What's in a name?

A good question and the answer is quite a lot.

Within decades the English language undergoes subtle changes with many words falling out of favour to be replaced by new ones.

In the animal kingdom birds especially have undergone name variations within the past century with quaint old country descriptive titles unrecognisable today.

Hopefully ' Mavis' will begin singing in November although her numbers have declined. 'Mavis' was a local name for song thrush, also known as 'throstle. The blue tit rejoiced in various titles including 'bluecap', quite fitting, 'hickwall' less obvious and 'billy biter', the latter alluding to his rather aggressive habit of pecking rivals on their heads.

The great tit's other names include 'pickcheese', 'bee-biter', and 'sit-ye- down' whereas the call of a chaffinch suggested 'pink' or 'spink'.

'Windhover' or 'stand gale' can be seen hovering along motorway verges but we call him kestrel.

The starling was named 'stare' and goldfinch went by its rather royal title of 'King Harry'. Swifts were 'screechers', and black headed gull 'hooded mew' 'laughing gull ' or 'crocker'.

The list of alternative names is extensive but it is doubtful if many are in use today. The green woodpecker or 'yaffingale' has increased in numbers but the lapwing (pictured) once called 'peewit' 'peeweep' or 'tuffit' has decreased by eighty percent within the past ten years while the skylark or 'lavrock' continues to disappear at an equally rapid rate.

So, name that bird while we still can.