When I'm working in my garden, which is most every day, I'm always aware of the bird activity around me, even when it's not at the forefront of my consciousness. I may be concentrating on pulling weeds or deciding which limb to prune or digging a plant to be moved but I hear the Carolina Wren pair calling to each other in the shrubbery and the Northern Mockingbird practicing its oratorio on top of the utility poll. Those sounds plus all the others from the permanent resident birds that populate my yard are an expected part of the background noise of my life. But every so often, some unexpected notes make their way into the symphony.
Yesterday I was busily pulling weeds from an overgrown bed and half-listening to the afternoon chorus of birdsong when, suddenly, I was brought up short by one of those unexpected sounds. When the sound registered with me, I stood up and looked at the sky in the direction from which it seemed to have come. It was a faint sound from a bird high overhead. I looked but there was nothing there to see. I stood for a few minutes listening intently, but the sound was not repeated. Surely, I was mistaken. It's much too early, almost two months too early, but just for a moment, I could have sworn that I heard the inimitable flight song of the American Goldfinch!
Could the little golden birds actually be in this area this early in the fall? I usually don't see them until December, but we know from many sources in the North and Northeast that there is already a significant irruption of finches this year. Hungry winter finches are pouring down from Canada in large numbers because of a failure in their food crops. Pine Siskins have already been seen in some parts of the South and Red-breasted Nuthatches (not a finch, it's true, but a fellow traveler with them) have already been seen along the Gulf Coast, although not by me.
I have seen and heard several birds that are normally winter visitors to my yard - birds like the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and the Pine Warbler, all of which I did either see or hear in the yard yesterday. But, it is just extremely early to have the goldfinches arriving.
Still, there was that high, faint call. Or was it simply my imagination?
Have you seen American Goldfinches or Pine Siskins yet?