Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The One that Got Away (Little Bunting)

By Luke Musher

Today was an unexpectedly good day for us on Southeast Farallon Island.  We had a Rusty Blackbird, which is a CBRC species and a Summer Tanager, which is also a rather good bird for the island.
Rusty Blackbird, Southeast Farallon Island, CA.
However, it was also an unexpectedly horrible day.  We saw a Little Bunting.  I know what you are thinking.  "That doesn't sound so bad.  Little Bunting has only occurred in North America outside of Alaska two other times, once of which was on the very island you are on now.  You guys found an extremely rare bird."  No; it was horrible because nobody photographed it.  The bird will almost certainly not be accepted by the CBRC without a photograph, and there is little we can do about it.
At least we can prove that this bird exists.
Jim Tietz initially found the bird and radioed to us to bring our cameras immediately.  When we got there the bird had just flown.  Jim described the bird to us, small emperezid sparrow with a lot of chestnut on the face, light streaking on the underparts, white outer tail feathers, eye ring, and call a faint tsip.  Then we searched a little more, but were unable to relocate the bird.  I kept looking and found a Pine Siskin with another bird.  I couldn't see the bird well, but I distinctly heard a call just like Jim had described so I kept on it.  The bird then flew straight at me.  I could clearly see the chestnut face, eye ring and white outer tail feathers, and the call matched Jims description.  I ran after the bird while radioing the rest of the crew.  The bird then flew back over my head towards where it came from and was never seen again. I just listened to several recordings of the their calls from asia, and was pleased to see that most of the recordings matched what I heard.

I am hopeful that the bird is still on the island and that we will see it tomorrow (unlikely).

Here's a link to our ebird checklist today including Jim's description of the bunting:

Ebird Checklist


  1. Wow, that is awesome. Hope you are able to refind it.

  2. The CBRC is not the issue. The real question is, are YOU going to count it?

  3. ps I am extremely envious of the blackbird. Pretty sick.

  4. I'll be without a doubt counting it, but it doesn't feel as right as I'd like it to.

  5. Lukey-bear,

    Please update your blog. It's been 12 days.


    The Farallones