Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Goldfinch Gold Mine

What’s with the Goldfinches?

There are so many at our feeders this year, it’s nuts!

I’m not complaining; it’s actually exciting. We rarely have yellow-colored birds in the yard. The American Goldfinches typically make an appearance for one or two weeks and then we don’t see them again until the next year.

This photo, taken in early March, shows moulting goldfinches
This year, it’s been at least two months that we’ve had clusters of Goldfinches crowded around the feeder all day!

Not being a super serious bird guy, I’m going to go out on a limb here by saying this is unusual.

I remember the Great Grey Owl invasion of 2005. I was working as the feature reporter on the Global television show, “This Morning Live”. Great Grey Owls had invaded the Greater Montreal area because of skimpy food sources in the boreal forests of the north. I arranged to have noted and popular ornithologist Dr David Bird take my cameraman, Gilbert Laporte, and I, out to see some of the owls.

Dr Bird took us to Ile-Bizard and sure enough, we found these amazing birds perched in the trees. It was a great morning because I had never before seen an owl in the wild! We taped the segments the morning of January 26th 2005 and I aired them on the show a few days later on January 31st.

Apart from the magnificent owls themselves, what I remember most about that morning is that Dr Bird’s student, Marcel Gahbauer, now a senior wildlife ecologist with an environmental consulting company, was wearing dress shoes!

It must have been -25 Celsius and there he was, in dress shoes in the snow! Gilbert, who always filmed bare-handed, was freezing, and I was also in pain because of the cold. I kept exclaiming all morning about how Marcel's feet must be frozen!

I went on the internet a few minutes ago to see if there was some sort of documented Goldfinch invasion underway, but found nothing.

It’s super busy at the bird feeder lately. I’m refilling the light-colored seed every two days! I’m refilling the sunflower seeds every three or four days. Sparrows, wrens, juncos, goldfinches, purple finches, cardinals, blue jays, hey, the more the merrier!

We've also had robins, downy woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers in our backyard. Mallards have been under our feeder and, this spring, I found myself staring at a wild turkey in our yard for the first time ever!

I’ve explained in this space ("Feeder Fodder" November 30, 2010) how I was reluctant to hang a bird feeder in our yard because I knew I’d get stuck with buying the seed and filling it. I also explained in this space how nice it has been to observe such a variety of birds in our backyard!

Thanks again to Brome Bird Care for the squirrel-proof feeders.

My wife, Susan, has been snapping great photos and I’ve been using them here in my blog and on my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts.
Susan snapped this picture this morning

Goldfinches are the state bird of Iowa and New Jersey, where they are referred to as "eastern goldfinch". They're also the state bird of Washington, where they're called the "willow goldfinch". 

In response to this blog, Marcel agrees the goldfinch situation is unusual. He says in his e-mail, numbers were "through the roof" this winter, as researchers at the McGill Bird Observatory banded 434, compared to a previous winter record of 228. He suggests researchers can't really explain why numbers are up.

I actually remember banding birds with Marcel one morning for a "This Morning Live" segment and the research team allowed me to release one of the birds after it was banded.

Amazing stuff!

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