Birdwatchers flocked to see bright bunting in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park.
Hundreds of people flocked to the Washington DC area to catch a glimpse of a fresh, celebrated arrival, which after a busy year is a welcome relief. Excited birders, braving the rain and low temperatures to see the gray bunting, gathered at a Maryland preserve, a colorful bird normally seen only in Florida’s warmer climates. A wing and a prayer: how birds cope with the climate crisisRead moreAccording to a post on the eBird website, news of the arrival of the bird spread, prompting a rush of tourists to the National Historical Park of Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, situated a short drive northwest of Washington on a bend of the Potomac River. The Washington Post reported that over 80 cars were already lined up on Saturday to get into the park just before it closed at sunset. Among the birders was Jacques Pitteloud, who in his main job is Switzerland’s ambassador to the U.S. “To see it near DC was absolutely unrealistic,” Pitteloud, who has been birding ever since childhood, told the Post. With its bright blue head, red belly and green and red spots on its tail, the rare bird is very distinctive. The bird spotted in the park was a male – the green color of the females is more uniform. Buntings are about 1.5 inches long, feed on seeds and insects, and prefer dense vegetation to build their nests. The species is also one, according to Audubon, whose preferred conditions are being skewed by the climate crisis. Growing global temperatures, along with other species such as the Western Bluebird, American Goldfinch and Spotted Petrel, are causing changes in the range of the Reed Bunting. Species are now being pushed northward in many countries as conditions heat up. “Climate change is disrupting hundreds of bird species, and we can visualize these disruptions in real time and plan conservation actions accordingly, thanks to community scientists across the country,” said Sarah Saunders, a quantitative ecologist at Audubon. But for now, people near Washington can at least enjoy the presence of an extravagant arrival that is expected to become the next winged arrival. Margaret Johnson, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, tweeted: “While it’s not a good sign for climate change, the presence of a Reed Bunting, one of my favorite birds, in our nearby park makes me happy,”