Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Oakville Bunting

On Monday, I was driving home from Newmarket and decided to stop in Oakville after seeing so many Ontbird posts about a Painted Bunting that was found in a backyard. Painted Bunting are technically supposed to be found in and around New Mexico/Texas area, so the fact that one showed up here in Oakville is very strange. There is some debate as to whether this is actually a vagrant bird (one who is "lost" from perhaps a storm) or whether it may be a released bird that was once captive. While we hope that it's a vagrant (since it will then "count" towards our ebird lists), but either way it is still really exciting to the entire community that it's here and provides a cool experience too.

When I arrived to the subdivision there was about eight other people. The people in the house are super nice and allowed us to sit in their backyard to wait for the bird. We all squished nice and cozy  between the house and a hedgerow and just sat waiting and staring at a bird feeder. Most people who were there had been waiting for about an hour so far, but were predicting that the bird might show up around 4 o'clock (apparently that's been the trend the past few days anyways!).

Just as we predicted at about 4 o'clock we noticed the little guy in the hedgerow of cedar and eventually it flew up to the bird feeder. There was a quick almost perfect view of bird when it was in the hedgerow, however as soon as it flew to the feeder it ended up being on the exact side with no view...of course! Eventually it did move back into the hedges and everyone there had a perfect view, and it was fantastic!

Vagrant or not, I have to say that this is probably one of the most beautiful birds I've ever seen.  It had a beautiful yellowish-orange belly and a forest green on upper back, as you moved closer to the centre of the back the green became almost more lime coloured, then of course a beautiful blue head!


I was so lucky during this visit to get some pretty good shots, although I think I was on the wrong setting as they are pretty pixely! I was also super lucky to have met and chatted with one of the visitors there who was one absolutely fantastic and hilarious. He is an 87-year-old birder, I believe his name was Alan, and if he ever reads this I give a big hello! While we waited he told us some fantastic stories about how he was drafted back in the war in 1944, and how he also knew the president and founder of Trent University (now the campus is actually named after him!).

He said he's been birding since he was a young teenager and how on one of his first Christmas Birdcounts there was actually a Barn Owl seen on the Toronto Islands, but of course he wasn't in the group that day and hasn't seen on (still kicking himself over 50 years later!)! We then chatted a little about Snowy Owls and I taught him how to tell the difference between males and females to which he said "Wow...I am 87 and you just taught me something new!"...it made me feel SO good!

When we first saw the Painted Bunting he was so excited and just kept saying to me "Oh isn't the most beautiful bird! I'm so happy to come and actually be able to witness it! Tianna isn't this a beautiful bird and WE saw it together!".  This just pointed out one of my most favourite parts of birding (and the natural community in general), the people you meet.  I had never been one to go alone to do things, but now that I have begun birding more and gained some confidence I have met some of the most wonderful people on outings.  Most times even if you don't see the bird, the people you meet and the stories you share while waiting are just as amazing as what you went there to see.  

Little White-breated Nuthatch who was also around!
I want to extend a huge thank you to everybody who lives in that subdivision.  Most people don't let a bunch of people trample all over their yard, but these ones set out fair guidelines so that everyone would get the chance to see the little guy and even brought out coffee once in a while! A big thank you also to all a fantastic birders who went to see you and resected all the wishes of the landowners and for respecting their property.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday and New Year!!

Tianna