It has taken three years—THREE YEARS! After waiting, not so patiently, for three years, I finally managed to get a shot of a goldfinch munching away on coneflowers seeds.
Goldfinches are tiny birds, maybe three inches from beak to tail. They are also very skittish. Sometimes they come in groups of six or seven, and each settles down on a flower and enjoys a good meal. Coneflowers and black-eyed Susans are their favorite foods in the garden. I used to deadhead my coneflowers as soon as the blossoms died, but after seeing the goldfinches that first autumn, I leave the seed stalks standing for them. I have fewer blooms over the season, but I enjoy more colorful visits.
The coneflowers are only a few feet from the sidewalk, and passersby quickly frighten away my guests. I had given up any hope of ever capturing one with a camera because even the sound of the front door opening was enough to frighten them away. For some reason, this summer is different. In the weeks before capturing these images, I noticed the goldfinches lingered longer than usual. Maybe rain is a factor. Each time they have stayed for a while, it has been after a heavy rain. I don’t know if rain makes the seeds easier to pull, they like the moisture, or I’m imagining things. Whatever the reason, I’m glad they have prolonged their visits.
Rain was scarce for six weeks from mid-April to the end of May, while July had regular downpours. After the last two heavy rains, I was fortunate to have a Minolta SR-T SCII loaded with Kentmere 400 nearby. The bad news is that in the lower light of that dark, rainy day, I had to shoot with an MC Rokkor-X 80-200mm lens wide open to get the shutter speed to 1/125— too slow to shoot a 1.6lb lens handheld at 200mm. I got about five shots, but only two aren’t badly blurred.
A few days later, the rain and goldfinches reappeared. Happily, my visitor decided to have a big meal, staying long enough for me to run and grab my AF Minolta 75-300mm (1985) and Maxxum 7D and crank the ISO to 800. A car drove by just as I opened the front door, and that noise apparently drowned the squeak from the door’s weatherstripping. Standing very still, I had time to get six or seven shots before a passerby walking a dog frightened the goldfinch away.
After three years of disappointments, I present to you “Goldfinch at Lunch, Opus 1.”