Sunday, December 18, 2016

Scottish Mist

Next Wednesday is the shortest day of our gloomy northern winter. I for one can’t wait for that extra few minutes tacked onto each morning and every evening; and with a bit of luck we’ll have a few frosty, clear mornings to lift the shutters of winter. 

In the meantime a 0815 start was required on Saturday to meet Andy at the set-aside plot for a chance of catching more Linnets. There’d been up to 250 Linnets both flying around and dropping into the weedy field during the week when I stopped to take a look. With a prediction of 3mph together heavy cloud the conditions appeared ideal. The forecast proved accurate enough except that the dank overnight air and lack of wind had created a morning fog. The fog hung around all morning, turning once or twice into a mist when without much success the hidden sun tried to break through. 

In the circumstances we were pleased enough to catch eleven new Linnets and push our project total over 150 since early October. 


A couple of the male Linnets we caught were noticeably dark on the mantle & scapulars as well as being heavily streaked below. Both had wing lengths of 84mm, at the top end of the range for a male Linnet. As first winter birds retaining their juvenile wing we might reasonably expect the same birds to reach an adult measurement of 85/86mm by late summer of 2017. 

We considered that these individuals could be of the Scottish subspecies of Linnet, Linaria cannabina autochthona (Clancey 1946), as opposed to the Common Linnet Linaria cannabina cannabina of the British Isles and continental Europe. 

After a little search I found the below information in Scottish Birds 2003. 

“Although autochthona is believed to breed throughout most of Scotland, it grades into cannabina and no precise boundary can be drawn between the 2 races. There is only a solitary record of a Scottish bred Linnet = autochthona recorded away from Scotland. The bird, ringed as a chick near Sanquhar, Dumfries & Galloway on 18 June 1928 was recovered near Egremont, Cumbria, England on 8 November 1928.“ 

To that apparently single record we can add our own recent recovery of a chick ringed in Shetland on 14th June 2016 (presumably autochthona) recovered here at our Pilling site on 24th October 2016 and a distance of 674kms from Shetland.  This young male also measured up at 82mm.

Saturday was a terrible morning for photography in which to show how different these few males were, but needless to say we will be closely examining all Linnets in the coming weeks to try and ascertain if there are more Scottish Linnets wintering hereabouts. 

Birding in the gloom with visibility of around 50 yards meant our birding highlights were the immediacy of 250+ Linnet, 2 Little Egret, 2 Snipe, several Curlew , a few dozen Lapwings and a Sparrowhawk eyeing up the Linnets from on high. 


I know the picture above is not the finest but this was the best I could do on such a foul, misty morning. Never mind, there’s always another day on Another Bird Blog, so comeback soon for more bird news and views.

Linking today to  Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.


David Gascoigne said...

I am curious that you continue to band when ambient temperatures are quite cold. Since the ability of the bird to thermoregulate while imprisoned in the net is somewhat impaired I assume that your retrieval rate must be very rapid. Banding this late in the season is unheard of here except for winter species such as Snow Buntings and raptors. Snowy Owls are already being reported in our area, so as soon as I can shake this dreadful cold I'll be out there searching.

KK said...

How do you catch Linnets? Do you offer them food, or are they too friendly, or do you do something else?

Linda said...

Beautiful birds.

Phil Slade said...

Hello KK.

By following the link below you can learn all about ringing birds.

KK said...

Thank you Phil

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

In awe. That is some serious pro bird IDing going on there.... where an amateur would be happy to know it was a linnet.

Lowcarb team member said...

I can't believe that it will be the shortest day on Wednesday ... this season is going by very quickly.

Today (Tuesday) was lovely we had blue sky and sunshine, but apparently Storm Barbara is on the way!!! I'm not too sure if you will be able to get any bird photography done, I will keep my fingers crossed.

All the best Jan

Stuart Price said...

The shortest day of the year and I have a nasty cold, and work too! Now that feels gloomy..........

KL said...

I have to say that this Linnet looks very much like sparrows. How do you differentiate between the two? Here also in the east coast, we have some finches that look like sparrows and I am yet to learn how to differentiate between the two in a field. Quite difficult.

The Hairy Birder said...

You need to colour ring these wintering Linnets Phil, the results could be very interesting!

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