“Spot Didn’t Return the Third Time” By Doug Fincher

September 7, 2020 - I photographed this beautiful Painted Bunting for two consecutive years.  I named him “Spot,” and after meeting ..and feeding him…for those years in The Sand Hills of East Texas near Center, Texas, he would flutter above my head while I fed him his millet. I wrote several stories about watching him when he returned from Central America every year. But he didn’t return the third time.

Sadly, Spot did not make it back to the bird Road for a "Third Return." I drove out to the Sand Hills during the first week of April and filled his little feeder with millet. But after searching for him several weeks, and after seeing several Painted Buntings, it was obvious that Spot was not one of them.

When I realized that he would not be back, I lost all interest in the Bird Road and have not returned there since. I am sure that some of Spot's family was among the ones that kept returning, but Spot was not with them.

My heart was heavy during the following year as I thought about what might have happened to him. Was it his perilous journey across the Gulf?  Did the Mexican trappers capture him? Since I have no way of knowing how old he was when I first saw him, I know he might have died from natural causes.. 

It surprises  me that I could have become so attached to a little bird. I am sure that he came to me because I faithfully fed him and probably identified more with my truck than he did with me. But none of this really makes any difference to me now. I do not plan to photograph the Sand Hill buntings any more. Many of them will continue to gather at The Bird Road every spring.

But it won’t be the same…. without Spot.