June 9, 2016 [LINK / comment]

FOD Prothonotary Warblers!

I mentioned in my blog post of May 21 that one of my birding goals for this summer was to see and hopefully photograph a Prothonotary Warbler. Well, Jacqueline and I drove down to the Richmond area yesterday, and I did in fact succeed in that particular quest. The last time I had seen that species was almost exactly eight years ago, which means this is not only a first-of-year (FOY) sighting, but a first-of-decade (FOD) sighting! (I just made that up.) The birds were in that very same area as in 2008: the Henricus Park / Dutch Gap conservation area, about ten miles south of downtown. Beginning at just before 10:00, we saw the first of many Ospreys over the James River. We then walked along the trails, mostly right along the James River, and were amazed by the large number of Zebra Swallowtail butterflies all around that area. I remember seeing some in river lowlands in Nelson County, but apparently their range doesn't extend any farther west. The photo at the bottom shows the elongated tail (one of two), something I had not noticed before.

Soon we heard some chirping and saw some rustling in the bushes, and eventually I picked out the unique song of a White-eyed Vireo, one of which was briefly in view. Soon thereafter we heard the repetitive song of a Prothonotary Warbler, or perhaps two of them. They were in an inaccessible swamp, however, so I couldn't get very close. After another 20 minutes of patient stalking, we finally saw one. That was a relief, as I had been growing impatient. Their brilliant orange-tinted yellow color is quite breathtaking. Getting the right angle for a good photograph proved very difficult, however.

On the way back to the parking lot, I had a glimpse of a big brown bird in the forest, and soon managed to get a look at the face of a Barred Owl, the first one I had seen in years! I also heard some Acadian Flycatchers, and finally saw and photographed one. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers also made appearances, while Common Yellowthroats and Louisiana Waterthrushes made themselves heard. Later on, in the early afternoon at the Henricus Historical Park, I saw another Prothonotary Warbler, and likewise it was just too quick for a good photo. I did see and photograph an Acadian Flycatcher there, however. So, I'll probably have to give it another shot next year, perhaps at Great Dismal Swamp. Nevertheless, I was satisfied with the views and the photos that I did get.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler, at the Dutch Gap conservation area, June 8. (Click on that image to see an enlarged version of the photo.) More photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly page.

Zebra Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail, at the Dutch Gap conservation area, June 8.