Two Days in Prothonotaridise or Love Me Some Lemon Drops

April 24, 2018

In my experience, no bird will light up a trail like the prothonotary warbler. They are the jewels of the spring migration.

I’ve spent the last two mornings along the Busch Greenway in St. Charles County. Busch Greenway is its proper name, but I have been calling it Prothonotary Paradise! Yes, the trail, which is quite short and actually paved, has been on fire with neotropical migrants, especially yesterday during the steady morning rain. Today things had settled down significantly, but not enough to deter my lens from finding a few more lovable lemon drops. The featured image was my favorite of the two-day effort but you will find more selections below.

I got a late start both mornings due to pesky, prior engagements but I wasn’t worried because both days promised mostly cloudy conditions and soft light throughout the day. Besides, I have found that warblers generally don’t like to get out of bed until around 8:30 A.M. anyway. As I said, on the first day it rained steadily, so much so that I had to return to my vehicle for my “lens raincoat” which I rarely have to use. Typically, I just give up shooting in steady rain, but there was no way during this warbling adventure.

A prothonotary warbler approaches me while on the ground during a light rain.

One of my favorite images (above) from the first day came after a prothonotary approached me as it foraged along the ground in the light rain. I knew my best bet was to collapse my tripod and get in the prone position, wet ground and all, as the butterscotch bundle of energy kept coming. By the time I made this image, the bird couldn’t have been more than three meters away.

Another of my favorite prothonotary encounters was along a section of the trail that closely flanked a vertical mud bank. I was surprised to see a spot of yellow traversing the bank, picking morsels of who knows what. I loved the juxtaposition of the glowing bird and the brown creek bank (see below).

Dramatic juxtaposition.

I had a great time along the trail in the rain yesterday and was pleasantly surprised to run into my old friend, Andrea Schumann, a wildlife biologist and former co-worker from nearby Busch Conservation Area. Andrea and I had fun catching up with old times as we continued birding along the trail. I can’t believe it has been over three years since my retirement from MDC.

A nice look at the color gradation of the prothonotary warbler, including some odd foraging stains on its head.

Day two was special as well because Joyce joined me to find out what all the warbler excitement was about. Well, I wouldn’t say the trail was “on fire” like day one but a single prothonotary provided me with unprecedented opportunities, including the above image. I’m not sure how it got the stains on its cap. Perhaps it aspires to look more like a Wilson’s warbler.

Joyce always gets a kick out of our walks together because longtime fans of the blog and my Missouri Conservationist stories will inevitably approach us for a chat and a hand shake. She is always friendly and gracious but I suspect she rolls her eyes a little when I’m not looking. After all, she has lived with me for 35 years.

A final, whimsical pose by our very cooperative prothonotary warbler on Day 2.

In case you were wondering, prothonotary warblers weren’t the only jewels in the display case along the Busch Greenway. The prominent bird both days was the yellow-rumped warbler (butter butt), many in spectacular plumage. Other common sightings included the palm warbler, northern parula, Louisiana waterthrush, yellow-throated warbler, ruby-crowned kinglet, and a variety of other colorful customers in fewer numbers.

Many thanks to the St. Louis birders who alerted the rest of us to the active status of the Busch Greenway following recent rains. Also, thanks to Brenda Hente for calling me specifically to let me know that she had received a call about the “birdiness” of the trail and that I should get my butt out there. Also, it was a great pleasure running into many of you over the last few days, including Connie, Bev, Sharon, Ev, and Donna. I am always humbled when someone approaches me and explains how they have been following Nature Frames for many years. It is the love of nature that brings us all together.

Thanks for looking,


I encourage your emails to:  Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com

Check out my favorite images at my website gallery:

America is beautiful. I vote to keep it that way.

2 comments on “Two Days in Prothonotaridise or Love Me Some Lemon Drops”

  1. One of my favourite American warblers…I wonder why we can’t have such spectacular beauties in India…all our warblers are LBJ’s…Little Brown Jobs!

  2. 🙂

    Sent from my iPhone

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