A Lite Brite Peg

Welcome to February everyone! Been a rude awakening on the weather front for us. Came back from or extended Texas trip to 4 or 5 inches of the whitey fluffy stuff already on the ground. Wasn’t really in the mood to deal with that yet, so cleaned off the small portion of cement directly in front of the garage and let the other 300′ of gravel go. Tradition continues, delay now, pay thrice later. Yesterday, Snowmaggedon hit. Thankfully managed to get the blade on the UTV ahead of time. Linda performed her highly scientific method of walking into the yard and sticking a ruler in the snow to determine we came in at about 9 inches of new snow (didn’t help that it was preceded by a couple of hours of rain/sleet as required by all Illinois cold weather events). During the multiple hours plowing and shoveling, my body was constantly reminding me there was an RV sitting right there in the outbuilding, all cleaned and gassed up ready to go…anytime, really anytime, just put that metal thingy in the dash, give a small twist, put the lever thingy in reverse…somewhere warm in relatively no time at all. “Come on Bri, do it for the puppies!” For the record, my inner voice is vindictive and evil. Now it is around 12F degrees out with a windchill at -4 which is just a few degrees beyond my willingness to go for an outdoor run – translated – it’s a perfect time to get the first post of the new month out.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

How is that for a color blast!?! Had a few options in the queue and decided to go with Mr. Yellow here to help brighten my spirits. A few posts ago on the Black-Throated Green Warbler (link here), friend of the blog, Brad, commented that a more appropriate name would have been “Brilliant Yellow Noggin’ Warbler or BYNW”. Those keeping tabs on Intrigued, might have noticed I kind of gave away today’s featured feathered friend in my response. When it comes to brilliant bananas, this Warbler has a head up, not to mention chest and neck. The bird practically glows.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about the events surrounding this sighting.

Some background on today’s glow stick. The official bird naming organization (read the BTGW post if you want to read my rant on that body), opted to name this species Prothonotary Warblers. The BNH (Birds Named Here) consortium simply refers to them as the bird that Doerfler Always Misspells the Name of” (or DAMN for short). If they would have had Brad’s recommendation at the time, I am sure they would have gone with BYNW instead (admittedly doesn’t roll off the tongue as well).

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

This DAMN bird (you knew that was coming), happens to represent my first ever sighting of this previously elusive Warbler. I have hunted for this bird year after year after year. Traveled from state to state, explored park after preserve after national refuge trying to get this yellow Lite Brite peg in the tin. This was especially infuriating when the trail head signage would proclaim its presence only to come home empty handed.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

This all changed on our first day at Dauphin Island back in April 2021. It will forever be known as the day Linda proclaimed she “was going to lose her [let’s go with the more lady like] schtick”. This was our first time ever to the small island and was not prepared for how noncommericialized it was. Used to the Galveston and South Padre tourist meccas, we figured a nationally known birding hotspot would be equally adapted for visitors preferring the RV way of life – NOT THE CASE. We managed to get an RV site at a place basically consisted of a small parking lot. The main RV place next to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary was supposedly booked full and happens to have one of the snarkiest ladies Linda has ever had to deal with manning their phones – someday I’ll cover that whole schtick show. To the point, the birding sites we tried to go to couldn’t accommodate our class B RV. Linda eventually drove up to Indian Shell Mound Park, kicked me out and went to try and park somewhere out of the way.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

I walked up the road a bit where I noticed a large group of birders standing shoulder to shoulder with cameras and binoculars pointed into the brush and trees at the edge of the park. First thought was we were definitely not in the broke state of Illinois as people were maskless and living free of concern. I quickly joined the group to get in on the action. The great tales of migration birding in Dauphin is not a exaggeration. Birds were everywhere, many just hanging out on a low branch or directly on the ground all trying to recover from the long trek up or across the Gulf. My first fallout due to the week of strong storms that hit the island leading up to our arrival. This is the first bird I noticed when I made it to the group.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Well, not technically sure if this is the same bird or not as there were probably 20 or more of them scattered around the area. Caught by surprise, I asked the lady standing next to me if she happened to know what the bird was with the brilliant yellow noggin and coal black eyes. “Prothonotary” – blink twice, bring your seats to their upright positions. There it was, confirmation of the bird I’d spent a small fortune in fuel trying to find and they were practically everywhere. Immediately started taking shots with a giant smile on my face. Then things changed, my phone alerted Linda was calling. Looked like a clown act as I tried juggling the phone while continuing the shutter snap fest with The Beast. “What’s up? the birding here is incr…..”. “I’m losing my schtick, we have to go NOW!” . “But I’m taking pictures of a bird I’ve been chasi…..”. “NOW!”. Folks, Linda is extremely accommodating to me and rarely puts her foot down. Clearly, she was at her breaking point on the parking situation and it had to be dealt with or it was going to be a llllloooooonnnngggg week in paradise.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Apparently she had found a place to park in a nearby park, but that ended up filling quickly as more and more birders were showing up there as well. She had even tried to get a rental car we could use to get from place to place and that ended up being a bust thanks to the Covid inventory sell off – the rental places had nothing on their lots and couldn’t even promise those that were due to be returned would even show up. Linda remembered seeing a golf car rental place a few miles back and we opted to give it a try. The best decision we made the entire trip. Procured a cart, parked the RV and spent the rest of the time zipping from place to place with zero parking issues. A happy Linda makes for a happy life!

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Oh no, out of shots and I haven’t even touched much on our featured bird. Sorry about that, but there is a actually a part two to this post which gives me a lot more time to focus on the details of this gorgeous Warbler. That upcoming post will also highlight a “behavior aspect”, if you will, that fooled me into thinking there were multiple sub-species for the Protoneatery – ugh, how do you spell that DAMN bird – sorry, P-r-o-t-h-o-n-o-t-a-r-y Warbler. Until then, will leave you with some quick details.

Their region maps indicates I should have had zero trouble finding them. We know this to be an absolute lie (ha). They winter in Central America to top of South America and then migrate into essentially the eastern half of the States (they do not seem to be big fans of the New England area though). Cornell indicates that in addition to the DAMN moniker, they also go by Swamp Warbler due to their preference for swampy woodland habitats. They are also one of only two Warblers that nest in dead tree holes – guessing helped out by Woodpecker demolition. Now for the big reveal. Thanks to Cornell I learned that this bird gets its ridiculously hard to spell name from the bright yellow robes worn by prothonotaries who are papal clerks in the Roman Catholic church. Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t use the DAMN bird term hehehe.

Will call it a post there. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get part two out soon so you can learn more about the bird and less about my trials and tribulations of getting this +1 on my life list Stay warm everyone!

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