Thursday, July 30, 2009

On goldfinches and weeds…

The bubbly, happy song of the American Golfinch has grown even bubblier around our house in the past few weeks, and our resident males have taken to perching at the top of the half-dead willow tree to sing merrily to the sky over and over. It seems as the lull of summer starts to set in, the American Goldfinches are just getting their party started. Of course, all of this isn't just by chance. Mother Nature has preordained most of it, but I've taken a few steps to ensure the little gold sweethearts find our yard especially attractive. I've planted lots of the goldfinch-loving food, such as echinacea (Purple Coneflowers, White Coneflowers, and even Tomato-soup Red Coneflowers), Black-eye Susans, Green-eyed Colleens, Zinnias…and Sunflowers (although last week most of my sunflowers fell victim to decapitation by industrious little squirrels and crazed night-raiding raccoons.)

A sketch I did of an American Golfinch on a sunflower.
I love watching these little yellow birds prying seeds
loose one at a time. A wonderful sight of late summer...

But I think the biggest draw to our yard is in the part of my garden I have let Mother Nature work her magic in…the weed patch. More specifically, the “hated and dreaded” thistle patch!! I know an entire industry has grown up to eradicate this weed, but my goldfinches love it, so I do too. Last week the lovely purple blossoms atop the prickly stems started to crack and ripen, and the soft tufts of down began pushing through much to the anticipation of our female goldfinches who use the plant fibers to line their nests. It only took about two days before the goldfinches started pulling small tufts of the silken thread from the ripening flower to take back to their small, cup-like neststhe perfect lining for the eggs she will soon lay.

Thistle down is a magnet to female American
Goldfinches. It's lovely to watch them balance on
top of the stalk and carefully tug the fibers loose.
They also eat the seeds and feed regurgitated
seeds to their newly hatched young.

Most spring and early summer breeding birds depend on insects to feed their young who require the protein to grow and mature, but goldfinches feed their babies an almost exclusive vegetarian seed diet, with thistle seed being a big part of it. American Golfinches wait until the summer's blossoms have started to fade and release their ripened seeds just in time for them to feed their babies. I love this perfect cycle of nature. Everything fits together as it should.

Soft fuzzy plant down just waiting to be
incorporated into a nest. Goldfinches will
feast on the seeds through the autumn.

Beak Bit
Cowbirds parasitize American Goldfinch nests quite often because the Goldfinch does not have the ability to recognize the egg and push it out, but Cowbird babies rarely survive more than a few days because they can not grow on an all-vegetarian diet. They need the protein found in insects to survive. For more information, click here.

One of our American Goldfinch males sitting on
a branch at the top of the half-dead Weeping
Willow tree. He looked so gorgeous last night
singing and preening in the evening sun.

37 comments:

Roy said...

Egad! You used the "w" word! Heh, heh! My motto has always been: "They aren't weeds, they're wildflowers!" I love Thistles, mainly because they draw Goldfinches. Thistle-down time is the only time I can get decent portraits of Goldfinches, although I've found that they also have a strong liking for Cattail heads.

Coneflowers are echinacea? I never knew that. And I love the drawing with the Sunflowers.

Laure Ferlita said...

Gorgeous drawing, great images of the bird and the flowers!

Now you need to paint your drawing!

Busy Bee Suz said...

You are so lucky to live in an area with such an array of birds. Love all your pictures!!

Kelly said...

Roy...hehe...the "w" word...so funny! I saw a red-winged blackbird going to town on cattail this spring, but not a goldfinch yet. I'll have to watch for that.

Laure....thank you! Yes......I need to paint it!!! I hope I can find the time this weekend...

Kelly said...

Suz....thank you!!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lots of goldfinches around here, too. Isn't their color amazing!

I'm glad to hear you have your "natural patch" in your garden. I'm developing a similar corner adjacent to the drive. Just a couple of days ago, I collected a nice packet of thistle seed to plant. I already have lots of lovely "weeds" going and intend to expand my flock.

I expect you know the old line about weeds…that they're just wildflowers in need of better press agents. :-)

Kelly said...

Scribe.....haha! I haven't heard that line...so true!

Kelly said...

P.S. Scribe....cool that you have a "weed" patch also. I'm going to dig up a bit more (maybe tomorrow) and expand the garden a bit...

Tom said...

Kelly- I loved your sketch. I was just outside watching a male goldfinch eat seeds from our sunflowers. I used to paint and post my results, but haven't done so for a long time. I need to get back into it.

Tom

Cindy said...

Beautiful sketch Kelly. I love it. You see the most wonderful things where you live. ~Cindy

I saw a pink/dusty rose colored butterfly today. It fluttered right by me and I watched it for a few seconds. I can't find any info on it anywhere. I've been to a few different sites about butterflies but nothing. Have you ever seen one? Have you ever heard of that color of butterfly?

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kel, It's ironic that you blogged about the Goldfinch.. I had an interesting experience with ours tonight. A couple of males started chasing each other and making all kinds of racket!!! I started watching --and those guys would speed by the feeders and then when one stopped the other would chase him away. Both George and I said that they must be interested in the SAME woman!!!! Ya think??????

I was surprised since our Goldfinch are usually so quiet and easy-going.

Love your sketch. You have alot of talent, my friend. I'm so impressed.

Love you,
Betsy

Ginnymo said...

You are a very good artist Kelly! Love the sketch! Now I know what a thistle looks like too. I buy those socks full of the seed for the Goldfinches but never knew where they came from. I don't get to see the birds unless I go out front of the building. But the lady who lives near the tree where I hung it is happy. I just replaced the old one. They ate it down pretty good.

Mike said...

Wow..your sketch is wonderful! You are very talented. I love thistles and for some reason we always have just one that grows in my "weed patch" every year. You would think with all those seeds, that more would spring up. The flowers are gorgeous, the goldfinches love them, and so do the butterflies...what wonderful "weeds" they are!

Kelly said...

Tom...thank you! You should get back into it. Easier said than done. Finding the time is the hardest part, especially with a new baby around.

Cindy...I'm just learning about butterfies now. A pink butterfly sounds very pretty! I'll check my guides!

Betsy...it's amazing to watch the birds chase each other off their territory. I saw two males chasing each other today as well. Chirping up a storm at each other! (Thank you very much. I'm going to try to do one piece of bird art a week.)

Ginny....they do love those little socks full of thistle don't they! Goldfinch are just such happy little birds...love their song and bright color. I'm sure you have brightened your neighbor's day by hanging a feeder for her!

Kelly said...

Mike..thank you! That is amazing.....our thistle multiplies like crazy. Their roots are very strong... I'm glad I keep my little weed patch for the birds. I should send you some of our thistle! :-)

Heather said...

What a fantastic sketch Kelly! I've noticed the songs of the Goldfinches getting a little more rich lately, too. It must have been lovely to see these beautiful golden birds on a sunflower - yellow on yellow, wowza! And thanks for that beak bit - I did not know that about the cowbirds not being able to survive on a vegetarian diet! Fascinating.

holdingmoments said...

Great sketch Kelly.
I've tried growing sunflowers in my garden, just so the birds can enjoy the seeds, but for some reason the plants wither and die after a few weeks.
Love those soft, silky thistle seed heads.

Kelly said...

Heather....Thanks...I love seeing the goldfinches on the sunflowers. It's amazing. I was a little disappointed when I went out and saw most of the sunflowers had been decapitated, but had to marvel at the critters' ingenuity on obtaining their next meal...

Roy....the do need lots of sun and heat, or they are rather spindly. Maybe that's what's happening. With all the rain you've been getting over there, they aren't that happy?? Thanks...

iva yaneva said...

that sketch is fabulous! and what a cute little birdie:)

Jayne said...

What a beautiful sketch Kelly. :c) Our goldfinches have not been as numerous this season, but I love seeing them in all their breeding color splendor.

Montanagirl said...

Absolutely lovely post, Kelly. You are sooo talented in your writing and photography. I just love your blog.

Steve B said...

Interesting bird beak bit and wonderful artwork as always.

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Kelly, your sketch is wonderful! If I could draw like that, I just might give up trying to photograph the birds.

Unseen Rajasthan said...

Hi Kelly !! I am back now...This is so a fantastic series of photos and information..Great post..Unseen Rajasthan

Elaine said...

I love your sketch and the photos of the thistle are lovely. I learned a lot about the goldfinches today. Unfortunately they don't come this far north. Sigh....

Linda McGeary said...

Hi, what a fat little Goldfinch. And the Towhee is so cute. What a bright little thing he is.
I'm having a hard time keeping up with things this summer. I just bought a new camera and have been on the fast track for learning as I take pictures.
I've had a lot of family home the past few weeks and have felt sad about them leaving.
I see you have been having a wonderful summer too.

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Kelly.
I only have 1 question. Where do you get your talents, and skills from, you are some lady.
Now I know you have so many wonderfully colourful birds over there, but I have to admit I think our Goldfinch is the prettier of the 2.Yours is similar to our male Siskin.
Have a lovely weekend Kelly.

Connie said...

Your talent goes beyond photography. I love your sketch. I have my fair share of American Goldfinches around here as well. I call them flying Easter eggs. They are so colorful.

Kelly said...

Iva...thank you! He is a sweetie...

Jayne...thank you...we are holding strong here. Pretty many...

Mona...thank you so much!!!

Steve...thank you....

Adrienne...thank you!! There is something about the camera I love. I like creating art with photography as much as drawing. I have A LOT to learn about the camera still, though. I'm pretty much a newbie.

Unseen...thank you!! I'll have to drop by the blog.

Elaine...thanks....I didn't realize they didn't go that far north. They are so common here and are year round I guess I've never studied a range map for them.

Linda...I'm having a hard time keepin up with things this summer too. All I want to do is go to the woods or fields and photograph birds! Everything else is falling by the wayside!

Ken...thank you very much. Just too kind... I think your Goldfinches are gorgeous. They have that extra color in them... Although, I love our goldfinches. They are just soooo bright and happy!

Connie...thanks....haha! Flying Easter Eggs...that's a good one. They are indeed! :-)

Roy said...

Beautiful sketch Kelly, very well done.

Kelly said...

thanks, Roy!

DK Miller said...

I love Goldfinches - so pretty. And not only do you know about birds and take nice photos, you are quite the artist. Lovely drawing!

dAwN said...

Kelly ..
your sketch is just beautiful!
Your blog is so wonderful! I love coming here to visit1 Always full of wonderful nature photos and information.
And now u are an artist as well?
wow!
I am so jealous...great photos, art etc..

Kelly said...

DK...thank you so much! I want to paint and draw more. I just spend too much time outside birding with my camera. I need to just take the sketchbook every now and then (or camp out in the backyard, like I did for the goldfinch).

Dawn....ahhh...you're so nice. You're an artist as well. I love the computer art you do. You need to post more of them.

NW Nature Nut said...

You are so talented. I love the sketch you did.

Kelly said...

...thank you Nature Nut! Now if I can just find the time to turn it into a painting...

Texas Travelers said...

Great blog, photos and sketch.
A kindred soul.

I added you blog to my "Nature" sidebar blogroll.

Troy and Martha

PS: what Roy said, not weeds, call them forbs.