Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

May 2009

This months News



Nature Notes

“May brings with her the beauty and fragrance of hawthorn blossoms and the song of the nightingale.  Our old poets delighted in describing her as a beautiful maiden, clothed in sunshine and scattering flowers on the earth, while she danced to the music of birds and brooks.  She has given a rich greenness to the young corn, and the grass is now tall enough for the flowers to pay at high-and-seek among, as they are chased by the wind.  The grass also gives a softness to the dazzling white of the daisies and the glittering gold of the buttercups”.                     Chambers Book of Days (1864)

As Easter approaches we always start to listen out for the first arrivals of the swallows.  They have a delightful twittering song suggestive of running water and it is this you hear usually before you see them; they are the bringers of spring.  They usually arrive in or around Oxhill round about Easter and sure enough on that warm Easter Monday the first two swallows I saw arrived from the wintering grounds in Africa.  Let’s hope we soon see many more arriving.  Another summer visitor that arrives about the same time as the swallows, and indeed will prey on them, is the hobby, one of our smallest and most beautiful falcons. It was only two days after seeing the swallows that, while driving, I followed a hobby early one morning as it hunted low and fast for about a mile along a hedgerow just outside Whatcote.  We are fortunate in having, I believe, a resident pair of hobbies within the area of Whatcote.  The hobby catches and often eats its prey while on the wing.  Some years ago when bird watching in central Wales I watched a hobby catch a small bird in flight.  Its mate then appeared and they exchanged the catch while in flight – a treat to watch.  For many years the country name for a hobby was Robin or Robin Ruddock.  It is interesting to note that during the seventeenth century the name Robinet was given to a one-and-a-half pounder, long-barrelled cannon.  These were very manoeuvrable and were also known as culverins.  Others of a different ‘poundage’ were also given names of birds of prey; there were sakers, falcons and falconets.  In the sport of falconry, a male sparrowhawk is known as a Musket, which of course is the name given to an early smooth-bored type of rifle. 

Whilst we are in the seventeenth century, remember May 29 – Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day, commemorating the restoration of Charles II to the British throne on this day in 1660, his 30th birthday.  Charles had to conceal himself in an oak after the battle of Worcester in 1651.  The oak was in the grounds of Boscobel, a mansion whose name was derived from the Italian bosco bello, beautiful wood.  After the Restoration, the famous tree was stripped of its lower branches by souvenir hunters and had to be fenced for protection.  (Incidentally, I was shot in the leg at this battle – but that’s another story).

As many of you will know from last month’s News, I have been co-opted on to the Parish Council.  One of the duties I have been asked to do is to represent the Parish on a county project for local communities to become involved in a Parish Biodiversity Action Plan, or “Parish BAP”.  So last week I attended a steering group meeting, and it’s exciting stuff (well, I think so).  So what is biodiversity?  The word comes from the words biological diversity and simply means the variety of all living things, including microbes, plants and animals.  It also refers to genetic diversity within a species (essential for evolution) and the diversity of the woodlands, wetlands and other habitats which provide the food, water, and shelter for species.

All species are linked in an infinite number of ways via food-webs and the habitats they share.  If one species becomes extinct, it may affect more and taken to extremes whole ecosystems can collapse, with severe consequences for the way we live.  Across the world biodiversity is under threat from human activity such as over-intensive or inappropriate farming, large-scale commercial forestry, forest clearance, mineral extraction, pollution, and urban development.  We need to take action now if we are to secure a healthy planet for the future, and we can be part of that even in our small parish.  We should also not forget that access to nature is a popular form of relaxation that greatly enriches our lives and helps us to keep healthy.

Habitat Action Plans have already been implemented in many areas of Warwickshire involving Parish Councils, Parish Plan Groups, the WI and school groups.  These groups are involved in numerous habitat projects that include; field margins, hedgerows and roadside verges, churchyards, gardens, and public spaces, derelict and neglected areas of land, woodlands, orchards and spinneys, rivers, streams and ponds.

It would be wonderful if Oxhill parish could be involved.  So I would like to form a Parish Plan Group.  There is lots to do.  Don’t worry if you have no or little expertise – that is all available through the Biodiversity Action Plan, along with funding.  All you need is three things; enthusiasm, a love of nature, and a little time (for now!!).  This is not a one-man job, so if you are interested please phone or email me (01295 680664 or moore.moore@zen.co.uk).  You could also look at www.warwickshire.gov.uk/biodiversity.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: April 29, 2009