Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

August 2009

This months News



Nature Notes

A couple of days ago Jane came rushing in from our vegetable patch and said that something, she suspected a small bird of prey, had flashed over the vegetable patch and snatched something which let out shrieks, and then vanished.  It was all so quick she could not identify the aggressor or the victim.  I walked up the garden to see if I could spot anything, and hearing a plaintive squawk, I looked over the garden fence to see not 10 yards away a hobby (Falco subbuteo) with a blackbird.  There was no mistaking the hobby’s clear-cut face pattern “moustache and sideburns” similar to a peregrine.  He or she (the sexes are alike) gave me a withering look and was up and away with its prey, which was still shrieking.  It’s worth noting that the blackbird was very nearly the same size as the hobby.  This bird, back in the winter, was 2500 miles away in North Africa, south of the Sahara desert.  I believe that there is a breeding pair somewhere in the Whatcote vale.  It is one of Britain’s rarer birds of prey and to see one in the centre of the village was very lucky.  [Though not for the blackbird! Ed.]

In May’s Nature Notes I mentioned some nesting lapwings.  A couple of weeks ago I noticed that there were four lapwings still on the stubble, I suspected with a second brood.  My attention was drawn by a repeated very high pitch noise which I can only describe as a scream.  A gardener was mowing, but the calls could be heard above the noise of the mower.  I went to see what it was and on the ground were three crows and three of the four lapwings were diving at the crows and hitting them – you could hear the impact – but the crows were not moving.  The fourth lapwing had flown to quite a height and was making a loud, almost continuous, un-lapwing like distress call.  As I watched, over the hill about a quarter of a mile away, a flock of about 15 birds appeared.  At first I thought they were more crows, but very quickly it became clear they were lapwings.  In seconds they arrived and carried out what I can only describe as mass dive-bombing tactics, forcing the crows to take off, but they continued the attack and harried the crows until they were well away.  The flock then returned to the four lapwings which were now on the ground, I presumed tending their young, and all settled on the stubble around the four.  There then followed acts of what seemed to be mutual calming, and when everything was peaceful, the 15 took off and within minutes had disappeared back to where they came from.  I have never seen anything like this before; it was literally like watching the cavalry arrive when all seemed lost.

A cautionary tale for fishermen:  the same day as I watched the lapwings, I went to check on seven swallows nests in an open barn where I knew many young had been reared.  Two nests contained young, obviously a second brood, but when I came to the last I was shocked to see an adult hanging by the neck from its nest.  I fetched a ladder and it became obvious what had happened.  When they were building their nests during the hot spell, they had been fetching mud from the river bank at Honington.  In this mud must have been a 7 to 8 inch piece of fishing line which the swallow had stuck down on the rim of the nest.  Somehow, I assume when feeding the young, the adult had put its head under a loose loop and had struggled to fly away, pulling part of the line loose, and tragically the poor bird hanged itself.  Please, if you are a fisherman, take all pieces of line home with you and dispose of it properly.

The 16th August is St Roch’s Day.  Take precautions against contagious diseases.  St Roch, a selfless fourteenth century plague doctor, is invoked against all infectious diseases; perhaps even Swine flu.  John Aubrey, 1685, advises It is observed at Plague times that the opening of the South-windows bring the sickness, and shutting of the southern windows and opening the northern cures it.  Tis said that drawing in the heat of a fire with one’s breath doth much good to him that has the plague’.  So there you, it’s as simple as that!

Grenville Moore

This site is maintained by villagers of Oxhill for the benefit of the community and those interested in the history, news and activities that make the village such a pleasant place to live.

Send mail to the editor of the Oxhill News at news-editor @ oxhill.org.uk.

©2009 Oxhill Village (Terms and Conditions of use)

Last modified: August 22, 2009