Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Everybody's heard about the bird

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Bunting, Prospect Park

If you live in New York, even if you're not a birder, you may have seen the story about the Painted Bunting which showed up in Brooklyn's Prospect Park a week ago and has attracted a gaggle of bird paparazzi and a bunch of ordinary people. he's quite a charismatic little fellow. A male Painted Bunting has more color for his size than any other North American bird. Blue head, neon green back, deep red underside--think of a largish sparrow that's been used to clean paintbrushes.

This bunting has been in the Post, he's been in the Times, he's got the obligatory twitter feed, he's been on a selection of the finest websites and blogs (there's a nice roundup by David Ringer), there's so many great pictures you wouldn't believe. There isn't a lot to add, but I'm going to anyway.

Elena grew up around Prospect Park, so we took off Saturday morning for her old haunts. The bird was easy to find: we entered the park in the southeast corner and immediately spotted a crowd of about a hundred people with binoculars and huge camera lenses staring into a bit of shrubbery. Ah, my people!

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Bunting, Prospect Park

he was tricky to see in the undergrowth--it always amazes me how even very colorful birds can disappear when they aren't moving--but after a few minutes he flew up into a tree with a Cardinal. That was the highest we'd see him.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Bunting, Prospect Park

He flew off to the greenroof of the skating rink building (the Lefrak Center), where he chowed down in dense native grasses. A little patience was rewarded with some good looks when he came out in the clear for a minute.

After that, Elena and I went off for a stroll around the park--there was an American Wigeon on the lake, and a large number of Coots, and a famikly of Mute Swans--and then went to the zoo. I decided to come back on Sunday and see if I could get a better photo.

Ed Gaillard: birds &emdash; Painted Bunting, Prospect Park

Sunday, the bunting spent the whole day in a little patch of grasses and shrubs. He was pretty well visible, but the best vantages to see him had him quite backlit. still I'm pretty happy with a couple of my snaps.

Now, this bird is pretty lost. They breed in Texas and Louisiana, and along the Carolina coast, and they winter in Florida, Cuba, and Central America. Usually a vagrant bird like that who shows up in the northeast is in serious trouble, but in this case I have some hope he'll survive. from all accounts He's been eating continuously from dawn to dusk every day, and appears to be getting pretty plump. That sounds to me like the behavior of a bird getting ready to migrate, so maybe he'll take off south. Even if not, a good fat reserve could help him through the winter, if it's mild.

I got in some more birding around the lake on Sunday. There was a Black-Headed Gull reported, but I did not consciously see it. I'm not sure I could pick one out of a police lineup (which, as it happens, is a fairly common venue for gulls).