Photo of the Month - Painted Bunting
Lowcountry Calendar - July/ 2010
By Eric Horan
This male Painted Bunting is the photo of the month for July. I captured it on a summer visit to Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge. Pinckney is nearly 67% salt marsh and tidal creeks. It also has maritime forests, old farm fields and freshwater ponds. From the parking lot is a short walk to Ibis Pond, a freshwater impoundment that hosts a wading bird rookery of resident and winter migratory waterfowl along with a wide variety of songbirds.
At Ibis Pond I noticed several Painted Buntings coming in and out of the grasses. I made my approach very slowly, stopping every few feet or so to shoot before moving closer. I was able to get quite close with this method and it helped that the birds were so intent on feeding.
The male Painted Bunting is one of the most colorful North American songbirds. The female is beautiful too but more monochromatic - mostly green but splashes of blue plumage all over. Painted Buntings migrate to the southeastern coastal region in the spring for nesting. They will stay in our area until late summer then head to southern Florida and the Caribbean for the winter. They are on the Audubon Watch List, which means the species is either declining or rare. To learn more about the Audubon Important Bird Areas program and how you can help, visit www.audubon.org/bird/iba/.
Photo tip: Dressing in earth tones, moving slowly and being quiet will increase your chances of getting close to these and other birds. By working slowly, shooting some and then moving in a little bit at a time, you allow the birds a chance to get used to your presence at each distance. Also, knowing where to go and when, will help you determine the appropriate equipment to bring. For the Painted Bunting, you’ll need a long lens (300mm to 600mm) so that you can maintain a comfort zone between yourself and the birds. For this picture I carried a tripod-mounted 500mm lens.