The Elusive Mr. Bunting

We get a lot of good birds through here, but I’ve had my eye out for one in particular: the Lazuli Bunting. They migrate through in the spring, and for a few weeks in April and May you have a shot at seeing this gorgeous little bird in the grasslands and shrubs of our local hills. I searched in vain for it last year, and right at the last minute we saw it at the parking lot of Windy Hill Open Space. You know how they say, “the best camera you have is the one you have with you”? I didn’t have a camera with me. And that was it for 2014 – the Buntings were on their way to wherever it is they go for the summer.

This year, I’ve made more of a concerted effort to see this bird. Some might say “obsessed”, but I like to say “focused”. Even so, this fantastic little bird has escaped notice. We even went back to the Windy Hill parking lot. But today, I am here to report an unconfirmed sighting of our target bird at the Belmont, CA Cross Country Course. Check this out.

Possible Lazuli Bunting

Apologies for the Bigfoot-sighting quality of the image, but I had just a second to get the picture and so it didn’t come out so hot. Let’s set photography skills aside for the moment and take a look at what we have here: blue face, black eye shadow, light bill, rust front and white below. Can it be anything other than the Lazuli Bunting? Well, sure. It could be the Western Bluebird, of which there are tons here at the Cross Country Course. But those are generally found flitting around happily in small groups. Our man was alone. The Bluebird has a dark bill, and no dark markings around the eye. I checked, and we don’t get any other birds with blue faces. Need more evidence? Me too.

We went into stake-out mode, waiting for our bird to show up again so I could get a decent photo. That never happened, but we did hear him singing now and again. The quick-thinking and resourceful Resident Expert snagged a recording of the song. Listen to this and you tell me if this is anything other than the Lazuli Bunting.

You might need to crank up your speakers at the :03 mark to hear it. And you may also need to refer to the song recordings on All About Birds for comparison. After you have done both of these things, I’m sure you will agree that this indeed was the Lazuli Bunting.

If only I could be as sure. Last year we had a definite sighting and no camera. This year we had an uncertain sighting and a Bigfoot-quality photo. We’ll have to wait until next year for another opportunity. I’m real good at waiting.

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