Wednesday September 2, 2020: 19 new birds of 14 species; 13 recaps. New species: Blackpoll Warbler and PROTHONOTARY WARBLER!!! We have banded a total of 46 species this season, 24 of which are warblers. Bird of the day was Gray Catbird with 4 new bands, followed by a tie for second between Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Bay-breasted Warbler, each with 2.

May 22, 2015 was Ryan’s day to sleep in. He rolled in to the station just as the netpickers were getting back from their first net check. As he put his bags down on his desk, Marilyn called back to him . . . “Ryan, I have a bird for you!” The next thing I heard was Ryan’s quiet declation (in a voice of complete disbelief), “You’ve got to be kidding me.” It was a Prothonotary Warbler only the third in the station’s history.

And today we caught the fourth.

Photos: Prothonotary Warbler (hatch year, female)

As I pulled the almost too-yellow bird from her bag, my reaction was exactly the same as Ryan’s was. You’ve got to be kidding me! Is this for real? Is this actually a canary and everyone is pranking me? Is this REALLY a Prothonotary Warbler? I was gobsmacked! It didn’t take long for reality to set in, but the excitement lasted all morning.

Photo: Prothonotary Warbler Nest Box
(credit: Erik Johnson, Louisiana Audubon)

Prothonotary Warblers mostly breed well south of BBBO, but there are some small breeding populations 60 miles to the east and to the west, near Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. In their core range in the southern US, these birds like swampy woodlands but they have become acclimated to riparian forests further north. Unlike most warblers, Prothonotaries are cavity nesters! Just as we build Bluebird Trails and put up Purple Martin condos, people have set up nest boxes for Prothonotaries throughout their range and a conservation group has grown up to explore best how to protect this charismatic species. Such work is not without its challenges . . . if you look closely at the base of the nextbox in the photo (taken at Palmetto Island State Park in Louisiana), you’ll see a 6′ gator lurking in the water!

Thanks to Peggy, Sue, Ann and John for sharing the day.

-Andrea Patterson