Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flighty Twitters

The most common view of a Linnet is of a small flock of about a dozen twittering small 'brown' birds in characteristic 'bouncing' flight across an area of grassland. There is quite a good population locally that use the habitat of the coastal rough grasslands and nest in clumps of gorse. However, the status of the national population is not great with the birds showing a 57% decline between 1970 and 2008 and therefore afforded a 'Red Status' of conservation importance.
From a photography point of view they are generally a difficult bird to get close enough to as you need to get past the many keen eyes of the flock. Therefore they tend to be a very flighty species often disappearing before you have got anywhere near them. The exception to this is very occasionally when you find a solitary bird in the Spring but it still takes a good deal of crawling and using any available cover to get close. This is how I have managed to photograph most of the birds in the past although crawling around through spike-laden gorse bushes in not recommended.
A couple of friends have been working hard to try and get Linnet feeding in one area through daily and liberal feeding. It has taken a lot of effort but finally the birds started using the area and free food supply regularly. This has probably helped these slim small finches through the lean times of late winter and early spring when seed availability is generally in short supply. Once you get birds feeding in an area like this, then the photography suddenly becomes much easier and you have much more control over the situation in terms of light direction, backgrounds and perches.

It is not until you are up close to these birds for a while that you realise that they are actually very beautiful and not just the plain brown bird that you thought. The black and white wing and tail feathers, chestnut coloured back and streaking across the breast all add up to a very striking bird.
The males in particular can be particularly attractive as they develop a reddish pink blush to the breast and forehead feathers. This red colouration shows quite a bit of variation and as you can see is not particularly well developed in the photograph above. However, in some birds the red gets stronger through the year as the light tips of the new feathers wear revealing the red breast below. There were two well coloured males visiting the feeding area and I was particularly keen to try and get some photographs of these birds.

The other point that a close encounter reveals is that their calls are much more complex than the twitter of the birds in flight and they have quite a repertoire of call and song. They were once a popular cage bird back in the times when such practices were legal and definitely sound a bit canary like in elements of their song.
Hopefully this has given you a bit more insight in to the Linnet and may give you a greater appreciation of them the next time you see a passing twittering flock of these wonderful little finches.


TexWisGirl said...

really beautiful shots. i do like those tiniest of red dots on their forehead. :)

Robin said...

Rich, you have the most amazing images!

Paul Foster said...

By the left Richard you`re photography never ceases to amaze me.Truly awesome shots of the Cock Linnets.I know when I see you`re blog come up that we are going to be treated to some first class images and a good description of the subject too,keep em coming!!!

Noushka said...

Superb shots!
I see that where you are also, the males don't always have a red spot on the head!

salma said...

thanks for the wonderful world..


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