Gardening with the Birds

I’ve been gardening as long as I can recall. As a young girl growing up in the fertile Napa Valley it felt like punishment when I had to help with rototilling; pulling weeds or planting and harvesting the vegetables.  It wasn’t until my late twenties that I embraced the joys of gardening.  Sitting amongst the flowers and weeds is what I image heaven to be like.  The feeling of placing my ungloved hands into the warm soil of Spring instantly relaxes and centers my spirit.  While enjoying my gardening time I’ve also learned the joys of buzzing bumblebees, fluttering butterflies and bird friends stopping by for a visit.

This week has been great for viewing, in particular, my bird friends.  As I sat drinking my morning cup of coffee, I was visited by a beautiful little bird who fluttered back and forth in front of my patio door.  She seemed to be saying, “Hello,” and “How are you?”.  As I sat with a big smile on my face, my new friend decided to take a rest on a deck chair that sits facing my view.  She gazed at me through the window and seemed to understand the hello that I softly spoke to her.  My new friend abruptly left, just as fast as she arrived, and disappeared into the forest which frames our backyard.

American Goldfinch
I quickly searched the Internet to find out what family my new friend belonged to…a more difficult feat than it sounds.  Depending on the season or if a male, female, breeding or not…oh goodness! Luckily I stumbled upon a nifty bird search engine called What Bird.  Their database currently has over 800 birds in it, each having a magnificent hand painted illustration, a bird call (the sounds it makes) that you can listen to and extensive species accounts. You can easily search by location, size, color and more. You may have so much fun searching for your backyard birds that hours will pass without you knowing.
Female American Goldfinch © Bill Schmoker
I discovered that my beautiful little friend was a female in her breeding plumage known as an American Goldfinch. This handsome little finch, the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington, is welcome and common at feeders, where it takes primarily sunflower and nyjer. Goldfinches often flock with Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls. Spring males are brilliant yellow and shiny black with a bit of white. Females and all winter birds are more dull but identifiable by their conical bill; pointed, notched tail; wingbars; and lack of streaking.
We are also blessed to have many chickadees, a pair of blue jays, some woodpeckers and hummingbirds that reside nearby.  Of course, we also have many more that I need to learn more about. I’d love to share my backyard friends with you so I’m determined to keep my camera in my pocket this Spring while I work in the garden.  Here are some links to assist you in enjoying the nature in your yard. Enjoy!

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