As the title so aptly describes was it sheer madness or just a daring run? Yesterday, around 3:00 PM, I sent my friend Debbie Martin an e-mail indicating my interest in making a run for the Mississippi Kite that had been reported in Ames, Montgomery County NY and possibly the Sedge Wren at another location. Factoring traffic, this was going to be on average an 8-10 hour drive both ways, so I would have understood if Debbie thought I was nuts to even make the suggestion on a holiday weekend. Debbie at first responded in the negative, but then had a change of heart and decided she was in. We set off around 6:30 AM and arrived in Ames Montgomery at around 9:45 AM. Our target was the corner of Mapletown and Donato Roads as it seemed the best place for viewing according to posts by birders who had recorded successful sightings. We learned that someone had seen the bird as early as 9:40 AM in a field behind the second house on the right on Donato road. Though, some birders who were there just around the same time that the person (s) claimed to have spotted the bird seemed skeptical. Anyway, we setup at the location where the bird had reportedly been seen and waited for about 30 minutes. After a while, the group of early birders, I will refer to them as NJ birders since they had NJ license plates, decided to check out other spots. I offered them my phone number just in case Debbie and I or they got the bird, that way we could communicate with each other. (I used that strategy throughout the day, giving out my phone # in order to maximize coverage around the area). More birders arrived and took up watch with us. Eventually, Debbie and I changed our lookout spot moving around to various areas and checking in with other birders whose numbers had increased to well over 18 and were scattered around the area. Debbie and I were standing on the corner of Donato and Mapletown Roads, when I decided I would walk up Donato Road and check in with the NJ birders, who I thought were still stationed at that location. I did not find them and I realized that they might have left. I was heading back down the road, when I spotted one of many Kestrels seen throughout the day hunting in the field behind the first house on Donato Road. As I was observing the Kestrel, something else came into my field of view. I quickly focused on the subject and realized that I found our target bird, the Mississippi Kite. I ran a few steps trying not to take my eyes off of the bird and waved frantically at the group at the intersection. I got their attention and by now they too had seen the bird and were buzzing with excitement. I then got on the phone to a few birders including Barbara Mansel, who had exchanged their telephone numbers with me and told them that we had found the bird. This was around 1:30 PM. The bird hunted giving us spectacular views and we watched for about an hour before leaving. We reluctantly left, but drove off we did, in search of another target bird, in Sedge Wren. After about an hour of driving we got to the location of the Sedge Wren. On our way in, we met some birders from Albany who indicated that they had tried for the bird for an hour, but had only heard and did not see the bird. Debbie and I were not dissuaded; after all, we were still riding the euphoria from the Mississippi Kite sighting. We quickly learned that this was not going to be easy, as the bird sang but did not show. Suddenly, after about an hour, we both confirmed that something had moved in closer to some milkweeds near our location. We waited patiently and the bird showed itself and then dropped back into the grass. It did so several times, never staying up long enough for a photograph. Nevertheless, we were both satisfied with the looks. Debbie had already seen this bird, but confirmed that this was an even better look for her. It was a special day for both of us and while we wondered about the traffic we might encounter on the way back it turned out to be rather easy going and we made it back to Queens around 9:10 PM. It was a special day all round with lifers for both of us.
Tags: birding, Mississippi Kite, Sedge Wren, Montgomery County, Benedict Park Farm