And we didn't even see those few for years. Not until we started setting out large shallow pans of water on top of the feeder poles. Suddenly we were spending hours with binoculars and the bird book trying to figure out which was what. Still, it took a while before the word passed among the bird population that water and food was free and easy on the Ward property.
Four or five years ago we saw our first pair of goldfinches. In the fall you can hardly miss them. Their bright yellow feathers and contrasting black and white chevrons are plain as day, even without binoculars. In the spring it's a bit tougher. Having changed during winter, their feathers are drabber, almost olive, and the only way to tell them from the pine warblers are the faint streaks on the warblers' breasts. After a couple of weeks, the goldfinches begin to molt and the bright yellow once again shows up, at least on the breeding males. The non-breeding males are still drabber than the other males and have no black mark on their foreheads. The females look a lot like those younger males and also sport a white patch on their rumps. But it begins to be obvious that they are goldfinches, too. It seems like they actually stayed a little longer this year before scooting back up north.
My book tells me they often appear in flocks. Must be another difference for Florida. The first three years we only had the one pair. Last year we suddenly had two pairs of goldfinches. Then one day this past spring, I walked up to the window that looks out on our homemade aviary and there in the feed trough just outside the house was a whole flock of goldfinches happily pecking away. I counted ten. Ten! Wow, I had hit the jackpot!
So I stood there and watched for a while until they suddenly became aware of us and all flew off in a flash. After that a couple of them took turns on the hanging feeders further away from the house. I sat down and watched them a little longer. You know what? The two on the hanging feeder were every bit as cute and fun to watch, every bit as bright and cheerful a yellow as the ten had been. They didn't lose their God-given glory just because there were fewer of them.
And that made me wonder, why are we so impressed with numbers? Why are we so impressed with titles? Why are we so impressed with brand names and designer labels? Why are we so impressed with outward appearance? The more zeroes in a price tag, the more letters after a name, or the more awards on a shelf, the more we think of the person, the job, the car, the home, the neighborhood, the title and position. And many times, the more wrong we are about what really matters.
Better is a little, with righteousness, than great revenues with injustice. (Prov 16:8)
How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! Yea, to get understanding is rather to be chosen than silver. (Prov 16:16)
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; And he that rules his spirit, than he that takes a city. (Prov 16:32)
Better is the poor that walk in his integrity, Than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich. (Prov 28:6)
One little goldfinch is every bit as fascinating to watch as a whole flock stretched out on a feeder, pecking not only at the seeds but sometimes each other. One little goldfinch is just as yellow, just as cute, and just as worthy of my attention as fifty. In fact, since he is the only one, I am usually a lot more grateful for him.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1Sam 16:7)
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)