or Unending Melody
Songbirds are a talkative lot. They're always so busy communicating that you wonder how they ever manage to find time for nesting (warble) and feeding (tee-yee, tee-yee) and mating (warble, warble) and egg-laying (tseep) not to mention (arpeggio) raising (trill, trill, trill) young (tee-yee).*
Take Lesser Goldfinches, for example. They're summer residents in this part of New Mexico, and I always hear them long before I see them in spring. Their voices have a distinctive timbre, the tones less pure than the American goldfinch, a little more raspy, a little more plaintive. They are the smallest of the finches, and the meek sigh in their two-note call suggests that they know it. Two pairs (at least) visit the Nyjer feeders I've set out, enlivening the garden with their singing. One of the males in particular likes to go through his whole repertory twice before he dines; the others settle for calling frequently to one another—checking in, perhaps, with a re-assuring tseep to say, "I'm over here, still no cats in sight."
Although goldfinches chatter a lot, for the most part it doesn't seem to be empty chatter (though we could debate about that show-off male). Last week, though, as I was lying on the sofa by the living room window, I heard a quiet running monologue going on—so quiet that I wouldn't have heard it if the window hadn't been open. I looked out to see a female goldfinch alone at the feeder two feet away, eating with abandon and twittering softly about it to herself the whole time. She did enjoy those seeds. She stayed for quite a while, munching and murmuring, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase, "the appetite of a bird."
I've seen and heard her a few times since then. She'll arrive at the feeder with her mate, who soon gets spooked by something and darts off. Our heroine doesn't go in for "flock think," though. Instead of startling she pauses, looks around, assesses the situation (her judgment seems to be rock solid), and then happily settles in for the long haul. The commentary begins: "Oh, this is good. Mmm, yes, that was a tasty seed. So is this. I wonder if this next one will be—yes, yes, very nice. Oh, and there's another one. Delicious!" And on and on, seed after seed.
She is very round.
I like to think that she's the same finch I wrote about last year who had an unusual encounter with a hummingbird. There's no reason that she should be, but then, there's no reason that she shouldn't. Really, how many plump lesser goldfinches with minds of their own and a knack for getting the feeder all to themselves can there be in one small neighborhood?
Well, not being that much of a bird watcher, I can't say for sure. But I like to think it's just one, and that she really knows how to have a good time, one joyfully celebrated seed after another.
And another and another...
*It's like a Wagner opera, only more cheerful. The first (and only) time I watched Tristan and Isolde I wondered how the lovers ever did anything worth getting in trouble over when they were so busy squawking at each other the whole time.