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Miracle on the deck: A visit from an American goldfinch

November 2, 2011

By Ralph Trentadue

It isn’t easy to discover the perfect components that make up the necessary pre-dawn moments on my deck. Ingredients such as temperature: 70-ish, wind, calm and very little overnight moisture. When this happens, I am on the deck with my steaming cup of coffee, a bagel, and the morning Trib. The other morning was one of those perfect times. The morning sunlight just beginning to replace the dark shadows across my backyard expanse. This is a time of sweet, peaceful silence.

We have two bird feeders that were just beginning to get some early-morning customers. We also have, just beyond the deck, a bird bath that provides us with endless entertainment watching these little guys splash and drink. However, this morning was a rarity. There was not one bird in evidence. The sun was in its bright position, yet not one bird. Interesting.

As I sat with half of my mind on the events of the day, and the other half on the absence of the regular feathered friends, I spied one of the most beautiful birds on the planet: the American goldfinch! This beauty had landed on the edge of the bird bath, looking back and forth, checking the area. Occasionally, he would take a drink.

I noticed this goldfinch was slightly larger than most of the other finches I have observed in the past. Also, his colors were more vivid. His yellow body was glimmering, and the contrasting black wings and cap were deeper than any black I have ever seen. As I stopped reading and observed my little friend, he seemed quite comfortable where he was perched. He quickly hopped onto the railing opposite of where I was sitting, offering a closer examination. I was becoming quite silently anxious, wondering what he was going to do.

His next move from the railing to the back of the deck chair gave me an unprecedented closer look. I was beginning to feel ambivalent. This beauty was almost at arm’s length, and yet I knew if I moved, he would fly away.

I was, at this time, frozen. I didn’t want to move. He now hopped on the table, just beyond the paper, and immediately hopped on my left hand. Both of my arms were on the table as I was reading the paper. As I was watching transfixed, he immediately started hopping up my left arm. Could this really be happening?

Suddenly, he was on my left shoulder, only a couple inches from my ear. I could hear a soft clicking sound. He hopped closer, and was now gently against my ear. I could not move. He was actually nuzzling against the rim of my ear, ever so softly. I was almost expecting my little visitor to start talking. Not.

It seemed like an eternity, but it actually wasn’t more than a 30-second visit from my goldfinch beauty. He then hopped back to my shoulder, down my arm, onto the table and to the back of the chair, reversing the path he took moments ago. Now, he was on the deck railing and onto the bird bath. There, he perched for just a moment. He positioned himself to look directly at me, and then he flew off. Finally, I took a deep breath, not believing what just happened: sweet, peaceful silence, an absence of the usual bird activity and an intimate visit from one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen.

Suddenly, the usual bird activity started to converge on the feeders and bird bath. Thinking about what just occurred, I decided to keep this wonderful experience to myself. No one would believe me anyway. These little guys just don’t get that friendly — or do they? Maybe we should just be still and look a little closer next time. We might find some new friends.

From the Nov. 2-8, 2011, issue

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