Along the Natchez Trace

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Quest for the Painted Bunting

I was born and raised in southeastern Ohio.  While I became interested in nature and all of the outdoors fairly early I was a teenager before I became a "birder".  Even back then I was more of a "bird watcher" than a "real" birder.  I knew all the usual species that came to our feeders (my mom had bird feeders out in strategic spots, as well as a bird bath and suet and stuff like that), but I didn't go out of my way to see anything that wasn't pretty much in plain sight.
Female Painted Bunting

I quit college on my 18th birthday...  got a job...  got married when I was 19 and a year later my son was born.  I lived in the country...  didn't work outside the home....  we had only 1 vehicle and the husband used it for work.  A little over a year later, my daughter was born.  Still a stay-at-home mom...  still in the country...  still no car.  What's a woman to do?  Well...  hang up bird feeders of course!  Entertainment!!!!

I had the Peterson's Field Guide by then...  (my kids had the little Golden Book of Birds as one of their very first books)....  and while the "usual" birds were the cardinals, chickadees, titmice, etc., every now and then we'd get something unusual.  The first winter that Evening Grosbeaks came to our feeder will always be in my memory...  my son, who was maybe 6 years old then, came to me with huge eyes...  a mutant goldfinch was at the feeder!  And another time a flock of American Avocets must have gotten blown off course and ended up at the nearby lake.  Boy!  Did they ever draw the crowds!
Male Painted Bunting

When I was 30 I headed back to college....  got in the Recreation and Wildlife program ..... finally took the entomology, biology, fish science...  AND...  ornithology classes that I wanted.  A week-long field trip to the mountain of West Virginia was such an eye-opener!  Hey... there's a lot more stuff out there than what's in my little corner of the world!  I saw my first Rose-breasted grosbeak (as well as my first sundews and a heck of a lot of other stuff).  

 Isn't he gorgeous!

Life has a way of changing mid-stream....  that marriage ended....  I was on my own for a while then met Bill.  I moved up on the Ridge...  and Wow!   Did we ever have the bird feeders there!  Still had the Peterson's Field Guide...  still the birds of southeast Ohio...  BUT...  I'd look at the drawings of the birds...  where they would most likely to be seen.... what time of year...  all that stuff.  I got to thinking of what was out there and what all we might see.

This really didn't have THAT much to do with what happened eventually, but...  maybe it did.  That harlequin duck in Alaska...  the sandhill cranes in New Mexico...  and... HEY!  look at that PAINTED BUNTING!!! Nothing has colors like that...  no way!  I've GOT to see that!!!!

The first time we were in the range of this bird we were volunteering at Cameron Prairie NWR in Louisiana in 2005.  A couple of women came into the visitor center and said they'd spotted one underneath the Intercoastal Waterway Bridge.  Didn't take me 5 minutes to close the place and head down that way.  Nope...  never did see the danged thing...

Look at the red ring around his eye...  look at the colors on his back!
Not being a flashy dresser myself I think of him as a real "dandy"... 
Bet he breaks hearts wherever he flits....  (or is that flirts?)

On a later trip to Mexico, we stopped overnight in a tiny place, Celestina, and I saw a whole flock of little green birds.  Didn't know it at the time, but in retrospect, I believe they were female Painted buntings.

It was a year or so later that we were in San Blas, Mexico....  saw all kinds of "new" birds that trip.  But we were in a campground...  right on the sea...  and wouldn't you know?  
Painted Buntings!  My dream bird!  The bird I've been wanting to capture (in a photo) for years now!  I took a bunch of pictures, but none especially noteworthy.

A couple of years later our daughter told us that while we were having a good time in the Mediterranean she had Painted buntings everyday at her feeders in Texas.  We got back after they had moved on. 
Just my luck!

So ......  our gate-guarding job a few weeks ago...  I was thrilled to see painted buntings.  I got some decent photos, but not as close as I wanted....

We've been at Celeste's for a few days... already have several feeders up.  (She has a ton of feeders up but ours are close to our motorhome)...

And...  YES!  Just a few feet outside our windows...  
Painted Buntings!

We've adjusted shades.... I've cleaned windows....  hey... whatever it takes...  I'm gonna get some good shots of this bird!  
Afterall...  how many people get to actually realize their dream?

That's All For Today!


  1. Great story along with a beautiful bunting.

  2. yep, there really is no bird in the US like the painted bunting...

  3. That realy is a pretty bird. Mother nature got carried away with her pain brush.

  4. I've noticed that a lot of retired people blog about birds. When I first retired I thoughtbitcwasbodd. Now three years into retirement we've got the field guide in our RV and numerous pairs of binoculars. We've planted bird friendly plants in our garden and hung feeders. Half the tie I don't know what I'm looking at, but I'm enjoying it none the less.

  5. I can see why you were so anxious to see this fella. That is simply amazing. What a gorgeous rainbow of a bird. You can't post too many pictures like this. thank you!!

  6. You have shown us a lot of beautiful birds. Reminds me of the fellows who did remedial work on our house when we moved in. Best friends. They both graduated with forestry degrees, and started a construction company. They could identify birds by their songs and calls, and would rush out on the deck and argue with each other when a new song came along. The remodel was great, but getting it done was as much fun. Like going birding with you.

  7. Never have seen anything like that, never expected to, never knew there were birds that colorful. You ARE a nice person as we had expected -- very nice to have introduced us to this masterpiece of Creation!

  8. That is a dandy bird to focus your aspirations on! I'm glad you're finally getting results in your quest.
    I went to college when I was in my early 40's. The Ornithology class was only offered every other year and I was looking forward to it. Sadly, the professor took a sabbatical the year I was going to take it and i never had another chance. But, I still get a thrill out of bird watching.

  9. Ha Ha! Kids in diapers, no car, stay at home mom. Sounds like my introduction to birds so many years ago... My first painted bunting thrilled me to death!

  10. Great to read some background... and your last statement ... ' many people get to actually realize their dream?"

    right on. What a life you made for y'self... why didn't I do that? dang

    I did just the opposite... no way at 18 did I want to get married as society said I must and have a kid and live in the country ... so off I went to pursue worthlessness..

    well? hells bells... I guess I... ' many people get to actually realize their dream?" did in a fashion.

    ... BUT the damn thing is... I'm still worthless even after deciding I'd get married and have a baby.. well, he was a menopause surprise... I tried not being worthless for some years.. but I'm back to being what I was born to be ... worthless

    But harmless ;) .... more more of your life story...

  11. Seeing a Painted Bunting is on my bucket list. They are gorgeous!

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  13. Every summer when we lived in Victoria, Texas, I looked forward to the Painted Buntings that came to our feeders and bird can not get a more colorful bird...what a beauty.

  14. We had several painted buntings in our yard in Elgin, TX.
    Your pictures are wonderful!

  15. There was a stray painted bunting at a backyard feeder for a couple of weeks when we lived in Connecticut. Very popular place for pictures. It was stunning.