Since our first newsletter, in November 2021, MANT has been building on the contacts it has made and consolidating its fledgling activities. Read on to find out what has been happening, and how our work is going to progress in the future.
- Bird Walk Thursday 21st July 2022 9am for 9:10 outside Kirklands
- Working Party Sunday 10th July 2022 2pm Venue tbc
- Annual General Meeting Tuesday 13th September 20227:30pmat St John’s Parish Rooms (venue to be confirmed) – please keep this date free; come and meet us and join in our work.
Miss Porritt’s Field
MANT has now signed an agreement with Miss Porritt’s trustees to manage Miss Porritt’s field, initially for a period of 7 years. This fantastic opportunity will allow us an area where we can enhance habitats and the variety of wildflowers within the field, resulting, we hope, in a more traditional wildflower meadow and much more abundant wildlife.
We are delighted that we are working with 4 different Menston Scouts and Beavers groups so far to survey the field, and will be planting a copse of native trees in the field with Menston Primary School in the autumn.
To mark the Jubilee, we will be planting an Oak tree, for future generations and wildlife to enjoy. We hope it will still be standing in 1000 years, home to 400+ species of wildlife.
Wild Gardens Open Day
In mid May we hosted our Wilder Gardens Open Day. This was a resounding success, with over 80 visitors from far and wide. There was fantastic interest in how to encourage wildlife into gardens, and lots of cross fertilising conversations taking place. Tea and cakes were well received and about £700 was raised for MANT. Many thanks to all those who opened their gardens so willingly and shared their enthusiasm and expertise. We will definitely be doing similar events in the future, and would ask anyone with a garden they would be willing to open to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can assure you, minimal preparation is required!
As I write we have had 4 working parties, one on the second Sunday of each month. So far these have tackled clearing up old, rotten fencing and other debris from Miss Porritt’s field, and potting on our wildflower nursery, to be planted out next year. These events have been a delightful way to meet other MANT members, and interested members of the public, and to pick up new skills. All participation is gratefully received. The next working Party is on Sunday 10th July at 2pm. Venue to be confirmed.
Birds Spot – Do you know your Dunnock from your Sparrow?
When you begin to be interested in birds you may wonder how to distinguish house sparrows from dunnocks. They could both come under the heading of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) and in fact the word “dunnock” comes from the Old English “brown and small”.
Although sparrows are in decline nationally, we are lucky to have several colonies of house sparrows along Main Street and elsewhere in the village. You will hear their constant “chirrup” from within a dense hedge as they maintain their social structure, or see them feeding in small groups on the ground. The beak is chunky as befits a bird that favours seeds, but in the summer their nestlings need softer food and I enjoy watching the adults delicately pick greenfly from my roses. Males have a grey cap, a black bib, a streaky brown back and chestnut wings with white wing-bars. The underside is grey. Females and juveniles have paler brown plumage, a long pale streak behind the eye and paler undersides.
The dunnock used to be known as a hedge sparrow, although it is a type of accentor, not a sparrow at all. You can distinguish it from a sparrow in several ways: it is mainly insectivorous so has a thinner beak; it is more finely streaked all over and slimmer than the sparrow with grey on the head and neck. They do not live in colonies so you will see them one or two at a time hopping around your lawn or skulking in the undergrowth. The dunnock is one of the first birds you will notice singing after winter. At this time they are easy to spot as they choose an exposed place on top of a bush. The song is high, scribbly and excited-sounding. Each phrase lasts two or three seconds. It may be worth mentioning their extraordinary mating habits. Some pairs are monogamous, some males have more than one female and some females mate with several males. In this last case, before mating, a male will peck at the rear of the female to get her to eject the sperm of any previous male suitor.
Just to confuse things a little, we have also observed a number of tree sparrow colonies around the village. It is now scarce nationally and not commonly found near habitation. Unlike the house sparrow the sexes are similar and have a chestnut head, no bib and a black cheek spot. In fact I think they are just better looking than house sparrows! Alison Davies
Wildflower Patch – Letting Wildflowers in
Here at MANT we are busy exploring how to encourage wildflowers to grow in a variety of settings, including our own gardens. Using your own patch is the easiest way to start out, even if it’s small: a corner of a yard with a tiny bit of soil is all you really need. Walls with crevices are excellent too – there are many wildflowers that seem to grow without the help of soil at all. If you already have a flower border the best way to introduce wildflowers is to gradually let it go wilder. This seems best done by refraining from turning or digging the soil. My garden is mainly shady and dampish in the winter but dries out a lot in the summer. Plants to find their way in within two years include bluebell, green alkanet, forget-me-not, creeping buttercup, meadow buttercup, foxglove, common vetch (both of which the bees love), common dog violet, herb robert, not to mention the ubiquitous dandelion, broad leaved willowherb and cleavers (sticky weed). To give other plants a chance, these last three might need to be judiciously removed in places, as they are such prolific self-seeders. As a result of this approach, and possibly my having remembered to leave standing water in the garden, the variety of bees, beetles and particularly tiny moths, has increased substantially. I haven’t managed to identify any moths yet, because they’re so fast moving, but it’s exciting to know they’re there and making it their home.
MANT now has its own very small wildflower nursery and thanks to some of our newer members, we have just spent a weekend potting on some tiny seedlings to give them more space to grow. It’s hoped that we can be successful at introducing these plants into different settings when they’re big enough, starting with Miss Porritt’s field. When we know what works, we’ll be able to share our findings widely to the benefit of our members and nature in general 😀 Emma Dalton
Menston is fortunate enough to be home to several Swifts. These amazing birds are red listed due to the steep decline in their numbers, and MANT wants to ensure they have plenty of roosting sites in Menston when they return from their long, southern migration. Initially we need to know where Swifts roost in Menston, and we then hope to install special nesting boxes for them over next winter, in time for their return. If you know of Swift sites, or might be interested in hosting a Swift box, please let us know at email@example.com.
Bird Walks around Menston
MANT is delighted to announce that regular bird walks are now being carried out around the village every month. Anyone is welcome to join Andrew Kelly, one of the trustees, to help spot and survey our bird population. They will occur the 3rd Thursday of each month, meeting outside Kirklands at 9am, setting off at 9:10am. Walks will take between an hour and an hour and a half, ending at the Cornerstone Café, but you are welcome to drop out at any point. Free to members of MANT. A donation from non-members would be gratefully received. Sorry, no dogs, as they tend to frighten the birds! You can just turn up, but it is helpful if you can contact Andrew on firstname.lastname@example.org to say you are coming.