My favorite wintertime birds are back – the American Goldfinches! I know, you’re wondering why my favorite birds are the common goldfinches when I’m so fortunate to have Painted Buntings in my yard each winter. The Painteds are beautiful, and definitely great to have visiting, but they stay so aloof. They call to each other in the bushes and come out only to feed. On the other hand, the goldfinches come in cheerful flocks to empty my feeders, calling out “Potato Chip!” and “Gold-eee” to tell me how much they appreciate the food that I put out. They’re sweet. They are also fun to photograph.
Goldfinches seem to be common in some areas of Central Florida in winter, and rare in other areas. I’ve had them in my backyard for the past three or four winters. My parents are an hour south of us, and they consider themselves lucky to see a few finches on their return migration in the spring. Goldfinches are opportunistic migrants, meaning that they go where they can find food. So I guess they have figured out that our neighborhood has several well-stocked niger feeders! If you are looking to attract goldfinches, put out a niger feeder, and try to place it near a twiggy tree or bush. This gives these gregarious birds a place to hang out and wait while their friends are feeding. In my yard, we have crape myrtles and coral porterweed, both of which make excellent perches. This year the finches have decided that my coral honeysuckle isn’t such a bad waiting area, either!
My best opportunities so far for photographing these guys have been from my favorite blind, a.k.a. my spare bedroom. I sit at the open window and point the camera toward one of my crape myrtle trees, one with a niger feeder conveniently located nearby. The birds usually freak a little when they hear me opening my window, but if I sit still for a few minutes, they forget about me and perch comfortably. I tend to have my best luck on cloudy days, as the sun angle isn’t quite right from my spare room vantage point. But luckily in Florida, there are lots of cloudy mornings as cold fronts come through!
In the fall the goldfinches arrive in Florida in drab olive colors, but in the spring their feathers turn bright yellow. This guy surprised me – I photographed him back in December, and he’s already starting to molt! I guess the early bird gets the worm…or the mate!
The birds come and go as they feed, so it’s nice to have other distractions while I’m sitting in my window. Especially after one of our Mourning Doves spooks, gives out the “look out below!” call, and causes all avian friends to flee. I played a little bit with panning blurs, pointing my long lens towards the tops of the crape myrtle branches. I like how the brown and green mix in this one:
Click here to see more of my American Goldfinches!