Friday, December 28, 2018

Linnet Recap

Andy and I met up again on Thursday morning for another crack at the Linnets. 

The Linnets didn't want to play ball and it could be that many or most of the 300 present were the same as on 24th December and would not be captured twice. So we caught just 4 Linnets but once again all four were quite big males at wing length 84, 83, 83 and 82 mm.

One in particular was very dark on the cap, the head in general and noticeably on the nape. We thought it more than likely this was a good example of the Scottish race of Linnet Linaria cannabina autochthona, and that coupled with a catch of similar examples on 24th December, recent days have seen an influx of Linnets from the far north of England and from Scotland. 

Linnet - Linaria cannabina autochthona 

 Linnet - Linaria cannabina autochthona

This is probably the last ringing session here in 2018 but we will return as soon as possible in 2019 to continue with our work. 

For the benefit of readers yet to learn of this project.

Andy Dixon and I began Project Linnet in the autumn of 2016 to investigate wintering Linnets using a site at Gulf Lane, Lancashire; here the two parishes of Pilling and Cockerham meet alongside the A588 at Wrampool Bridge. Just 100 yards across sheep pasture to the north is a 10 mile sea bund that links the town of Knott End in the West to the parish of Cockerham in the East. The bund/wall protects farmland and villages from the infamous tidal surges of the area, the southernmost extremity of Morecambe Bay Site of Special Scientific Importance (SSSI). 

Gulf Lane - Pilling/Cockerham 

The background to our mission is as follows. In the Fylde, Lancashire the Linnet’s demise over a number of years is part and parcel of the species’ national decline that has resulted in its current UK status as a fast disappearing farmland bird. This part of coastal Lancashire has not been immune to these environmental changes and as a highly agricultural area reflects the typical downward trend for the UK Linnet population. 

The Linnet is resident throughout the year in this part of Fylde, Lancashire. As a partial migrant it is here in spring, summer and autumn but numbers usually increase during October/November/December and into March/April according to the severity of winter. 

My own observations and experience from the last 40 years, more so since the Linnets gradual decline that began some 20 odd years ago, suggested that the regular winter influx of Linnets has helped to mask a substantial loss in the species’ breeding population in the wider area of the Fylde.  

A look at local sources of both digital and printed information painted a very sketchy picture of the Linnet’s status, with nothing to suggest that our winter Linnets were other than local birds choosing to spend their winter close to where they breed.  Other than random and piecemeal counts from the  area, there was little or no work, past, present or proposed to establish the species’ overall breeding and migratory status, even though the partial migratory habits of the Linnet is well documented elsewhere. 

So when a chance to investigate a wintering population of Linnets presented itself the two of us decided to use the opportunity to catch and ring this previously neglected but now priority species. Our project at least gives us a fighting chance to find out where winter Linnets originate from, and where they go to the following spring. In the process we might prove the conservation value of argri-environment schemes that provide winter feed to a number of bird species including the Red-listed Linnet. 

Our ringing site is a triangular plot of farmland, planted each year with a mix of cover crop that yields bird seed during the autumn and winter. There is no cover or hedgerow to protect the site from this often windswept part of Lancashire with the nearest habitation two small farms some 100 yards away; hence we are very dependent upon fine weather in using mist nets. Our project is a labour of love that requires both dedication and persistence in the face of the often poor weather and the uncertain nature of Linnets and their feeding habits; e.g. Thursday 27th December. 

Including Thursday we have 508 captures - 363 juvenile or first summer/autumn, (212 male, 148 female and 3 not aged), 63 second years (36 male and 27 female) and 80 adults (52 male and 28 female). 

Same site recaptures have been few and far between, a fact that tells us the daily, weekly and monthly turnover of Linnets on site is huge. From the 508 captures there are just two individuals caught on two occasions each. These two at least display a degree of loyalty to the same winter site: 

S348543 caught on 03/10/2016 and 03/12/16 
S800285 caught on 02/11/2017 and 09/03/2018. 

In contrast to the two individuals above, other records show the species’ migratory status. 

There are 2 Linnets ringed at Gulf Lane and recaptured elsewhere (Lochinver, Scotland and Barrow, Cumbria), There are 2 Linnet ringed elsewhere and recaptured at Gulf Lane - Shetlands, plus one outstanding - AYD5167.

Linnet - Linaria cannabina

More soon. Stay tuned to Another Bird Blog in 2018 and 2019.

Linking today to Anni's Birding and  Eileen's Saturday Blog.


David Gascoigne said...

Thanks for this nice recapitulation, Phil. Even though I have followed this project with great interest, and not a little admiration, it is helpful to have it encapsulated like this. You and Andy deserve the respect and gratitude of the ornithological community worldwide. Most of us will probably never visit your area and thus not see your work firsthand, but the results are demonstrably significant, and any attempt to solve the mystery of a declining bird population, thereby raising the odds of remediation, is worthwhile indeed. I have very much enjoyed following your blog since I first found it several years ago, and I will look forward to more erudition and literary excellence in 2019.

italiafinlandia said...

You do important work and very good photos. I will stay tuned too.
Happy New Year!

Margaret Adamson said...

This is great work you and Andy are doing so thanks for that and keep up the good work. Thank you for all your comments over the year. I am just back from Cape Town with thousands of photographs which I now have to edit! I hope that 2019 will bee a a happy and healthy one for you and your family.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Phil, you and your friend do great work. Thanks for the reports and beautiful photos. Wonderful post. Thank you so much for linking up and sharing your post today and the past year. Happy Saturday, enjoy your day and weekend! PS, I also appreciate all the comments you have left me this past year, thanks again! I wish you all the best in 2019 Happy New year to you and your family!

Rhodesia said...

Wish I could pop up and see you but we are well and truly tied to the house and looking after 96 yo FIL with Alzheimer's. 24/7 job!!
Take care and hope you have a good ringning year in 2019. Diane

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I always love to read what you are doing and learn more about your efforts! Well done! Happy weekend!

Lowcarb team member said...

It's great work that you and Andy do.

Happy Weekend Wishes and a Happy New Year too.

All the best Jan

Hootin' Anni said...

Happy New Year!! Thanks for sharing your birding photos and your expertise with all feathered friends with us at I'd Rather B Birdin'. It's been a joy having you participate in 2018 and I look forward to viewing what's in the future for 2019! You've been researching for forty years? That is SO admirable. And your efforts, I hope, are paying off and all your birds that are declining in population begin to show sign of positive repopulation. I stand in awe of you two!! (Love the 2nd image...the dark cap really is quite revealing)

Wally Jones said...

First, good on you for initiating such a project and having the perseverance to pursue it over the long haul.

Looking at that location it seems it would, indeed, be a challenge to manage mist nets most of the time. With no cover to block the wind off the sea, you must be very thankful for a calm day in the forecast!

Any effort to add to the data base on bird populations is welcomed. Especially by us "armchair" scientists with no real knowledge, no gumption to do the hard work of field research but who have plenty of opinions to offer.

Gini and I hope your New Year will be filled with peace, love and birds galore! Thank you for allowing us to be a part of Another Bird Blog.

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