Saturday, May 02, 2009

I've lived in Riverside for almost 19 years, but didn't know we had wild finches in the area until just about a month ago. I was walking to the post office and noticed a swarm of small yellow birds around a feeder in a neighbor's yard.

"Those look like finches," I thought, amazed, and took a moment to enjoy their bright darting and flapping before I continued walking. A few days later, Michael and I were at a local nursery, and I saw a display of "finch socks" for sale--long mesh bags filled with thistle seed. I immediately grabbed one, and we hung it in our back yard when we got home.

The sock dangled forlornly for a couple of days--I worried that the finches would never find it, that the seeds were duds, that I had hung it in a bad spot--but eventually the birds caught on. At first just a couple of sparrow-looking birds with orange heads (I still haven't identified them)--but soon the yard was alive with goldfinches, their yellow feathers catching the sun. This morning, at least a dozen of them were swooping around the feeder, taking turns, scaring each other away, circling back for more.

When I was a kid, my family bought two finches and kept them in a bamboo cage in the corner of our dining room. We named them Romeo and Juliet, but later changed their names to Romiette and Julio after Romeo laid a few tiny eggs. We were so excited when the babies hatched; unfortunately, the parents were not. Romiette pecked a couple of the babies to death and started to attack Julio, as well. Traumatized, we consulted with the pet store and at their suggestion, bought another cage and gave Julio and the surviving baby their own place. They did okay for a while, but somehow I was never able to love our little pets the same way that I had before the carnage. I'm happy that now I can love finches again, in all their wild and greedy glory.

A bird feeder is such a simple thing, but it gives me a real thrill to be able to see and feed these creatures that I didn't even realize were my neighbors until just recently. It makes me wonder what else has been around me for 19 years and I haven't had my eyes open enough to notice...

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