When our friend Ellen came to visit last week, we spent a lot of our time bird-watching. I'm sure she appreciated the respite from her Minnesota winter, and the California birdies did not disappoint.
One of our stops was Lake Merritt, in downtown Oakland, which is always a birding hot-spot. We were wandering around the community vegetable garden (I was curious to see what was in the ground -- I'm still trying to educate myself about the growing season in this climate), and a group of drab winter-colored American Goldfinches caught our eye. They were flitting around, looking for food. Quite unexpectedly, this roundy ball of sunshine joined their flock. He was quite obliging, and stayed more of less still, giving us lots of opportunities to scour our bird book.
We thought he must have been a Western Tanager, although his coloration was wrong for this time of year. Nobody else looks this bright, and lives in this part of the country.
When I got home, I uploaded my photos and posted a query on the local bird-nerd list. We cooked dinner, and by the time we were done, we had answers. This little bird is, apparently, a Saffron Finch (actually a tanager, so we weren't that far off). He's one of a pair of South American birds who have been seen around Lake Merritt for the past year or so. They're probably escaped pets, who have managed to survive in the wilds of Downtown Oakland.
Good luck to you, Mister Finch! I hope you continue to prosper.