Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

June 2009

This months News



Nature Notes

This is the month of Roses, and their beauty and fragrance conjure up again many in poetical creation which memory had buried.  This is the season to wander into the fields and woods, with a volume of sterling poetry for companionship, and compare the descriptive passages with the objects that lie around.  We never enjoy reading portions of Spenser’s Faery Queen so much as when among the great green trees in summer.

Chambers Book of Days.

...... two buzzards are sitting on fence posts six metres apart.  They have been feeding together on a rabbit carcase.  They sit, preen, clean and air their feathers.  Completely ignoring the buzzards is a group of four or five crows on the ground squabbling about something.  A raven flies over chortling to himself in that wonderful deep throaty croak and the crows all immediately take off to “escort” him out of their territory.  As this is happening my attention is caught by a sound – pee-wit pee-wit, the unmistakable call of a lapwing.   No more than 100 metres away a pair of lapwings are putting on a most fantastic aerial display – climbing and climbing then suddenly changing into a twisting, rolling dive and then an upward twist and a flurry of rapid buzzing wing beats, then repeating the whole thing again, very close together as if in synchronised flying.  The Anglo-Saxons used the word hleapewince which has the quite beautiful meaning of a “leap with a waver in it” which conveys so well the tremulous power of the lapwing’s flight, and this is the origin of the bird’s name.  Within minutes they are on the ground, the female standing quietly, almost aloof, while the male displays by making nest scrapes, breast touching the ground, head going from side to side, and rear end tilted up to the heaven showing off his striking rust-coloured under tail, the iridescent green on his wings glistening in the morning sunlight, then standing upright and stretching his head up with a nodding motion, showing off his magnificent long head crest, then running forward and starting the whole procedure again.  Meanwhile to my left a fat song thrush fledgling is in the middle of the lawn demanding food, the parents hurriedly flying backwards and forwards bringing their offspring tasty morsels.  As I stand watching all this, just behind me is a old stone trough filled with plants where I have noticed a pied wagtail, beak full of grubs, patiently waiting on a nearby wall.  I carefully and gently separate and look through the plants and there it is, packed tightly in amongst the leaves and the base of the plants, a nest with five baby wagtails.  I quickly move away, allowing the adults to carry on their task of rearing their chicks.

This entire episode lasted no more than ten minutes.  I was working at a farmhouse a couple of miles from Oxhill.  The lapwings were on a field of old stubble next to the house.  The owner of the house phoned the farmer, and hopefully the field will not be ploughed until the lapwings have nested and reared their young.  She was also about to replant the trough, so this also has been put on hold.

Many thanks to the four people who have provisionally volunteered to join the Parish Biodiversity Group.  I will call our first meeting shortly, and if anyone else would like to join, please contact me.  As things progress, I will keep the village informed via these nature notes.

Sea travel to foreign parts reckoned to be safe after midsummer; guard against sea-sickness and outlandish food.  Concerning the diet of the French, it is nothing so good or plentiful as ours, they contenting themselves many times with mean viands.  As for the poor peasant, he is fain oftentimes to make up his meal with a mushroom, or his Grenoilles (in English; mere frogs).

The Compleat Gentleman, Henry Peacham, 1634.

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: June 07, 2009