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.