I have put up a second bird feeder. I was dropping off some glass bottles to be recycled at my local Wild Birds Unlimited store (they donate the proceeds to the South Bay Wildlife Rehab center—more on them later) and I overheard a woman asking about the best way to attract goldfinches. I learned that goldfinches like a special kind of seed called Nyger that needs a special kind of feeder because the seeds are so tiny. I was also told that it was too late in the year to attract any goldfinches to my yard. Most had already migrated and the ones that stick around for the summer had chosen their feeders already. So when I mused that perhaps I should wait until the fall to buy a second feeder, the salesperson, not wanting to pass up a chance to make a sale, convinced me that the House Finches would like the Nyger seeds, too.
Well, I got Goldfinches! The one pictured above is so mottled that I am not sure what kind he is, but most likely he is a Lesser Goldfinch. He doesn't have much white on his wings which is puzzling me. This pair of goldfinches (below) that showed up a few days later are definitely Lesser Goldfinches. The male has the black cap. They announced their presence with a high, wiry call that sounds like, "tleee" or "tseeeew." Later in the fall when the migrating goldfinches come through it will be almost impossible to identify them because the females, immatures, and non-breeding males all look the same, a drab greenish yellow, and are also similar to the fall, non-breeding American Goldfinch.
The American Goldfinch is much more common throughout the United States and can easily be identified by his bright yellow color, front and back. He will sing as he flies and his song sounds like, "potato chip, potato chip."
I first learned about the Wildlife Rehab center in my area years ago, quite by accident. I was at a print shop getting some copies made of an article in a magazine about birding in Hawaii. My husband and I were planning a grand trip to the big island. The lady next to me seeing that I had an interest in birds asked me if I would like to see something she had with her. Yeah, I said hesitatingly. She opened the large knitting bag that she was carrying and showed me a very small cage with two extremely small hummingbirds inside! They were abandoned babies that needed to be fed by eye-dropper every 20 minutes. So she couldn't leave them to go run even a short errand and had devised this way of toting them around with her. While chatting with me, she took out the eye-dropper, filled it with nectar, and shoved it into their eagerly-waiting long bills. Talk about dedication!
The name of the hummingbird lady is Jean Roper. The rehab website says she takes in hundreds of hummingbirds annually. I met Ann Lynch, the founder of the center, many years ago on a birding excursion to Lake Machado in San Pedro. She had a large cardboard box with her and was about to release an American Bittern into the wild after nursing it back to health. She opened the lid of the box and out flew this startled bird with a very large wing-span. He flew across the lake and made several circles in the air before settling down in the reeds on the opposite side. What a sight!