Monday 6 February 2017


There has been a terrible, unforgiveable omission in Wanstead listing.  Overcome with excitement caused by Robins and Mallards, I totally forgot that as I had crossed the SSSI on Sunday morning a Redpoll had chupped over. In light of the rigorous and scientific treatise that I posted last week on Redpoll identification, it is particularly apt that a Redpoll has flown over my head within such a short space of time as it allows me to talk about something I did not previously mention. And that something is a minefield for I did not see the Redpoll, I only heard it...

Whilst all Redpolls are genetically identical whilst not being physically identical, some people believe that they also sound different. These people are happy to call a Common Redpoll flying over, as distinct from a Lesser Redpoll. I am not one of them. I am more of the opinion that if you think you can separate Redpoll (sub-species) in flight on call then you are deluding yourself. Perhaps if you lived – outside- in a huge birch forest in Scandinavia that was saturated with millions and millions of different-yet-identical sorts of Redpolls then you would be in with a chance, but I think you’d have larger problems to deal with. Such as insanity. In the UK where for the most part you just see and hear one sort of Redpoll, forget it, I just don’t think you’re going to have enough experience to nail it. I mean it’s almost impossible when you actually see it, and even then you would need ideally need them to be in a line-up! In order! One flying over by itself. Just call it a Redpoll, that’s what I would do.

And that’s what I did. REDPOLL, nicely inked on my spreadsheet under Lesser Redpoll, which is the correct and conservative approach at the moment. I don’t have Common/Mealy Redpoll on my Wanstead List, precisely because I am conservative and have never been 100% happy that that Redpoll which looked a bit paler than the others fitted the bill (and bill size is important too!). Patch ticks need to be more certain. Maybe my early experience of being castigated for reporting hundreds of Mealy Redpolls in Essex set me on this path, but I reckon I’d have to see a super-sized Hornemannii to even start considering Mealy.

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