The annual excursion to clean out the Prothonotary Warbler nest boxes fairly routine on a warm Saturday in March, 2013. At the Mayes Lake location, Reese, Louise and crew found and cleaned most of the boxes, while some were repositioned and made attractive for the arrival of new tenants in the Spring.
On Sunday, the conditions at the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area were not so normal. The area is allowed to flood during the rainy Winter to attract waterfowl, then the high water is pumped into the Reservoir for the rest of the year. This time the pumps malfunctioned, and Reese and Billy found the water in the nest box area much to high to access even with chest waders. Time to execute Plan B!
Reese had canoed the area before and was somewhat familiar with navigating through the trees and brush, so it was decided to attempt the nestbox cleanout by canoe. After loading our canoe with spare poles and boxes, we set off paddling over the same trails we normally walked, until we reached the observation deck at the Heron/Egret rookery. From this familiar reference point, we had surprisingly little trouble locating boxes, even without Louise's detailed map notebook.
Not long into our mission, we were rewarded with the sight of a vortex of Chimney Swifts circling a large, hollow tree. Perhaps these should have been identified as Hollow Tree Swifts?
One by one, we found the boxes and carefully approached, pushing off limbs and pulling around logs. Reese worked the boxes as I paddled and sculled to keep him dry and in position.
We hadn't seen any alligators and only a snake or two, though it was warm enough for them to be about. We were probably not even thinking about gators when we heard a huge splash not far to our right. Scanning the surface of the water through the trees, we spotted something swimming quickly toward us. It turned away as it got within 20 yards, revealing itself, a large deer!
The canoe mission was so successful, Reese and I are almost hoping the pumps break down again this year!