Painted Bunting

I slammed on my brakes when I saw the painted bunting. I’ve never seen such a bird, but I knew what it was immediately, so unmistakeable are these little guys. After he flew into the brush along the road to the Pond 2 blind at Hornsby Bend, I could have easily convinced myself I hadn’t see him.

I stopped the car and scanned the brush with my binoculars and found him perched on a swaying branch. I remembered I had my camera and started shooting, wishing I had run my car through the wash since I didn’t want to open the window and spook him. I took a lot of blurry shots and two or three in which you can’t even discern a bird, but I think you can see Big Foot. Somehow, the one above came out.

I could have gone home then, full of one little bird wearing his beauty so casually, or stayed in that spot watching him until dark, but eventually he flew off and I continued down to the blind to see what was on the ponds.

Most of the winter waterfowl have left Hornsby, though I did see a pair of blue-winged teals a couple of northern shovelers still hanging around. The long-legged waders of summer hadn’t arrived so I decided to wander down the river trail.

Empress Louisa

The birds were a little more secretive than usual on the river trail, but where the birds were hiding, the butterflies were out like I’ve never seen. We had a cool, wet winter and early spring and thus our wildflowers have been spectacular beyond what I’m used to and I suspect that’s led to this explosion of butterflies. Walking along the trails, watching the ground to avoid surprising rattlesnakes, my peripheral vision filled with the flickering colors of butterflies giving me the impression I was being followed, which I was, in so far as butterflies follow people.

Summer is coming quickly and the temperature started creeping into the mid-nineties so I decided to head back up to the ponds and on to the rest of my day.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Across one of the ponds, I could see a lot of black-necked stilts in the mudflats, and closer in there were grackles, killdeer and this lesser yellowlegs; at least I’m pretty sure it’s a lesser and not a greater yellowlegs mainly because he was a little smaller than the killdeer who came around and stood next to him long enough for me to get a few lousy shots. The killdeer and the lesser yellowlegs are listed as the same size in my guidebooks so I’m guessing this is a lesser.

And then, it was time to go. On the way out, I saw bank, cliff and cave swallows, scissor-tailed flycatchers, and even a pair of eastern kingbirds, which with the painted bunting was my second life bird for the day.

I think I’ve seen at least one (usually more) life bird every time I’ve ever been to Hornsby Bend. It always amazes me how once I’ve seen a new bird I start seeing it more frequently. Perhaps, to see a new bird is to learn how to see it and so my eyes and mind are open to it in the future. Over time I see smaller, better, slower and more.

A pond at Hornsby Bend

Lesser Yellowlegs

Update: This post is included in I and the Bird #125 at Twin Cities Naturalist. Check it out.