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Posts Tagged ‘goldfinch’

It was windy yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but that did not deter some American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) from foraging for seeds in the spiky seedpods still hanging from the leafless Sweetgum Trees (Liquidambar styraciflua). The goldfinches were amazing daring and acrobatic in their efforts high in the trees to extract the seeds.

It is a testament to the strength of the stems of the seedpods and the light weight of the goldfinches that the birds were able to place all of their weight on hanging seedpods and poke into their perches with their pointed beaks, as you can see in the first image. The final image shows that the finches knew that there were seeds throughout the seedpods and were willing to turn upside down to reach some additional seeds.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was happy to spot this somewhat scruffy looking American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) as I wandered the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge yesterday seeking a respite from election news coverage. As is often the case, nature served as a soothing balm to calm my anxieties and reestablish my internal balance.

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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From  a distance I noticed a flash of yellow moving from a tree to a patch of flowers. The flight was too fast for a butterfly, and when I moved a bit closer I spotted, as I had suspected, an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Judging from its coloration, I think it may be a juvenile, though I must admit that after a summer of chasing insects, my bird identification skills are a little rusty. The goldfinch was somewhat skittish and uncooperative, but I was able to capture these two images that I decided to share them with you all.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was searching for butterflies last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a flash of brilliant yellow suddenly crossed my field of view. It took a moment for me to figure out what it was and then I realized that several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) were diving into a field of Black-eyed Susan wildflowers (Rudbeckia hirta).

I waited for a long time, hoping in vain that the goldfinches would perch in the open on the flowers nearest me, but mostly they stayed buried deep in the vegetation. Here are a couple of long-distance shots that give you a sense of my experience with these colorful little birds.

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes the most ordinary birds are the most beautiful, like this American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) that I spotted earlier this month at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The colors of this goldfinch are certainly more subdued than during breeding season, but I like the way that the yellow serves as an accent color rather than covering the bird’s entire body.

For contrast, I am including a photo from early autumn of another goldfinch at another location. Some may prefer the bright colors of the breeding plumage, while other may find it to be too gaudy and prefer the more subdued non-breeding plumage. Is one more beautiful than the other? For me, they are both beautiful, albeit in different ways. There is an inherent contradiction in beauty—sometimes it seems almost universal, but most often it is deeply subjective, i.e. “in the eyes of the beholder.”

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I traveled with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in nearby Poolesville, Maryland to check out the large fields of sunflowers that are planted there each year. We just missed the peak blooming period and many of the sunflowers were drooping and seemed a little wilted. Cindy, who has visited this area multiple times, noted that the sunflowers were not as tall or as dense as in previous years.

Several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) that I observed in the fields, however, were definitely not disappointed—they were gorging themselves on sunflower seeds. The goldfinches were pretty skittish, but occasionally were distracted enough when feeding that I was able to get some shots, despite the fact that I was shooting with my 180mm macro lens.

American Goldfinch

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move toward winter, the natural landscape seems increasingly drab. Flashes of bright colors are particularly welcome now, like this American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) that I spotted this past weekend foraging in one of the fields at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I mistakenly thought that goldfinches left our area in the winter, so I was surprised earlier this week when I saw a group of them in the trees in my neighborhood. Since then I have checked the range map for the American Golfinch (Spinus tristis) and learned that this bird is with us all year.

Maybe I am so used to seeing the brilliant yellow color of the males in the spring that the duller winter plumage blended in so well with their surroundings that they were invisible to me. Once I spotted them, I struggled to get photos of them. The sun kept moving in and out of the clouds and the goldfinches spent most of their time in the dense bushes.

I tried using my pop-up flash to remove some of the shadows and totally blew out the background when I really overexposed some of the images. Still, I like the effect in the first and second images and it does help you to see some of the details of the goldfinch. The final image was without flash and was more properly exposed, though I don’t like the fact that it was shot at a steeper angle than I would have preferred.

I’m going to have to start looking more closely at the trees in mysuburban neighborhood. Who knows what other birds may be present there that I don’t know about?

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Another unexpected bird that I sighted during a recent walk around my neighborhood was this American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). I don’t think that I have seen one before during the winter—during the spring and the summer the goldfinch’s bright yellow plumage makes it easier to spot one.

I guess I need to pay more attention to the birds of the neighborhood, for it appears that more of them overwinter than I originally thought. What else is out there, waiting to be seen and photographed?

goldfinch1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was thrilled today to see the brilliant yellow color of the American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)—it almost looked like they had gotten dressed-up for Easter yesterday.

Although range maps indicate that American Goldfinches are in our area year-round, I haven’t seen one in a really long time. There is still not much vegetation on the trees and bushes, so the bright color of the goldfinches stood out. However, the goldfinches spent almost all of their time in the center of bushes and it was hard to get an unobstructed shot.

I am looking forward to more and more bright colors as we move deeper into spring. (I probably should mention that I drive an orange-colored car, which may say something about my attitude toward bright colors.)

goldfinch2_bloggoldfinch1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am going through a bird phase, it seems, as I continue on my journey into photography. Perhaps it’s a seasonal thing, as flowers and insects seem to be in shorter and shorter supply, or perhaps it’s a kind of evolution in an unknown direction. Whatever the case, I find my lenses pointed more and more frequently at birds.

Here are a few shorts of an American Goldfinch that I took in the early morning, when the dew was still clinging to the strands of spider web silk on the plants. The sunlight was not yet strong and was coming from the side.

When I pulled up the RAW files to make a few adjustments, I was faced with the dilemma of the yellow coloration of the bird. In I changed some settings, the yellow became “dirtier,” but you can see more details. That’s what I did in the first photo. I can’t decide if the contrast is too much, but it seemed to me that the bird’s more severe facial expression lent itself to this treatment. On the other hand, if I changed settings differently, the yellow became a little brighter, but the image got a little softer. That’s what I did in the second and third photos. Again, I was guided a bit by the bird’s expressions.

Do you think that one of the two approaches worked better? I’ve come to realize that there is no magical recipe, no secret formula that will guarantee me great shots. That’s why it’s fun for me to try out different approaches and see what happens.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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