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Polite is the Goldfinch- an adventure watching birds

A big part of everyday adventure to me is always learning and being fascinated by nature. I’ve loved watching birds since I was small, encouraged by the outstanding knowledge of my family. I still love to sit, to hide indoors, near a window, or outside, with a big coat and some binoculars, and just wait for a little while and watch the birds come and go. I’m never disappointed. Goldfinches have recently started visiting my garden and they are a joy.

I sip my tea and nibble a chocolate brownie and gaze out of the conservatory windows. The large pine bends and sways, and assorted bird feeders dip and swing from side to side, low in the branches, backed by a stone wall, protecting them from the driving wind and the incessant rainfall. Not many birds today, I think, imagining them tucked up, bobbing this way and that, cocooned in a nest or huddled on a branch, waiting out the weather, feathers ruffling once in a while.

It’s a simple pleasure, to wait and to watch. We’ve lived in many houses, and each has been lucky enough to have had a great array of birds visiting. From green woodpeckers, herons and thrushes, to kestrels, flocks of pheasants and shy little treecreepers, via nuthatches, wrens, robins, home-grown blue tits and baby magpies.

It’s taken a while but our little conglomeration of feeders now attracts bullfinches, long-tailed tits, coal tits, chaffinches, territorial robins, dunnocks and again, home-grown blue tits, who are nesting once again in a box made by my father in law, high up in a silver birch. Magpies and wood pigeons, blackbirds and starlings pop in occasionally, and in the winter, a thrush feeds on berries growing in the garden. But my favourite has to be the goldfinches.

The wind gusts down the valley, bringing squalls of rain, big fat drops drumming on the plastic, creating a cacophony of sound, a wall of nature, ringing in my ears. Yet underneath the pine, the ground remains dry. And suddenly I spy, newly arrived on a thin, low branch, a goldfinch. Jerky, quick movements, yet with a grace and wisdom which sets it apart. The tell tale flash of bright yellow from the wings. The red on the head.

Another soon joins, each perched on opposite sides of the feeder, nibbling daintily at the niger seed, sharp, strong beaks making light work of the shells. I find other birds eat quickly, nervous, a constant tension, and flit away at any sign of movement. They stay for a bite or two then are on their way. But the Goldfinch. So polite, more relaxed. They sit and eat, in turns, it seems. They spend an age, lingering, beautiful, taking their fill of the small black seeds.

A particularly strong gust sends one hopping to the nearest branch. Then, as though words are spoken, they take their leave, one after the other, timed carefully, flashing vividly as they spread their wings to take flight.

Later, gazing out of my office window, I catch another. A large holly tree grows outside the window, as tall as the house. The office acts as a secret door into the world of the birds. High up, no human would usually see. But the window shows a view, right into the higher branches of the tree. I spy two goldfinches, close on a branch, peeping out of the thick, green foliage. They peek at the world and observe, high up, protected by the dense growth. Then they are gone again, on with their lives, busy but polite, quick yet delicate, and always, always, absolutely exquisite.

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