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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Good things come to those who wait

I woke up before 5am and drove over to the Lazuli Bunting spot before dawn. The sun wasn't even up and I was still not the first birder there. Others started to roll in and we all stood on the side of the road waiting and hoping for the bird to reappear. While we waited, I walked over to the creek and was excited to see a pair of Mink loping across the ice along the far bank. Its been over 10 years since I've seen Mink, so that was pretty cool.

Finally, after almost two hours of standing in the cold, I glanced at my watch. 7:49 am. I turned to some of the guys I was with and said, "this is about when the bird showed up yesterday, so its about time." Just then, the bird appeared behind us and we all got good looks as it sat in a tree for a few moments, then flew across the road, scuffled with a few other birds, and after a few more moments flew off and disappeared down along the creek. Perfect.

Except for one guy who was just walking up as the bird disappeared and a couple more birders who arrived in the next fifteen minutes. Since the bird is only seen briefly in the morning as it makes its rounds, and disappears for the rest of the day, things didn't look good for those who arrived late.

However, luckily a couple of kids fishing down along the creek spooked up the bird and at 8:15 it flew up and perched for several minutes in the top of a bare tree. Almost everyone got decent looks, especially those with scopes. The bird is freshly molted, with buffy tips to the feathers that are gradually wearing off to reveal the striking red, white, and lazuli plumage. Since these birds are supposed to be in Western Mexico this time of year, it isn't a plumage that most of us get to see. After a few minutes in the top of the tree, the bird buzzed off with its rapid bunting flight and disappeared back into the cedars and bushes behind us. (photo: Howard Eskin)

The bird didn't show up again before I had to leave about 9:15, to the chagrin of those who arrived after it disappeared. If it holds true to form, it won't appear again until tomorrow morning. Those who show up late will have to be satisfied with some of the other birds in the area--Hooded Mergansers, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a host of sparrows including White-crowned, Field, American Tree, White-throated, Song, Swamp, and at least one roaming Fox Sparrow.


Anonymous said...

What a beauty! All kinds of odd birds are on the move in the Northeast this winter.

Anonymous said...

I second what Mike just said. We in Cambridge, MA have been hosting a Townsend's Warbler since January. Your Lazuli is one of 3 in the Northeast that I know about this winter (western Massachusetts--see and a female in New Haven, CT. I wonder what causes these eastward invasions? I certainly don't remember any Lazulis recently...

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