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Rare birds of painted bunting bring people to Lowry Park

Birdwatchers flock to Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park to photograph rare painted buntings in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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Bob Karp waited nearly three hours on a hot August Sunday to catch a glimpse of painted bunting. Buntings are sometimes called North America’s most gorgeous birds, with their plumage flashing red, green, and blue.

And just as Karp gave up hope and returned to his car at Dick’s Park in Raleigh, the car landed right in front of him, posing and rewarding his patience.

Raleigh photojournalist Karp said, “We only had 20 seconds to shoot.” He was a rock star.”

Bird fans have been coming to Dick’s from Charlotte for the past few weeks. Just outside a field of sunflowers, a male bunting appears with a patchwork of feathers.

Some birdwatchers have reported spotting females as well. The whole is yellowish green.

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Birdwatchers flock to Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park to photograph rare painted buntings in Raleigh, North Carolina.Bob Karp zuma press

“Such a fluke that I had to see it”

Bright yellow goldfinches are much more common here. But the bunting, nicknamed “nonpareil” or unrivaled, chirps more in the bushes around Texas and often reaches the southeastern coast, according to Audubon.org.

“It was quite a fluke that I had to see it,” said Karp, who has broken into Lowry Park five times. “There was no politics going on. It was just a bird. ‘Have you seen him? Have you seen him? Have you seen him?'”

At least a dozen jubilant Twitter posters show colorful visitors with their heads up and singing.

“What a day! What a bird!” Brenda Hiles-Hurt tweeted. “A small splash of happiness in all the troubles of the world.”

Karp, who spent 30 years shooting all kinds of news in New Jersey before Raleigh, recalls the year New York went crazy for Central Park mandarin ducks.

“You thought it was George Clooney,” he said.

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Birdwatchers flock to Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park to photograph rare painted buntings in Raleigh, North Carolina.Bob Karp zuma press

But Raleigh’s bird celebrity feels special, he said. Because it requires silence and attentive listening.

This story is part of our regular “Bright Side” feature. Have a story suggestion that will make readers smile? Email Josh Shaffer at jshaffer@newsobserver.com.

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Josh Shaffer is a general assignment reporter who monitors “talkers”, stories that may be discussed around the water cooler. Since his 2004 he has worked for The News & Observer, previously writing columns about unusual people and places.

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