Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lawrence's Goldfinch

Even though the Lawrence's Goldfinches spell their name incorrectly, there was still a special satisfaction to seeing and photographing this semi-kindred bird. The reports started circulating on the AZ listservs that there were a few Lawrences around Pond 5 at the Gilbert Water Ranch. They're not exactly rare, but they're uncommon and move somewhat erratically, so it's hard to predict when or where one might get another chance to see these handsome little birds.

It took a while to locate them at the Ranch. The Lesser Goldfinches that I see around the area like the tops of the thistle and seedy grass. I figured the Lawrence's would act similarly, but this wasn't exactly the case. It was odd enough that I didn't see a single Lesser Goldfinch, and the Lawrence's turned out to be mingling with White-Crowned and Brewer's Sparrows in the southwestern nook of Pond 5. They'd spend a minute or two up in the mesquite trees, and then return to forage fairly low in the grass, like the Sparrows, and spend 30 minutes or so in the ruff.

They were hard to find in the grass, and harder still to keep in focus with the camera. It was a pretty charming and fun challenge as they were not overly bothered by my proximity, and I was forced to practice my manual focussing. As undesirable as it is to have the grass obscuring the bird, I like the overall effect and texture that the spindly stalks bring to the photos.

I did want to get a clear photo though, and after a pretty long spell of waiting, the Finches finally returned to their mesquite perch. However, when a thick cloud moved in front of the sun, it made for a pretty nervy ending. I was starting to sense that the Finch's patience and my luck were running out. As you can see below, the cloud eclipsed almost all of the natural light. The Finches were sitting still for now, but how long could they last!? It was a race against time...

The cloud cleared away just in time. I got a bit of light and got a few shots off before the Finches bolted, and not just back to the field. They took off across the pond and quickly disappeared. Even if the photos aren't picture-perfect, I got to observe the Finches for a long and edifying time. It was a very fun and thorough way to add a new bird to the List, and keep the good times rolling in 2012.