Nixon’s Accomplice

Finally catching a warming spell here in the tundra. Might even get to see the gravel in our extended driveway for the first time since being back from this year’s annual trip to the Texas Gulf Coast. Apologies again for bringing the cold down to all those cities we passed on our trip – honestly, it was not intentional ha! I just realized I let a rather important milestone pass by without mentioning it. Managed to once again trigger the increment button on the age counter in mid January, but that isn’t that important these days (although it is nice to be assured you still have a physical existence in world). The real fanfare is I hit my one year anniversary of being officially retired. Admittedly, a bit stunned looking at the calendar and realizing it has been that long already. Friend of the blog Brad M. also celebrated his first retirement anniversary and he had a similar feeling on how quick it went. Think he summed it up best when he declared being surprised “was a good sign [our retirement] was the right thing at the right time.” Initially thought I would miss the daily grind a lot more than I did knowing how ingrained the work schedule was in Linda and I’s DNA. Each day of the week was tracked by the required meetings and deliverables due. These days we can’t even remember if the day ends in a ‘Y’ or not. I did take a support call while on our trip, but that was entirely caused by me purposely not properly transitioning a tiny piece of my old role. I thought it was pointless when I was doing it and assumed (hoped) it would die off for the good of the company – apparently some check boxes never go away even if nobody even takes an action on it or worse yet even looks at it (it was a quarterly deliverable and it wasn’t missed for over a year hmmmm). Oh well, Big Yellow keeps rolling without me/us…

Prothonotary Warbler with Pollen Hat at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read about a softer yellow machine. One that doesn’t beep when it backs up hehehe.

If you recall from the last post, I rambled on about Linda’s displeasure in the birding logistics at Dauphin Island. Did not get a chance to cover much about the “Glow Stick” of the birding world. Knowing there was a part II to this featured feathered friend in the hopper, decided I could spend a bit more on the backstory with that first offering. You might notice something different about today’s specimens.

Prothonotary Warbler with Pollen Hat at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

This “difference” cost me a LOT of time and digital media space. The Protoneatery (I’m with SoyBend – link here , we need to make this alternative name official!) was a new bird for me so that inherently brings an increased number of snaps in order to get a good feel for the bird’s overall look and behaviors (to pass on to my faithful readers of course). Was also getting used to the new camera body which was taking longer than usual to get the manual settings dialed in. The next day, Ron joined us and we did more exploring in the interior of Shell Mounds. We spent a lot of time at a small pond where a large number of birds were obviously enjoying some recovery time. Scarlet and Summer Tanagers along with Cuckoos, Buntings and Grosbeaks were perched in the treeline around the edges while the Warblers were dancing from twig to reed and back from one end of the pond to the other. Clearly the Green Heron trying to hunt the far side of the water was annoyed at this migration intrusion on its normally tranquil fish factory. An older lady sitting on a bench next to us became very excited at the appearance of a Yellowthroat just out from the near bank. Regional birding always has its idiosyncrasies – one bird that we have easy access to in the broke state of Illinois is a Yellowthroat (link here). About that same time another birder we had befriended earlier jubilantly announced the arrival of an Indigo Bunting (link here) – another home staple.

Prothonotary Warbler with Pollen Hat at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Took some quick shots of those to officially get them in the tin and turned my attention back to a bird that seemed familiar.. but … different. It wasn’t until one popped into an opening that my quandary was answered. This Warbler was adorned in the now familiar splendid papal clerk robes, but it had a reddish cap. ANOTHER +1! Snap, snap, snap, snap… rest a bit to give the arms a breather, snap, snap, snap, snap…finally let Ron know there is a new bird in the area… snap, snap, bump Ron’s elbow and wave arms to encourage the bird to take off just before he gets a shot off..laugh maniacally.

“Hey Ron, did you get that bird in the tin, wonder what it was, bright yellow, black eyes, pointy bill, red cap?”
“No, you ass, I wasn’t able to get a shot thanks to your devious competitive birding tactics!”
“Whaattt, who, meeeee!?!”

Decided a more prudent approach would be to just ask the lady sitting on the bench what kind of Warbler that was.

“That’s a Protoneatery.” (see, it is catching on)

“But it has a red head…”

Then she solved the mystery – “Pollen”.

Apparently these Warblers had been feasting near pollinating plants and it rubbed off on them. No +1, but still learned (and captured) something interesting from the experience. Although these Protoneatery prefer the standard Warbler delicacies of spiders, caterpillars, grasshoppers, ants and the like, they will substitute fruits and seeds during the off-season.

Prothonotary Warbler with Pollen Hat at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Rounding out the species details, they form monogamous relationships during the breeding season and in some cases maintain that bond across seasons. Protoneateries are often victims of those asshats Brown-Headed Cowbirds (link here) and unlike Orioles who simply kick the foreign eggs out of the nest, they will try to raise the much larger bird often to the peril of their own offspring. I was surprised to see they have a conservation status of Watch. According to Cornell, they lost 42% of their population from 1966-2015. Cornell also reminded me of a bird story Ron had told me about many years ago (do not even remember the context when it came up anymore). This species is responsible for getting Alger Hiss convicted as a Soviet spy when it was revealed he and Whittaker Chambers (Communist Party member) saw this bird while on the Potomac River, thus proving they were linked – clearing the way for Richard Nixon’s rise to power… who gave us the now highly relevant quotes of…

“Nothing would please the Kremlin more than to have the people of this country choose a second rate president”

“Never forget, the press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. “

“We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another – until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be hear as well as our voices.”

“Publicly, we say one thing.. actually, we do another.”

and a bunch of others that will forever go down more in infamy hehehe. Hope you enjoyed my second part on a truly gorgeous bird – even when it gets its Sunday feathers messed up with pollen.

Finally, heeding the words of the 37th president “I have made it perfectly clear… that I cannot tell a lie”, I must come clean and admit I DID NOT purposely hit Ron’s elbow or scare the creature away..promise – wink.

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