May 11th, 2012. We were happily making our way back down the Oconee River towards the dock at Dyar Pasture when we noticed a number of dark red flowers drifting down the river. They weren’t there when we went up so we came around and went back to take a closer look. They were Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) flowers. We hadn’t seen them on the way up either. After poking around, finding the vines and a hummingbird that wasn’t posing for photographs today thank you very much, we continued our way downstream.
It was then we saw a flash of bright yellow streak from a snag in the river to a tree on shore. There is only one bird in this area that is as yellow as that - the Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea). So, although it was really getting too dark to take good photographs, we had to turn around for another look.
We settled in upstream of the snag, turned off the motor and drifted. Fortunately, the current was almost nonexistent near this shore. And we watched.
Approaching the snag from the south. This photo was taken on our way up river. The snag in question is just a little to right of the center of the photo. This location is not readily accessible from land; there are no roads in the immediate area.
The snag. From its northern side.
A closer view of the snag. The male is building the nest in the bottom cavity. According to the Cornell ornithology lab, ‘… trees used for nesting and cavities tend to be in trees located near or over standing water.’
The nesting material is visible in the lower section. If you look closely you can see moss.
Then the action began…
The male is entering the cavity.
Having deposited the nesting material, he exited through another hole further up the snag. There must be another hole a little further around the snag because he exited out of sight on one of his passes to the nest. Thankfully though, he used this hole most of the time.
W caught him harvesting moss from the trunk of this tree at the edge of the river.
Returning to the nest with more material (W got the lower photo). He would land here directly above the nest hole before entering, and then...
hop down to the side of the hole before entering to deposit another load of nest material. He repeated this process several times while we watched.
I've read posts in which the authors have raved about the return or sightings of the Prothonotory warbler. It looked striking but it wasn’t until I saw this bird that I realized why these authors were so excited. Now I ‘get it.’ This bird would look striking at any time, but even more so in the fading daylight.
According to the Cornell Lab of Orthithology, the Prothonotary Warbler is one of only two warblers that build nests in cavities. They may raise 2 to 3 broods each year. We were particularly fortunate to happen upon this nesting site. Know that we know that Prothonotary warblers use this site, we’ll check here from time to time.
Click on an image to view a larger image
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Prothonotary Warbler, Protonotarea citrea
- Running The Oconee River: North from Dyar Pasture