In June of 2010 my friend Ron and I went camping in the San Rafael Swell area of Utah, we were fortunate to find quite a few Lazuli Buntings (Passerina amoena) in the areas near the campgrounds. The females did not seem to be present but their more subtle coloring does camouflage them well and we may have missed spotting them. The males; however, were present and singing atop shrubs and bushes.
The male Lazuli Bunting above was perched on a Greasewood (Sacrobatus vermiculatus) shrub near the campgrounds by the river. The name of this species comes from Lapis Lazuli, a blue semiprecious blue gemstone. Lapis Lazuli is one of my favorite gemstones to work with when fashioning jewelry and it goes great with blue jeans.
Male Lazuli Buntings resemble bluebirds but they are smaller and the blues are a different hue than the Mountain, Eastern and Western Bluebirds. Lazuli Buntings occur in open, disturbed habitats, thickets and along waterways. They winter from southern Arizona down to southwestern Mexico.
The San Rafael Swell area has abundant formations of Navajo and Entrada sandstone which provides beautiful backgrounds that compliment the Lazuli Buntings coloration. They also have a habit of perching high on top of bushes which helps to give clear views of this species when photographing.
It seemed that the buntings were the most active early in the morning and late afternoon, this image was taken in late afternoon light while the male Lazuli Bunting was singing, the sweet calls bouncing off of the canyon walls. I hope that next year I’ll have many more opportunities with this colorful species.