What would you normally be doing now?

What I found was that like most of you, my schedule has changed drastically recently. My club outing to Beidler Forest. Cancelled. My Beginners Photo Workshop at the new Public Works Art Center in Summerville. Cancelled. Speaking at a new photography club in Cane Bay. Cancelled. All should have happened in the last two weeks, but instead, I've been working on some projects that have been on the backburner. For years!

Of course, it's getting outside to take photos I miss the most, and my photo club's outing to Beidler Forest was going to be when we got the opportunity to photograph nesting Prothonotary Warblers there. It's such a pretty and unmistakable bird, but also quite elusive at times, photographically speaking. 

I was able to capture this photo last year as it was about to enter it's nest which was in the hollow of a Cypress knee.

Of course the challenge for me is not just getting the photo, but getting the best one I can, which usually means returning to the same spot over and over again, which is a challenge when you used to live 3 hours away and your window of opportunity is just a few months while it nests and then moves on. 

A few weeks before the shutdown though, I was able to tag along and photograph nesting box installations at Caw Caw Interpretive Center here in Charleston, that are designed to attract more nesting Prothonotary Warblers to the area. In conjunction with the SC Coastal Master Naturalist Association, and with Jay Keck from the South Carolina Wildlife Federation a group of us gathered to learn about the best practices for placing nesting boxes, and then install a dozen of them around the center.

Prothonotary Warblers which are declining in numbers in this area, generally nest in holes in standing dead trees in our forested wetlands. The hope is that by providing additional places for the warblers to nest, it will facilitate an increase in their numbers, or minimally stop the decline due to habitat loss.

To attract the warbler requires a box with the right size hole (1.25”), and some very specific requirements for their placement. The box itself should be placed in or near still or slow-moving water, between 3 and 12 feet high. If placed in water, the box should face land, and if placed on land needs to be around 16 feet from the water, facing towards it. Minimally, the area the box is placed in will be 250 plus acres and you’ll rarely find nests less than 250 feet from each other. It’s also a good idea to install a predator guard.

Interestingly, the male selects several nesting sites within its territory and the female decides which one to use, and once started takes between 3 and 8 days to furnish with moss, cypress bark, grass and leaves.

Once the introduction was over, we split in to two groups to find suitable locations for the boxes to be placed. One group went looking for dry land locations and the other went looking for swamp locations. Here are some photos from the day

We had a good supply of boxes and long posts Jay, traversing a channel
A Master Naturalist volunteer with the assist It takes teamwork and a long walk through the swamp

All in all a good outing, and hopefully we'll get to see more and more warblers making their homes in the area, and if you'd like to learn about making your own nesting boxes, here's a link NESTWATCH


#SCCoastalMasterNaturalists #CawCawInterpretiveCentre #SCAudubon #BeidlerForest #SCWF #SCCMNA