Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The charm of goldfinches #phenology

Today we bought another 50 pound bag of sunflower seeds and more beef suet. While we were shopping, we decided to try a thistle seed feeder for the neighborhood goldfinches, who've been relatively scarce this Winter. We're also curious to see who else the thistle seeds might attract. After we got home, we refilled the suet feeders, and the bird bath, and then filled the thistle feeder with niger seeds. Of course we managed to spill some. It took a few minutes to track down we'd found where we'd left the dust pan and brush, then we swept up the spilled seed. Then we glanced out the window to see that almost every perch on the feeder had a goldfinch on it. The feeder couldn't have been hanging more than 15 or 20 minutes. How do they (birds in general, goldfinches in particular) do something like that, almost instantaneously arrive at a new food source? Maybe they were going to visit the sunflower feeder anyhow and just lucked out?

charms of goldfinches in a snowstorm
charms of goldfinches in a snowstorm
Photo by J. Harrington

Past feeder arrangements have suffered losses due to bears destroying the copper feeder or squirrels becoming too much of an annoyance at a tray feeder. Maybe, for the sake of variety, we'll have to try a tray feeder again. As for the goldfinches, they appear to have no signs yet of Spring plumage. Olive yellow(?), if there is such a color, is dominant at the thistle feeder. No chrome yellow is visible yet. That's something else to look forward to. Does anyone know what triggers plumage changes in goldfinches? Some assert it's photoperiodicity. Others focus on the advantage of duller colors in Winter. We choose both.

Did you know that the English goldfinch is even more colorful than our American version? We learned about this difference when we read The Lost Words. We've also learned that a flock of goldfinches is actually a charm.


Mary Oliver

In the fields
we let them have-
in the fields
we don’t want yet-

where thistles rise
out of the marshlands of spring, and spring open-
each bud
a settlement of riches-

a coin of reddish fire-
the finches
wait for midsummer,
for the long days,

for the brass heat,
for the seeds to begin to form in the hardening thistles,
dazzling as the teeth of mice,
but black,

filling the face of every flower.
Then they drop from the sky.
A buttery gold,
they swing on the thistles, they gather

the silvery down, they carry it
in their finchy beaks
to the edges of the fields,
to the trees,
v as though their minds were on fire
with the flower of one perfect idea-
and there they build their nests
and lay their pale-blue eggs,

every year,
and every year
the hatchlings wake in the swaying branches,
in the silver baskets,

and love the world.
Is it necessary to say any more?
Have you heard them singing in the wind, above the final fields?
Have you ever been so happy in your life?  

Thanks for visiting. Come again when you can.
Please be kind to each other while you can.