On Sunday afternoon while we were celebrating Desi’s third birthday word reached me that a Painted Bunting had been found by Eric Miller in Alley Pond Park. For those who missed the post about the Virginia’s Warbler and don’t know this already, Alley Pond Park is in Queens. Also for those who don’t know this already I am a bit obsessed about my Queens list. And I had never seen a Painted Bunting in Queens.

There was no way I was going to get to go see the Painted Bunting on Desi’s birthday. I consoled myself by declaring that the bird would surely stick around, that it was only a boring green-and-yellow female anyway (not a brilliant male), and that even if it didn’t stick around another was sure to show up again someday. All of those consolations were nonsense, of course, and I fell into a fitful sleep that night hoping against hope that the bird would still be there on Monday morning.

Before dawn I was at Alley Pond Park, the first birder there. The sun was not above the trees and the morning was cold during my lonely vigil until other birders arrived, one by one, and joined the search. An hour had passed, and another half-hour. I was starting to worry because I had a fast-approaching deadline that I had to leave by in order to get to work. Then a soft cry – the bird had been seen, briefly.

We birders gathered again and waited. And waited. The early morning sun was now shining on the edge that the bird had preferred yesterday.  And then, bam! The bird popped right up into the open!

female Painted Bunting in Alley Pond Park, Queens, New York

It flew to another tree and then back to the edge where it proceeded to forage to the oohs and aahs and camera clicks of we birders. I wish I could have stayed longer but it was not to be. I had to go to work.

Still though, bird number 296 for me in Queens (and, more amazingly, bird number 354 in the state for Anthony Collerton, who is now running up the score on his New York State Big Year record), was pretty darn cool.

And, just to show how hard this bright green-and-yellow bird could be to see…

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.