Date: 7/6/18 7:23 am
From: Joseph C. Neal <joeneal...>
Subject: Bouquet of summer buntings
Bunting refreshment rises from heat, blinding sun, smothering humidity. Catches me by complete surprise. On June 27, while slow-driving in Frog Bayou Wildlife Management Area, a small richly-brown bird foraging on heavy seed heads of Barnyardgrass. It’s a female Indigo Bunting.

The bright sun beautifully illuminates its plumage. The light brown of its belly with modest darker streaks, a shiny gray bill, the dark eye. Soon the male shows up, too. Just too “indigo” for words … almost. Atop a small oak, his head seems bluer than his body, though perhaps this is because of strong mid-summer light, black between the dark eye and a shiny silvery bill, and a little black showing through the blue wings.

As part of bottomland hardwoods restoration, parts of Frog have been planted in hardwood trees. The trees are mid-sized now, with lots of perches. A male Painted Bunting is singing atop one. Sunlight radiates. Where to start on a male Painted Bunting atop a small tree? Blue head and dark eye with a conspicuous ring of red feathers. Red under the chin. Broad patch of lime green on the upper back, giving way to a red rump and a different shade of green in the wings.

There are about 2.5 miles of buntings and other birds along Sharp Chapel Road. Lots of Dickcissels this morning. In a rising thermal, a few Turkey Vultures and a single Mississippi Kite. Along the road, blue patches of Vervain, a common wildflower. Yellow sulphur butterflies are visiting the flowers, along with Monarchs and Black Swallowtails. I keep seeing these large blue dragonflies shimmering and chasing along wet ditch lines. It takes me a few minutes to remember it is one that David Oakley had identified on another trip – Great Blue Skimmer.

What an awesome summer bouquet. All beyond facts: birds, flowers, butterflies, dragonflies, exceeding usual bounds of my imagination. And one more summer bunting for the bouquet, too.

Sharp Chapel Road cuts through a marsh with cat tails, willows, and the occasional water snake crossing the road. In the shadows, I spot a small bird. It hops up on the tops of a grass with big heads of seeds. Same Barnyardgrass I’d seen earlier, with a female Indigo Bunting. This time it is a female Painted Bunting. In a little patch of sunlight I can see the light green wash on her head and upper back, the brilliant rich deeper green on her lower back and tail.

Stunning really. Free for all. Right here in The Natural State.

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