Tuesday, November 29, 2016

True Grit

Luckily, and after studying the weather forecast I’d prepared well with a good breakfast, double socks and outdoor clothes warming over the kitchen radiator. Minus four (-4°) flashed the temperature gauge as I set off towards Pilling to meet Andy for 0800 at Gulf Lane where we hoped to catch more Linnets. 

We set the usual 3x single panel nets in the frosty, low vegetation and retired to the car for a coffee or two until the birds arrived. Initially the Linnets seemed not to visit the seed heads in the field of set-aside but to instead spend time perching along the roadside barbed wire fence that faced into the slowly rising sun. 

A good number of them also spent time in the roadway taking grit from the surface until approaching cars forced them to fly off. Grit is eaten a lot by seed eating birds. The grit accumulates in the gizzard and helps to break down any tough seeds by abrasive action to make the seed more easily digested. Remember, birds have no teeth with which to munch their morning muesli. 


The Linnets were well up to recent numbers by way of an estimate of 250+ individuals sticking to two or three distinct flocks that split and then re-joined after being disturbed by passing vehicles, or often, an unknown cause. There was a Kestrel sat atop a distant tree that kept watch on proceedings and in the course of a few hours made two unsuccessful passes to grab a Linnet, a distraction that probably helped the flock to become increasingly jumpy and nervous of feeding. Or perhaps the Linnets were waiting for the overnight frost to clear a little before they began their breakfasting? 


Frosted Linnet field

We didn’t catch well with just eight new Linnets, although that increased our project catch to over 130 so far this autumn/winter. As the winter deepens it could be that the Linnets all depart, and even though there is plenty of natural food left for them to go at, the plants are now at virtual ground level which makes it more difficult to intercept them in flight. 

Do we carry on with minimal but perhaps catches of less than ten birds each time? It’s up for discussion but on balance we probably should continue as lowland wintertime Linnets are not caught in any great numbers in the UK, and certainly not in this part of northwest England. 



Any data we collect will add to that already in existence and hopefully give a little more insight into the origins, movements and composition of both individual Linnets and Linnet flocks. Other birds seen at the set-aside, but more correctly in the attached drainage ditch today – 1 Little Egret, 6 Snipe and 1 Teal. 

Little Egret

Back soon with more birds on Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to  Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


Chris Rohrer said...

I like the coffee bit and the weather looks perfect. This is always a fun time of year counting the birds passing through the area. Many of our Lark Buntings are doing the same bit right now along the highway. It was a fun weekend out. And it looks like you had a productive one as well:)

Linda said...

Beautiful series, Phil! Here in Montreal we had freezing rain this morning. Yikes! :)

Ana Mínguez Corella said...

Nice pictures and great work.. regards..

David Gascoigne said...

My word, your weather is far worse than ours. We were out birding today and the temperature hit 15.5 degrees at one point. And it's almost December. Good work on your continued banding of the Linnets. I suspect that all your banding operations will cease soon as you get into winter.

Stuart Price said...

Minus 4.............pah! You should try ringing in Hokkaido one time in winter, that would be a challenge. No linnets mind..........

Vandana Sharma said...

Linnet looks like sparrows that we see in our country.

Breathtaking said...

Hello Phil!:) Beautiful series!:) Love your Linnet shots, and the little Egret and Kestrel images are very beautiful. I didn't know about small seed eating birds, eating grit to aid their digestion. We are having mild weather at 15º degrees, but it's the short days that I dislike.

Lowcarb team member said...

A nice cup of coffee (or tea) is perfect on cold days.

Great photo's again Phil, thank you.
Think my favourite is the Little Egret.

All the best Jan

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