Monday, August 9, 2010

White-tailed Kite Day 9

The White-tailed Kite has passed the one-week mark in Connecticut and was seen this morning at Stratford Point. It has quickly acclimated to its new home at the mouth of the Housatonic River, going being Stratford Point, Short Beach in Stratford, and Milford Point on a constant basis. It also takes an occasional trip by the old Army engine plant, the airport, and the Stratford Great Meadows Important Bird Area. You can still get fantastic views in the early morning and evening hours, when it hunts the most. The best bet is the early morning (sunrise to two hours after) at Stratford Point. The pictures below are of it fighting another juvenile Peregrine Falcon on Sunday night. Having to literally run my cheap camera without a large lens was able to get a couple decent shots.

The Peregrine started the fight. I was with a sizable group of people at Stratford Point, watching it on a pole just above our heads. While chatting and taking photos, remarking on the bands, the kite sneaked in and started hovering for a meal in front of the main building. We did not even see the Peregrine hop up - it was attacking the kite before you could blink. The rather ferocious battle lasted around three minutes, both birds going further and further out over the water until they went up the Housatonic a bit, barely in range of my 12 power binoculars. The White-tailed Kite maintained air superiority, staying above the falcon nearly the entire time, doling out several sharp attacks on the aggressor. The Peregrine broke to Short Beach after it had enough, with the kite going back to Milford Point, staying there for the night rather than returning to Stratford. It was incredible.

Another fun part will be finding out where this juvenile Peregrine Falcon is from. I sent the band information to the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. When I have the background on the bird I will post it. Stratford Point has had hundreds if not thousands of visitors over the past week. I have spent probably upwards of 70 hours there since the kite first appeared. Apart from the fact I would be able to write a book on it, we have seen many other fantastic birds at Stratford Point and the Coastal Center at Milford Point, an already well-known birding hotspot.

The word on Stratford Point as a wonderful place to come visit apart from the kite is getting out. Please keep it in mind as a birding destination even after the kite leaves...whenever that will be. It seems to be well fed and quite content here now, even though it is avoiding people more than it used to. As the visiting crowds dwindle in size the longer it stays this may only encourage it to stick around even more. I am hopeful that the only thing to trigger the kite's departure will be cooler weather, and we are quite far away on the calendar from cooling down significantly.

Below is a list of the species, 74 in all with several rarities, seen from August 1-8 at Stratford Point. Today, August 9, added a Merlin. A notable subspeices, "western" Willet, was spotted last week too.

Mute Swan
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Glossy Ibis
Turkey Vulture
White-tailed Kite
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Piping Plover
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Least Tern
Roseate Tern
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Monk Parakeet
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
American Crow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Yellow Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
Baltimore Oriole
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

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