In the world of birding a nemesis bird is a bird that a birder has gone to some (often great) lengths to see but has had no luck. While I am an incidental birder at best, and probably have no right to call any bird my nemesis bird, I did go to some lengths to see a painted bunting on a number of occasions, yet when an opportunity arose to drive 45 minutes to see one a few years ago, I did not go.
The painted bunting is probably the most colorful bird the United States has to offer. I was so taken with this bird that I considered using its name as my online name but thought it might be a little too suggestive so chose cedar waxwing instead.
A number of springs ago I arranged a vacation for my family and another family to stay on Tybee Island near Savannah in Georgia so I could see a painted bunting — something the island is known for. Even though I went to the places painted buntings usually hang out a couple of times that week, I never saw one. In fact, the folks there said that they’d not seen one that year.
There was a painted bunting sighting in Annapolis a few years ago, as reported on a birding list I subscribe to. I considered trying to see the bird, but shyness won out. One Saturday I had a conversation with a woman at a rugby game whose son was on the opposing team from Andrew’s team and she mentioned that she had a painted bunting at her feeder in Annapolis (I must have had binoculars with me). It turned out it was the same bird that was mentioned on the list and she invited me to visit the next week for coffee to see the bird for myself. I said I might and we exchanged telephone numbers, but I didn’t go.
Whenever we visited Florida I’d keep the painted bunting on my mind whenever we were in a natural area. The two times I visited Mississippi I thought I might be able to catch a glimpse of one — but no luck.
We always visit Merrritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Playalinda Beach when we visit Dean’s sister, Diane, who lives in Orlando, Florida. This year we headed to Vero Beach / wetlands first, but it began raining and we didn’t see too many birds on our brief, wet walk. I suggested we drive up to Merritt Island, have lunch, then go birding there. After lunch at Sonny’s BBQ we stopped at the Merritt Island NWR Visitor’s center. I immediately checked the log to see if a painted bunting had been seen (one had — right at the visitor’s center). I went outside and saw a man with a camera who was saying to his female companion something about how the female looked so different from the male. I knew, then, I was going to see a painted bunting. I asked him if he was talking about a painted bunting, explaining that it was my nemesis bird. He moved away from the railing so I could get a good look. There in the bushes was a blue, red, green and yellow bird. The man with the camera said, “Nemesis no more” and moved on to let me enjoy my ex-nemesis bird in solitude.
Dean took a photo for me, I took a few more, Diane even took a photo.
As I turned around to leave, two other very excited people were walking towards the feeder saying, “Painted bunting! It is a painted bunting!” I smiled, knowingly. at them, knowing exactly how they felt.