When Less is a Plus

First off, Happy New Year everyone! Apologies for the long delay between posts, hopefully Brad was able to keep you entertained while I was away. Been a bit of a whirlwind around Intrigued since Christmas morning. Our plans to leave the day after ripping open our presents was altered by Mr. Freeze who found out we were attempting to escape his clutches. Started hearing about carnage on our path out of the state due to black ice/blowing snow and opted to hold out a day. Safer for sure, but made for some very long drives trying to get back on schedule. On top of that stress, I was still clutching a thread of hope on the Average Year front (not updated, but link here). My counter was stuck on 290 thanks to the storm and canceled Arizona trip coming into December. Picked up two strays in a small pond about an hour away and FINALLY tinned an elusive winter Sparrow. Even managed to add one more in Rochester during Linda’s checkup setting the counter at 294 for Christmas. Drove Linda nuts with all the possible scenarios that could lead to 6 ticks while on our trek south. Heart was tested by my first experience with a totally pissed off Rattler cocked and ready to take me out in Waco (more on that in a future post) – totally worth it as it led to a new bird lifer.

“Look at him go. This boy can really fly! He’s rounding first and really turning it on now, he’s not letting up at all, he’s gonna try for [300].

Worked my ass off in Austin trying to find something/anything that would put me at the finish line. Thanks to a very helpful birder who took me to within 5 feet of a bird I needed and a “pay $10 gimme” at another park got the excitement up.

“Here’s the pitch-he’s going, and what a jump he’s got,
He’s trying for third, here’s the throw, it’s in the dirt-safe at
Third! Holy cow, stolen base!”

297, 3 to go. Poured over the eBird sightings trying to find targets…4 possibilities remained – all with recorded sightings the previous days. Up early on New Year’s Eve with a glimmer of hope. Search, search strike one, go to next place, search, search, whiff, on to another place — optimism fading fast as frustration pushes to the forefront. Wait, is that one – YES, 298.

“The suicide squeeze is on! Here he comes, squeeze
Play, it’s gonna be close, holy cow, I think he’s gonna make it!”

Well, I think you probably already know the next line in the song, but night fell and I was..

“Stop[ped] right there!”

Sooooo close. Two less than I wanted. Bittersweet having the finish line in sight, still elated at the same time as I had no ambitions when I started this endeavor I’d be anywhere near a perfect bowling score. By the way, Ron clocked in at 296 with an incredible late surge.

Enough of my challenges, you are really here for this!

Lesser Goldfinch found at Guadalupe River State Park, San Antonio in January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about less.

Having achieved “less” birds than my updated dream, thought this specimen would be a perfect choice for our featured friend of the day. The diminutive bird happens to be the latest plus on my official bird count. The plan was to have this post out before the end of the year and therefore went ahead and updated my bird count on the left nav bar – 324. For the record, this may be the first time that matched the real count ha. Unofficial count (as in photographed, but lacking a featured post is over 360.

Lesser Goldfinch found at Guadalupe River State Park, San Antonio in January 2022

Our specimen comes to you from what is considered the prettiest river in Texas, the Guadalupe River. This Lesser Goldfinch was hanging out near the section that runs through the Guadalupe River State Park. Each year we go down to Texas we try to do something new to keep it fresh. Last year we decided to check out The Alamo in San Antonio. I had never been there and, if I remember correctly, Linda was only there once when she was a kid. Admittedly, I had NO idea that the Alamo sat in the middle of their downtown. Assumed it would be out somewhere isolated, probably tainted by too many old Westerns. As a bonus for agreeing to suspend my birding for a few days to do something “touristy”, Linda found the Guadalupe River State Park for me to explore.

Lesser Goldfinch found at Guadalupe River State Park, San Antonio in January 2022

Unfortunately, we only had a day to check out the place as it was just as advertised – gorgeous. The section of Guadalupe River in the park is a relatively shallow and slow moving river that proves getting back to nature will calm the soul. Tucked in the corner of the main parking lot is a short trail that leads to a very nice bird blind – complete with a stone water structure, plenty of perching trees and full feeders provides a perfect setting to sit and enjoy birds.

Lesser Goldfinch found at Guadalupe River State Park, San Antonio in January 2022

Half a digital card of captures later I happened to glance over at the daily sightings board. Slowly went down the list checking off the birds, Cardinal, Chickadee, Orange-Crowned Warbler, Lesser Goldfinch, While-Winged Do….wait, what was that, a “whatta” Goldfinch?!? Thankfully managed to keep control as there were others in the blind. Turned to Linda and mouthed the written words “Lesser Goldfinch” and pointed at the board. If Linda didn’t know better she would have thought I saw a new Halloween prop with the excitement that was flooding over me. Decided to whisper to the fellow blinders if they had seen one – affirmative. There we sat patiently waiting for it to come back.

Lesser Goldfinch found at Guadalupe River State Park, San Antonio in January 2022

As you can clearly tell, luck was on our side. Would have liked to get a few shots of this black and yellow bird away from the feeders, took what I could get. As I’m out of shots, better find you some interesting facts to leave you with. For starters they will push up into the heart of the west for breeding, but will primarily be found in the lower southwestern states and down into Central/South America. Probably the most intriguing is the variations of male coloring seen across their regions. Cornell states that the eastern part of their rage tends to have black backs and caps where the West Coast varieties have more of a green back to go with the black top hat. In between the amount of black and green on their backs varies. Personal observation-wise this specimen was a bit skittish. Anytime another bird would come to a nearby feeder peg , it would scurry off into the trees above the blind. Once coast was clear it would settle back in to continue its sunflower seed feast.

Just to give you preview of this year’s Average Year efforts (yes, Ron and I agreed to go for it again), we already made our way to Guadalupe River State Park and tinned the Lesser Goldfinch to start off the new count! Take care everyone, access to a good network has been pretty spotty as of late, so bear with me as I try to keep on top of things.

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