"Carduelis-carduelis-European-Goldfinch-0a" by Adamantios - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Carduelis-carduelis-European-Goldfinch-0a” by Adamantios – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

I’ve been driving around a lot over the last week and you see things as you travel. I’ve seen moor-burning on or near Walshaw Moor, I’ve seen a rutting Red Deer stag with a harem of hinds near Otley, I’ve seen Red Kites in several places where they wouldn’t have been in the fairly recent past, and I’ve seen the autumn leaves just hinting at changing colour.

But perhaps the greatest pleasure I got was in a rather unusual place, and that is one reason nature is so wonderful, and that was on the slip road from the M1 to the A14,  in a traffic queue – a couple of hours ago.

There are roadworks at this junction that seem everlasting, and the slip road is always a queue. Whilst I have the patience of a saint, I am wont to start drumming my fingers on the steering wheel and going thin-lipped as it takes ages to travel a few hundred yards.

But today, on the left of the slip road, nearer the top than the bottom, there was a charm of Goldfinches , about a dozen of them, feeding on thistles. They were delightful. Only a few feet away, getting on with their business of ripping thistle heads to bits and extracting the seeds whilst the world went by.

Except of course, I didn’t go by because I was in a queue. And when the traffic moved a bit, I didn’t – I stayed to watch the Goldfinches who seemed intent on feeding and oblivious to the world of cars and people. It pleased me to see them, especially there and then. And it made me less impatient to cover the next few miles home. And it made my day.  Traffic calming for free.  I was charmed.

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5 Replies to “Charming”

  1. Last weekend while out walking in the Yorkshire Peak District (near Derwent Edge as it happens) I watched a flock of about 30 Goldfinches eating rush seeds (first time I've seen that!). No Hen Harriers though 🙁

  2. Did you see many kestrels? At the other end of the A14 on Wed. in an hours drive Ipswich to Cambridge I saw 4 kestrels. In recent years I have driven for hours across the country and only seen one.

  3. Clearly your lucky day Mark. They could so easily have been Linnet. I've been wondering where you stand on Twite. I like them but prefer Linnet. Goldfinch take some beating though. Often overlooked because they're common. Watching them on my sunflower hearts gets me through a stint of washing up everytime.

  4. Great post. We have quite a few goldfinches around us in Biggleswade and their tinkling calls and bright colours are always a joy to see. Occasionally I've seen or heard larger gatherings with them singing, including an impossibly large and vocal group in the centre of Bedford one evening - a man who passed me remarked that it reminded him of evening birdsong in the Caribbean!

    I also had a similar experience of seeing a lovely bird in queueing traffic driving out of Barnet a few years ago with a whitethroat singing at the top of a large hawthorne bush - a beautiful sound above the noise of the traffic. Like you say Mark, getting on with the job in hand (singing in this case rather than eating thistle seeds) and ignoring us and our folly at sitting in traffic. I didn't see a buzzard sitting nonchalantly on a lamp-post but if there had been then the scene would have been complete.

    Kestrels seem reasonably frequent on the A421 between the junction with the A1 and Milton Keynes - I don't know if this is because the road is relatively recent so the verges are still quite open. I have a theory that as tree cover increases it reduces hunting opportunities for them so they're less often seen near older motorways or dual carriageways. Though I've not seen any evidence to support this, just putting it out there 🙂


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