Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Watching And Waiting With Nothing To Eat

The last week has been another waiting game. Watching the weather forecast and waiting for the one day to come along that might allow a spot of ringing. Today was that day and although not ideal, a predicted 8mph meant a visit to Gulf Lane for Project Linnet might be in order. 

My last trip to Gulf Lane for ringing purposes was back on 2 September when the flock of Linnets numbered around 160. After that date, quite unexpectedly and for no apparent reason, the Linnet flock disappeared when we would expect numbers to grow as autumn turned to winter. 


September and October saw mild, wet and windy weather on an almost daily basis, conditions which may have led to some if not all of the Linnets moving elsewhere. Mid-October saw a count of 80 but the weather remained unsuitable for mist netting. Weekly counts in November realised just 8, 12, and 4 birds. It was about this time when a post on Orkney Ringers Facebook spoke of a “huge flock” of Linnets at a set-aside plot adjacent to Kirkwall Golf Course. 

We know that a number of our wintering Linnets originate from the Northern Isles so could it be that abundant food and mild weather had conspired to keep our winter Linnets some 500 miles north of here? Back at Gulf Lane on 21 November, soon after two days of the first frosty days and nights, saw a count of 80+, hopefully a sign of building numbers. I pencilled a day in the weather diary at 27 November. 

Today the vegetation looked remarkably flat, to all intents and purposes a seemingly barren plot, but one which holds good amounts of natural seed plus rape and millet I had dropped over several weeks. 

Gulf Lane, Cockerham  

By 1030 several counts had realised an average of 140 Linnets with an unhelpful rain shower limiting the catch to just 7 Linnets - 6 first winter males and 1 first winter female. 

Linnet - male


Seems like we are in for a few days frost which should mean another visit is on the cards. Hope so, after missing the whole of October and most of November there’s a lot of catching up to do. 

Other birds noted on site this morning – 15 Stock Dove, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Skylark, 1 Little Egret, 1 Kestrel, 1 Reed Bunting and several thousand Pink-footed Geese overhead. 


A local farmer type stopped his Landy at our parking spot that is usually occupied by shooters’ cars also. “How many have you had?” he asked, leaning across to the car window. “Five”, I replied, my catch at that moment. “Wow” he replied, at which point I realised he thought I’d shot five Pinkies. 

There followed a conversation about Linnets, bird ringing and farming, finishing by him offering me one of the two Pinkies he’d shot on Cockerham Moss. “Thanks for the offer” I replied, “But I really wouldn’t know what to do with them”.

I poured another coffee, searched for a biscuit in the glove box but found none. Such is the life of a bird ringer.

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


Margaret Birding For Pleasure said...

Very interesting to hear of the movement of the Linnets Phil

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Hello Phil: It is interesting that the farmer offered you a goose. Like you I wouldn't have a clue how to prepare a bird for the oven. In fact, I am quite sure that if I had to kill and dress my own food I would be a vegetarian in a hurry! Actually we do have meat-free days a couple of times a week now and have reduced our consumption of meat substantially. I am sure our portions were bigger than they needed to be and now we share instead of having "one each." I hope that your chat to the farmer made him a little more sympathetic to birds in general. Perhaps he will even set aside a little land for them. We can only hope.

Ludmiła Jabłońska said...

Our problem is different. Migrating birds in autumn and spring are killed by hunters from Cyprus, Greece and Africa. Some of these birds are very rare, and for them is another hunting trophy.
Congratulations on observing!

Rhodesia said...

Hunting season here in France at present. I make sure if I go out walking I am in very bright colours.
Copied from a friend in the Loire..... 3 people killed and 3 wounded in separate incidents in France over the weekend. One of the dead was a mushroom forager, shot by a lone hunter who heard his hound bay, saw a movement in the bushes and just fired off a shot! That's totally against Hunt Federation rules, which state that you must be able to identify the prey before you shoot.

One hunter was killed when a shotgun went off accidentally. Another hunter was mysteriously shot and killed in the presence of 30 of his fellow hunters -- just fell to the ground clutching his forehead.

A young man got hit in the leg by a ricocheting bullet -- he's in no danger.

One hunter's gun misfired and he got shot through the hand.

Some bloke who was mowing his lawn was wounded by a wildfowler.

There was 131 hunting accidents in France last year and 7 people, including one non-hunter, were killed. Of the wounded 22 of them were not hunters.

How does one stop the rot!!!! Take care Diane

italiafinlandia said...

Pitiless hunters! :(

eileeninmd said...


At least you heard the birds were being seen in another area, maybe a spot with more food available. It would be worse if the birds were not being seen at all. Pretty shot of the Linnet and the Kestrel. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend.

Elkes Lebensglück said...

great observation and interesting photos!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I'm so glad to know so many bloggers that appreciate the birds and wildlife and would rather take photos of them. But you needed a snack! Don't forget next time! heehee! Enjoy your weekend!

Lowcarb team member said...

Nice photographs of the Linnet and Kestrel … good to see.

All the best Jan

Linda said...

The kestrel looks very intense!

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