Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Blue Bunting, a Short Story

We were hunkered over and crouched down along the path so we could see beneath the brush to the "Ant Hill",  a pile of dirt back in the shadows of the thicket. The Ant Hill was named as a locator, along with the Leaky Pipe and the Drip Pool, as places where the bird, the Blue Bunting had been sighted in the past couple of weeks. The Blue Bunting is a rare visitor from Mexico and Central America. The Drip Pool was one the first places it was sighted and that had been manned for a week or more by a rotating group of birders anchored by a fellow going by the moniker, The Rogue Birder. He stared into the thicket for 20 hours over five days. Finally the bird appeared for 30 seconds, the Rogue got a couple of photos, and the bird released him from his purgatory. He walked to a bench up the path, where he sat, gathered himself enough to check the bird off his life list, then booked a quick flight back home.

Photo by Michael Emenaker
But, as our friend Bill said, "If you sit for twenty hours in the same place looking for a bird without seeing it, you are in the wrong place." Heeding Bill's advice, I was not at the Drip Pool; I was down the path at the Ant Hill, while Lorna was even further down at the Leaky Pipe. There were two guided groups of birders at the park. My company at the Ant Hill were a couple who confessed they had been chasing, chasing, trying for the Blue Bunting for 30 years (which may border on obsession), and a spotter for one of the guided groups. We alternately stood, kneeled and crouched. Occasionally the guide's 2-way radio would pop on and ask if he "had" anything, but generally the only sound was the distant calls of common birds and that muffled murmur that birders use to communicate with when they are on a serious quest. 

Suddenly there was movement in the brush at the right rear of the Ant Hill. Alert! Then nothing for minutes. Another flutter of wings! And quiet. The tension was building pretty strong. All senses on high alert, I could feel my heart pounding. Down on the ground on our hands and knees, straining to see something move, we glanced at each other with nervous smiles. Then ​there was movement in the shadows! Which became the dark profile of a ​Bunting. It hopped out into the sunlight! and that bird simply lit up, filling the world as I knew it with a blinding flash of brilliant blue light. And then as suddenly as it appeared, the lights went out and the Blue Bunting was gone. 

I quickly fetched Lorna from up the path, the guide had been on his 2-way mumbling, and soon there were fifteen or twenty people on the path, crowding together, kneeling in front, standing behind, all peering into the brush, asking, "Where was it?"  "Who saw it?" "How long was it out?" "Did it vocalize?" But the show was over. Maybe later, maybe at the Drip, maybe at the Pipe, maybe somewhere else, THE BIRD will return.

As Lorna's friend Lizzy said, "THAT bird is unpredictable, it is a bit of a rogue." 

Me? I care not. Today I got the Blue Bunting - Gunnar


Margadant said...

Congratulations! A tribute to your skill and astute reading of the available habitats -- at least that's what the professional guides would have claimed. (By the way, is Lorna speaking still speaking to you?)

Gunnar Berg said...

She got the Bunting a couple of weeks ago, birding with her boy-toy Paul.

Redwing said...

Carolee: Boy-toy, huh?
Paul: Apparently so...
Carolee: The birding was that good?
Paul: Yeah, it was hot... I mean, really good...

Gunnar Berg said...

Thought you might like that.