Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

February 2010

This months News



Nature Notes

February 2nd is Candlemas “St Mary’s Feast of the Candles” when lights and candles are blessed in churches and candlelit services and processions are held.  Also by this date it is now deemed light enough within the house to do most ‘inside work’ without candles, so alas no more excuses for not doing our housework!  Fine weather on this day is to be feared since it shows that the worst of the winter is still to come.  Let’s hope not as we certainly don’t want any more snow since it is so hard on our wildlife, especially the wild bird population.  A big thank you to the many in Oxhill who keep a constant supply of food on their bird tables.  Most wild birds need to take in 30 – 40% of their body weight per day in food in order to survive the bitterly cold nights. 

If you were stuck at home, the blanket of snow provided a perfect backdrop for bird watching.  We provided five “food stations” with varying types of food for the birds and more or less at any one moment we could see sparrows, dunnocks, robins, blackbirds, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, wren, song thrush, starlings, blue tits, great tits, pied wagtail, and every day from dawn till dusk, a fieldfare.  The fieldfare, together with the robin, was the first bird in the garden at first light.  It vigorously guarded its food station, which was cut apples we had put down for it.  It protected this patch quite violently at times, on one occasion having a spectacular aerial fight with another fieldfare.  It would be nearly dark and all the other birds had gone to roost, but our fieldfare would still be there pecking away at the apples.  Other regular visitors during the day were a pair of woodpigeon, a large cock pheasant, great spotted woodpecker, collared doves, a redwing (rarely seen in gardens), jackdaws, and occasional crows and magpies, also not forgetting the marauding band of long-tailed tits (bum barrels!) numbering up to eleven on one day.  Another garden rarity I saw a couple of times was a brambling (so a total of 24 species).  It is the first time I have seen a brambling in our garden.  This very handsome finch is a winter visitor to Britain from Northern Europe.  It is sometimes referred to as a northern chaffinch, bramble finch, or mountain finch.  These migrant bramblings are often seen in the company of chaffinches (as ours was) during the winter months.  They differ from the chaffinch in that they have an unusual orange flush to the breast and shoulders.  In the summer the male’s head and back are blackish, but in the winter these parts have pale feather tips so appear much more grey-black.  They also have striking pale whitish wing bars and a white rump.  The famous ornithologist J A Baker wrote this rather poetic description:  His underparts are orange and white; glowing orange, like a sunset on silver scales of birch bark.  Normally a bird of mainly woodland and farmland, the hard weather will bring them into gardens.  They stay until March/April, so keep a look out for them.

Of course February sees not only the birds starting to prepare for breeding and corvids already nesting, but also the first flowers of spring will start to push through.  Traditionally February 4 sees the blooming of snowdrops, also called Candlemas bells, February fair maids, Snowbells and Snowpiercers.

On 5th February 1953 the rationing of sweets and chocolate was finally abolished after ten years.  During the latter half of WWII the weekly ration of sweets and chocolate was a mere 2oz per person, increased to a more generous 6oz in the post-war years.  Apparently the shops sold out of sweets and chocolate on that day.

The Confection made of Cacao called Chocolate or Chocoletto, which may be had in divers places in London at reasonable rates, is of wonderful efficacy for the procreation of children: for it not only vehemently incites to Venus, but causeth Conception in women …. And besides that it preserves health, for it makes such as take it often to become fat and corpulent, fair and amiable

William Coles “Adam in Eden” 1657

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: February 14, 2010