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August 19, 2016 [LINK / comment]

Mississippi Kite in Staunton

Sometimes I drive for 30 miles or more in search of some rare bird that somebody spotted, and sometimes (such as when I saw a Western Tanager in March 2004), a rare bird pays a visit right here in our back yard. While I was reading the newspaper this morning, Jacqueline was watering our plants outside and asked me for the binoculars. She said she saw some strange-looking big bird in the tree tops, so I figured I ought to take a look. Indeed, it was not a hawk but a different kind of raptor. The whitish head and mascara-like dark-shadowed eyes left little doubt that it was a Mississippi Kite! It flew away briefly, but fortunately then returned to a tree top branch, enabling me to get a better look. The morning light was perfect for a photo:

Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite (juvenile), in the north part of Staunton, August 19.

The mottled rufous feathers in the breast indicate that it was not an adult. I thought perhaps it might be a second-year ("subadult") bird, but others who have seen the photo say that it is a juvenile. The last time I saw a Mississippi Kite was two years ago, on July 3, 2014 in Salina, Kansas. I was with my Dad at St. John's Military School, of which he was an alumnus. Actually, there were two such birds: a male circling above, and a female brooding in her nest up in a big tree. I also saw one near Dodge City the day before. [Mississippi Kites are most prevalent in the south-central plains, and their breeding range extends east from Texas across the lower Mississippi Delta through Georgia and South Carolina, with scattered populations elsewhere. After breeding season ends, the juveniles tend to disperse into interior regions, much like Great Egrets and White Ibises.]

Other bird news

Yesterday, Jacqueline and I drove up to Bridgewater, but I couldn't find the White Ibis which I had seen last week, and which was reported to be lingering in that area for a few more days. I did see an immature Bald Eagle fly directly overhead, however. At Leonard's Pond there were a dozen or so Killdeers plus a solitary Solitary Sandpiper.

On August 14, Jacqueline and I went hiking in the Shenandoah National Park, along the Appalachian Trail from Blackrock Gap to Blackrock, which is a pile of boulders with some great views toward the north and west. There weren't many birds that (very hot) day, but we did see a couple Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, White-breasted Nuthatches, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, and a couple Eastern Towhee. (See the montage on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page. I'll make a separate blog post with photos of mushrooms and scenery.) Around Blackrock, our destination, there were quite a few Barn Swallows swooping around.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 19 Aug 2016, 3: 43 PM

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