Welcome to 2017 and the first MBOW of the year! In many ways this week’s edition is suitably festive given it features on calendars, cards, and tree decorations. It’s the beautiful yet feisty Goldfinch.
My Dad tells a story of working with a keen twitcher who once nearly got fired because he ducked off a job to try spot a goldfinch that thought he’d heard passing over. That tells us a lot about the success of this little finch. Go back 40 or 50 years and it was pretty much a rarity. Today it is one of our most common birds and a species that bucks the trend of decline seen by so many others. In the last fifteen years alone it has increased by more than 80%. Why?
There seem to be two main reasons for its success. One is that it has quickly adapted to gardens, and therefore benefited from our increased volume of garden feeding. The other is that as our climate has warmed, it has taken advantage by not relying so heavily on migration. Tens of thousands of birds now stay resident over winter, meaning they can start breeding earlier and have more clutches in a season.
For a small and dainty-looking bird, regular observers will be well aware it’s actually an aggressive little thing. I’ve seen them bully much bigger birds off the feeders, and that’s nothing compared to their treatment of their own when things get heated over who is at the top of the pecking order.
Feathers fly as they ascend into the sky, locked together, their lovely chuntering calls now harsh and sharp.
They are also resilient. Last year I managed to recover one that had been grabbed by a cat. I chased the cat off and picked up the bloodied bird. Its eyes were closed and its breathing shallow and rapid. I really did think it was going to expire, from shock if nothing else. Yet after sitting there for 45 minutes without moving, it suddenly opened its eyes, lifted its head, then hopped up and off.
At the point I wrote this, this was the last in a series of scheduled MBOW posts, so even I don’t know what’s coming next week. Hopefully it’ll be something good!
Happy New Year