23 August 2013

Hordes of marauders

It's been a while but this post has been rattling around in my head for the last few months.

I've devoted a significant amount of energy this summer to learning how to garden in the northeast again. In a lot of ways it's like riding a bike --it is after all the climate I grew up in. Yet at the same time, it's come with its own challenges.

One of the things I grew this summer is Swiss Chard. I grew it as an ornamental more than a food crop because it's beautiful. At the same time, I've eaten from my ornamental chard more than once. Here's a photo of it I Instagrammed when it was in its prime.

Lovely, isn't it? I should say, "wasn't it?" because it's been decimated by the most unlikely of marauders.

Meet the American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis.


My bird guides assure me that goldfinches are strictly seed eaters.

However, I now know that goldfinches like to supplement their meager diet of seeds with fresh, succulent Swiss Chard. Here's a photograph I took from the kitchen window during one of the finches' nightly raids.

©Paul Anater

I've seen as many as four goldfinches perched on the remains of that Swiss Chard at the same time, so I know it's not just a single bird with a taste for salad greens. It's wasn't just a one time thing either. The neighborhood goldfinches, and only the goldfinches, descend on that poor Swiss Chard every evening at dusk.

I like to think of myself as a pretty aware guy when it comes to what happens in the world around me. I know a lot about the birds and bugs with whom I share my part of the world. With that said, I have never heard of goldfinches raiding a garden. Rabbits and chipmunks I expect and know how to handle. But chard loving goldfinches? Who ever heard of such a thing? Gangs of marauding goldfinches --what's next?