After birding Baja for years, we finally did it.


I remember back a few years ago, Debbie and I sprang up out of bed one day.  We were pretty excited about the day we had planned so our normal morning momentum had a little more umph than usual.  Our goal that day was to quad up one of our favorite arroyos in search of a bird we heard and caught a glimpse of the day before.  After watching the sun rise while having a cup of coffee (mandatory around here) we grab the Cannon cameras, water and munchies. Off we go.  There’s a place a ways up the canyon that has all these bushes, I don’t know their name, but they are about 3 feet tall and have seeds all over them after their flowers dry.  Many seed-eating birds seem to love them.  The day before I saw a little brown bird hiding then dashing from bush to bush.  I didn’t know what it was but before I lost sight of it I could hear this fast Chat, or Chit kinda call.  Just one short note at a time.

So now we’re back at the same place.  We spread out and then I can hear it again.  Following the call I find myself staring into this little bush and at first can’t see a thing.  Then my eyes focus on this tiny, tan bird cracking open tiny seed pods deep within the safety of this bush.  I manual focus and manage to take a few shots.

I did a little studying the night before and sure enough, this was a new bird for us.  See the vague eyering?  Tan colored body with a hint of gold.  Dark wings and tail.  This is a female Varied Bunting.  I’m so excited and Debbie’s nowhere in sight.  I shoot a bunch of photos, most of them worthless because the bird wouldn’t sit still.  Here she is again.

If you’re not a birder it’s probably hard to understand how it feels to see a new species.  Maybe like a fisherman catching his first dorado or steelhead.  Here I am, running through all these sticker-bushes in 90 degree weather, risking snakebite and bee stings, all scratched up and dirty with a big smile on my face.

Now I’m thinking,,,If I could only see the male.  I’ve seen his picture, all red and blue and purple, WoW!

And then, there he is !  I see him.  He’s dodging from bush to bush only to pop up and sing warbly songs at the bush tops from time to time.  He’s too far away for a good shot.  Already looking like I’d been drug behind a four wheeler for a mile, I’m on-the-stalk.  I’m determined to photograph this fellow so its forward through all kinds brush with my eyes on him.  I’m sure that I’m bleeding and I know I’m so thirsty I can’t talk but he’s teasing me on.

I hear him very close by but I can’t see him.  All of a sudden he pops up, singing, not 4 feet away posing like “okay, you’ve earned it, here I am”.  Camera up, perfect focus and nothing?  Camera says something like “insert new battery dummy”.   Geemaneese!!!!!  New battery in but this guy is leaving.  Quick shot on the run and all I get is a purple blob of a photo.

So the story went something like that for a few years.  Took a few more shots of females but no males to be seen.  People must have thought I was pretty strange.  Unlike most people who when they first see you ask “how are you, etc.?”  I’d ask “have you seen a male Varied Bunting?”  And then one day I’m in the ban’o brushing my teeth and I hear Debbie shout those magic words, “Chris………get the camera”!  I come crashing out the door and see darling Debbie pointing towards a bush by the pool.  To my astonished pop-eyes there he is!  A Male Varied Bunting!!!!!!!!!!!more on this story in a day or two.

Varied Bunting

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