Thursday, February 13, 2020

Beating Dennis

We’re braced for more bad weather at weekend as forecasters warn that Storm Dennis follows hot on the tail of Storm Ciara. There’s a yellow weather warning in place for Saturday. 

Meanwhile, and away from click-bait headlines, bird ringers scrutinise the forecasts for a window of respite where they might connect with a few birds. Thursday looked such a day with a few hours of lesser winds and the chance of an odd shower rather than bouts of rain. 

The previous visit to Gulf Lane and Project Linnet was 5 February when we bumped up the total of Linnet captures for winter 2019/2020 to 109 new ones and two recaptures from 2018. That’s about half where we hoped to be at this point in 2020. 

Recent visits to drop our supplementary seed have shown the Linnets’ hunger has overtaken their natural and normally very cautious nature as groups of up to 30 birds fed in the seed drop zone. 


On Thursday morning I met up with Andy at 0845 where we set the whoosh net, dropped more seed and then waited.  We didn’t hang around too long as the Linnets arrived in their customary fashion of small groups that eventually built to a flock of circa 140 individuals. 

Two pulls of the whoosh net resulted in a catch of 39 Linnets - 37 new unringed ones and 2 recaptures. The 39 comprised of 13 second year males, 11 second year females, 10 adult males and 5 adult females. 

Field Sheet 

Recapture S348959, now an adult male had been ringed here at Gulf as a juvenile of unknown sex on 5 August 2017. We have no recaptures for this bird from 5/8/17 until today, a gap of about two and a half years. 

Recapture AKE 3707 had been amongst the catch of 5 February 2020. 

Linnet - adult male 

Linnet - tail of adult male  

Not all adult tails are as clear cut as the example above. 

It seems the Met Office has gone "woke" and prepared for the year of storms ahead with a suitably non-binary, diverse and inclusive list of names in the frames but no Andy or Phil as far as I can see. 

Storms to come

Stop by to Another Bird Blog soon to see how we beat the Met Office storm predictions.

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

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Highs And Lows

The morning ended on a high note following a rather disappointing ringing session. On the drive back home from Oakenclough via Garstang Town and Eagland Hill, I spotted a day-hunting Barn Owl. 

Barn Owl 

Barn Owl

Barn Owl 

Barn Owl 

Barn Owl

On Wednesday evening a check online told me that our last visit to Oakenclough was 10 November 2019, almost three months ago. At 700 feet above sea level Oakenclough can be desolate in winter, even more so given the wet and wind that continually overwhelmed plans to return. Only now, part way through February 2020 did the weather relent enough to allow a return to this our most productive of ringing sites. 

The ringing database DemOn showed that 2019 produced 867 captures at Oakenclough. Willow Warbler, Blue Tit and Redwing were the most ringed species at 85, 85 and 84 respectively, these three followed by 82 Goldcrest, 78 Meadow Pit and 70 Lesser Redpoll. Not many complaints there other than an unprecedented lack of Siskins (just 20) and far too many Blue Tits, a by-catch species that gives little return. 

As an early year exploratory visit we rather hoped that Lesser Repoll, Siskin and Goldcrest might be on the cards this morning but apart from a single Goldcrest, there was little evidence of early spring migration. We caught just 12 birds - 4 Blue Tit, 2 Chaffinch and singles of Dunnock, Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Wren , Blackbird and Great Tit. 





Never mind. We’ll try again after Storm Ciara has passed. 

“A Met Office yellow warning about Storm Ciara has been brought forward to midday on Saturday. It is set to bring a deep low pressure with strong and possibly damaging winds, with widespread travel disruption expected.  Coastal areas may be affected by large waves and potential flooding. 

Met Office 

The warning is in place until midnight on Sunday. The forecast is of gusts between 50-60 mph across inland areas that could reach speeds of 70 mph and possibly 80 mph in exposed hills and coasts.” 

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

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Forty Today

If only! Forty refers not to the ages of the ringers but to the number of Linnets captured at Gulf Lane this morning. 

Morning arrived with overcast skies, a slight frost and zero wind so Andy and I set a couple single panel nets in what is basically a field of flat vegetation. After the catch of 25 Linnets on Thursday last we set the whoosh net again, hoping that one or even both catching systems might work. 

Morning Start

We have noticed how in the last week, and as the natural seed depletes, the Linnets are more prepared to come to our supplementary seed. 


Lack of food in winter has been identified as a contributor to the national declines in numbers of some farmland birds. The observation that many farmland birds use game crops in winter prompted research into the potential of seed crops as a conservation measure and to then develop it further in helping those species that had suffered. Nowadays wild bird seed mixtures are included as an option in agri-environment schemes and appropriate Countryside Stewardship habitat options. 

Different seed crop species retain their seed for differing periods through the winter. By January and certainly into February overall seed supply reduces greatly, and is often completely exhausted. For these crops, seed supply declines as bird numbers increase during the first half of the winter, and bird numbers then drop in response to the continuing decline in the supply of food, the so called “hunger gap”.  This is a time when supplementary feeding is hugely beneficial in keeping birds alive. 

Our supplementary seed proved its worth today when we fired the whoosh net three times as the Linnets came back for more of the millet/rape seed.  Of the forty Linnets caught, 30 came from the whoosh net and 10 from the mist nets. 


Field Sheet

The forty comprised 38 new ones and 2 recaptures from previous years. It’s very unusual to have recaptures here at Gulf Lane, the huge turnover of Linnets during a typical winter means the odds of catching the same bird twice are very low. 

At the foot of the sheet are the two recaptures - S800964 an adult male, and AJD6366, an adult female, the first recaptures of the 2019/20 autumn/winter. 

S800964 was a large male with a wing length of 87 mm, the only recapture since it was first ringed on 9 March 2018.  Female AJD6366 was first ringed here on 22 November 2018 but not in the intervening period until today.

A single Wren made 41 birds for the day. This is the only capture of a Wren on site throughout the whole of the winter, even though there is always one around.


There's more news soon from Another Bird Blog.  Maybe tomorrow! 

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