By Adrienne Frank and Gary Driscole
In late winter, Gary Driscole prepares for the coming year of monitoring Prothonotary Warbler (PW) boxes in Dragon Run. He repairs or replaces boxes and checks their placement in the river. The warblers typically return to the Dragon in late April to raise their young; the boxes will be ready for their return.
PWs eat insects and when the spring is cold and rainy the insect population decreases. PWs eat water insects (i.e., mayflies) and caterpillars. A study conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) found that PW chicks with mayflies present in their diet were healthier than those without.
In 2017, Gary helped Lesley Bullock and her graduate student Jessica Reese conduct additional research of PWs in Dragon Run. Jessica caught and examined a dozen or so warblers to check their health. She measured size, fat layers, collected feathers, and banded them. Months later, her banded birds were found in Columbia in South America.
Survival of these birds is habitat-related. Coastal areas here and in Columbia face habitat loss due to increased clearing for development and other environmental conditions. Sea level rise, which happens first in the low-land swamps, decreases flora and fauna that the PWs use for survival.
Gary will conduct weekly monitoring beginning in April and throughout June, July, and perhaps into August. At the end of the season, he will send his data to VCU and will report his findings to FODR.