a prothonotary warbler with the goldfinches!! (?!)

dirtgirl(So. Illinois)May 6, 2007

Got a wonderful and quite unexpected surprise two days back.

The back yard, which borders the slough and the thickest timber, has been practically humming with daily arrivals of neotropical birds. The indigo buntings have been here for a few weeks, and often there will be a brightly colored herd of indigos and goldfinches scattered on the ground. I was going about my usual routine in the kitchen and paused by the window to check on the bird activity. In May, you never know who's outside in the trees, and with the weather being cool and cloudy lately, it could be a summer/scarlet tanager, any of our 3 kinds of grosbeaks, any variety of warbler, and on and on and on. Things looked normal. A group of indigo buntings, males and females, were scattered about. Also on the ground was a group of about 10 GFs, and I was about to walk away when I noticed something different. I was immediately hissing at my husband to get his butt in there as fast as he could, and to bring the binocs as he came. I was sure it would fly before I got another witness who could later vouch for my sanity. I could not believe my eyes. There was a lone male prothonotary warbler, on the ground no less, right amongst the GFs and he appeared to be very much interested in what they were after in the grass. THe request for the binocs was silly -the bird was so close to the window that they were useless anyway. A less casual glance at an otherwise normal bunch of bobbing yellow blobs and I would have missed him entirely. What an electric orange-yellow head!!What was it doing on the ground with a bunch of seed eaters?? It did seem very curious, and would go from GF to GF, rudely driving each away from their spot and then poking around there for a sec before moving on. This is a first-time sighting for me, a life-lister if you are into birding....I never expected to see one here. We have wetland forest, yes, but it's much more seasonally flooded. I may have it all wrong, but I thought these were birds of the southern cypress swamps and bigger river drainage areas. I know they are found in the Cache River area, far to the south, but that's a true swamp, a totally different biome. We do have tons of snags with tons of cavities...a book mentioned they will nest in downy woodpecker holes and that is probably a top five bird here in numbers. Too much to hope for to think it might be STAYING here and not just on its way through like so many of the warblers.

Sorry, but I am tingling!!!!

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catherinet(5 IN)

Wow Dirtgirl........I'm jealous!!
I've always wanted to see one of those.
It seems lately that when I see a warbler, I don't have my book with me, and they can be too similar to really remember by the time I get to my book.
Lucky you!! I need to take my lawn chair and binocs and book into the woods and just sit there awhile and see what's passing through. Wish you could have gotten a pic of that gorgeous creature!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 1:41PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

Hey Cathy....sadly/oddly enough, there is a post over at the Birding forum about PWs that came in at the very same time mine did., and it's a PW that was found dead in your neck of the woods, Indy!
There are pictures, though knowing how good a shutterbug you are, I can say you will not be impressed. They were taken under desperate circumstances so they are the best that could be done at the time.

What an absolutely beautiful creature....and I din't have to crane my neck to see it!!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 12:10PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Hi again DG,
I saw that post. It was so sad! Maybe it was just too beautiful to endure this area! lol! (its little heart probably gave out when it saw all its old habitat in wall-to-wall subdivisions now!...
I hadn't even noticed she was from around here. I'll really keep my eyes peeled now! I sure wish all those Warblers came with nametags!
Keep telling us about all your wonderful finds!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 9:57PM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

the warblers are such a challenge...for one, the majority of the little buggers don't hold still long enough to get a good long look. YOu spot one (or hear one), reach for the binocs, look back up....poof. Gone.
That's the main reason cool cloudy days get me so excited...they tend to be lower in the canopy and moving just a bit slower than their usual warp 9.

When I read about the dead prothonotary, I wondered if it had not suffered the same fate as so many migrants and slammed into a high rise downtown....

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 11:31PM
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catherinet(5 IN)

Let's just hope it lived a long and happy life and died of old age!
Its amazing to me that some birds are so obvious.......cardinals, catbirds, etc., but then some are soooooo quiet and stealthy (is that a word??).
When I met Robert Bateman about 12 years ago, he sort of ruined the magic for me when he said that when he finds dead birds, he puts them in his freezer, so he can keep looking at them for his paintings! He could have probably really appreciated finding that prothonotary warbler.
I have to say that, unfortunately, some of my being able to see elusive birds up close was because they ran into my windows. Fortunately, most of them just got knocked out and evenutal flew away (like the yellow billed cuckoo.) Its sort of nice to have time to get your book and really study them......but I sure wouldn't wish them harm in order to have that up-close-and-personal look. The ones that didn't make it were an oven bird and a woodcock.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 8:01AM
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dirtgirl(So. Illinois)

I know exactly what you mean, Cathy. THis reminds me of a bittersweet moment I had several years ago. We had a redtailed hawk nesting across from the house. It was fascinating getting to watch the youngsters grow into young adults. Once I was poking around at the base of the tree and came across a freshly killed shorebird. It had puncture wounds but was not even partially eaten. I am assuming the adults brought it to the nest, but why it was never consumed will remain a mystery. I had absolutely no clue what it was, but after doing a bit of some reading I was guessing it to be a golden plover. I did the ziploc freezer bag thing and took it to a local Audubon member locally and he pretty well agreed on the id. These birds only come through on migration...you'd normally never see them.
SO here was one lying dead under a hawk nest in a hickory tree in the middle of the woods. Maybe it was at the reclaimed mine lakes noth or west of us and got picked off by the redtail.
Take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves I guess.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 1:51PM
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vegangirl(z6 VA)

Dirtgirl, That's great about the P. warbler! I've never seen one. I've been amazed at all the out-ot-place birds this spring. I get rare bird alerts via email from all the eastern states and lot sof western birds have bee sighted in the east and southern birds farther north than usual.

Sad about the plover, though.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2007 at 2:17PM
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