Topping the poll for its number of names

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Poor wee Redpoll! This tiny finch must have a huge identity crisis by now, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Of recent years, bird watchers have taken to creating 'splits'.

This is when it is decided a single species is in fact two or more species.

Unfortunately, the minute differences between these species are sometimes so obscure that even expert birders have trouble telling them apart.

And so the single species Redpoll has morphed into multiple species, subspecies and races.

These include Common Redpoll, Lesser Redpoll, Hoary Redpoll, Mealy Redpoll and several others.

So when I suddenly found myself close to two Redpolls feeding on nettle seeds I was at a bit of a loss as to what features I should look for to identify them more accurately.

This one, the paler of the two, has been named by some as Arctic Redpoll and by others as Mealy Redpoll.

Truth is the taxonomists, who decide on bird names, are forever changing their minds as technology and science advances.

As for me, Redpolls will remain just that.

I am content to use the familiar name I have given the species since boyhood.

For me the crucial thing is not to worry about taxonomists and their never ending splits.

Surely when meeting this stunning little bird the main thing is to enjoy that rare moment of natural beauty?

Redpolls wander widely in winter.

Wonder at the size of this diminutive sprite and speculate as to where it may have been and where it is bound for.

What icy seas has it flown over on dark nights?

Did these two travel as a pair or part of a larger flock?

How did the others fare on those dangerous crossings?

Welcome wee Redpolls!