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My Life’s Birds: #395

May 26, 2010

June 26, 2006 – Willard Quarry, Mo – When I talk about the kind of birds I came across when I was a kid birder back in Missouri, people are generally surprised by the distinctly southwestern flair to the avifauna that we came across on a regular basis.  Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were the most obvious of that small assemblage, sitting prominently on power lines and barbed wire fences, but there were also Greater Roadrunners running around and in the latter part of my early birding career we started seeing increasing numbers of Great-tailed Grackles moving into the open areas.  This has only increased in recent years, whether because of climate change or simply because there are more and better birders covering the beat than when I was there, it’s hard to say.  I’d suspect that both are somewhat responsible, but now there are significant populations of the Grackles and the Roadrunners, and a third highly conspicuous and gaudy denizen of regions to the west.

I was back in Missouri for the wedding of a cousin, and anxious to do a little birding while I was back in the Midwest to renew my relationship with so many of the species I hadn’t seen in years.  There were few regular species left in an area I’d birder pretty heavily as a kid, but my dad had a lock on something new, something that hadn’t been regularly seen back in the day.

So we headed out to a quarry, a giant hole in the ground where limestone is cut out of the earth and crushed into gravel.  Such an industrial landscape seems odd for anything out of the ordinary, but the virtual moonscape dotted with the ever-present Red Cedars was as dry and desert like as anything in the Ozarks.  It was near enough to parts southwest that it was home to a reliable population of Painted Buntings.  We spotted out first one along a barbed wire fence, an emerald female, beautiful in its own way but hardly enough to sate the Bunting appetite.  It wasn’t long before a rambling warbler drew our attention to a stunning male singing in one of the cedars.  The lighting wasn’t perfect, but there’s hardly a situation where a Painted Bunting doesn’t look unreal.

So it goes to show that new birds can show up even in places you’d thought you’d birded out.  Now if they could all be as spectacular as a Painted Bunting.

PAIBUN from wikipedia


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