I found the White-tailed Kite at Stratford Point this morning around 7:45. This is the fifth day it has been present here in Stratford. It popped up from a tree near the second building at Stratford Point, flying to a smaller tree by the entrance. It sat here for only a minute while I got my camera set as a truck drove down the to the end of Prospect Drive. I saw it turn its head to watch it coming, then hop up and fly east, going all the way to Short Beach. It was still early, and I told a group of birders that came a bit later to remain at Stratford Point and hope that it would come back.
The kite came back about an hour later, putting on quite a show, flying and perching and being mobbed by Common Terns and Herring Gulls. After around 30 minutes of exposure, it went back to Short Beach and disappeared low to the ground near the haze. It was seen around noon and during the early afternoon at Short Beach. I do not know what its whereabouts were after or what they are right now. However, as I learn how the kite behaves and its daily schedule, I can surmise it returned to Stratford Point about an hour ago. I would guess it already had dinner and went to roost, though it may still be hunting for a late snack.
I say this so that out of state and more local visitors can understand that the easiest times to see the White-tailed Kite are early morning and the late afternoon or evening. These are the most active hunting hours. At other times, especially on warm days, it is less active and stays out of the sun and heat. I am often asked if I know where it is at X time - probably not. If the kite is in a tree somewhere around Short Beach, or even near Stratford Point, it hides very well. It is larger than you may think but it is still on the small side for a raptor. If it wants to cool down, rest, and not be found it is very capable of eluding everyone. It has a couple trees it favors over others to perch on, but even then, it will go anywhere it feels like. There is no discernible pattern for roost trees because it is simply not found very often.
Many people reading this do not know much about the coastal grasslands management area at Stratford Point. It supports a great deal of infrequently found or rare birds during every part of the year. Today it also had the juvenile Peregrine Falcon pictured above (though the photo was from Tuesday), an adult male American Kestrel, a Green Heron, a couple Bobolink and Purple Martin, a few Orchard Oriole, and migrants such as Eastern Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, House Wren, and more. We have large concentrations of swallows and shorebirds as well. Please stop by in the future for other great sightings, as you can see some amazing birds here - even if they just fly by.
I have a request from Coastal Center Director Frank Gallo for everyone who visits Milford Point to see the kite (or the many other great birds) to drive slowly, as neighbors were upset with visitors speeding down the road. It is a 25MPH street. Please respect this and be safe, as we need to stay on good terms with our wonderful neighbors. Keep this in mind in Stratford please - besides the neighbors there, the White-tailed Kite absolutely hates vehicular traffic, too. Drive up carefully and watch for people and the kite. Thank you in advance!
Photos © Jim Zipp; field sketch © Mark Szantyr