My destination this morning was Crane Creek in Ohio with the hopes of finally seeing/photographing a Prothonotary Warbler. With thanks to Karen Markey for giving me directions to a possible nest I was excited with the prospect of finally seeing my nemesis life bird.
At 6:30 am I arrived at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and was immediately greeted with sounds of Wood Thrush, Willow Flycatcher, Yellow Warbler, Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Yellowthroats. As I drove along the main road toward the Bird Center I picked up Gray Catbird, Common Grackle, Baltimore Oriole, Warbling Vireo and Song Sparrow.
As I reached the open marsh I was greeted by the usual suspects: Swamp Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Canada Geese, Tree and Barn Swallows. I was surprised to see a Cattle Egret fly by me along the canal. Overhead the skies were cloudy and winds were picking up. Out in the marsh I could hear Pied-billed Grebes calling, while a small flock of 12 Dunlin flew in and landed on a nearby mudflat in the channel. A deer was prancing in the field next to the road and unconcerned with my presence. A singing male Common Yellowthroat was perched atop a limb and provided a photo from the car using the flash extender. An Eastern Wood Pewee sang nearby but remained out of view.
I was the second car to reach the parking lot at the west end of the boardwalk. As I loaded up camera gear the trees next to entrance were alive with Wilson’s, Magnolia, and Black-throated Blue Warblers. Just inside the boardwalk, near the observation tower, I picked up Black-and-White, Blackpoll, Bay-breasted and Tennessee Warblers. As I searched the first inlet for Prothonotary Warblers I was approached by a curious Blue-gray Gnatcatcher that seemed to beg for my attention. As I fired away at the friendly bird just a few feet away, a wave of Canada Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, American Redstarts, and Northern Parulas moved through the trees nearby. I jumped back and forth between the gnatcatcher, warblers, and a noisy House Wren. Somewhere in the distance a Veery and Hermit Thrush serenaded unseen mates.
After my photo-shoot with the gnatcatcher I continued on to the first turn-off to the south. As I walked along I found a singing Canada Warbler bouncing along the branches next to the boardwalk. I was treated to numerous, near-macro photos of this gorgeous little bird. I continued to hear B&W and Blackpoll Warblers, but couldn’t see any. More Gray Catbirds, Warbling Vireos, Magnolia/Canada/Bay-breasted and Chestnut-sided Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos and American Redstarts. A Northern Waterthrush popped out onto the boardwalk ahead of me, but I was too slow with the camera.
I was treated to gorgeous views of a brightly-colored male Yellow Warbler. Toward the east end of the boardwalk I ran into several photographers tracking a pair of Baltimore Orioles, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Warbling Vireos.
I continued on, hoping to find a Prothonotary Warbler. I asked several birders if any had been seen, and they directed me back a 100 yards or so to where one was heard singing. No sooner did they leave that I spotted a single bird directly overhead and next to the boardwalk. Finally! After 25 years of admiring my Catherine McClung painting of a Prothonotary Warbler and Blue Flag Iris I had a live bird in view. Wasting no time I grabbed several photos of the singing bird until it flew off toward the flooded woods. I continued in its direction and came upon a Gray-cheeked Thrush feeding in the dark shadows below the boardwalk.
A few moments later I had the pleasure of seeing and photographing a lovely male Northern Parula singing nearby. I spent several minutes photographing the bird in heavy cover before he flew up into the trees. Now severely backlit, I was lucky to have the Better Beamer so that a few more keepers could be obtained.
No sooner had I taken a few pics of the bird that I came upon several birders searching the nearby thickets for a Mourning Warbler. I walked up ahead of them and waited for the bird to appear, and was soon rewarded with gorgeous views of the skulking bird. We spent several minutes getting lovely views of the bird before it finally flew off to the east.
Another Prothonotary Warbler a few minutes later, followed by Blackburnian Warbler, Eastern Wood Pewee, Eastern Kingbird, and Least Flycatcher. I heard a Black-billed Cuckoo nearby but couldn’t find it. I pointed a preening Lincoln's Sparrow out to several birders who enjoyed views of a new lifer for them. I would've loved to digiscope this cooperative bird, but the boardwalk was too crowded and bouncy to attempt anything w/ the scope.
Deciding to make one more loop of the boardwalk I continued to find many of the same birds seen before. A cooperative Bay-breasted Warbler provided nice views and photographs, followed by another Prothonotary Warbler. Just up ahead we found a pair of sleeping Screech Owls buried in the leaves. With the skies clearing and winds continuing to blow, I decided it was a good time to head back to the car.Interestingly enough, birds not seen this morning included Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers. Noone saw any Connecticut Warblers, and I missed a Cape-may Warbler that sang high in the trees. Still, I couldn’t be happier having finally seen my ghost bird and adding a gorgeous Mourning Warbler ta’boot!
For a slideshow of all 'keeper' photos, click here!