Lesser goldfinches easting basil seeds

A pair of lesser goldfinches snacking on fresh-picked basil seeds

There’s not much new that goes on in the garden in August. Mostly it’s about finding some shade and waiting until the baking sun and heat of summer give way to fall and its more agreeable temperatures.

While I sit under an umbrella and watch what’s left of early summer’s herbs and vegetables go to seed, there’s a whole feathered army working to make sure not one of those seeds goes to waste. The woodpeckers, mockingbirds and jays fight it out in the sunflower field. The house finches and titmouses (titmice?) work on stripping the bolting lettuce and broccoli. Some mornings I’ll look down slope to the vegetable garden and see more wings than leaves.

My favorite feathered visitors, however, are the lesser goldfinches. They’re little birds, only a few inches long, with dusty olive-yellow bodies and a love for basil that no other bird seems to have. They show up in the late morning (no need to be early, I guess — they’re here for seeds, not worms), settle into the flowering basil plants on the southeast side of the garden, and get to work picking out the tiny black basil seeds from the spent basil flowers.

You know when they show up because the entire time they’re working the basil they do not shut up. Not even for a moment. Fortunately it’s a cute little “chee-yee” sounding twitter and not a scrub jay’s squawk or woodpecker’s laughing chitter. But it does make me wonder what they’re talking about. Is is something serious like avian world peace? Or is it something simpler like repeating “I’m eating a seed” over and over?

No matter. They’re fun little birds to watch on a hot August morning.