Every year there are bird visitors in my garden that I can almost set my season clock by! The month of February is the time of the year for greenfinches. The yellow-breasted greenfinch (Carduelis spinoides) is a dainty yellow and brown bird. The male is brightly coloured — bright yellow with some brown markings — while the female is duller. Juveniles or subadult birds are brown with heavy streaking. Greenfinches visit us in Dehradun only for a few months of the year, typically from January to March. The rest of the year, including the breeding season in the summer, is spent in the Himalayas up to altitudes of 4,000 metres.
I normally begin my day with the sound of greenfinches in the garden at about 7.30 am. This bird is not an early riser like the Blue Whistling Thrush, which is up at 6 am. The greenfinches begin their day perched on the fig tree in our garden. As the sun rises, they bask in the warmth and get ready for a day of foraging.
Finches for the most part are seed-eaters, and greenfinches are no exception. But just like us birds have their own finicky tastes and preferences. The greenfinch seems to love feeding on mustard seeds, which my wife grows in her kitchen garden.
It is a common sight to see the bird perched on the mustard plant with a few green mustard seeds in its beak. The bird merges well with the brown and green of the mustard plant, and if you don’t look closely you will miss the bird.
The mustard plants in our garden are quite close to where we sit and have our meals. As we step out into the garden, the greenfinches fly up to the nearby fig tree.
While they consider us their friends, we can get only so close to them! Sitting on the tree, they seem to twitter in a peculiar way that seems to say, “Why don’t you finish your meal quickly and allow us to return to our mustard patch!” The greenfinches are gentle birds and their way of getting a message across is in a gentle way — “Come on, finish up; we are hungry too,” being their demure request.
On more than one occasion, I hurry up my meal and go indoors, only to let them feed in peace!
The birds seem to know that we are friends despite our lurking pet cat Tiger.
As Anchal often says to me, “Why do they visit our garden? There must be mustard fields everywhere, but they make it a point to visit us every year!” The greenfinches seem to know that our home is a safe haven. We are fortunate to have these seasonal friends keeping us company, even if for a few months only.
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Going green means reducing waste in our day-to-day lives. All of you use toothpaste. What do you do when your toothpaste is almost over? What I do is roll up the toothpaste tube and squeeze out the last drop of paste inside. To waste nothing should be your motto!