This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Like the greenfinch, the brown linnet devours quantities of weed seeds of the most obnoxious kinds, and though mostly in waste places and by hedgerows and in stubbles, their work is of service to foresters, farmers and gardeners; inasmuch as the more the birds consume the fewer there will be for distribution over cultivated land. On the latter ground they do but little harm, the most that can be laid to their charge is occasional descent on newly-sown seeds, but these are so exceptional as not to materially injure the crops. Besides, the birds are so much in request by cage-bird fanciers that bird-catchers so thin their number in autumn and winter that they are prevented unduly increasing, while in many districts the common linnet becomes rarer and rarer as the years roll by, so that the smaller denizens of the woodlands and fields are not dependent for decimation upon the hawks, owls, jays and magpies, but really is inducted by those enslaving the wild birds of the country as cage-birds. The linnets are usually caught by means of fall-nets and call-birds, of which we subjoin a diagram as set, and known as a Ground Clap Net 1 (Fig. 106), though there are other more elaborate devices.
Fig. 106. - Ground Clap Net.
References: y, nets, two-thread, mesh ¾ in., 2} yds. wide, 12 yds. long; z, staves, red dea ferruled and jointed in middle, 5 ft. 6 in. long when joined; a, top line (clock cord); b, bottom line, three-thread or whipcord; c, chief pegs, ash and notched; d, bottom line extension pegs, notched, to which both bottom and top lines secured; e, loop by which bottom of stave secured to chief peg and acting as a hinge; f, forked line; g, forked line tied to end of staves in a notch; h, knot on pull line exactly in centre of forked line; i, position of bird-catc her, 30 yds. or more away from end of net; j, playbird, either decoy or live bird; k, playbird string; l., scattered seeds; m, space on which wild birds alight; n, cage birds of poorest notes; 0, call birds of best and loudest note. Scale, 1/12 in. equals 1 ft.
The ground clap net shown in the diagram is that we have seen in most general use by bird-catchers, particularly for linnets, etc., and is laid as follows: The right or left (as the person is right or left-handed) hand net it spread out (y), and the two chief pegs driven in (c), where the staves are attached by a loop of strong cord so as to act as hinges (e); the end pegs are then driven in (d), and the ends of the bottom line (b) made fast to these pegs and also the ends of the top line (a). The other net is then spread parallel to the first laid and 6 in. less than the length of both staves so as to overlap that extent when "clapped " over the netting ground (m), and pegged down in the same way as the other net. The forked line (f) is then tied to each top end of the staves (g), and exactly in the centre of the forked line the pull line is knotted. The pull line is continued 30 yds. or more from the forked line where the bird-catcher stands. In some cases a play-bird is employed, particularly for linnets, goldfinches, and other small birds in repute as cage-birds, when what is known as a "playstick" is used.
This playstick consists of three parts, the ground peg formed of a piece of hard wood about 7 in. long, sharpened at the lower end and with a round hole close to the top for passing the playline through. Just under this hole a square aperture is made in which a flattened point brass tube is to work, and in the other end a twig is amxed. On this twig the playbird is tied by a brace - two loops intersecting each other and tied on one piece of string with a knot in the centre. The head and body of the playbird is thrust through, so that a loop catches it on each side and in front of the wings, the legs and tail being thrust through the other. Thus one loop comes on each side of the body behind the wings, and the two loose ends are attached to a swivel, which by means of another string is made fast to the playstick near its end, and the bird is thus at liberty to use the wings and legs. The end of the playstick rests on the ground, the other end working in the slot, and the playline attached to the playstick near the bird is passed through the upper hole in the peg and extends to where the bird-catcher stands.
1 First figured similarly in Mr. Montagu Brown's Practical Taxidermy, and also in Practical Trapping, p. 66.
Cage-birds are placed at the corners - the less conspicuous the cage is the better - (n), and the "call" or best birds at the middle of the sides (0). A little food and water is placed by the playbird (j) and some scattered in the clear space (l). All is now ready for capture. The cage-birds tune, and directly the wild birds appear the play-line (k) is smartly pulled, jerking the playbird upwards to appear natural. The wild birds alight around the playbird and commence feeding, when the bird-catcher smartly jerks the pull line, which causes the forked line to fly inwards, and acting on the hinged pegs and top and bottom lines as by a lever, the staves rise from the outside, become upright and fall over, enclosing all within the open space in the nets. As the nets are wider than the staves they bag and thus prevent the birds fluttering along the ground, until they get out by getting entangled or rolled up in the meshes. The great objection to this ground clap net is that of the play-bird, as the constant pulling up and down and worry of the falling nets very soon kills it, hence the poorest noted birds are always used for this purpose, while the humane bird-catcher uses a stuffed bird or dispenses with the play-bird altogether, placing a cage-bird or two in the open space.
Linnets and similar birds appear to be easiest captured from September to December inclusive, or even later in severe weather.
The ground clap net may be used for catching larger birds, such as starlings, but these being wary the pull line will require to be much longer, as the nets may require to be placed in one field and the bird-catcher needs to retire behind a hedge in the next field, the pull line being drawn through the hedge. In winter-time almost every kind of seed-eating bird may be caught by the ground clap net, the nets being laid and the space between them baited with screenings from the winnowing machine or even hayloft sweepings for the finches and linnets, or broken up dry bread, not sopped, for sparrows and starlings, and when the birds take the bait freely see that the apparatus is in working order, and with the pull-string in a secluded place await the coming of the birds and promptly act when prospect of a good capture. In this way both starlings and sparrows may be secured in quantity either for trap-shooting practice or, better, for starling and sparrow pies. The evil of the ground clap net is that of capturing friends, such as the hedge-sparrow, as well as foes, such as greenfinches, and not liberating the former, but indiscriminately destroying all the captured birds; therefore, the practice should not be tolerated on other than strict conservation of the useful species.