While editing and processing a batch of photos for a stock photo site I’m building with a couple of partners, I came across a sequence of photos I shot of a Common Yellowthroat male. The little fellow was obviously annoyed by our group of floaters invading his domain at a designated campsite on Montana’s Smith River. Noticing the brightly-colored bird flitting from perch to perch near my tent, I ambled over to his abode and sat down with my camera. In less than five minutes he was back, fluttering here and there, all the while keeping an eye on the two-legged interloper.
One of his favorite perches proved to be the budding flower of a large, tall thistle. From my boyhood days on the family ranch I remember Canada Thistles and Russian Thistles, two non-native invaders my father perpetually battled in the wheat and barley fields. While editing the photos of the sentinel Yellowthroat, I identified his prickly perch as yet another spiny non-native, the Musk or Nodding Thistle. When the seeds of this thistle mature in late summer, they may be eaten by Pine Siskins or Goldfinches. Bug-loving Yellowthroats find them as useless as forage, but this one obviously favored his thistle-perch.
Graced with the rare opportunity to photograph a more often heard than seen member of the warbler family, I must confess a grudging measure of gratitude to this invasive thistle. Will that keep me from uprooting these troublesome thistles in the future? Nope. Mr. Yellowthroat will just have to perch on the Goldenrod next door.