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.