There are moments that I’ve longed for. Many of those moments I’ve not had yet and still desire to have. Some moments I’ve already had.
This was one of those moments.
What was it? Finally, photographing a painted bunting like this…
Painted buntings became one of my favorite birds when I was at Welder Wildlife Refuge in south Texas. Their coloration is spectacular with a mixture of green, blue, yellow, and red. The males could always be easily identified because they sang at the tops of trees in south Texas. Their melodic voice being carried over the treetops via their short, musical phrases of thin, sweet, high-pitched notes. Back then even though I carried a camera, I never got a photograph of one. Only the memory of their song ingrained in my brain.
While hiking at Caprock Canyons State Park a few years back on the Canyon Rim Trail there was one painted bunting that kept flittering forward as I hiked along the trail within the junipers, never sitting at the tops of the trees. I was able to get one crappy, camo photo, but all I ever heard was its melodic song.
Then at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge in 2015 I was hiking the trail near the campground and much to my surprise I heard the song that had been ingrained in my memory of a painted bunting. I videoed it, but I never saw the bird itself.
Over the years – painted buntings have been present in my life but are quite the masters of hide and seek in the Texas Panhandle and the Rolling Plains regions.
At Comanche Springs Astronomy Campus, near Crowell, Texas I first observed a painted bunting in May 2018 at the Beaver Pond. Since then they make their presence known by their songs. I can hear their muffled voices amongst the mesquites, junipers, and hackberries but I rarely see them.
These painted buntings in these regions of Texas for some adaption reason don’t sit in the tops of trees to sing. My speculation is that it is due to the often-high winds we have here. They fly in between the mesquites, the junipers, and the hackberries like aerial acrobats. I’ve seen them many times and hear them but as soon as I stop the Gator they take off like an acrobat swirling at what seems like high speeds through the tree branches.
Last week I stopped the Gator because the vibrant color caught my eye. I quietly got out of the Gator and followed this bird to this mesquite tree about 300 yards away. I walked slowly on the dirt road trying to not make a sound as I was approaching the area where this bird went.
This male painted bunting sang once from a tree close to the road and then flew to another tree. It sang and flittered a few times more before resting on this branch.
In the span of a moment I captured this image. I swear it seemed like it was saying as it looked it at me – “Okay here is your one shot don’t blow it, Missy!”
I thanked this bunting for this moment and smiled all the way back to the Gator. When I edited the photos I thanked it again for the moment it gave me to remember it with a photograph.
The video link for Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge:
Additional sounds of painted buntings can be found here: