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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Prothonotary Warblers and Waterthrushes at Corkscrew Swamp

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (Link to Audubon) preserves habitat that must have characterized large areas of Southwest Florida before logging and development. The Sanctuary boasts massive bald cypress trees that aren't seen anywhere else and it attracts a rich variety of birds, mammals and reptiles. An early September excursion to the sanctuary held promise of migrating warblers as well as other charismatic residents of the Swamp.

Traversing the 2 mile boardwalk often brings the unexpected -- as in this case, a red-shouldered hawk that landed yards away while it fed allowing close-ups that might otherwise only be possible at a raptor show at the local zoo.

Another marvelous resident of the Sanctuary is the barred owl which, while usually reliably heard, is an elusive subject for the photographer. But, enough of owls and hawks -- target species of the day were warblers.

The prothonotary warbler takes its name after the golden-hued robes of the proto-notaries of the Pope. This is an office that goes back to the "first scribes" (protos notarius) of the Byzantine Empire. There were about 4 of these dazzlers (the warblers not the officials) in the swamp and they were found low feeding near the water. This is the only Eastern warbler that nests in cavities and while it is classified as "Least Concern", its populations are declining.

Also found were both waterthrushes. Always heard before they were seen, their chips were good indicators of where they might be. Annoyingly, these chipping sounds are very similar to the Northern Cardinal's and this caused a great deal of confusion in determining their location.

In this collage, both Northern and Louisiana waterthrushes are shown in their typical environment but which is which? Clockwise starting at the upper left corner, I identified Louisiana, Louisiana, Northern, Northern Northern, Northern, and Louisiana. Diagnostic aids are the color of the supercilium and how it tapers.

Finally, while Corkscrew is famous for its wood storks, none were seen at this time [water levels too high]; instead a few small herons were found perching and posing:

Also seen were carolina wren, great-crester flycatcher, white-eyed vireo, belted kingfisher and ovenbird. Corkscrew Swamp is justifiably a star attraction on the Great Florida Birding Trail (link).


Bob Pelkey said...

Your blog has become a great resource of information, entertainment and beauty, Hemant. Stay the course of your exceptional work.

Digital Plume Hunter said...

Thanks for the support Bob; I've had a great example to follow!