The unexpected arrival of a wee stunner

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Sometimes things just pop up out of nowhere! writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Such was the case when two tiny birds suddenly landed on the seed-laden heads of some stinging nettles only a few feet in front of me.

Immediately and with great delight, I recognised them as Redpolls, a bird I come across all too rarely.

Another reason for my surprise was the habitat.

I am used to looking for redpolls atop alder and birch trees where they hang upside down on swaying twigs tips to pick at the seeds.

But here I was on a rough grass field only a stone's throw from the beach, with redpolls the last thing on my mind.

Usually my close encounters happen because I am moving slowly, keeping to cover, and dressed in natural shades.

This time I was standing out like a sore thumb against the sky on a high ridge.

This was not a time I would have expected the unexpected!

Easing up the camera I concentrated on the higher of the two, picking seeds from high on its chosen nettle stalk.

As you can see, it was a stunner of a wee bird, complete with rose tinted breast and the bright red forehead which gives the bird its name.

In recent years ornithological argument has seen the redpoll split into several named species, races and subspecies, which regularly change as the argument goes on.

These ones were, according to current classification, Mealy Redpolls, which are a bit paler than Common Redpolls and likely to have come from north west Europe or Scandinavia.

We had just had a prolonged period of easterlies, which had caused a 'fall' of migrants on the east coast.

Quite probably my two Redpolls were part of that influx. How lucky I was to have come along just then.