Milverton, Somerset
15/07/2024

EuCan September update

We were disappointed to have to cancel the grass cutting at Tolland Churchyard, but hopefully things will be cooler by the rescheduled date of 10 September. I went to Tolland at 7am to explain about the cancellation to anyone who turned up, but nobody did. Unfortunately, one person turned up at 10am because they had not seen the subsequent emails.

As willing volunteers are a precious commodity we felt a little uncomfortable that our message did not reach everyone and this one person was disappointed on the day. So we’ve upgraded the emails that we send out and the content.

Every email will now contain the following line: ALWAYS CHECK OUR WEBSITE BEFORE YOU SET OUT. This is to make sure that your journey is not wasted, as the main reason for a task being cancelled is the weather.

The word “website” in the line above is a link to our website calendar so if we cancel it that will be the first place we announce it.

Tip: In the bottom right hand side of our calendar there is a little log like this. If you click on it our calendar of events will appear in your electronic calendar if you use one.

We are now using MailMerge software so that we can not only personalise your email (notice how we called you ParishMag) but we can also offer an unsubscribe link if you want to be removed from our emailing list.

Hedgehogs

Did you know that a hedgehog has between 5000 and 7000 spines and they can live for between 3 and 5 years?

They are called hedgehog because hedges are where they build their nests and the ‘hog’ is the snort or grunt they make.

Don’t forget, if you have a hedgehog in your garden that they are lactose intolerant, so don’t feed them milk, only water and small dog biscuits

The editor is laying claim to two happy hedgehogs in her garden. Please email the editor at editor@milandfitzmag.uk and let us know if you have others and where they are located.

Milverton recycling water centre

Living on the north east side of the village a quick walk into the countryside takes me past Wessex Water’s Milverton Water Recycling Centre (sewage treatment works). Well, it has a footpath along more than 50 per cent of its’ boundary. I’d never been inside the boundaries of the site, but then why would I ever need to; my house isn’t even connected to the mains drainage system, even though I can see the works from my bedroom window.

For the past five years I’ve managed a nest box survey for Wessex Water and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) at Clatworthy and it’s been very successful. Walking past the treatment works, especially on a sunny day, there is always a variety of feeding birds. I’d often muse that as a nest box project this would be an ideal site. It has food, and with nest boxes it would have nesting sites, but most of all it would have one of the things that nesting birds need most, lack of disturbance.

Of course, it was just a musing and I did nothing about it. That was until one evening in January BBC’s Winter Watch showed that waste treatment works were ideal sites to watch birds. This spurred me into action and I immediately emailed Tom the biodiversity officer for Wessex Water who I liaise with for the Clatworthy nest box survey and other Wessex Water conservation tasks. Wessex were already thinking about a similar type of project so I was really pushing against an open door.

Well, I have now been into the site for the first time ever and after sorting out health and safety requirements, the risk assessment and my ability to access the site, the project is now set to run. I’ve erected 22 nest boxes on behalf of Wessex Water and the EuCAN Milverton Conservation Group and will be checking them weekly when the birds start nesting.

I must say that I am very excited about what we might get in the boxes. The Clatworthy survey has 60 boxes mainly to encourage Pied Flycatchers, and has been very successful. However, there are enough boxes to go around and we get our fair share of Blue Tits and Great Tits, plus for the first time in 2020 we had Nuthatches in not one, not two but in three boxes, all with young that fledged. We have a variety of boxes; boxes with holes both 32mm and 28mm for smaller birds. Half fronted boxes and boxes with extended fronts. I’m hoping for at least 30 per cent occupancy and I suspect we’ll have the usual collection of tits, but it would be great to see a Wagtail or even a Pied Flycatcher, as I have seen one near the site about 10 years ago.

I’ll put a page on our EuCan website to keep you informed.

Trevor Phelps
EuCAN Milverton Conservation

Milverton Conservation Group

March update

On 23 February I saw my first queen bumblebee of 2020 during a couple of hours of unusually sunny weather. She was in a real hurry, tearing past me making one hell of a din. Bumblebees are frequently seen in the early spring flying in zig-zag patterns at ground level around the hedgerows looking for good nesting sites, so my guess is that this bumblebee had just come out of hibernation and was desperately hungry and looking for a quick nectar fix – they need to boost their energy levels after their long sleep. She was very big and fat (a complement if you are a bumblebee!) with yellow and black stripes, my guess is that she was a buff-tail. Some interesting facts about bumblebees:

  • only the new queen bumblebees survive from the summer
  • each bumblebee colony produces a number of new queens, the old queen dies at the end of the summer along with the female worker bees and the males
  • the new queen bumblebees mate in the summer and go into hibernation with the sperm stored in their bodies
  • when the new queen bumblebee finds a suitable nest, her ovaries develop and she lays her eggs which she fertilises with the sperm she stored as they leave her body. So, the new colony begins to grow
  • queen bumblebees coming out of hibernation are looking for early spring flowers

As well as the daffodils, snowdrops, hellebores and crocuses, our native wildflowers are very important for insects like bumblebees arriving early in the spring. Look out for lesser celandine amongst the hedgerows.

Janet Limburg