Bird #240 — Prothonotary Warbler

protonotaria (in the Roman Catholic Church, a papal notary who wears a yellow hood) citrea (lemon color)

Tuesday, May 3, 1983 — 8:35 am

Mayflower, Arkansas — Bell Slough Wildlife Area

After I saw the Yellow-breasted Chats, I continued through the brushy area, still watching carefully for snakes.  The track I was walking on ended at a swamp that was edged by a canal and causeway.  I headed along this, through three-inch grass.  I hadn’t gone too far when I spotted a bird (I don’t recall what kind).  I stopped to look for it, and moved a step or two for a better view.  When I looked down, I noticed a Cottonmouth laying in the grass not more than a foot in front of me.  I froze, petrified.  My heart dropped into my socks.  After what seemed like an hour, but was really no more than a few seconds, I noticed that the snake’s head was missing, blown off with a shotgun.  It was still scary looking, and I gave it a wide margin as I inched past.  I kept thinking that if I could get that close to a dead one being so careful, the same thing could happen with a live one.  I surprised myself by continuing.  I didn’t know I was that brave.

About 100 yards past the snake, the causeway disappeared under the water of the swamp.  I could see where it started again, but I wasn’t brave enough to wade.  I stood there for a few minutes looking around (and down).  It paid off.  A Prothonotary Warbler flew to a small bush in the swamp.  It hopped around a bit, then flew off across the swamp into the woods and disappeared. 

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