Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

December 2010

This months News



Nature Notes

One Christmas was so much like another … that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

Dylan Thomas (1954) A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Leaving the village today along the Whatcote road, there sitting on the hedge I saw him “ his under parts are orange and white; glowing orange, like a sunset on silver scales of birch bark” a Furze Chirper, a French Linnet, a Tartan Back the Cock o’ the North…..a brambling.  This little bird is known as the northern counterpart of the chaffinch and had probably just arrived from Scandinavia or perhaps northern Russia and will stay until March or April, although small numbers have now started breeding in Scotland.  Bewick the famous engraver of wildlife called this bird the ‘Mountain Finch’ and remarked that it made better eating than the chaffinch, if rather bitter in taste!! The artist Turner called it a bramdlyng suggesting a connection with brambles  (it does often roost in brambles) but it is now thought that this is a derivation of the old Scottish word ‘brandling’ a name given to a young salmon, pink and white in colour, or an animal of brindled pattern. The male’s black head in the breeding season does in fact turn to a brown and white brindle pattern come the winter, and looks very similar to the female.  It was unusual to only see one bird (I’m sure there were probably more about).  They are generally a flocking bird and can often be seen feeding with chaffinches; the brambling’s winter food includes weed seeds, berries, grain, pine seeds and beech-mast as its main diet. In flight the bird gives a quiet, rapid chucc-chucc-chucc call note.  After a good harvest flocks of several hundred or even thousands can accumulate.  In 1981 on Merseyside a flock built up to an estimated 150,000 but that pales into insignificance when in 1952 in some heavy-laden beech woods near the Swiss town of Huniback a flock built up to a staggering seventy million birds! can you imagine what a sight that must have been.

Talking of strange things, those of you who read and digest my ramblings may recall a couple of months ago I wrote about a couple of goldcrests that kept landing on the water of our pond and walking across picking up, presumably, small insects.  Well during my research I came across a similar report taken from a newspaper dated 21st September 1976, but with a rather macabre ending, to quote; “the frog swam vigorously towards the goldcrest, it pushed forward and grasped the bird by the head and breast; with a splash, the frog dived with its victim, both remaining submerged for several minutes”; however it does not say whether the frog swallowed the poor bird, a large frog would certainly be capable. 

The old saying that a plentiful harvest of fruit and berries brings a hard winter may be true this year, so please make sure our wild birds have plenty of food and more importantly water.

Also Hutch-rabbits, or ‘rich Conies’, now in prime condition….yet they are violently hot in the act of generation, and perform it with such vigour and excess, that they swound and lie in trances a good space after ….. every one of your conies killed in this season is worth any five other conies, for they are of body much fatter and larger…

‘To gild a spit-roasted Coney. Mix one gill of cream with a little flour, parsley chopped small, two egg yolks, pepper, salt and nutmeg grated; when the Coney is almost roasted, paint it all over the this paste; and when the paste is dried on, baste it with fresh butter until it is done.  This makes a rich gravy and puts away the Coney’s dryness”.

Markham, Cheap and Good Husbandry 1683

 Grenville Moore

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Last modified: November 29, 2010