Monday, August 2, 2010

Twitching the White-tailed Kite in Stratford Connecticut...

White-tailed Kite perched on a Cottonwood tree.
When I started the day yesterday, I had a couple of options swirling around in my head. Should I spend time elaborating on my comments on why the "Hind Toes" were important in the case of the Black-bellied Whistling Duck that was seen the day before or do I go out into the field? Of course, my readers would forgive and understand that the field would win out every time - just like it did in this case. It shouldn't surprise anyone that I headed out to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge; I wanted to see if the Black-bellied Whistling Duck was still around, so I could alert folks that I knew might try for it. As I made my way to bench 6 on the West Pond, I saw a few birders already there and I could tell from their body language that the bird was not there, but I verified it anyway. It was confirmed, the bird was not there and unfortunately was not relocated throughout the day. I did not stick around for very long and headed over to the East Pond to do some field study.

On the south end of the pond I found a Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor that looked very different from the 2 Wilson's Phalaropes that were being seen on the pond, so I took the time to get photos for documentation purposes. Later on, birder and photographer Steve Walter, joined me on the east pond and he also noted that the Wilson's Phalarope seemed to be a different bird. Further validating that this was a third WP was a call from birder Seth Asubel, who was at the North End and confirmed the presence of 2 Wilson's Phalrope in that area, this was while we had the other one at the South End. I continued my field study, walking from the South heading North until it started clouding up and then I decided to pack it in. On my way out I met my friend Karlo Mirth (remember him from the American Golden Plover find last year), he was going to gamble on the weather holding up and was heading out to the east pond.

 White-tailed Kite in Stratford Connecticut

After passing on intelligence on what was around and where to look I headed home. Minutes later, I took a call from my friend Tom Burke who had just pulled in to Jamaica Bay when he was informed of a White-tail Kite Elanus Leucurus being reported in Connecticut (the bird was found by Dennis Varza). I immediately, began gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of the bird and called Shai Mitra to let him know. Shai, was already aware of the sighting and was contemplating on making a chase. I then called Karlo to see if he was interested in the chase. Coincidentally, Tom Burke and Gail Benson had seen Karlo in the parking lot at Jamaica Bay and had relayed to him about the Kite and he was contemplating calling me. So when I called him, it all fell into place and in a matter of minutes we were on the New England thruway battling traffic on our way to Connecticut. There were some moments stuck in traffic on I-95 where we were getting anxious, but we finally made it.

 Note the black shoulders on the White-tailed Kite.

Unfortunately, just as we pulled into the location, the Old Remmington Gun Club in Stratford, the bird flew, so we had to wait it out. A mad dash at another location after receiving word the bird was being seen was unproductive; then, we got a call from Shai Mitra who had joined us in the chase; he had circled back to the original spot where the bird had been seen. The Kite was back! Karlo and I passed on the word and then rushed back to the spot, where we were treated to spectacular views of the White-tailed Kite. The bird perched in a couple of trees (in the distance) and hunted in the meadows around the old gun club. The great looks we had was well worth the ride. Traffic on the way home was minimal, but it would not have mattered; we were two happy birders with visions of White-tailed Kite etched in our memories.  Enjoy the photos.

Another look at the black shoulders on the White-tailed Kite.

White-tailed Kite hunting in Stratford Connecticut.

White-tailed Kite in Stratford Connecticut.

White-tailed Kite in Stratford Connecticut.

You have to be good to take a coffee break and still get the bird :) 

Happy birders soaking in the White-tailed Kite in Stratford Connecticut.

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