Flanders Moss NNR
We have had some rather nice visitors around Flanders the last few weeks. Twite. A small flock of 20-30 them, around the fields next to the car park track and also to the south of the moss. These are birds that do tend to come into the category of SBJ’s, small brown jobs and because of that people tend to ignore them. But they are worth another look. The ID book talks about them being a non-descript brown colour and a plain face but then explodes with enthusiasm about their throat which is a beautiful rich-orangy buff. Then you find out that the male also has a bright pink rump which it keeps well hidden and it makes them sound more baboon than SBJ. And they have a yellow bill (hence the old Scottish name of yellow neb linties). So already they sound a bit more interesting.
But there is more. Most of the birds (94%) found in the UK are in Scotland and they don’t travel much. Ringing records show that very few travel across the North Sea and the Scandinavian population doesn’t come the other way. There is so little intermingling that the UK birds are a separate sub-species and Scotland’s holds 94 % of the world’s population.
So, why around Flanders Moss? Well they tend to breed in the north and west of Scotland mostly, in upland and coastal situations where there are plenty of weed seeds that they need during the breeding season. But in winter they head south to feed on winter arable and grasslands where they can glean seeds of farmland. But weed seeds are becoming much less plentiful with intensive agriculture and more use of herbicides so these birds are declining.
And how do you know that the SBJ that you are looking at are twite? Well the name will tell you. It is supposed to be onomatopoeic, their call says their name though the ID book tends to describe it as more of a “tchooik” call if that helps.
So maybe give those little brown jobs another look sometime you might be looking at a Scottish specialty.