Monday, December 7, 2015

The Painted Bunting

Regional NYC and national news reports, over the past week, have not been focusing on sitings of Santa Claus or Big Foot or alien invaders. Something more interesting -- the Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris).  For the past several days there have been multiple sitings -- by avid bird-watchers, local Brooklynites, NYC and national media -- of the appearance of a Painted Bunting in Prospect Park, mostly around the East Drive and near the LeFrak Center at Lakeside.

What started out as a local curiosity escalated to the status of national news (The New York TimesCBS,  ABC, and USA Today for examples).

Is this "news"?  Well, some reports claim the siting is "as rare as a unicorn." (Wouldn't that count as news?) Or, as The New York Post headlined its coverage, "People are losing their s--t over this bird."

According to the Prospect Park Alliance, the development of the LeFrak Center (new skating rinks) along with its parking lots, also created the ideal stop-over for Painted Buntings on their annual migrations: "The multi-colored member of the cardinal family is likely bound for Florida or Central America for the winter, but was drawn to this area of the Park due to an abundance of shelter and seeds to forage and eat. As part of the creation of Lakeside, one of the Park’s newest attractions and the most ambitious restoration project in the history of the Park, the Prospect Park Alliance transformed a 300-spot parking lot into an additional three acres of green space and wildlife habitat – a perfect respite for migrating bird species like the painted bunting."

I have not seen the Painted Bunting myself. But I have seen -- over the past several days -- at various times of day anywhere from a dozen to fifty+ Brooklynites (and from further afield according to media coverage) with their binoculars and big camera lenses tip-toeing around the Lakeside area of Prospect Park. Older people, younger people, and a healthy demographic, ethnic mix of curiosity seekers of presumably varied motivations.

The experience / phenomenon of the Painted Bunting in Prospect Park this year would never have been possible without 1) neighborhood enthusiasts, 2) social media / phone cameras, 3) NYC parks promotion, and -- 4) the bird(s). The natural world, local residents' pride of place, digital technologies, and global media have coalesced to provide a distinctive, and encouraging story for the year's end.