hammers by half.  19 species of farmland birds are now on the endangered list.  The reasons are mainly loss of habitat, changing farming methods, the use of pesticide and herbicides in gardens and on the farm.  Soon we could have bird tables with no birds.  Isn’t it time we addressed this problem?

Talking of nesting birds, please take care as we all get back in our gardens, to be vigilant when moving “stuff”.  A couple of weeks ago we had taken an opened bag of compost up to our veg patch and had lent it against the fence.  A few days ago we went to get some compost out, only to find a wren’s nest in the top.  It would have been easy just to remove it, it may not have been in use, but we left it, and sure enough a couple of days later an egg appeared, and as each day passed another egg.  Up until now, as I write this, there are five eggs.  Wrens, robins and blue tits are all prone to building nests in unusual places.  I recall reading an account of a robin that built a nest in a Spitfire engine during the Second World War – and reared its young!

About two weeks ago while driving I followed what I was pretty certain was a Whooper swan.  It was flying low and following the river Stour towards Stratford.  Eventually I turned off and lost sight of it.  A few days later a friend reported seeing a pair of Whoopers in one of the water meadows at Alderminster.  For the timing and area this was a rare sighting.

                At Easter let you clothes be new
                Or else be sure you will it rue

“If you do not wear some article of completely new clothing on Easter Day, you will be unlucky all the year; and at the very least ‘the birds will make a mess on you’.  New Easter bonnets are particularly popular, but any new clothing worn for the first time to church on Easter Sunday will thereafter bring you good fortune whenever you put them on.”

Fairfax Household Book, 1710

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: April 02, 2009