Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Lazuli Bunting Appears!

Lazuli Bunting Perching and Singing
Finally!

Making just the third or fourth time I've ever seen one. I've met people who have shrugged them off like they're common birds to spot. Not so! First off, how can you not get excited about seeing such an exotic-looking cousin of the Painted Bunting? And yet, it's merely common. Many birder sites, including All About Birds, says the elusive (my word) bunting is "common in shrubby areas throughout the American West." Audubon concurs in their conservation status report: "widespread and common."

Common? C'mon! Such a designation belies the colossal wonder and irrepressible awe I experience whenever I see such a bird (a la the Golden-crowned Kinglet; in the vein of a Hermit Warbler). Makes me shake my head and wonder, where art thou my sweet little bunting?

Backside View of Seaview Trail and Vollmer Ridge
Well, the other day I got lucky and happened to score a good look at the intensely pretty bird. A very fine specimen indeed was spotted hanging out in a small meadow near the horse stables on El Toyonal Road, an area seen in the photo I have not once ever set foot on. It's water district land, generally off-limits, but an easement allows equestrians right of passage. This is excellent bird habitat and foraging territory, plus downright beautiful and devoid of people.

Lazuli Bunting Enjoying Life
I was bound to see a bunting, wasn't I? Excellent timing, too,  as all special first ever or rare/occasional sightings require. I delayed our bike ride for twenty minutes (thanks Gambolin' Gal!) while fixated, watching the animated bird fly back and forth from high tree branches then disappear in thick ground cover, before fluttering out into the bright open sunlight to reveal a most "beautifully colored bird."

Oddly, on first espying the bird, I suspected but was uncertain it was even a Lazuli Bunting, the last bird I expected to see. I was confounded just enough to be convinced it had to be a very glittery Western Bluebird with pronounced morph features or something. I was about fifty yard distant, so not the best views were afforded, as you can tell by the blurry blow-up photos. And yet, the more I looked, the more excited I became, because this bird was evidently, plainly, a Lazuli Bunting! Note the brilliant turquoise patinaed head and clean-cut rufous breast plate - two indicators that should have been an immediate tip-off. The characteristic white wing bars, which are totally absent on the Western Bluebird, also should have clued me in right away. So, why was I so stumped and mystified? I think it must have to do with the rarity of actually sighting a Lazuli Bunting, despite what you read or what people tell you. Or me.
High Circling Red-tailed Hawk

Checking the eBird Occurrence Map just to see, a massive, amazing influx fans out in a color-coordinated animated map of their migratory patterns from southern Arizona and Baja during winter to dense movement north in spring and summer. The Occurrence Map must denote tens of millions of them! And I have seen but a handful over ten years of birding in the Bay Area.

The Lazuli Bunting is now singing in the high tree top, perched on a leafy branch tweeting his sweet unique melody to the world, to whoever will hear him: a rival male, a breeding female, a curious crow, maybe a spellbound lucky human being, eyewitness to the subtle majesty and beauty of a "common" miracle.