A disappointing session of ringing this morning with just three new Linnets caught. All the more frustrating to watch the usual 250+ Linnets fly all around the area and then feed mostly away from our couple of single panel nets. The problem now is one of low winter vegetation and nets without background becoming more visible to overflying Linnets. Andy and I are now resigned to remaining winter catches of single figures but view the entire project as very worthwhile.
Flocking in their winter habitat of flat, weedy fields or maritime marsh makes Linnets very difficult to catch. As such the data on wintering Linnets is under-represented in the national database of Linnets where 89% of the species’ recoveries are from the months April to October.
Richard the farmer has told us of his plans to reseed the same plot this spring and to start an additional new plot about half-a-mile away. Both plots should hold plenty of Linnets by late summer of 2017. In view of this and also of the suspicion that many Linnets that visit us in autumn and winter may be much more than local birds, we hope to add value to our project by colour ringing the ones we catch. Broadcasting the project to bird watchers and the public in other parts of the UK will hopefully generate a number of sightings of our Linnets.
We didn’t catch any obviously “different” Linnets this morning, but I did a little more research on the idea that some of our locally wintering Linnet flocks may be from Scotland while hiding a few of the seemingly forgotten Scottish race of Linnet, Linaria cannabina autochthona. The Latin autochthona means endemic/original.
David Callaghan 2011 - "The autochthona is not recognised by all authorities, as this longer-winged and more slender-billed form is likely to be the end of a continent-wide cline. With a population of up to 90,000 pairs, it is most abundant in eastern Scotland, though this positioning also opens it to potential intergradation.” (with cannabina from the south or cannabina from Scandinavia).
Scottish Birds 2003 - "Bannerman (1953) does add "perhaps also Ireland", remarking that Irish resident birds are variable though "mostly dark and match those from Scotland". Nevertheless, no comparative analysis of this observation seems to have been undertaken." The BOU Records Committee (BOU 1971) sees "the subspecies as 'poorly distinguished', however, no real determination of subspecies has so far been made regarding the recent colonisation of the Outer Hebrides (Murray 2000). Whilst the race appears to be largely sedentary, we still have much to learn about the overall distribution and movements of autochthona.”
Add to the above that in recent years the Linnet has recolonised Shetland (from Scotland or Scandinavia) and the mystery deepens.
I found two pictures on the Internet, specimens only. Note the earlier scientific name of Acanthis now Linaria.
Linaria cannabina cannabina
Linaria cannabina autochthona
We took a drive down to view Richard’s plot at Sand Villa for 2017 - looks promising. When Andy drove off to continue his Christmas and New Year chores I took a look at Braides Farm.
Combined approximate counts from Braides and Sand Villa: 600 Starling, 190 Curlew, 900 Lapwing, 300 Golden Plover, 60 Redshank, 170 Pink-footed Geese, 140 Wigeon, 30 Teal, 12 Shoveler, 6 Little Egret.
Back home I counted 15-20 Goldfinch in the garden with 6 Blackbirds and the now almost resident but single Fieldfare. That reminds me, I must go and top up the feeders and then hit the shops to find some cheap apples to chuck out.
More soon from Another Bird Blog.
Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.