Posted: Friday 31 August 2012
by Kate Bradbury

[...] when I heard a chattering in the garden last week, I instantly got up to investigate, and was amazed to see two goldfinches squabbling over the sunflower hearts.

Goldfinch on a bird feeder

Regular readers of this blog will know that the number of bird visitors to my garden is limited. This is no doubt due to the size of my garden and the fact that it’s surrounded by concrete – both from neighbouring ‘gardens’ and the cycle path that connects two roads. There’s also a busy, noisy train track, on the other side of which is a lovely park. I wouldn’t bother visiting my garden if I was a bird.

Nevertheless, every spring I’m visited by great tits and blue tits, which refuel on sunflower hearts and peanuts while gathering caterpillars and aphids for their young. There was Sid the blackbird, who spent six months causing mayhem before he mysteriously disappeared. We briefly had regular visits from a magpie and a delightful family of blackbirds, and I occasionally spot a robin pop in for a quick dip in the birdbath. I don’t think this is bad going, for a tin pot garden sandwiched by concrete, cyclists and trains in the middle of Hackney.

I hoped the sight of a mother and baby blue tit on the fat ball feeder would signify more regular visits, but I’ve not seen any for a few weeks. I’m not worried – summer can be a quiet time at garden feeding stations, as birds tend to lie low while moulting. Natural sources of food are usually plentiful in summer, so there’s also less need for birds to rely on gardens.

So when I heard a chattering in the garden last week, I instantly got up to investigate, and was amazed to see two goldfinches squabbling over the sunflower hearts. I assumed this was an opportunistic, one-off visit, but since the first sighting they’ve been coming several times a day – each time announcing their visit with noisy twittering. They sit on the perch I made from a lichen-covered apple tree branch I found in the street, taking turns to eat the sunflower hearts. They also eat the niger seed I put out for them and I even spotted one extracting seeds from a spent teasel flower.

Like their cousins, the greenfinches, goldfinches are messy eaters. But I’m sure the wood mouse is making good use of the scattered seed. Goldfinches tend to congregate in large groups, so I’m hopeful that more are waiting in the sidelines, for the feast.

So far, my goldfinch visitors seem quite timid. They rarely stay in the garden when a train goes past, and one also made a swift exit when a plane flew overhead (you’d have thought they’d be used to all that noise if they’d grown up in Hackney). Perhaps they’ll get used to the noise and bustle of my little city garden. I hope so; they’re wonderful.

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Talkback: Goldfinches
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oldchippy 31/08/2012 at 14:27

Kate I remember on my way to school when I was about 8 seeing Goldfinches in some one's garden and thinking how wonderful they looked and how we never had bird's like that in our garden,I thought they were quite exotic and where did they get them, now I know if you want Goldfinch in your garden all you need to do is grow the right plant's that they feed on.I'm not sure I like cranefly the way you seem to.


Kate Bradbury 31/08/2012 at 18:38

Thanks Oldchippy. Now what's wrong with the cranefly? Just because the goldfinch is better looking ;)

kaycurtis 31/08/2012 at 21:34

Dear Kate I have green finches visiting my garden along with loads of other birds, although the only one's that that will stay around if they catch site of me is the cheeky little Robins, like you I have trains at the bottom of my garden I actually live in a road where the trains run down either side of the road so affectively we're in a cutting, at the end of my garden is the fast train to Gatwick, so fast moving trains every 15 minuits, the birds don't care they get used to it. I also have most of the dogs in the district being looked after by the people next door even the continuouse barking hasn't chased all the birds away, the woodpecker doesn't like it though.

higgy50 01/09/2012 at 00:40

Goldfinches really are one of our 'special, birds aren't they? thier colour is so vibrant and they are great fun to watch on garden feeders or even better flower seed heads!

When we moved into our house about two years ago I used to see a large group of Goldfinches in the garden two doors down but they never ventured onto my feeders! In a bid to attract them I started feeding Niger Seeds and within days we had a regular procession of these beautiful birds in the garden. 

Over winter I leave all the seed heads on the plants in my large perennial border such as Rudbeckia and of course sunflowers amongst others. We now get regular raiding parties of up to a dozen finches coming into the garden where they often spend hours feeding on these seed heads.

So if you want to keep them coming start feeding Niger seed and don't be to keen to chop down your perennials until next spring, you might be surprised who comes to visit!!..


Ron 01/09/2012 at 09:00

They still sound nice even when squabbling, sadly mine seem to have gone on holiday for a few weeks.

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