December 26, 2007
Thanks to an e-mail rare bird alert from Allen Larner, I got to see a Painted bunting for the first time ever this afternoon. It is aptly-named, with spectacular red, blue, and green feathers, and has been seen near the town of Verona several times over the past week or two. It was quite chilly, but fortunately it showed up today after a wait of a little more than 30 minutes. Somehow I managed to run down the camera battery before taking a picture (D'oh!), and my return trip late in the afternoon, fully recharged, was fruitless. So I'll try again tomorrow, but I doubt my pictures could compare to the photo taken by my brother John.
Painted buntings usually spend the summer in southeastern states, as far west as Arkansas, and they winter in southern Florida and the Caribbean. On rare occasions they show up further north along the east coast, but hardly ever do they come this far inland. This was only the second sighting ever reported in Augusta County. I was happy to see the Augusta Bird Club's archivist YuLee Larner at the house where the Painted bunting has been showing up, and I look forward to reading her column in the News Leader when she reports on this big event.
At the same location, I also saw a few Fox sparrows, Yellow-bellied sapsuckers, Yellow-rumped warblers, and a Red-breasted nuthatch, as well as many Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, White-throated sparrows, and other birds.
This marks the 369th bird on my Life bird list, and the fifth new bird for this year, which is about to end. That is about the same number of new North American birds I have seen in each of the four previous years.
For the first time since 2002, I did not participate in the Christmas Bird Count this year, because of conflicting obligations on the date it was conducted, December 16. (Last year, when it was very mild, Stan Heatwole and I saw or heard 42 bird species altogether.) There was a fairly good turnout from local birders in this area, with 22 participants, and they identified 78 bird species. The complete tally is posted at audubon.org.