Monday, May 31, 2010

Prothonotary Warbler exhibiting courtship behavior and displaying his tail feathers...

It's no secret that I do a lot of birding on the Little Miami Bike Trail, and for good reason...every time I'm there I see something cool. I usually hop on the trail at the old Peters Cartridge Company (commonly called the Powder Factory) on Grandin Road in Kings Mills and walk toward Morrow, going as far as the Lebanon fork. This little patch is always productive. If you’re familiar with this stretch, you probably know the hillside stream not too far from the Powder Factory with the tiny “observation deck.” Over the years people have carted stones from the creek bed up the steep banks to create a rustic patio that lets you look down at the stream and follow its course up through the heavily wooded hillside. The water runs at a nice pace here and gathers in small pools along the way creating little watering holes perfect for sipping out of, especially if you’re a bird. I always check the watering holes to see what might be there. It's a great place to spot thrushes, and a Barred Owl is often hanging around too. I will see him well up the hillside sitting over the water, just watching. He’s usually so far up the hill you can only see him with the binocs, but if you know where to look, you’ll spot him frequently. Once, he sat in a tree about 10 feet from the patio. I stood and watched him, mesmerized, but this post is about a Prothonotary Warbler, so I had better get back on track! ...I had just walked back from the little patio, and as I stepped on the trail, a Prothonotary Warbler landed on the bridge railing about 15 feet from me. I was so surprised I froze! I watched him for a few seconds and slowly raised the camera to get his photograph. I didn't want to scare him off. This guy was so gorgeous and so close he unnerved me!

A Prothonotary Warbler perched on the wooden railing of a bridge spanning a small stream. I was a bit shaky when I took this photo. He surprised me by flying in so close, which sort of sent me for a loop! You know that feeling...you're trying to move quickly and slowly at the same time while adrenalin floods your system and you forget to breathe... I didn't really pull this shot off, but you can see how he was fanning out his tail feathers to display for the female.

He soon flew down on the trail and started hopping around, spreading his tail feathers even more and leaning a little off balance. At first I thought he was hurt, but then I realized he was exhibiting courtship behavior and showing off his lovely tail for a female up in the tree. Every couple seconds he would look up to see if she was still watching him…

...this is the first time I've had a Prothonotary Warbler walking the trail with me!
He would hop a little and look up, then move forward and look up again. It took me a while to figure out he was looking up to make sure the female was paying attention to him.

...he continued to hop forward, fanning his tail.

...look at that cute little eye. He is soooo looking up to make sure his honey is watching him!

Eventually he flew up into the tree, and I walked on. If the couple was nesting close by I didn’t want to disturb them. Prothonotary Warblers are the only warblers in our area that nest in tree cavities, and they often nest over water, so this slow-moving stream would be a perfect place for a nest site. I read a long time ago that fledgling Prothonotary Warblers are born with the ability to swim. Since their nest cavities are often over water, it's not uncommon for them to fall out of the nest and into the water! The Smithsonian’s Migratory Bird Center’s site confirms this, as does the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Nestwatcher’s Resource Center.




Holy Cow...it's been over two weeks since I posted!!
What is up with that? I have so many photos and half-written posts in the pipe. I really need to get cracking and get these things up. I also haven't been able to get out and visit anyone's blog. Things have been so busy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel (I hope it's not the train!).


...I thought I'd sneak this one in. If you look a third of the way down on the right, you can see the silhouette of the Barred Owl sitting on a branch overhanging the stream. I was shooting through a dogwood in blossom, and he was just a spec with the naked eye. I've cropped the image a lot to show him. In person, the view was gorgeous. I've found him in this exact spot many times...

39 comments:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kelly, I have been wondering what you are up to these days. It's been ages I think!!!!

Wow--your new Warbler is gorgeous. I've never seen nor even heard of this little guy. What a fabulous little bird. You captured some great pictures of him.

Hope life is GOOD... i know that you stay busy.
Hugs,
Betsy

Barbara said...

Hi Kelly - Your blog is awesome! My only wish is that you lived in northern California so I could learn more bird names!

Mary said...

Wonderful photos of the Prothonotary Warbelr! They are such pretty birds. We finally decided that the two we saw building a nest must have been making a dummy nest....haven't seen them there since. However, we did hear one nearby the same area the last time we went.

Roy said...

Wow! Great shots. We had a couple of those spotted in Miantonomi Park, out local Spring Migratory hotspot. My friend Bob even got shots of one, but nothing this good!

Marilyn said...

Your photos are fantastic. What a wonderful part of the world you live in.

Elaine said...

I love your Warbler shots and enjoyed reading about your encounter. He seemed to be remarkably unconcerned that you were so close to him. Ah, love....

Roy said...

Hi Kelly, a beautiful bird and great photos.

Jayne said...

Oh, he's so beautiful Kelly, and how fun that you got to see him trying to impress his sweetie.

Katherine Thomas said...

breath taking photos! I love the ones wehre you're looking right up at his round yellow belly! These should be in a magazine!

Sarah Knight said...

What an adorable little fellow!
Wonderful photos : )

JKoenig said...

So interesting....and those last three pictures of the warbler are really special.

It took me a while,but I finally saw the owl. You must be farsighted!

Busy Bee Suz said...

This little guy is so beautiful. I think he was just begging for you to photograph him. :)
I thought about you this weekend..we were in Clearwater FL and I spied several Osprey's and their nests. So cool.
Take care, Suz

DK Miller said...

What a beautiful bird! You got some great shots.

Colleen said...

He's beautiful. Next time I'm in Cincy to visit the in-laws, I'll have to check out some of these trails.

Montanagirl said...

Wow - absolute stunners of the Warbler. Love them. He's a beauty. How wonderfull you got so close and to be able to watch his little courtship display. Glad you're back - I always enjoy your blog so much. Since you've been gone, I spotted a Red-winged Blackbird sporting a white patch on the back of his head. I've never seen anything like it. I posted the pics the other day. Quite a unique fellow.

ShySongbird said...

What a beauty he is, such a gorgeous, rich colour, great captures! How I would love to visit that Miami Bike Trail, it always seems to have something of interest.

I sympathise with your difficulties with blogging, it is so difficult to keep up, especially at this time of year when there is so much else that needs doing!

grammie g said...

Well isn't that just like a man...nothing will detour them from there quest!!! ;) All kidding aside He is just the brightest color and so fortune for you to have this opportunity to get these great photos!!!

Shelley said...

So cute to see this Prothonotary Warbler's courtship display! Such a beautiful bird - his face is perfect!

Warren Baker said...

How yellow is that!!!!

It looks so nice it makes you want to lick it :-)

thanks for putting him on the blog Kelly.

Jenny said...

Fabulous! Your New World Warblers just 'do me in'! I love 'em!!! Lovely photos, you must've been chuffed with the experience as well at the photos Kelly.

dAwN said...

Howdee Kelley..Great photos and post.
I think taking a break is a good idea...I am needing one myself..busy here at parents...life gets like that..have a nice break..
see u when u can get it all together.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Welcome back, Kelly. What a beautiful bird! Hope he was successful in his courtship.

E said...

Great Kelly, wonderful captures of the loving and beautiful warbler, excellent timing. Nice to see you back. Thanks for sharing, many hugs.

Wanda said...

Kelly...yesterday I had a first sighting of what I believe to be a Yellow Warbler, it landed on our porch and I was able to follow and get several photos, it looks so similar to your Prothonotary Warbler, I'm wondering what their difference is.

...Wanda

Allison said...

Yay!! I know what it is to get so busy with life--but glad to have popped in and seen a new post. I love the little guy's dark eye against the brilliant golden yellow!

BirdingMaine said...

What a beautiful Warbler and a beautiful photo series you have put together Kelley! Great post!

birdspazz said...

Lovely photos and story. It's always a treat to see birds engage in special usually 'secret' behavior!

Cindy said...

Nice shots, Kelly!

BirdingGirl said...

Wow- how exciting! What beautiful pictures you got. Congrats! Makes me want to make a birding trip to Ohio :)

Makeo said...

Nice captures.

怡君 said...

只有尋常才幹,但具有不尋常恆心的人,一切皆可獲取..............................

oldcrow61 said...

How wonderful that you saw the courtship display. Lovely shots.

Hilke Breder said...

Lovely pics, Kelly. Wonderful post! I wished I was so lucky with warblers. They seem to know when I am coming and take off.

Hilke Breder said...

P.S. Those Asian soft porn commentors - what a plague!

Appalachian Lady said...

Absolutely gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing. I haven't posted as often this spring either--too much going on!

Appalachian Lady said...

P.S. If you set up your comments so you have to approve them after a week, then you nip the "asian" comments in the bud! I had to do that since one time they commented on about 50 posts and I had to delete them one by one--what a hassle.

Anna said...

Warblers and Sparrows are always my favorite. Excellent show!
Anna :)

Debbie Miller @HooootOwl said...

Beautiful prothonotary Kelly! Lucky girl. What a wonderful experience.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

you're bird photos are stunning. Just wonderful. Thanks for sharing.