Thursday, November 22, 2018

Linnet Time

Regular readers will remember that the Linnets haven’t played ball this year with their appearances at Gulf Lane limited to small flocks of 10-40 individuals performing short and swift flyovers. There’s been little sign of the much bigger flocks of 300/400 birds of the past two winters. We have attributed this to plentiful food sources in the wider area as we have seen Linnets in decent numbers, for example, c150 half a mile away at Braides Farm two weeks ago. 

The week’s niggling easterly wind vetoed any hopes of making it to Cockerham for a crack at the Linnets where less than 10 mph is vital. Until today, when a forecast of 8 mph, freezing temperatures but with that still easterly chill dictated five layers of top clothes and a woolly hat. At 0700 I met Andy, shivering when after a week in the heat of the Egyptian desert, he was plunged into a frosty Lancashire morning. 

Minus One

A very slow start with just one bird by 8 am picked up slightly until by 1115 we had amassed a total of 17 birds - 16 Linnets and 1 Tree Sparrow. 

The Linnets comprised 7 first winter males, 6 first winter females, 3 adult males and zero adult females. We were more than pleased with this total considering the lack of birds in recent weeks, especially since this visit coincided with our best count of the season at 125+ Linnets. We are hoping that numbers build up from now. 

Linnet 

Linnet 

Tree Sparrow 

A local farmer/shooter who passes here at Gulf Lane every day stopped to ask how we were doing. Interestingly he confirmed our own recent low counts of Linnets with his own maximum counts of 30/40 Linnets. He also shared the view that this year has seen an abundance of natural food that Linnets and other species have exploited, hence their lateness at arriving at Gulf Lane to a field of bird seed mix, one that could never match their natural diet. 

The photo below is taken from Birds of The Western Palearctic. It lists the very catholic diet of the Linnet, literally dozens and dozens of species of seeds and plant matter, but also a number of insects which Linnets eat during the summer months. The insects are especially important in the spring and summer when they feature in the diet of nestlings. 

Agricultural changes over UK farmland in the last 40/50 years have depleted stocks of many of the seeds and plants listed and also decimated populations of many insects. It's little wonder and no coincidence that the Linnet and many other farmland species have suffered catastrophic declines.      

Linnet Diet 

With more breezy days to come soon, we may have another Linnet day soon. Stay tuned to see how we do.

Linking today to World Bird WednesdayAnni's Birding and Eileen's Saturday Blog



15 comments:

Rhodesia said...

I am quite sure if I saw a linnet in winter I would never be able to identify it, summer I would have a fighting chance. I don't think I have ever seen a tree sparrow, but maybe I should look at 'our' house sparrows a little more carefully. Enjoy what is left of the week, Diane

David Gascoigne said...

Well the good side to this is that they have an abundance of natural food, always a good thing. The numbers may not have been terrific, Phil, but the fact that you had your best session of the season perhaps augers well for the near future. I have to say that I have boundless admiration for the dedication you have shown to this endeavour, and I am sure that your records have contributed in no small measure to the database on this species.

David Gascoigne said...

Hello again, Phil: In terms of the diet of the Linnet the following, from "Birds Britannica," Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey (2005), may be of interest - Its various names refer to the bird's presumed diet. Linnet - also written 'linot', 'linard' or 'lennett' - derives from the French linette, indicating the bird's attachment to the seeds of flax (Linsum usitatissimum). The second element in the scientific name similarly refers to Cannabis sativa, from which hempseed - and now marijuana - is obtained. Hemp was another of the bird's supposedly favourite foods, although it may better reflect choices made by old trappers and fanciers on their behalf, rather than by the birds themselves.
In the wild they eat a wide range of weed and thistle seeds and thrive in all kinds of scrubby country, heathland, even coastal patches of suaeda and buckthorn. However the classic association is with gorse and several old names - 'gorse thatcher','whin grey' and 'furze linnet'celebrated the link.The Linnet and its favoured shrubs are inhabitants of an indeterminate kind of country often referred to as 'wasteground'. Even the name declares our indifference and helps why it has been lost between the farmer's quest for arable and the public preference (one is tempted to say obsession) for woodland.

Margaret Adamson said...

Perhaps with the cold weather coming they were be more Linnets and the food perhaps will be less then

eileeninmd said...

Hello,

Your Linnet photos are beautiful. It is sad their numbers are down. I guess to find their food source they have to move on. This is a good year for our area, we are seeing birds we do not usually have in the winter because of the food source being plentiful. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your day and weekend!

Anu said...

Hello Phil! You write again an important topic. Also in Finland agricultural changes has affected many bird populations. Linnets breeding population is about 10 000 – 20 000 pairs.

sandyland said...

hard to hear that decline

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

They really are beautiful...such soft colors. Hope you see more soon. Here in Florida even though we are outside often, we know we miss so much. On Thanksgiving morning we saw 100s of Robins in our back yard and on the golf course. None in sight today! Enjoy your weekend!

italiafinlandia said...

Sad that man destroys the environment...

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

I’m glad that the pretty little linnet likes a variety of foods. That seems like a good survival mechanism.

Jenn Jilks said...

I hope you have better luck later! Critters can be so unpredictable!!!!

Fun60 said...

How attractive that tree sparrow looks.

Adam Jones said...

I do like the Linnet Phil. I think it's a very underrated bird. On one hand it's good that there is plenty of food around for them at the moment, but hopefully a few more come your way soon. Great to see a good looking Tree Sparrow too.

Lowcarb team member said...

The weather has been cooler, we experienced frost last night and then heavy rain today ... it can be so mixed at times!

Pleased you saw the linnets and I just love your photograph of the tree sparrow :)

All the best Jan

Anni said...

Thanks for being so patient with me while I was on a holiday break! I LOVE having you share your blog with us at I'd Rather B Birdin'!

That tree sparrow portrait is very special Phil!

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