When I was in elementary school my parents bought a set of cards for me, each with a picture of a bird on one side and information about that bird on the other. I’m sure I asked for them – been a visual person for a long time – but have no idea where they found them. What resulted, though, was a lifelong infatuation with birds. Not serious enough to learn bird calls or join the Audubon Society or hang around the woods with Zeiss binoculars, but serious enough to learn to identify some of them by sight and sound, and a willingness to feed them around the house.
Those bird cards led to Peterson field guides, which I flipped through a lot, looking for colorful and showy birds to look out for. I think where I grew up in the South the birds are very low-key, where the only really colorful ones were cardinals and blue jays, but I kept hoping to see scarlet tanagers, indigo buntings, and especially goldfinches. What a wonderful palette nature has given these songbirds, who display their colors with pride.
Moving around a bit after college we managed to land in different parts of the country, and I’ve seen at our feeders a variety of songbirds, many I dreamed of one day seeing. It’s fun to look out the window and discover yet another colorful avian that sends me running to my field guide to confirm what I’ve just seen. All the time enjoying the regular visits by birds I once dreamed of seeing.
Goldfinches, for example. As summer starts getting long in the tooth they have upped their frequency at the feeder – must be packing on some insulation for the winter. They flit around, sparkling in the sunshine and brightening up the group of sparrows around the feeders. So cute. And apparently so bossy!
I set my camera up in our sunroom with my long lens pointed at the feeder and used a remote shutter release to make some images of goldfinches the other day. While sitting there watching them in more detail, I learned some of them really like to fuss at the others. Don’t know if it’s territorial displays, unwillingness to share food, or just bad attitude but a few of them would stop eating to take time and run off any other goldfinch that approached the feeder. It’s not like there’s limited space – the feeder has multiple perches. I think they just like knowing they can keep it all to themselves.
Of course, others usually figure out the bully’s technique and manage to find a way to co-exist on the feeder. But it’s usually with one eye on the opposition while trying to grab a bite.