Goldfinches: In winter our Goldfinches gather together in large groups of up to 100 and they nowadays they increasingly feed in small ‘charms’ on garden feeders. In cold conditions they will sometimes migrate as far South as Spain but in this mid winter most stay around, and we have been enjoying them on our feeders. Winter is the best time to tell males from females, as only the males bill is long enough to feed on teasel seeds. During the Renaissance, Goldfinches were associated with the Passion of Christ, as illustrated in the Raphael painting ‘Madonna of the Goldfinch’, where John the Baptist is painted holding a Goldfinch. Christians believed at the time that the Goldfinch, while picking thorns from the Crown of Thorns, pricked itself and the blood of Christ fell on its head, rendering it red. Conditions: Grey and cloudy. Temperature: Max 5 Min 2C.
New data on, appropriately, Darwin’s Finches, in the Galapagos, show definitively that new species can arise in as little as two generations. Closer to home, studies show that this lovely species, the Goldfinch, is evolving longer bills. This is thought to be an adaptation to garden feeders, which they increasingly visit- we have a small charm every day at present. Males already have longer bills than females, enabling them to obtain seeds from Teasels. Conditions: Cold, with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 6- Min -1C.
There’s been a blog-break, enforced by my computer breaking– hope to be back in action now. Goldfinches are gathering the feathers I put out, seed heads of Japanese Anemones, and they will also use seed-heads of Coltsfoot, to line their nests. Like other birds, they are busy at present nest-building- carefully explore where they fly with moss, twigs etc and you may discover you have nests in your garden. Occasional gentle exploration will not disturb them, and you may get
information that will help prevent you doing gardening tasks that ruin their nests. This way, my friend Jenny discovered a Robin’s nest in her shed, which has put paid to getting the tools out for a while! Conditions: Cloudy with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 14- Min 7c.
Teasels in winter-Though they spread themselves a bit liberally around the garden, they are both beautiful in winter and a source of seeds for Goldfinches. Apparently though, only for male Goldfinches. It is hard to tell males from females but only males have long enough beaks to extract seeds from Teasels, so these must be male. Clearly, not all the seeds get scattered or eaten as we saw recently, with these seeds apparently germinating in the seed-head itself, probably due to the mild winter. Conditions: A spell of cloudy, still weather Temperature: Max 8- Min 7c.