Friday, August 27, 2010

White-tailed Kite Day 27

The White-tailed Kite has a secret I have slowly let out the last few days. It is, without a doubt, spending much more time at Stratford Point. This is because it is feeding more than it did for the first 20-25 days. The kite never had more than one meal at night, but it has had multiple kills in the late afternoon evening in the past four days. The mere fact it is actually at Stratford Point at, say, 11AM or 4PM is out of character. It is eating nearly as much as it can, still hunting with a full crop.

On Thursday night, August 26, we had an interesting event. After the kite hunted for a long time, putting on quite a show for everyone, it took a vole to eat on the beach. This in itself was a bit strange, though not unheard of - it has fed on the seawall at times lately. After it landed, I noticed a Great Black-backed Gull land near it. The gull went right up to the kite, circling it, pacing around waiting for a chance to take the vole. The weight class was not even close as the kite looked tiny compared to the massive gull. The raptor bobbed its tail repeatedly and mantled the prey. It was able to intimidate the gull just enough, eating the vole slowly. Once it took off the gull chased it closely for another minute.

A poor distant shot of the action as we watched it, White-tailed Kite on the left and Great Black-backed Gull on the right.

But what's the biggest news? Around 4 this afternoon the kite snatched and ate a vole. It sat in a tree at Stratford Point, occasionally flying around the property, thinking about another meal. Around 5:30, the kite took off, flying high near west side of the property. It used a thermal to climb hundreds of feet into the air...and then thousands. It passed an Osprey on the way up, becoming invisible to the naked eye in the sky and barely in binocular view even though it was directly over Stratford Point. When it turned and headed south, I was literally saying "goodbye!" as the three of us there thought we were witnessing the departure. Conditions were very favorable with a northerly flow after yesterday's cold front. The only odd thing was that it was so late in the day. A minute later, it slowly came back to sea level, ending up in the same tree it sat in most of the day. It later hunted and then left around 7:30 in the usual way.

Showing off the new feathers.

There seems to be no doubt the White-tailed Kite is preparing to leave. My best guess was that it would leave in September after a cold front (and after the molt was complete). The molt is nearly done, and nearly all the new feathers have come in. Outside of tomorrow, the next week will not be conducive to movement. We will have a warm and tropical-feeling southerly flow with winds going in the opposite direction it needs to go. This may keep it here. I have the feeling the kite is thinking about leaving tomorrow or in the next couple of days. What it does not know is that after tomorrow it is going to be tough. We'll see! Speaking of that, if you have not seen the kite, the time is clearly now.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

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