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!

29 thoughts on “A Lite Brite Peg”

  1. Oh my, those are gorgeous photos of this bird – you picked up all the richness of his coloring. And your Linda must be an absolute gem!! You owe her big time – dealing with logistics is a thankless job and she has more patience than I ever would have 🙂 Golf cart was a genius idea – maybe I can try that in the Galveston and Bolivar areas. Looking forward to Part II.

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    1. Thank you Sam, it took me a bit to get the settings dialed in as this bird was so much brighter than its surroundings my sensors were not helping at all. Ron and I refer to Linda as the bird whisperer as she has an uncanny ability to drive me/us to exactly where the bird we want is hanging out – that includes stopping on the road directly next to a tree that the Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers ended up flying to like three seconds later. This last trip she managed to position us perfectly for a very large, somewhat rare bird that likes to glide really high and quite the magnificent catch. More to come on that hehehehe. I have to be careful with my appreciations as we do not want it to go to her head and start demanding a kickbacks hehehe. The nice thing about Dauphin is there was a main road that most of the sites sit on and the cart could get up to the posted speed so we didn’t cause any backups – that would probably work for Galveston, but Bolivar I think is navigated by a road with something like a 55 or 60mph speed limit -might be a bit dangerous there. I think you will like the second post as well. Appreciate you coming by.

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  2. I can tell that Brilliant Yellow Noggin’ Warbler is calling for you to go back to warmer and greener pastures to take more fabulous photos of it. We have 4 inches of snow on the ground and it’s a toasty 21ºF at the moment. Our sparrows and other small birds are enjoying the seeds on the dried grasses we leave in the winter for them.

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    1. The call is strong with this one ha! As I mentioned on your post, dipped down to 17 the last I looked, but the wind kicked in to put us theoretically at -4 which was quite a shock. Usually we get to gradually adapt to those temps, but being in Texas we basically went from 40/50s straight to the tundra – shudder. Enjoyed seeing your Sandhills playing in the flurries.

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    1. Thank you Jerry. Admitted, it took me some time to get the manual settings dialed in correctly and I never have to show the multitude of failures on the digital darkroom floor ha! I also have a lot of issues with branches etc. as The Beast will simply cut right through them in the field, then I get home and the monitor doesn’t hide them as well. I was lucky enough to wait these specimens out until they gave me a fairly clear shot – being tired, they tended to hang in one place longer than usual. Appreciate you dropping by and joining the conversation.

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  3. Well, it definitely was worth the wait to see that bird. A bit of sunshine for you to think back to as winter sets in. I like your “Protoneatery” name. I think I’ll cross out the unpronounceable name in my field guides and put that one in. 😁

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    1. That is a very good point – warm colors in the winter! Kind of like the Moorhen when they tried to change it to Gallinule another stupid name I cannot spell easily – I did laugh when I recently heard they might be going back to the original name. My guess is they were tired of people complaining about spelling it – hey, maybe we can get them to officially change the name to Protoneatery hehehe. Appreciate you coming by and have a great week!

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    1. She is going to need a knight’s bard to proclaim her presence if we keep this up – Hear thee, hear thee, let us all welcome Lady Linda, Bird Serpa, Owl Whisperer, Species Seeker, Food Procurer, Master of Dog Agility and be thy last, yet nigh less regal, Queen of the Birding Logistics. God I hope she doesn’t read this or we will need to buy a neck brace to keep that big head under control hehehehe. I was surprised how wide that snow storm was. Just east of us were in the 10-12 inches and I know it extended south at least to Dallas. I hope Mother Nature gets that out of her system, have to head down to St. Louis for some medical attention soon can do without having to slide down there. Take care CJ, hear there is a loosening of the covid restrictions happening at least in the countries near your.

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      1. 😂🤣 I think all those titles are well earned!
        The COVID lockdown here was eased and most everything went s open with limited numbers and still mask requirements. At least we are moving in a more normal lifestyle existing again. Most people we know who have had it recently got it from their kids bringing it home from school and since most are vaccinated and boosted here the symptoms are more like a bad cold or mild flu. A cheer from the masses on that! Now the talk is all about the Russian horde and what that means for the rest of Europe (including that island countries of Britain). 🙄 Always something. Seems a peaceful retirement is not what the universe planned for me. Take care and travel safe to St Louis.😊

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        1. Ugh, I hope Linda doesn’t read your response! Good to hear on the covid front – we went in reverse, as we left the land of the free and came back to ridiculous Chicago politician edicts. Thankfully, most of the downstate has pretty much had it with the restrictions and there is little enforcement if any. Seems if it isn’t one thing it is another. You are definitely closer to the Russian issue than us, our leadership just sits from afar and stokes it. Hoping this isn’t causing additional burden on your still serving family members. Will put Linda in charge of getting us safely to St. Louis!

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  4. I so enjoy all your choices of words describing birds, which actually fit so much better then their names. Glow stick is perfect, :). When we are out on a drive, husband is always at the wheel and I am forever saying, “STOP, what is that”, and he is getting better at quickly accessing the area so he can make a quick stop. I did not see one bird at shell mound, off season is really off season for birds. I am hoping to go there next spring though, after reading your words about it, I am excited to see it in the spring. We met the mayor of Dauphin island when we were there and he was telling us about the spring migration and said we would not be disappointed.

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    1. Sounds like we have very similar experiences. We have a code word that basically tells Linda to “immediately stop the car so I can jump out and get a photograph”. Thankfully she has a tendency to ignore me when we are in the middle of a crowded highway. She has never let me forget how I made her stop on a blind curve in the midst of a very rainy afternoon on a reservation at the top of Minnesota so I could get my first Grouse – I tend to get very narrow focused while birding … but it was a Grouse after all! Shocking to hear about the lack of targets at Shell Mound. Told Linda about that and she was surprised as well. Good to know we don’t need to waste our time birding there in the winter months. Safe travels Sandra and try to stay below the cold band.

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  5. Great shots!! We travel with my ‘birding cart’ (i.e., golf cart), and it makes an amazing bird blind AND a fun addition to being out and about. I’ve always tried to make camping reservations where I had the advantage of using my cart with distance and birding. We tow a trailer with my car in it too, so I can still go where the cart can’t! 🙂

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    1. Thank you Donna! You are perfectly equipped for birding – especially Dauphin. Are you in an RV + towing a golf cart + towing a car? That must quite the line to maneuver on the road. Linda wants us to tow a vehicle with our class B the next time we head down there. That will not be overly long (still less that a class A) but I’ll need to practice that a bit before I get comfortable in the heavy traffic and busy cities. The rental we were able to procure in San Antonio worked out nice while there in January, but getting it to the campsite and returning it was a bit of a pain. Appreciate you dropping in Donna.

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      1. We have a 45′ Class A motorhome towing a 24′ stacker trailer that holds the car on the bottom and the golf cart on the lift above the car. 🤪 We’ve been RVing for quite a few years, this is our 4th class A. We started out with a class A towing a pickup with the golf cart in the back; of course, the more you go, the more you want to carry. When people ask us what’s in the trailer, I say it’s my closet for my clothes and shoes. hehe Prior to RVing, my husband was accustom to pulling trailers and boats, so he’s really not had much of a problem. He has 360 cameras around both the RV and the trailer.

        For fun, check this post to see my birding mobile….. 😉 https://bayphotosbydonna.com/2020/03/15/pileated-woodpecker/
        How the heck it works as a ‘blind’ with all the colors, as I zip around and slowly sneak up on birds, is a mystery to me!

        Lots of towns let you go carting around! That’s part of my research on finding campground locations near birding locations. 🙂

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        1. Now that is a fancy bird mobile!!! Fancy wheels to boot. We will see how the “towing” option goes when we get that set up on our Class B. That is pretty much our stop gap before we decide to go up to a small C. Our current one works perfectly as Linda’s Dog Agility Show Hauler , Bri’s Race Day Base and even Take Out Dinner Table during the pandemic – it is just the longer (month) long excursions where it gets a bit cramped. Is your husband available as a trainer for hire if we go all the way to an A hehehe. Awesome shots of the Pileated by the way.

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    1. Thank you Reed – really enjoyed taking this series – had no idea they were that bright! It also helped they were still in recovery giving me ample time to get the settings right. Enjoying your recent pano’s.

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    1. Appreciate the kind words Lisa. Definitely agree with our comment regarding trying times – those are the trips we never forget… well, at least the trips Linda NEVER lets me forget hehehe. I saw what you did there using that clever “birding” descriptor for us. You have been introducing me to a lot of very strange colorful food choices on your blog – still too scared to even think about trying ha. Take care Lisa.

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  6. Very pretty little bird. Have to go put on my shades to look at the photos again. Sorry for the delay commenting, I’m ignoring my emails on vacay.
    Ironic isn’t it that so many use such large glass to capture fleeting images of very small brilliantly colored feathered friends.
    And wholly agree ” happy wife happy life”.

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    1. Ha, “Birding so bright had to wear shades” Wise move while on vacation, enjoy the moment (and stay away from the news! I tell everyone that mentions the big glass while I’m out in the field, the problem isn’t having enough power to get them in the tin rather having enough distance so you don’t scare those hyper birds away! Second question they ask is how far away can I be…then it gets complicated without someone understanding focus points, exposure, glass mm dimensions etc- so I dimply go with “far enough” hehehe. I should make bumber magnets that say the secret to happiness – H.W.H.L! Thanks for dropping in ..on your vacation (expecting lots of pictures).

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