Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

April 2015

This months News



Nature Notes

Huntigowk Day, Tailie Day, April Noddy Day, Preen-tail Day, or as most of us know it, April Fool’s Day.  The origin is unknown, but is thought to derive from the French poisson d’avril, literally ‘April Fish’.  The French term was used in the late 15th century for a go-between in an amorous liaison and to anyone sent on a fool’s errand.  The poison d’avril custom also involved pinning a paper fish on the back of some poor unsuspecting victim.

Where would you find Colin Blackhead, Toad Snatcher, Coaly Hood, Chink, Riverside Sparrow, or Bog Sparrow?  Well surprisingly in several gardens in Oxhill over the last few weeks, for they are all names for the Reed Bunting (Emberga schoeniclus).  The one I have seen in our garden is a male and in his breeding plumage he is very striking; a black head and bib, a white moustachial stripe and white collar, his body plumage is virtually the same as a cock sparrow but slightly more pronounced, he is also about the same size. As the name implies they were once exclusively a species of wet meadows, rushy pastures, reed beds and rank vegetation surrounding freshwater bodies of almost any size. They are now found in a wide range of settings well away from water and can occasionally be seen in gardens on bird-tables. The main reason we are now seeing them on farmland is due to the high densities of oil seed rape and this crop has been crucial in reducing the dependency of the species on wetlands. In the mid seventies through to 2000 they suffered a dramatic decline and were placed on the red list. They are also very susceptible to hard winters and the loss of weed seeds inflicted by modern herbicides is also a factor. Thankfully from about 2009 there has been a recovery and the species has moved from red to amber.

I am also thrilled to have seen several times in the village a Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus).  This is now a rare bird; from the mid 1960’s it has suffered a massive 97% decline, not only here but right across northern Europe, and shows no sign of recovery. There is a small breeding colony at The Natural Burial Ground in Tysoe. The noticeable feature of this bird is the chestnut-coloured head and a very white collar, whereas the House Sparrow has chestnut sides but a grey top to his head and a more smudgy white part-collar.  Keep a lookout, you will notice them if they are in your garden.

Talking of unusual sightings I have just been watching a Moorhen wandering round the Pub car park doing his tail display! There didn’t appear to be any other Moorhen in sight…and in a pub car park? just shows how popular the Peacock has become. 

23 April St. Georges Day; beware of dragons!

‘To save a Maid, St. George the Dragon slew
A pretty tale, if all is told to be true
Most say, there was no Dragon, and tis said
There was no George; pray there was a Maid’   

John Aubrey ‘Remains of a Gentilism’ 1688

Grenville Moore

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Last modified: March 24, 2015