I always struggle with titles, so this one, chalked on the board in the RSPB shop at Carsington Water, seemed like a gift.
The story is that an 85-year-old customer asked them if they’d ever heard of one. His grandfather had learned the term as a boy and had passed it on to him when he was doing a school project. They worked out that the grandfather was born in the 1870s.
For comparison, my Dad is 88 and his grandfathers were born in 1871 and 1874 so we are about in the right area.
A banty feather poke is a Long-tailed Tit’s nest, and was in use in the Matlock area in the 1870s – 80s. The customer told them this because he didn’t want the name to die out.
Well, I’m doing my bit to keep it going.
They’d done some internet research and found that a poke is a pocket. Sounds fair enough, though I also think of it as a drawstring bag or purse. Either are quite good at describing this sort of nest, as you can see if you follow the link.
The feather is obvious, there are between 1,500 and 2,000 feathers in each nest. Makes you wonder why they bother, but they’ve being doing it for a long time and I suppose it makes evolutionary sense somewhere along the line.
Banty, could be something to do with bantams, but if you check up on a Derbyshire dialect website banty-legged means bow-legged. Not that it helps. I’ll have to check the legs next time I see one.
Finally, if you check this website for old names for Long-tailed Tits, you will find an extensive list including bumbarrel (the only one I’ve heard before) and Feather Poke.