Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Blue Bunting Trivia

We were out again today to see the Blue Bunting. I honestly did not need to see that bird again. Lorna had seen the bird with Paul Prappa and in the next couple of weeks I got good looks at it, but Lorna was still dissatisfied with her earlier look. Thanks to Bill Mauck, the habitat seems to be been much improved since then with the added woodland water drips. At least if you measure it by the number of bird sighting there are every day it is. 

There was a small, thin elderly man in the group loosely spaced along the trail - apparently well into his 90s. He was quite deaf and frail. He had flown into Harlingen by himself the day before for a two day search for the Bunting - probably on a three-day pass from the nursing home. He seemed a little wobbly after standing for a short time, so Lorna loaned him her 3-legged folding stool while she went for a walk. Soon I was getting fidgety so I slowly moved off for a while too. 

As I was returning one of the fellows I met earlier saw me and made a slow chopping gesture toward the undergrowth to indicate a sighting and then pointed left. Bird in the brush moving to the left. He and three or four watchers hurried west to cut the bird off and hopefully get a look at it. Hesitating. It was a "what would Bill do?" moment. There wasn't much good Buntie habitat that direction other than the large pool, which in spite of all the folks who have spent countless hours bird wishing there, I think is really too open for such a skulky bird. Assuming the extremely skittish bird would avoid the commotion, I slowly moved away from them, heading east toward habitat - the Ant Hill and the Leaky Pipe drip. 

As I came around the bend there was a woman at the Ant Hill, binocular peering into the undergrowth. She saw me, smiled and nodded. The Bunting had indeed doubled back away from the crowd. Sighting over her head as she whispered directions, there is was, right in front of me in the business end of my Bausch & Lombs, hopping about on the ground in the dappled sunshine in all of it's tropical blue lightning glory. I watched long enough to sate my Bunting cravings then slowly stepped back to make room for others and quietly moved away to call Lorna. Then I returned to point it out to later arrivals. There was already a large group guided by Mike Marsden gathered by the time Lorna arrived - how do people sense a rare bird? Something mystical? Or simply word of mouth and cell phones? But by then the bird had obviously moved on. Hopefully toward the old man on the stool.
The life list counters speak of "needing" a bird for their list. For those who are keeping track, this bird was traveling loosely with a Hermit Thrush today. Previously it had been seen near a Long-billed Thrasher - I am not certain how many people really noticed that. Does this bird they tend to follow and feed behind birds that stir up the forest floor? File this away in your Bunting information warehouse in case you ever need to see a Blue Bunting. 
Lorna and I left the crowd hopelessly peering hopefully into the empty woods and we moved east. Around the bend the old boy was still on Lorna's stool. He had a camera in his hand and a smile on his face. Lorna helped him to his feet and kissed him on the cheek. He showed us the image on his camera screen - a photo of a dazzling blue bird. "The Blue Bunting. Life list bird number 815", he said as he teetered off to his rental car - which should terrify us all.

Photo by Lorna Berg

My old legs were tired. I went back to the truck to shed my jacket, get some water, and go back to sit on a bench, bask in the sun and in my glory for a while. Eventually Lorna came back from the thicket through the wrought gate, all smiles. She got really good looks at the bird and even got two or three nice photos. It was ...

A good day in the thicket - Gunnar


Margadant said...

Frothy, iced mugs all around.

Redwing said...

How wonderful that you've managed to get quality looks at that electric bird. I've really enjoyed your stories in that regard. If we'd had more time, I certainly would have liked to get more and better looks at that bird.

Redwing said...

I did a bit of research, and find the following to be of interest... "Blue Buntings are popularly kept as cage birds in Mexico. This fact must be considered in assessing individual vagrants who may be escapees. Vagrancy patterns may also be affected by habitat destruction in northern Mexico near the U.S. border."

Also, Buntings are seed eaters, as well as fruit and insects, and would benefit from ground feeding, thus explaining it being seen in the company of similar ground feeders; Hermit Thrush and resident Long-billed Thrasher.