Absolute Return

September 14, 2011

We were delighted to notice the other day that the goldfinches have been busy this summer turning all our nyjer seed into more goldfinches. As we were out walking a flock of at least a dozen passed over, filling the air with their liquid chirrups, and settling in the tree. As we’re in word-eating mode here, I might as well admit that, unappealing personal lives aside, there really is very little that can beat the sight and sound of a charm of goldfinches flitting through the garden and the more of them there are, the better.

Of course on the other hand this does mean we’ll probably be spending a bit more on nyjer seed because they really do eat it as fast as we can put it out. But, given the return we’ve had for the few quid we’ve spent so far – and the measly rate of interest we get on our savings and the uncertainty of everything else, I can’t see that we can do much better than putting our money into goldfinches rather than into gold…

Of course, that may be why I’ve never been offered a lucrative job as an investment banker. Though, to be honest, I can’t see that I’d have done any worse than the real ones did.


Not So Charming

June 20, 2011

There's a goldfinch in there somewhere

Personally, I think goldfinches get rather better PR than they deserve. They’ve got that whole ‘charm’ collective noun thing going on for a start, which gives them an advantage over the other birds. And I have to admit that, before I knew them that well, I too found that the sound of their little melodic chirps as they flew through the hedgerows was indeed charming, and the sight of their bright feathers catching the sunlight, back when we had sunlight, was enough to gladden the heart.

But then we had to find a new spot for the nyjer seed feeder (see? they even get their own special kind of feeder and their own special kind of seed) after the birch tree blew over and it ended up hanging from the cherry tree in full view of the bench. Once the birds got used to us sitting there we had a grandstand seat from which to observe the full gamut of goldfinch society. And suddenly it’s not all melodic chirps and flashes of bright feathers, it’s to-the-death quarrels and constant squawking squabbles over who gets to sit at the prime perches at the bottom. It turns out that the boss goldfinches spend roughly 90% of the time hogging the bottom perches, not even eating that much, moving only to chase off any of the other goldfinches who have the temerity to try and perch on the upper perches (even if there’s enough seed for all of them to feed they still don’t want to share) or, heaven forbid, sneak a go on the prime bottom perches. The rest of the goldfinches spend their time hanging around on the branches around the feeder complaining about this and staging daring raids on the prime position while the boss goldfinches’ backs are turned chasing off another rival. I find myself watching this, fascinated, cheering for the underfinch and devising complicated schemes to level up the playing field although I suspect that however many feeders we buy, there will always be more goldfinches than perches and the biggest, bossiest goldfinches will always get the best spot. And besides, they’ve already got through 5 kilos of seed as it is…

Of course, this is the way nature is, and I shouldn’t really be surprised. My mother reckons the only birds that truly seem to get along are the sparrows but I suspect that’s only because she hasn’t watched them closely enough. But goldfinches definitely need a new collective noun that would reflect their true natures a little better. A squabble of goldfinches? A greed of goldfinches? A merchant bank of goldfinches?

Your suggestions in the comments…


July 9, 2010

The bird-feeder distractions continue apace, to the point where I may have to find somewhere else to work in the mornings. Not only do we have the red squirrel doing its stretches, the woodpeckers, the baby tits and the ever present hope of the return of the sparrowhawk (although maybe not with an actual baby bluetit in its claws), but it’s all go underneath the feeder as well. First there was the rabbit desperately trying to make friends with the young hare, although the hare was of course way too cool to hang out with a bunny rabbit. And then a moorhen showed up with her chick – sort of a teenage chick by now – to check out what was being dropped from the feeder.

‘I’d pay good money to see a moorhen actually on the feeder,’ I said to the other half and attempted to return to my work. Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black shape flying up, the woodpecker flying off in alarm and the moorhen was perched – okay, not on the feeder itself, but on the pole it hangs from. It stood there looking faintly ridiculous for a while and then flew off, with its chick following hurriedly after wildly flapping its stubby little wings.

Naturally, all of this happened far too fast for me to get my camera so you’ll have to make do with this charm of goldfinches instead. Meanwhile, it looks like it’s time to refill the feeder again…