Palmetto, Fla. — A painted bunting snacks near two indigo buntings at Felts Audubon Preserve in Manatee County.
It’s the preserve’s signature bird — its colors pop against the browns and greens of the Florida forest.
“The blue head with the red chest, red ring around the eyes,” explained Patty Ford, the president of the Manatee County Audubon Society.
Ford took us to the bird blind at Felts — a small building with wide windows and benches, flanked by painted wooden facades with openings for a photographer’s camera lens.
The bunting is seeking green space for a migration break and sees the 28 solid acres of green. That’s why the bird stops.
“To have it in your yard would be super exciting,” explained Ford.
It might be joined by a backyard buddy you might already see — the tufted titmouse.
“And they are a cute little, small bird — very flitty and they’re grey with the white chest with a little crest,” said Ford.
It’s like a hobbit version of a blue jay, but with grey feathers instead of blue.
Ford has documented 1,000 bird species in her lifetime — that’s a big birder flex.
And Felts has nearly 200 species to enjoy — both local and migratory.
“It is end of October through April we’ll be able to see painted buntings hopefully,” said Ford.
When birding, as a rule, Ford holds her binoculars near her face.
“Then when you do spot something, you are gonna take a look at it with your eyes and then take your binoculars up to your eyes,” Ford explained. It’s less movement — you are less likely to alert the birds.
“There is a black vulture in a tree just above us,” she said.
Then she spotted another.
Birding is cool that way — in addition to the male painted bunting and indigo buntings, we saw two doves, a woodpecker, a warbler and a female painted bunting with her greenish-yellowish coloring.
Birding tours and preserve workdays happen on the first and final Saturdays each month, among other area birding adventures.
“And it’s wonderful we had the opportunity and that the Felts family donated this space for us so we can keep it preserved in an old Florida way,” said Ford.