American Goldfinch with falling thistle fluff – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
The Salt Lake Valley was very smoky yesterday morning because of smoke that came in from the Dollar Ridge fire so I drove up into the mountains to try to escape it, there was smoke up in the canyon but not nearly as bad as it was in the valley. Once I was up in the canyon I relaxed and took my time looking for birds while enjoying the cooler temperatures. When my normal “hot spots” failed to produce any birds that were close enough to photograph I started driving up the canyon to see what I could find.
A flash of yellow, black and white on a purple flower immediately drew my eyes to a male American Goldfinch feasting on the seeds of a Musk Thistle so I stopped, turned my Jeep off and proceeded to photograph the bird. It delighted me to catch the thistle fluff in mid air as the finch fed on the seeds.
American Goldfinch with flying thistle fluff – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
Some of the thistle fluff was in focus and some of it wasn’t, I liked how it floated through the air around the bird though. The finch plucked at the flower head repeatedly and voraciously.
I’ll write more about the Musk Thistle towards the bottom of this story about these images.
American Goldfinch singing on top of Musk Thistle – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
The male American Goldfinch stopped several times to sing on top of the thistle and while he did I could hear other goldfinches flying overhead and I wondered if he sang in response to their flight calls or if he sang to let them know he was there. I don’t know but I do know that I enjoyed photographing him singing on the wildflower.
American Goldfinch feeding on thistle seeds – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
A strong south breeze was blowing in the canyon and that made it difficult at times to keep my focus on the bird but I think the bird was having more trouble staying on the flower head, I could see it struggling to maintain its balance often.
Musk Thistle and American Goldfinch – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
A jogger, bike or car drove past, I can’t recall which one it was because I kept my eyes on the bird, and the finch flew off of the thistle but when I glanced at the direction it flew I could see it on top of another thistle so I backed up slowly until I had good light on the bird and took more images of it from a bit farther away than I had been when I took the first series of images of the finch feeding on the thistle seeds. I quite liked the setting of this series because of the other vegetation that was in the frame. The finch didn’t stay long before it took flight again…
American Goldfinch perched on a Musk Thistle – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
And landed about 15 feet away from where it had been. I only had to back up a few feet to take more photos of the bird and was delighted that this series showed three thistle flower heads, two in focus and one very out of focus. Even though the bird is small in the frame I like the pose of the bird, the eye contact and the background. After this photo was taken the goldfinch took flight, went across the creek and I lost sight of him.
Musk Thistle in morning light – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1000, ISO 500, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
Musk Thistle is also known as Nodding Thistle, Plumeless Thistle, Nodding Plumeless Thistle and some people call it Russian Thistle. Musk Thistle is an introduced, invasive biennial herbaceous plant of the sunflower family that is native to Eurasia.
Musk Thistle in bloom – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1000, ISO 500, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
Even though the Musk Thistle was only introduced to North America in the early 19th century it can be found in almost all of the lower forty-eight states except for Florida, Vermont and Maine.
The American Goldfinches have learned to take advantage of the food source though and probably “help” with the seed distribution.
Musk Thistle with dark background – Nikon D500, f10, 1/640, ISO 500, -1.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm with 1.4x TC, natural light
I took all three of these Musk Thistle photos a bit further into the canyon from where I photographed the American Goldfinch. The blooming Musk Thistle is beautiful in bloom despite being declared a noxious weed in many states.
Life is good.