We're near the end of our Linnet winter. To some, it may seem odd that wintering flocks are breaking up during the cold days of early March, but that's how it is just now. Spring starts early in the world of birds. About the same time as daffodils and crocuses poke their heads through the winter frosts.
At Gulf Lane this morning the once tight Linnet flock is now down to twenty or so individuals where the gathering is loose and fluid. There are males in song too, a sure sign that spring has replaced winter and when a Linnets' thoughts turn to priorities anew.
With the early and then late lockdowns, plus the uncooperative weather of 2020 and early 2021 our catch of birds here for the winter period stands at 78 Linnet, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Stonechat,1 Skylark and 1 Chaffinch. Those numbers include our somewhat poor showing this morning of just 4 birds ringed – 3 Linnets and 1 Reed Bunting.
But better still, our Project Linnet total now sees 819 Linnets ringed over the last five winters commencing in October 2016. We also have assurances from Richard the farmer that his field will soon be drilled ready for the next crop in time for our winter of ringing in 2021/22.
This morning began with a local Barn Owl, a fly past only, but a welcome sight while preparing the catching area.
Our task may sound easy. Hide in a a car and drop a net over a few dozy birds. A piece of cake you might say. Well no, it's a little more complicated than it may appear.
For starters those Linnets are hot wired for an instant take off should danger threaten. After all, they spend half their tiny lives on the lookout for Sparrowhawks and Merlins, the two most deadly predators of small birds. And then there's the occasional opportunist Kestrel that passes above their head or the Magpie or Carrion Crow looking for an easy meal of Linnet chicks. Or the likelihood that their nest or night time roost may be discovered by night raiders like owls, stoats or weasels.
A couple of bleary eyed ringers trying to literally catch them out is just another hazard of a Linnets' existence. If only they knew that we are actually trying to help?
With so few Linnets around this week we'd already decided that we would go for small numbers rather than wait for a larger flock that would probably not materialise. And so it was, with just 2 adult male Linnets, a first year female Linnet and an adult Reed Bunting to show for our efforts.
Other birds this morning included a Kestrel, 2 Little Egret, 3 Reed Bunting, 4 Skylark, Barn Owl, 3 Stock Dove.
Come back soon for more news, views and photos.