Friday, 9 January 2015

Friday @ the Flicks - Goldfinches

Goldfinches (the European one Carduelis carduelis) are likely contenders to arrive at the seed feeders for the 2015 RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch during the weekend of 24-25 January – or are they?

Below you'll find a variety of videos (all taken through my gardenwatch window) to help you ID a Goldfinch if you are new to taking part with a count or discover this rather tropical looking bird in your garden and are wondering what it is.


Goldfinch drinking, 39 secs, background music, try HD quality.



There’s no doubt photographs are ideal for helping ID birds visiting the garden but watching video footage helps even more. Video shows more of the character of birds, their behaviour, their flight style and what they look like at a distance.

Prior to Christmas we were seeing regular, good sized flocks of Goldfinches during a cold spell and that is definitely a trigger for busy feeders. So… for a good count we need bad weather then? No doubt about it, yes, hard frost and snow covered ground makes it difficult for birds to find food so they come to gardens.

It seems that the bigger the group of one species (the Goldfinch here) the higher the chances of other species tagging along (like the Redpolls below). That's a bonus for gardenwatching too! Due to heavy demand, I went to my local garden centre and picked up a 12 port feeder that you’ll see proved very popular below. What fun it has been to watch :-)


Goldfinch group & 4x Redpolls, 1min 10secs, background music, try HD quality.



The back view of colour and tail patterns, shape and length are useful to know as birds don’t always face our windows or cameras. In the case of the Goldfinch the contrasting black tail to the buff coloured back makes it easy to spot especially with the small tidy row of white dots on its black tail. You don’t need to see the yellow strip on its wings to know you are looking at a Goldfinch.

Small nyjer seed feeders have periods of popularity in my garden. Below, back on a sunny morning in May 2013, you can get a good clear view of the back of a Goldfinch which followed the Redpolls to this feeder. The Redpolls kept ownership but shared some of the time.


Goldfinch & Redpoll, nyjer seed, 24secs, background music, try HD quality.



The end of January could realistically see snow for the RSPB bird count and out of all the birds that have visited my garden during heavy snowfall the delicate, tropical looking Goldfinches are by far the hardiest. This I found quite a surprise but perhaps it makes sense as the energy the food gives to keep them warm will be greater than with bigger birds so they risk the elements and possible Sparrowhawk predation.

So… if there is snow during your count, look out for Goldfinches. Many other birds could be hiding in shrubs, trees and hedges but the Goldfinches could be found just quietly chillin at your feeders. Also, if you have one of these feeder trays seen below you’ll need to knock some snow off as they won’t be able to land and find the food that has fallen there.


Goldfinch relaxed in the snow, 29secs, background music, try HD quality.



Ah… but will Goldfinches do like the other birds seem to and go hiding when you decide to count… perhaps. Timing when you do your count might help your numbers. In the case of Goldfinches they are not the real early birds! My captures are often from 9:30 to 10:30am on a cold day but lunchtimes can be busy too.

It’s after midnight as I write this (to schedule for publishing in the morning). If there are any early bird Goldfinches come daybreak they are going to be a tad confused. Why? Well, it is pretty stormy outside just now and I’ve just taken all the hanging feeders I was able to down so they don’t fly off their hooks and hit my gardenwatch or greenhouse windows.

It’s not very pleasant at all – strong winds, heavy rain, thunder and lightning! I think sleeping will be a problem tonight. Hope it’s calmer with you. Ha-ha… I’ll have to picture chillin Goldfinches or think about counting Goldfinches at the area where the new 12 port feeder was to get myself to sleep ;-)



Copyright: Original post published on http://blog.shirlsgardenwatch.co.uk/ by blog author Shirley, January 9th 2015.

8 comments:

Sue Garrett said...

We get lots of goldfinches. They love the sunflower hearts. Lovely little birds.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

We have had some of this same weather that turned to near record cold for this time of year. Brrrrr Your goldfinches are so colorful this time of year. Our goldfinches are drab looking this time of year. Happy counting.

Brian Skeys said...

Great videos I think Goldfinches are my favourite bird.
Do you have much waste on the floor from your feeders? I notice you have one of the clingers type feeder, which type you think is best?

Midmarsh John said...

A great set of videos. Especially like the close view in the first. From the back they always make me think they are wearing old fashioned tailcoats.

Anna said...

Goldfinches used to be a regular visitor here Shirl but not so these days :( I hope that these recent storms have not done any damage in your garden.

Alain Charest said...

I was surprised to see how different the European goldfinch is from the North American one (my garden is in Ontario).
What the American goldfinch likes best here in winter are the seeds of Rudbeckia triloba. In summer, they make big holes in the beetroot tops. I let them as they are a lot of fun to watch and plenty is left for humans.

Juliet said...

No goldfinches for me this year, but I did at least see some birds, which makes a change for Birdwatch weekend! I've put the results on my new blog.

So, what did you see?

Shirley said...

Hello everyone, oh dear… just where have the last few weeks gone?. Thanks for all your comments :-)

Sue, Great to hear – sunflower hearts are a favourite aren’t’ they :-)

Lisa, Our weather has since seen some snow spells (nothing too disruptive our way) but at present we are seeing the bulbs come through the ground as you did on GBBD. Our goldfinches had come in good numbers until one very cold stormy night and we’ve never seen the same numbers since :-( They have been colourful. My late time slot on the warmer Sunday for my count was unbelievably low – if only I had been by my window on the colder, snowy Saturday!

Brian, Thanks, Goldfinches are one of my favs too. Not too much waste on the ground at all as Woodpigeons, Blackbirds, Chaffinches and House Sparrows all hoover it up. The clinger feeders do rain seed at times but I try to locate them to fall away from my garden borders. I also site them above a larger ground feeder to catch spillage. Below the one in the video I have placed large flat topped rocks in my border as a path for access to the tree feeders and also as a dropping zone for split seed. Having Woodpigeons take over the bird feeder trays (to reduce mess from a standard seed feeders) knocking them about spills lots of seed too so I tend to favour the clingers as I like to feed the smaller finches more. I tend to mix up the feeder types depending on the time of year too – more ports for cold winter days. I always use one feeder tray. It really depends on what birds are visiting. When larger flocks of finches arrive I put out more feeders.

John, That was my fav too. Ha-ha… I agree with you on the coat tail… I think of that too :-D

Anna, Aw… Maybe with the colder weather since this post you’ve seen Goldfinches visit your garden. We were very lucky with these storms, thanks no damage. I keep expecting it and always nervously walk round the side of my house the next morning. Hope you’ve been ok too :-)

Alain, yes, having seen images of the American Goldfinches on US and Canada blogs I see it is quite different – very pretty to me too though. How nice them feed on your Rudbeckia – I bet they are quite photogenic doing so too :-)