I had a first in my garden this week. Funny how we have such a clear sense of what has visited before, and who is a newcomer.
This one was perched on one of my SquirrelBuster birdfeeders, and could easily be passed off as a House Sparrow from behind, being just rather brown and streaky.
But that tail is too forked, that wing bar too broad, those wing and tail feather margins too well outlined as if in white pencil.
Turning his head, however, he showed his true colours - and that colour is red. And a bit of pink. Oh, and a black moustache (or is that goatee beard?)
It's a Redpoll. A Lesser Redpoll, to be precise, the species found in the UK, the North Sea countries across the Channel, and the Alps.
The rather paler and chunkier Mealy Redpoll turns up in the UK in small numbers in winter but is frosty-looking rather than this warmish brown.
After shocking declines in the late 20th century, our Lesser Redpoll is staging something of a comeback, and they are beginning to visit winter feeders in increasing numbers. Certainly my Redpoll looked like he knew what he was doing when he visited mine.
The 'poll' bit is interesting. It was a Germanic word way back that came into English meaning 'head', or at least the bit of the head that grows hair. So the Redpoll is very well named indeed, and better than had it been called the Redhead, which would have had different connotations.
'Poll' you'll recognise too from 'tadpole', which just means 'toad head', which is ironic given that it applies to frog larvae as well as toad larvae. I always distinguish between them as 'tadpoles' and 'toadpoles' when perhaps it should be 'frogpolls' and 'toadpolls'.
Oh, and it you're due to go to the polls soon, then it is because the old way of voting was for someone to count the number of heads.
But I can definitely say my favourite poll is this one, and hopefully now he has headed off to moorlands or heathlands for a successful breeding season so that more of his kind can return next year.
I saw two of them at Lackford Lakes in west Suffolk only yesterday - they are beautiful little birds, aren't they? Unusual to see them in this part of the world at this time of year.
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