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.

24 thoughts on “When Less is a Plus”

    1. But soooo close hehehe – thanks Brad. Admittedly, I am quite elated with the year’s total and I know Ron is equally happy with his. There is actually a very remote chance I’ll find something when going through the backlog of images for the year, but I am through the January Texas haul and there is nothing else there. Glad you liked the Goldfinch, Ron and were able to tin a few of those today.

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  1. You got around 290 more birds than I did. 298 is super. I some some videos from the storms around the Great Lakes area. Lots of flooding and freezing. I’ll stick with our boring moderately warm sunshiny days and frosty cold nights. It looks like that Lesser Goldfinch is more. Beautiful bird.

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    1. I am pretty happy with the number. Looks like Ron and I are going to go for another Average Year in ’23 and based on our current numbers we are off to an excellent start. This year I plan to be a little more attentive to the rarities that pass near us to help get me to the 300 threshold. We definitely took a good uppercut from Mr. Freeze before we got out of there. Now I am hoping for a lot more snow at home to help set the wells for the year – they were struggling in the last month or so. Enjoy the sunshine there, we currently have mid 80’s where we are currently at – birding nonstop sunup to sundown to fill the hopper for this year’s posts. Thanks for dropping by Tim, hope you enjoyed your break.

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    1. Thank you CJ, ended up just a bit out of reach for the year. The good news is Ron and I are already well on our way to this year’s Average Year attempt – yes, we’ve decided to do it again! Good news for my readers as that also means plenty more to blog on this year. Take care and thanks for dropping in.

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    1. Thank you Donna – it was definitely a busy end of the year. If you would have asked me in late November if there was a chance I could anywhere close to 300 I would have bet my wallet against. Ron and I (and maybe even Brad) have decided to make another go at it. We are already well on our way with a very productive January so far (likely over 100 in just the first week). Need to keep reminding myself no slacking off this year ha! Thanks for dropping in Donna – apologies as I know I’m behind reading everyone’s posts as a result, but promise I’ll catch up when I get a break.

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    1. Thank you Cheryl – the best thing about doing an Average Year is I have plenty of material to use for posts. Glad you enjoyed the tins from last year and looking forward to introducing many new feathered friends to all my readers. Best wishes for an incredible new year to you and your family.

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    1. Thank you Wally. Been lucky enough to photograph the twice now at Guadalupe River State Park (the second one for this year’s count yeah). Visited the National Butterfly Center in Mission a few days ago and to my surprise one came and perched for us at their feeding station – apparently they have been down here on the border the whole time and I just didn’t notice them! Thanks for dropping in Wally – I’ll have to look up where San Angelo is relative to where we are currently at.

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    1. Thank you Tanja – Ron and I are off to a great start once again. We are still tallying up days, but from the ones we have done Ron is sitting in the mid 80’s and I am well over 100 which is a third of my total from last year. Good times for sure and lots of new fodder for the blog. Appreciate you dropping in.

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  2. I love how you told the story, one of my favorite songs from back in the day. 🙂 I did not even break 200, the bird count stopped when I went back to Michigan. I live way west of the migration route. 🙂

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    1. I was wondering if anyone would recognize the song ha. The bird options definitely get sparse when you start heading north – as you mentioned, especially outside the flyways. From your posts, you definitely managed to tin some very good birds – several I could have used for sure. Take care, hopefully your travels are going well.

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    1. You are welcome! Was lucky enough to go back there and get this Goldfinch to start the new year off right. So far the trip has been going well, just a few issues which includes hitting a traffic divider that was in the middle of and exit bordered by cement barriers on each side so there was no way to avoid it – then almost hit a ladder and then later a storage tub both in the middle of a lane on a highway. Linda’s been cussing up a storm at the road crews down here. In a pretty good routine now – get back at dark, copy the card(s) onto two passport drives and then charge the batteries so I’m ready for the next day. No time to cull the bad shots yet, so eating up storage ha!

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