Thursday, July 8, 2021

Prothonotary Warblers in Tennessee

We joined our daughter's family for a brief stay at Paris Landing State Park in northwestern Tennessee. We spent 4 nights in a cabin on the forested shore of Kentucky Lake. I prepared for the trip by reviewing past years' eBird sightings reported for this location in late June and was delighted to see that the Prothonotary Warbler was commonly present. 

This is a species which breeds in much of the eastern US except for far northern areas and the southern half of the Florida peninsula, I first saw one as a beginning birder back in New Jersey. However I had never encountered one in my local south Florida birding patch and longed to photograph it.

MaryLou and I flew from Fort Lauderdale to Nashville and drove a rental car about 120 miles to the cabin. Our daughter, her husband and our two granddaughters drove down directly from Illinois and arrived just before us. 

The cabin is situated on a downslope, surrounded on three sides by mature hardwoods. The back deck, elevated about 20 feet above the ground, extends out to provide a commanding view. I wasted no time getting out there with my binoculars and camera.

Immediately upon opening the back door, I heard the unmistakable song of a Prothonotary Warbler. It was in plain view, although it seemed to favor the midstory to lower canopy and I sometimes had to shoot downward a bit:

The plumage of those in the shade exhibited traces of orange, like slightly burnished gold:

For some reason I find it very difficult to spell their common name without looking back at what I typed. Actually this should be easy, as this warbler's name is derived from Greek protonotarios, "first scribe." The "h" was added in Medieval Latin. The word prothonotary means "First Notary," the title given to the highest administrator of the Court of Rome, where the papal clerks wore bright yellow garments to distinguish them from the red cloaks of the bishops. 

In American English, the word Prothonotary is said to have appeared for the first time in the State of Pennsylvania Ordinance of 1707, to describe the clerk of courts when the court of common pleas was established. The warbler was given its name in 1779 when a specimen collected in Louisiana was described in French as "Le figuier protonotaire." Its common name was once "golden swamp warbler." (Now, wasn't that more than you ever wanted to know about a bird's name?)

Another bird which I expected to encounter was the Summer Tanager. I was not disappointed. They were easily seen from the back deck, often at eye level:

Less accessible were the Orchard Orioles, which usually kept to the treetops. This is a female:

A male Orchard Oriole surprised me by briefly alighting on an open branch, nearly in plain sight. Luckly, I had camera in hand and was trying to catch sight of an elusive titmouse. Although partly obscured by foliage, these were among my best views of the oriole:

Tufted Titmice called out frequently, but moved about very rapidly. One also favored me by venturing out on the "oriole branch:"

The Carolina Chickadees never came out into the open, so I obtained very poor shots:

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds startled me by flying in from nowhere. I only snapped a photo of the male before they were gone, not to appear again:

A male Downy Woodpecker was also "one and gone:"

All in all, I identified 29 bird species, missing only one of my target birds, the Kentucky Warbler. 

We stopped by in nearby Paris, where we found friendly Tennesseans (despite their being called "Parisites").  We did not want to miss seeing the Eiffel Tower*:

Aside from the birding, our daughter's family enjoyed a morning of boating and fishing while we walked the trails in the immediate vicinity of the cabin. 

Kentucky Lake-- our son-in-law is nearly invisible, fishing behind the tree trunk:

A quiet cove where we found what I thought to be an Acadian Flycatcher (upon review it was only the more common Eastern Wood-Peewee in bad light):

View from the back deck:

Here is a video from the deck early in the morning, taken by our daughter. You can hear the Prothonotary Warbler singing in the foreground:

Link to my eBird checklist with more photos and recordings.

*Paris was incorporated on September 30, 1823. It was the first town incorporated in West Tennessee, followed by Lexington on October 9, 1824, and Memphis on December 19, 1826. The city was named after Paris, France, in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War. One of 15 U.S. cities named Paris, the historic Henry County town of less than 11,000 residents is known for the "World' Biggest Fish Fry" as well as a 70-foot, to-scale replica of the original Paris' iconic Eiffel Tower...The town's Eiffel Tower, however, didn't come into existence until the 1990s. It was constructed by engineering students from Christian Brothers University in Memphis and dedicated in Memorial Park (later named Eiffel Tower Park) on January 29, 1993. The original wood structure has since been completely replaced by steel and is a popular spot for photo ops and events. C'est magnifique, y'all!" (REF: Southern Living)

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Linking to:

Skywatch Friday

Weekend Reflections

Saturday's Critters


Camera Critters

All Seasons

Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)

Natasha Musing

Our World Tuesday


Please visit the links to all these posts to see some excellent photos on display


  1. You look like you had a wonderful stay in Paris. I had to smile as their Eiffel Tower. It really looks amazing. If someone looked quickly you might mistake it for a photo from France, even if the surrounding details are different. And you saw some great birds. I haven't seen summer tanagers or orchard oriels. Thanks for sharing these with us.

  2. Looks like a perfect getaway..Thanks for sharing your photos..Lot's of those birdies are commonly seen here on occasion..Nice to see them all together.
    I didn't know one had to wear camoufloge to fish..LOL

  3. glad you had a great time with your family in Tennessee - I grew up in Tennessee but never saw the beautiful warbler

  4. really nice captures of birdies as always, but Parisites made me laugh out LOUD ;-). stealing it for our Parisites.

  5. The photos of the warbler are stunning. You had a gorgeous view from that deck!

  6. Prothonotary Warbler ­čśë I can hardly pronounce that, but it is a beautiful bird. What a great colour. There is a German name: Zitronenwalds├Ąnger = Lemon woodwarbler. Beautiful pictures, Ken.
    Herzliche Gr├╝├če - Elke

  7. That prothonotary warbler may be the most beautiful bird I have ever seen. I can see why people become birders.

  8. Awesome birds, Amazing pics.
    Loved the post.

  9. Great pictures! Love all the birds.

  10. Wow! Fantastic collection. I miss those tiny birds every time I try to get camera nearby.

  11. We're too far north for that warbler. I am so happy you photographed them!
    I like birding from the back deck. What a great time you seemed to have!

  12. Love all the nature shots and the photo of the tower is wonderful.

  13. Hello Ken,
    what a great trip, the bird sightings are fantastic. I love the views of the Prothonotary Warbler, the Summer Tanager and Orchard Orioles are gorgeous. It is neat seeing the Eiffel Tower in Tennessee. Beautiful collection of photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your weekend! PS, thank you for your comment today and on all past visits.

  14. Hi Kennethe, beautiful serie photos. Nice coulours of the birds, Nice photo of the Eifel Tower.

  15. Hi Kenneth! :) Oh that Summer Tanager is just beautiful! Great shots! I love that photo of the Woodpecker in flight! LOL I didn't know they were called Parasites, that's funny. The view from the back deck is lovely, what a nice trip! :)

  16. What a feast for the eye. All these are gorgeous captures.

    This week's post

  17. This is a wonderful post. Love the tanager.

  18. What fantastic photos. Both scenery and birds. I have a more difficult time pronouncing prothonotary than spelling it.

    Have a great week ahead and thanks for taking time to link in at IRBB so we can visit!

  19. This is so beautiful brother Kenneth! Especially seeing the striking plumages of these cute bird varieties you shared! Our company has a large office in Franklin Tennessee and I feel so happy seeing pictures of that state as I have some counterparts there that tell me how nice it is there.

  20. What beautiful bold (coloured) birds! Thanks for linking with #Allseasons

  21. (And sorry you missed your target bird when you were lucky enough to spot 29 others!!)

  22. Beautiful shots of beautiful birds

  23. Perfect place for a short break. Loved the bird photos. Never knew there was a place called Paris in the US.

  24. Beautiful photos! I love the story about the First Notary name. We have a Paris in Virginia too.

  25. Fabulous scenery and magnificent birds! The colors are so bright and I am glad you told us the story of their names!

    I'm so happy to see your link at My Corner of the World this week!

  26. Gosh! Birds of paradise indeed. What a beautiful break this must have been. I felt as though I was out there with you guys. Lovely shots, gorgeous birds and nature at its expansive best.

    So thrilled to see this heartening post from the wilderness on #WordlessWednesday dear Ken.

    Have yourselves a great weekend ahead.


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