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.

19 thoughts on “Nixon’s Accomplice”

    1. Thank you! Eh, every once in a awhile you get lucky and one in the bursts come out decent. As I always say, thank god for digital cameras that reduced the chasm between professional and amateur photographers – we could never afford those development bills racked up by those film based professional photographers ha!

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      1. When I worked for a photo studio in the 80s and 90s, I had to be very accurate and do as few photos as possible on any given job. I had a friend who was a photo journalist at that time. He asked me to photograph his wedding. As a photo journalist he went through lots of rolls of film and only needed the one or two good shots for the paper. Doing weddings and other commercial photography ever shot had to count. And I learned to know when I screwed up a shot and to take a second shot. Otherwise, one shot per pose or angle. When I was photographing his wedding I would do a shot and move to the next. My friend kept asking if I was sure if I got the shot. I told him yes each time he asked. He had so much anxiety over my one shot per pose. When the film (120 roll film) was all processed and printed he was amazed at the results. There was such a world of difference between commercial photography, photojournalism and amuture photography back then. Today, there’s not much difference between any of it, as you allude to.

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          1. I did so many weddings. I hate them. I’ve done a few in the last few years as favors to good friends but weddings are the pits. Commercial and architectural photography are much better.

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          2. Now days couples want video and drone coverage besides a million stills. And then they take forever to decide what they like and don’t like because there are so many stills. The last couple of favor weddings I did, I gave them a fixed fee, then I handed over jpegs of all the shots and the videos and let them deal with putting albums together and getting prints if they wanted them. It was so much easier.

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  1. Happy retirement anniversary Brian! And many many more to come.
    Really enjoyed the photos of the RCLYJ. (I think you can figure out the acronym based on newly proposed naming standards).
    Really looking forward to retirement year 2!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same to you Brad!! Maybe RCLYNJ to get your “Noggin'” suggestion incorporated hehehe. I have big plans for year 2, although, it is beginning to be consumed at least in the early part with the “Average Year” activities – heading to the river today for a second attempt at a rarity hanging out at the Bob Michael bridge – which, ironically, will put me rather close to our old work stomping grounds. Take care, and thanks for dropping by.

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    1. Right with you on the baffle part – think the lady that solved the mystery for me noticed a touch of dejection when I had to mentally trash the pending checkmark! I’ll trade you for one of those Long-Tailed Ducks you got in the tin hehehehe – think I mentioned it on your blog, but worth saying again, those were fantastic shots …although with a tint of green through my eyes ha!

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  2. My husband retired this past year, we now have no idea what day it is most of the time. But when we ask each other what day it is and we both shrug our shoulders, I guess it really doesn’t matter anyway. 🙂 retirement is great.

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    1. The running joke around the house is it the weekday or weekend hehehe. The best thing is the two of you get to fully enjoy the fruits of all your past labor – from the reads on your blog, looks like the two of you have been traveling to all kinds of great places. Appreciate you taking time off to dropping by Sandra.

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    1. Absolutely agree – every time out in the field it seems like a different experience – new birds or new behaviors or new places or new weather conditions or chasing light or trying to keep Ron from messing up my shot or … the list goes on. Such is life and why it intrigues me so. Appreciate you dropping in Sam!

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    1. Ha, you just might be right – probably saw us a the typical gullible tourist and laid one on us. The good thing is there probably isn’t a lot of people out there that are aware of the ties to Nixon, so hopefully no long lasting stigma. Thanks for dropping in Lisa. Some day I hope to be able to get back to posting.

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