Continuing on my quest to find and photograph a Painted Bunting, I returned to my local wildlife center, the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area. I knew these guys were there because I could hear them singing in the tree tops most of the time I was there hiking around the woods. They were very stealthy though and I never actually got to see one.
So I arrive early, close to 7am and begin the hunt. Again, I can hear them, but I see nothing. Hiking down the Cottonwood Trail, I catch a glimpse of a hummingbird, but it is gone before I can get my lens on it. Then I come across something a bit slower that I can warm up with.
This “garden spider” was about the size of my hand, but it was just hanging out on the side of the trail waiting for some insect to come along. It didn’t bother me so I just made a photograph and continued on, hunting the elusive bunting.
Continuing on, I came to the beaver pond where I saw several herons and egrets. I’ve got lots of pictures of them, but I did notice this young Great Blue Heron flying by and took the opportunity to practice my bird-in-flight photography. Pretty happy with how this one turned out.
I completed the trail with nary a Painted Bunting to be seen. I heard them, but they remained out of my sight. Then, as I was checking out some scissor-tailed flycatchers on the power lines, a LLELA worker stopped and talked with me. I told her what I was looking for and she suggested I try the Bittern Marsh trail. I thanked her and headed that way.
Now, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, perhaps you remember that this is the trail where I ran into (almost stepped on) Mr Cottonmouth. This is someone I do NOT wish to run into again. But the call of the Painted Bunting is strong so I push my fears aside and head down the trail.
I get no farther than a couple hundred yards down the trail when I see a “stick” across the path up ahead of me, except this stick is pretty smoothly curved. I stop! Then I look through my telephoto lens and see this.
Okay, I know enough now to realize this is not a cottonmouth, but a “harmless” variety of snake. Still I wait, then approach very slowly. Finally, it notices me and slithers back into the grass. Sorry I disturbed its sunbathing, but not sorry it’s now off the path. I continue.
I come to the beginning of the marsh area and see a Great Egret “fishing” in the water. Thanks to some local Eagle Scouts, there are now benches on the boardwalk, so I sit and observe for a while. It’s now over 100 degrees, but in the shade and near the water, it actually isn’t that bad. Still, I’m glad I packed water with me. I watch the egret and make several photographs. I enjoy the white bird and its reflection against the green water.
Then, about a hundred yards from the trail-head, I hear the song of the Painted Bunting. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a bright red flash! I stop and stand very still. I scan the trees, and then, just to my right, I see a Painted Bunting sitting on a branch, just watching me! Of course, before I can turn the camera, it is back into the trees. I have just made my first personal sighting of this bird and I’m not ready to give up.
I wait. I even use my Android to play the bird’s song in hopes to lure it out of the trees. I’m waiting. I have my camera ready and aimed to where I think it will come down. Nothing. I wait some more. Nothing. Now it’s starting to get hot. I turn around to check my surroundings (I’m not far from where I spotted the snake earlier). Then, I see it. BEHIND ME! It’s just sitting there on a low branch, watching me. Slowly, I turn the tripod around, aim, and FIRE! I was able to get about 6 shots before it flew away back into the trees. Then I notice that my flash had somehow gotten bumped to a higher power than it should have been. Luckily, with the help of Lightroom and the fact that I shoot the RAW format, all was not lost and I was able to recover most of the photo to a decent degree. So, after about five months and hunting and watching for a Painted Bunting, and five hours of this day in the heat, I present to you, my first!
Not a perfect shot, but for now, I’ll take it!
Now for the next challenge: the Bobcat!