Sunday, May 10, 2009

Swallow-tailed Kite!

Birds are still migrating along the Gulf Coast. I was running in Dow Park today, when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, what looked like a laughing gull that suddenly banked and corrected itself too quickly. Intuition fired in: this wasn't normal flight behavior for a gull. I stopped and stared at the soaring bird, which was at least a sixth or fifth of a mile away. It banked again, and I saw a long, deeply forked tail. This immediately identified it as a swallow-tailed kite, which I've never seen before, which is local mainly to Florida and the southeastern coastline of the US, which is almost certainly just migrating through (since the only TX-based population is a summertime concentration in a small area along the TX - LA border), and which is one of the most elegant birds of prey in the world!

Its wings appeared longer than a laughing gull's. It was much more agile than a gull (of course: this exceptionally agile bird is known to catch and eat prey on the wing!). I stared at this spirit of the sky for two or three minutes while it banked and soared like a cross between a gull and a swallow high over freshly-mowed lawns of Bermuda grass and eco-unconscious housing developments. Was it disappointed in the yield of prey this cancer-stricken earth offered it? I hope not.

Many birds out today. A hawk soared over my head before I saw the kite. I saw it plainly, despite wearing my very old eyeglasses and not having binoculars at hand. It had whiter areas more distally along the wings, and a white patch (perhaps its leg feathers?) in the proximal tail area, and also a white neck and/or face. I couldn't identify it when I came home, but my closest guess is red-shouldered hawk.

Before that, I encountered a Carolina chickadee singing alone on a power line. It reminded me of my forest runs and hikes ("chicka-dee-dee-dee"). I don't know why it was there...I don't think chickadees migrate, and this park is not forested.

Other birds seen: a loggerhead shrike and the usual sparrows, grackles, starlings, and mockingbirds. I also heard what I thought was a warbler vs. vireo, but couldn't identify it by going through warbler and vireo recordings afterward. It may have been part of another family of birds.

Yesterday, while searching for a party in Pearland at dusk, I saw a silhouetted scissor-tailed flycatcher alight on a power line and flick its long tail.

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