Date: 5/25/19 3:44 pm
From: Joseph Neal <joeneal...>
Back in the late 1970s, when I was a much younger man and didn’t own a car, I rode a bicycle from my apartment near campus, down across south Fayetteville, headed eventually to the bottomlands of West Fork of the White River. One of my first Painted Buntings was in a row of trees and shrubs along Willow Street, adjacent a big artesian spring that pours out of the hillside. This is where Fayetteville got its start as a town and where I got my start with Painteds. From there it was a slow ride and a few miles as Fayetteville thinned out into farmland. I had binoculars in a basket strapped to the handlebars. One stop along the way: Ma Drake’s Café. It was on the south edge of town and served a blue plate special to working people in a basic cinderblock building with large windows. I was eating when just outside the window I spotted a fine male Painted Bunting. I hereby celebrate this (again!) as a moment of pure magic that stopped a fork load of meatloaf midway to down-the-hatch while I fumbled for the binoculars. That was 40 years ago. The building is still there. When I drive by I always remember Ma Drake in her white uniform and that gorgeous bunting. Over a few years of this I learned how to find Painted Buntings by song in the old fashioned way. Petal slowly, stay alert, find the bird and watch closely as it sings. That seems to be the memory cue for me. I’d hear a bird, hop off the bike, and track it down. Eventually I picked up a few of the 33 1/3 vinyl LPs. “Bird Songs of dooryard, field, and forest” by Jerry and Norma Stillwell comes to mind here since they actually recorded many birds, including Painted Buntings, in the Fayetteville area. Just listened again to their Painted on their first LP. Yep, sounds just like a Painted I heard singing this morning near Fayetteville’s Westside wastewater treatment plant. Now I have the equivalent of all three Stillwell LPs as an ap on my cellphone. A lot has changed in that technology, but in terms of intrigue and fascination at such a creature out in the wild around us, it remains as it started 40 years ago.

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