Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Brown Pelican at Stratford Point with the White-tailed Kite

The White-tailed Kite continued to be seen today at Stratford Point, Short Beach, and Milford Point. I went back tonight in hopes of seeing it hunting, as I do nearly every late afternoon or evening, and to allow visitors in to the site. Twan was still there, doing work mapping spartina growth around Stratford Point, an exciting development in itself. A group of around 12-15 people was present, some of us waiting as we do each night. We saw the kite about 1 1/4 miles away at Milford Point, sitting in a cedar as it usually does. My hopes for its return were low.

While all of us relaxed and chatted, and I faced towards Long Island Sound and the Stratford Lighthouse, myself and another man saw it flying along the shore. I screamed out something slightly inappropriate while he said "Pelican!" as I was already running to the sound side of the building. The group followed and a few of us quickly snapped off photos. I got one decent one considering the spur of the moment run, kneel, and shoot with only an optical zoom:

A Brown Pelican!

Scott Vincent's amazing photos, thank you!

We watched it fly further towards Milford, eventually landing in the waters just on the Milford side of the large breakwater. We emailed and called people frantically. We checked the field guides we had to verify that this was a young Brown Pelican while looking at it through scopes. American White Pelicans are a very rare sight, and we were fortunate enough to have a group of eight that a few of us tracked down the Connecticut coast to locations including Stratford Point last December...but a Brown Pelican? This is exceptionally rare, and a notable state record.

As we were in total shock the White-tailed Kite flew in right in front of our eyes, only about 50 feet away. It hovered for food as the Common Terns attacked it. Even those of us who had seen the kite, or someone who has every day like myself, was in awe of the looks we had over the next few minutes. The Brown Pelican, albeit far away, was in the same plane of view. It is still mind-blowing to think of. I have never had two more rare Connecticut birds at the same moment in my life, and I likely never will again.

The kite captured a small mammal and took it to its favorite perch when people are there (and it cannot use a telephone pole), the Juniper tree in the corner of the site. It ate while we watched the Brown Pelican. Not to be outdone it then flew to a tree near the middle building, very close to all of us. I have also never had a moment where it was so difficult to divide my attention. All of us enjoyed breathtaking views, the best in days - trust me, I have been here constantly. A bit later, we added a Black Tern to the day's list, which, while not exceptionally rare, I believe is the first seen in Connecticut this year. The pelican was last seen heading towards Milford Harbor. It may very well be in the same area tomorrow morning. We have a good chance, though it is highly unlikely it will stick around in the way the kite has, or for any substantial amount of time.

I will add pictures of the Brown Pelican if I receive more soon from the other guys. It was an absolutely unbelievable evening.
As I have mentioned lately these other wonderful sightings make me wonder what we have been missing at Stratford Point with only a few eyes there for short periods of time until now. If not for the White-tailed Kite none of us would have been there at the time tonight. We have it to thank for finding the Brown Pelican.

Photo 1 © Scott Kruitbosch; photos 2-4 © Scott A. Vincent

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