No sooner than I’d stepped into the trees on either side of the main trail by the ponds, the Prothonotary Warbler camera tales of the forest began when it flew into a nearby shrub. There it sat perched straight out from my gaze about six feet away in all its golden yellow glory. Finally, I was about to get the chance of MY lifetime for this photo…
I could hardly contain myself. Right off the bat I was going to get the most clear shot of a Prothonotary Warbler I could ever dream of. (You will find that YOU will have your OWN evasive species that you try and try to get a great photo of. The Prothonotary definitely is mine.) I whisked out the Nikon, got the cute little banana yellow colored warbler in my viewfinder and clicked!
What in the world. The shutter wouldn’t fully press. What do you mean, “Set World Time Clock?” The LED screen on the camera alerted me that right then…at THAT moment (with the Prothonotary singing his heart out at me six feet away,) that I needed to set the world clock on the camera before I could take a photo. OH. MY. WORD. With my new binoc harness and a backpack on to deal with removing, first I had to find my reading glasses to even set the crazy clock!
As an aside, I had changed the battery to a fresh one before leaving the house and must have tripped a setting. I tried not to make a big fanfare and scare the bird off. I twitched and contorted about trying to get all of the gear off of me, and the bird kept on singing. “I’ve got this,” I kept thinking to myself. “He’ll keep singing and then I can get the photo.” Not. The. Case!
It flew away into the trees just as it was in focus in the camera viewfinder. This will happen to you from time to time, and all you can do is hope you get the opportunity again. Oh well, here’s hoping for next time…sniff sniff. Unbelievable.
What to Know about the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)
- Size 5 1/2 inches, Wingspan 9 3/4 inches
- Voice: Sings a song of tswit, tsweet… sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet-sweet or tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet
- Food: Insects, especially aquatic insects, small crustaceans
- Nests: prefers a cavity in trees that are over or near water. This could be a natural cavity or one from woodpeckers; likes to use Spanish Moss in their nest. Up to 8 eggs in nest.
- Migratory, summers here in North Carolina
- Habitat: likes southern hardwood/mixed hardwood and Bald Cypress swamps along streams, rivers; places with dead trees for nest cavities
Prothonotary Flora Neighbors
Sometimes when you aren’t successful in getting that great photo you hoped for, you can still learn about the environment the bird lives in. Take the time to ask yourself a few questions and begin the quest to find out the answers. What type of behavior is the Prothonotary exhibiting? How does its flight pattern look? Is it making any sounds? Just what else is here where the Prothonotary summers? What types of flowers are present? Are there any insects flying around or landing on leaves? What other sounds do you hear? Any reptiles, amphibians or small mammals roaming about? What type of forest are you in?
Growing in the hardwood swamp where the Prothonotary Warblers were nesting, were many variety of trees. Bald Cypress, Water Tupelos, Elms, Beech, Oaks and Willows. When you’re walking trails such as these near a river, “Go Small.” Look at the various types of bark on the trees. Does it have a pattern? What does it feel like? Is anything on the bark? Look for lizards, moths, and other insects. Is there any moss or lichens growing on it?
Stopping on a boardwalk in the woods over a small wet area filled with Lizard Tail plants and Tupelos to take a cool drink of water from my backpack, I went small…WAY small.
Meet the Forest Tent Caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria Hubner)
There, crawling on the bark of Water Tupelo trees were Forest Tent Caterpillars. The contrast of the white penguin shapes on them against the dark bark caught my attention, so I investigated just what they looked like up close. Little did I know the damage these cute little hairy caterpillars can do!
- They like to hang out with other caterpillars until “moth-hood”
- Love to defoliate gum trees, maples, tupelos, willows and oaks
- Spin silken mats on the tree bark for itself
- They follow silken threads laid by others as a path
- Birds, animals, bugs, beetles feed on them
- They can be confused with Tent Caterpillars. This will help you learn the difference between the two.
Another Neighbor of the Prothonotary – The Elm Sawfly (Cimbex americana)
I literally stumbled upon this insect while standing still looking for a bird I was hearing. Looking down, it caught my attention. It was a strange looking bee/fly of a thing.
Another Facebook page to like and learn from is the “Xerces Society.” They are all things related to pollinators. After exhausting myself trying to ID this insect, I then sent them a private Facebook message asking if they could help. My response was, “This is a sawfly, which are closely related to bees and wasps (in the same order, Hymenoptera). It looks like an elm sawfly, (Cimbex americana). North Carolina is about as far south as it gets on the East Coast.” For more info, they recommended to check this out and this as well for great info and photo ID’s of it.
Not to Be Outdone by the Banded Watersnake (Southern) Non-venomous
Was taunted and teased on every trail by the Prothonotary singing his beautiful song. Sometimes I would see it, other times just hear it. After seeing so many other things going on after the Prothonotary photo debacle, the adventure continued onward until the very end. I was on the last part of the trail before walking to the truck when my adventure took a cool turn. Lying by a tree at the pond were two snakes mating. Quite an interesting observation to stumble upon for sure.
The Tale…to be Continued…
Sometimes, as you go out birding to see that particular bird you KNOW is there, getting a photo of it is a whole other adventure. When the purpose of the whole trip is sitting just a few feet from you, that is NOT THE TIME to discover you forgot your SD card, to put in the battery, or to even charge the battery.
Remembering these 6 things on your before leaving for your birding trip/walk
- FULLY CHARGE THE BATTERY before leaving for your birding adventure
- Seriously, make sure you PUT THE BATTERY BACK INTO YOUR CAMERA…(Shaking my head. Kind of like when you call tech support and the first thing they have you do is to check your connections.)
- Check to MAKE SURE THE SD CARD is in there, too, to store your images
- CARRY A SMALL CLEANING CLOTH in case you get dirt on your lens from your hands. (I snatching up a Spotted Jewelweed plant to take home and had dirt on my hands.)
- Be sure to CHECK YOUR SETTINGS BEFORE YOU HIT THE TRAIL in case you moved something in transit in your vehicle.
- And most importantly, SET THE WORLD TIME CLOCK…lol
Stay tuned for Prothonotary Warbler photos, “Part 2” in a later blog post. I’m thinking positive!