Tuesday, March 03, 2009


About a fifteen years ago, Dawn and i were driving from Tucson to LA. We'd just crossed the mountains. There was a wide open and fairly level prairie. Just this one huge tree. A simple fence ran along the road. There was a Bluebird on a fence post. I pulled over, went to the trunk, pulled out the 22x60 spotting scope and set it up. The Bluebird waited patiently for all this. And for maybe a minute sat there to let us get a look.

While Dawn was looking through the scope, the Bluebird took off and flew to the tree. In the mean time, i saw what looked like a gull flying down the mountain into the field. I said out loud, "What's a gull doing out here?" Dawn stood there unable to speak, and barely able to get binoculars up. It was a Swallow-tailed Kite.

no i didn't take this shotThe kite circled the tree once, then landed in it. Apparently, it didn't see the Blue bird. Apparently, being bright blue doesn't mean that you get eaten whenever a hungry kite comes by. The Bluebird didn't move. After a bit, the kite took to the air and decided to hunt for something on the ground. This was done by flying to what appeared to be an arbitrary spot to hover. And by hover, i mean that it appeared that it's head was somehow locked in an invisible vice maybe 40 feet in the air. The wings moved, other things moved, but the head did not. You could point the scope at the head. The tripod didn't move, and neither did the head. And after a bit, the kite would suddenly make a dramatic turn, and maybe 50 feet over, it would lock it's head there. What a show. Magnificent. After maybe twenty minutes, the kite went over the field, harassed a flock of Starlings, then flew back up and over the mountain.


Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,
I haven't looked to see what part of the country you live in, but I see the photos of you shoveling snow, so I'm guessing Back East, where Swallow-tailed Kites breed. I am guessing that you saw a White-tailed Kite on your trip from Tucson to L.A., as opposed to a Swallow-tailed Kite. What is the origin of the Swallow-tail photo on your blog?

Tom Miko (caffeine addict seeking redemption)
Claremont (Los Angeles)

Stephen said...

Michigan. Kites of any kind are very rare here.

I got the photo off the web. I don't seem to have left myself a bread crumb trail to track down whose it was for attribution. I have gone back and edited in attribution for some of my other posts. I'm sure i cropped it down from a larger photo. Bird photography is generally expensive. So I only have really easy shots of my own. Read, point and shoot digital camera, possibly jammed against the eyepiece of a scope or binoculars.

My current caffeine intake is down into the noise level.

Perhaps i can get confirmation on Kite species. I'm not the one with the log.