This was a very special day for me on this project because my oldest son accompanied me. Nat, the bird biologist, was out of town at some kind of bird bio conference and the day was much too beautiful to not be out on the water checking the nest-box progress. D.W. was on his “off hitch” from his 14 and 7 tugboat job, so I asked him if he would be willing to go along and give me a hand.
Well, he was more than happy to assist me, and I think he’s really glad that he went. At least, I like to think so! He got to see what dear old mom’s been doing for a living . . . for five months out of the year for the past three years. He was a big help, and I after a bit, he really got into it.
Once we had motored into the swamp and began checking boxes, he said “Mom, you need to point out the Prothonotary’s call so I can recognize it. And before long, a male PROW graced us with his lilting song from a tupelo tree above. Of my five children, I think D.W. has been the most interested in birds since he was a little boy. I remember once in our first home down in Dulac, looking out his bedroom window and seeing all these brightly colored, dark blue birds sitting on the fence. It was the first time I’d seen them and didn’t realize I was seeing the first blast of neo-tropical migratory song birds arriving from South and Central America that spring. I excitedly called him to the window to have a look. I remember being so very excited to see these birds, but I’m not sure how excited he was. But after having him on the boat with me on this day, I do believe that was the beginning of his interest in birds. Back then, neither the Internet nor Google existed, so I located an old bird field guide and realized we were looking at a flock of Indigo Buntings. As I write this, I wonder if he remembers that spring day, gazing out his bedroom window with me?
Before long on this particular, D.W. was (I believe) enthralled with the entire process. He was definitely engaged in helping check the boxes to see what surprise awaited inside. We found the beginnings of nests, complete nests with nest cup (which he learned to identify), and I think three of them already contained eggs. At least two of those nests held six Carolina Chickadee eggs each. Those are the cutest tiny little eggs you’ve ever seen. They look just like those little speckled malted milk balls, but in miniature!
He used his iPhone to take some of these photos, but I soon relinquished my camera to him and turned him loose to take photos to his heart’s content. Of five children, he is so far the only one who has caught the photography bug, and if you so desire, you can find his photography on both Facebook and Instagram as dWb Photography. Some of his iPhone photography is just brilliant, if I must say so myself! Please check him out and follow him. Also, his photos are for sale!
As you can see from the first image of him sporting his camouflage jacket, the morning started off quite brisk. I thought it would have been way too cold for gators to be out, but because this cool snap followed a few warm days, the gators had already emerged from their winter brumation, and this girl chose to find her some warm sunshine. She was enjoying it so much that she refused to leave her sunny perch and dive into the frigid waters, allowing us to get quite close for these awesome photos! Click for larger images!
D.W. also has a very sharp eye. I did NOT see this creature, and man oh man, was it a BIG ONE!!! Say hello to the first Diamond Back Water Snake either one of us has ever seen. It also was enjoying some warm sunshine and never moved an inch as we motored closer and closer. The snake appeared to be between five and six feet long. If you look closely, you’ll see the tip of the tail almost touching the water!
D.W. perched on the bow of the boat snapping pic after pic, until I got a little too close. Here’s the exchange:
Me: How long do you think it is?
Him: I’d say between five and six feet .
Me: Do you think it could launch the length of its body toward you?
At which point he shouted, “Okay, that’s close enough! That thing gives me the heebie jeebies!!!”
(Heebie jeebies is a great North Louisiana saying . . . a throwback to my childhood! My daddy would be proud!)
And if this isn’t a Diamond Back Water Snake, then I apologize to my herpetologist friends, but it is the closest image and description I could find in my trusty National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles & Amphibians. If you don’t have one for yourself, the kids, and the grandkids, I highly recommend you invest in one, especially if you live in a snaky area!
And then we came to an area where the PROWs were playing chase and the males were singing, and a female flew out of a box, and I do believe D.W. was in Birder’s Heaven for a few minutes.
He was so engrossed in listening to and watching them fly and flit about, that we just sat and enjoyed this wondrous facet of nature for about 15 minutes, as he snapped photo after photo of these cute, bright yellow birds. He used the trolling motor to maneuver in the shallow water, angling for the best photo. Below are just a few . . .
To say he really got into it is an understatement. I don’t know if a grown man can be smitten by a bird species, but suffice it to say, I do believe Nat and I have cultivated yet another fan of the PROW.
Well, friends, that is the end of Week 7 PROW expedition. There wasn’t much wild swamp thing activity the next day at the Mandalay, so no photos were taken. Although, D.W. DID go with me again!!! We heard PROWs and saw some, and some of them have begun building their nests. Typically, the PROWs in this location have been about 10 days behind the birds at Lake P. We can only speculate as to why.
Until next time, I hope you enjoy these photos, all courtesy of D.W. and please share this post with your friends.
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