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Prothonotary Warbler (PROW) Project Day 1

Here I was, sitting at my desk doing who knows what when the thought hit me, Man, I sure wish I was doing the PROW nest box monitoring project again this year, but I know the project funding was all used up last year.  And then I’m sure my mind wandered back to my emails, or research, of Facebook, or whatever had my attention that dull winter day.

And then, about a week later, an email from Natalie, the BTNEP Bird Conservation Scientist, sat silently waiting for me.  And there it was . . . . a miracle!  A wish put out into thin air, granted in this one little email.  Nat said funding for one more breeding season of monitoring had become available, and she wanted to know if I would be available to work with her again.  WOOD EYE?  I mean, would I?  

A resounding YES flew through cyber space as quickly as my pudgy little fingers could pound out the words on my keyboard.  Suffice it to say, I was once again a very happy boat captain (after a very slow winter season)!

So, I decided to do my very, very best to post photos as I go along on social media platforms, but more importantly, to share as much as I have the time to share with you via photos and descriptions of what we are doing as we go along.  Even though this is the third year I’ve been involved with this monitoring project, I think my previous blog posts about this project may have been a little haphazard and not detailed enough so that you get the BIG and the little picture of what we do out there.

With that in mind, I’ll start with Day 1 and see how it goes and just how much time I actually have to take pics “on the fly”, as it were, edit them, and write you a post in a timely fashion.  Granted, you don’t know exactly when Day 1 took place, but I’m trying to keep up in real time as much as humanly possible.  I mean, my initials are WW, but they don’t stand for Wonder Woman, my friends!

So, onward with Day 1.  

The prothonotary warblers winter in Central and South America, and through these programs, Nat has been able to track some of the birds she has banded over time to Columbia, South America, and back to or very near to the very box in which they were born.  Having witnessed this phenomenon myself just last spring, it is a very exciting event, I can assure you.  These tiny songbirds migrate back to the same area year after year, raising more young, who then migrate back the next year to do the same.  With me?  

The first to arrive are the males, and they are already starting to arrive to find just the right place to start a nest for the female’s approval once she arrives.  If she accepts his offer, they finish the nest and start their little family and might have as many as three broods during the breeding season.  Before the males arrive, it is our job to check on all 50 boxes, which we put out in 2017, making sure they are standing upright and clean and tidy.

On Day 1, we traveled to Lake Palourde to check the first 30 boxes.  Natalie first removes the predator guards, which we then make sure are free of spider webs, wasp nests, and the like.  She also rubs them with bar soap to deter these pests/insects from making this their home.  The predator guard also serves to keep snakes from slithering up the pole and into the box.  I guess they can’t quite hold on and make that hard turn, kind of like the old “termite shields” we used to install on top of the tile blocks upon which our wooden houses were built.

The second step is to clean all the trash and critters out of the boxes that may have moved in over the winter.  We always clean them out at the end of breeding season, but we don’t cover them with plastic to keep out critters because it just causes mildew to grow.  Nat accomplished this task with her brilliant idea of using a dish pot scrub brush.  It worked perfectly!  

After everything unwelcome is removed, she then coats the inside of the wooden box with bar soap to keep the pests out.  We did this last year, and it helped significantly, and the warblers are not at all offended by the soap.  In other words, it doesn’t harm them, and it’s non-invasive.

Lastly, she marks the box numbers on them again since the first labels have just about all faded off.  That number is significant, as all the information pertaining to each box is recorded under that number, which is later entered into an international data base.  We keep track of sightings, both male and female, and the number of eggs laid, and then the number of chicks that hatch and survived.  Our morbidity rate has been very low, I’m happy to say.

So, here are the visuals to help you out. As always, click on photo on larger image to give you a better idea of what we’re doing.  All of these boxes are in the water, on long metal poles, away from the bank of the cypress-tupelo swamps around the lake.  They are accessible by boat only, and THAT is why they need me!  And I’m happy as a crawfish in mud to have this job again this year!

And of course, no post from me would be complete without some scenery and animals.  Y’all know I LOVE being on the water, and even after doing my boat tours for nearly 15 years, it never gets old to me.  There is so much beauty out there to behold.  All we need do is slow down and take a closer look.  Granted, many of my pics are while I’m trying to navigate, and I don’t put us in danger, but it makes getting decent pictures a challenge.  If I took the time to photograph everything that captured my interest, our days would be much longer than eight hours!  So, if the edge of something is chopped off, just use your imagination and know that we were gliding by as I attempted the shot!  

Here you go, my friends.  Ah, the beauty!

So, until the next installment, I hope you’ve enjoyed being out with us on Day 1 and seeing how all this goes.  And I also hope that you are looking forward to the next installment.  And if my brain kicks in, I think it might be time for a contest, since we haven’t had one in so very long!

Until then,


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  1. Thank you for the great info and pics. I love the Swamp Maple shot. Are the red flowers a type of lily? I have some like that in the back yard that blooms in the spring. Glad the funding for the project came thru.

    1. Cammy, although they look like flowers, I think the red leaves are tiny swamp maples, but I have not verified that yet. Spring sprang overnight down here, and it’s just amazing to me. I guess it sneaks up on me every year . . . everything seems so dead and dormant, and then all of a sudden green bursts forth like it was never winter. Hope all is well with you and yours over there in the big TX!

      1. Spring has hit us too. My plum tree was white as snow for a week and now it’s covered in leaves and tiny plums. Or it was until a severe storm with mega winds went thru this am. Lifted part of the roof right off of my grandsons house and a bunch of shingles off of my sons next door. My husband went out to help them replace things. They got it repaired. Or at least enough to last till better weather.

  2. Great job, as always. I’m actually heading home (Chalmette) next week to visit family. Can’t wait to see more and more of the pictures and story. How are the latest additions to the family? All is well, I hope.

    Jeri Petersen

    1. Hi Jeri and pre-welcome home to you! Yes, everyone is doing great!! Two little girls are growing like weeds. Time’s flying by! Hope all is well with you and yours, too!