Earlier this summer, I spent a few days in northern Michigan on family matters; a relatively surprise trip, but one that still managed to have a few moments for minor birding. While I wasn't able to visit new locations, identify lifers, or relax in the field, I was able to take some short but productive walks. My hometown has, in the 20 years since I moved away, built up its network of hiking and biking trails, and the habitat along the local river leading to the bay is ideal for a number of species. This gave me - a birder with precious few photography skills - the opportunity for some gold medal shots, particularly of a bright, breeding male American goldfinch.
Perched on flowering weeds, he was one of a flock foraging for early seeds, and they paused on different weedtops as I stood not too many yards away, partially concealed by tall grasses and scrub vegetation. Active little birds that they are, they didn't linger for long, but long enough for me to not only enjoy the view, but to get a stunning photo. I've always said that I can take fantastic bird photos if a bird cooperates by landing just a few feet away and remaining still for several minutes, but how often does that really happen? On this early morning, it did, and this golden gleam was more beautiful even than the sunrise.
Several other birds also posed along that walk; I'll share their portraits and stories in the days to come. But for now, let this amazingly golden finch remind us all to appreciate the beauty of the familiar, which we too often fail to recognize.