Oxhill News

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

South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

January 2016


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Nature Notes from past years

The Nature Notes articles by Grenville Moore have been a regular feature in the Oxhill News for many years. The News will be reprising some of Grenville's articles so that they can be enjoyed all over again. Here is am article from January 2003.

January: the midwinter month, named after the double-faced Roman God Janus, who looks back towards the Old and forward to the New Year.

Well no sooner had I mentioned seeing a Barn Owl and what a rare occurrence that is, than Tom Heritage mentioned that he had seen what he thought was a family group of no less than five Bam Owls hunting the fields between Oxhill and Tysoe. A Bam Owl has on average four to seven young and this may have been a second brood hatched at the end of August to September. They take eight to ten weeks mature to flight. The other morning while walking my dog in the dark, I heard at least three screeching (they are often referred to as screech owls) across the field to each other.

On the subject of birds of prey, while walking down Back Lane , I heard the continuous "kew-kew-kew" of a Green woodpecker and saw a female Sparrow hawk, pursuing the woodpecker round Mrs Rodwell's field. A Sparrow hawk is a very fast. skilful flyer, but the woodpecker was leading it a merry dance round the field. Several times the hawk made a lunge, only to be out-jinxed by the woodpecker. I wondered how long the woodpecker could outwit the superior flying skills of the hawk when suddenly the woodpecker popped over the fence and flew up the road directly at me with the hawk in hot pursuit. I remained motionless and the woodpecker skimmed past my shoulder.

Sparrow hawk chasing a green woodpecker (not the ones described in the article)

The hawk on the other hand seeing 'man' stood on her air brakes, veered off, and losing her concentration called off the attack. The question is did the woodpecker use it's cunning to involve man in it's escape, or was it just down to luck?

Weasel rides a Green Woodpecker
The photo looks fake, but I've seen the accompanying photos and its true! A weasel was attacking the woodpecker, when the bird took flight.
Both animals got away safely.

This takes me back to summer a year or so back when we were leaning on our fence talking to Bill Gardner when we heard a terrible cacophony of bird alarm calls and a bundle of flapping wings from over by the beehives in the far corner of Bill's field. With Bill's permission, I hopped (a middle-aged struggle would describe it better) over the fence and made my way across the field to find a male sparrow hawk (male sparrow hawk bright grey underpants with red-brown barring, about 12in (30 cm) high; female darker brown and duller, but up to 25-30% larger standing 15in (38 cm) and a wingspan 4-6in wider) clutching on to the back of a similar-sized Green woodpecker who in turn was hopping about unable to take off and furiously attempting to peck at the hawk. Green woodpeckers are very fond of bees and their larvae, so it had obviously been pounced on while investigating the hives. At my approach the startled Sparrow hawk released the woodpecker and flew off, and the woodpecker ruffled it's feathers and also flew off unharmed. Perhaps I am destined to become the saviour of Green woodpeckers -Saint Grenville of Woodpeckers!!

On the 18th January tradition has it that you must greet the first new moon of the New Year, and the days will now be growing noticeably longer. But remember- As the days lengthen, so the cold strengthens (Digby 1669). On that note, I wish you all the best for the New Year.

Grenville Moore.

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Last modified: January 21, 2016