On Wednesday, November 26th, 2014, I got another great phone call from Caleb Strand, and he had some awesome news for me. In Caleb's patch near his house, he found a Painted Bunting on Tuesday the 25th, and it was continuing on the 26th. The Painted Bunting was a female bird, and Caleb, who just found me my Maricopa-first-Varied Thrush, was on the verge of giving me another awesome bird. Caleb has an awesome area surrounding his house near Buckeye, and he rides his bike places and finds an incredible amount of birds every time he birds his patch. And yet, he found yet another rarity to add to his list. After reviewing my plans, I called Caleb back and told him I would love to attempt a shot of sighting my first Painted Bunting in Maricopa County.
The male Painted Bunting is one of the most popular and colorful birds in North America. The female is a lime green in coloration, and is unique and distinctive as is the male with that coloration, but not as colorful as the male. Painted Bunting is a bird I've seen once in Arizona before. It is rare but annual in the state of Arizona during migration in early fall, particularly in southeastern Arizona. For Maricopa County, I have three out of the four Arizona buntings, with Painted being the last gap I needed to fill. In Maricopa, records have indicated that Painted Bunting is very rare/casual, with several fall records as well as several records of wintering birds, most of which have been females. The three other buntings: Indigo, Lazuli, and Varied; all have plain and dull female birds. The Painted Bunting female is quite striking, and looks like a flying lime.
Early on Thanksgiving morning, November 27th, 2014, I drove to Caleb's house and picked up Caleb at 7 A.M. We then headed to the spot where Caleb had his sighting, which was basically a patch of weeds in midst of an area of agricultural fields and canals. Caleb noted the Painted Bunting specifically visiting one specific patch of tall weeds that were surrounding by tamarisk and paloverde trees. Once we got to the spot at roughly 7:10 A.M., we started to look and wait for our hopeful target to come in. It was seeming to take forever...and we were starting to worry that the Painted Bunting had moved on.
Fortunately, some birds just take a little while to wake up. Once the sun came up, the finches and sparrows of the area started to become more active. Right about 8, I was away from the weed patch checking a few other weedy areas when I heard a shout that is starting to become a regular phrase from Caleb: "Tommy! It just came in! I've got it". I could see the weed patch from where I was, and there was that lovely Painted Bunting!
It was really amazing how she was the same color as the weeds!
Despite the fact that we had a slight scare of a missed bird chase, it just added to the fun. Once the Bunting came in, it was really a taste of sweet victory. And it really added to the list of the many things I had to be thankful for within this hobby of mine!
This bird could really be overlooked quite easily, don't you think?