A Battle Of Wits

The latest battle of wits Linnets versus Ringers took place at Gulf Lane, Lancashire on the morning of Thursday 30 January 2020. Here the village of Pilling merges with Cockerham village at the A588 Murder Mile junction where regular ringing challenges take place in the set-aside plot owned by Farmers Richard and Helen Jones. 

Murder Mile 

Gulf Lane

Before today and throughout late 2019 and into 2020, the Linnets have taken all the honours by soundly beating ringers on 99% of occasions. The day began with a pitiful total of 46 birds caught during the whole of the winter and the Linnets probably cock-a-hoop at their ability to stick two feathers up at their opponents. The Linnets’ daily and prolonged use of the site coupled with their knowledge of how, where and when to still find natural food while avoiding mist nets is mysterious but wonderful to behold. 

The regular team of two Andy and Phil arrived in the dark at 0730 armed with bacon butties fresh from Pilling Stores, keen to redress the balance of recent disappointments. Tactics agreed they set a whoosh net in preparation for the arrival of Linnets and then dropped a bucket of millet & rape seed in the penalty area. Surely this week, as the hunger gap widens, they could win the match? 

Whoosh Net 

Linnets arrived in dribs and drabs of fives, tens and twenties, until by 1100 hours their numbers had swollen to 120 or more. There followed the familiar end-to-end stuff as Linnets flew back & forth and around the plot while coffee supping Andy and Phil grew more frustrated at the Linnets’ reluctance to sample the rape and millet. 

And then just as it looked like the game might end in a draw, at 1115 the flock made a dreadful mistake. One of their number rested in the penalty area and began to feed, closely followed by more. Whoosh! Too late, the ringers had scored a last minute goal. 


A total of twenty-five Linnets was the best of the winter; this comprised of 11 second-year males, 9 second year females and 5 adult males. No adult females.

There seemed to be a few Scottish participants today by way of a couple of noticeable dark, streaky females and also three males with wing lengths of 85 mm. 

Linnet- adult male 

Linnet - second year female 

Twenty-five Linnets represents 20/25% of the morning’s spot counts so the catch is unlikely to be repeated soon, the Linnets are too cute for that to happen. 

The meaning of “cute” - attractive in a pretty or endearing way. 

Or - clever or cunning. 

Take your pick. 

And anyway, the weather forecast is not good for the next few days or more. Back to normal.