Sunday, June 15, 2014

Mississippi Kite in Belchertown and my Breeding Bird Survey route

Mississippi Kite ( believe it or not!), Belchertown, MA, June 15, 2014
Mississippi Kite ( believe it or not!), Belchertown, MA, June 15, 2014
Mississippi Kite ( believe it or not!), Belchertown, MA, June 15, 2014
Winsor Dam with lots of whitecaps, Quabbin Park, June 15, 2014
I started off today before dawn conducting my annual breeding bird survey route that runs from Belchertown south through Palmer and into Monson before ending near the CT line.  I ended the morning with a total of 70 species with 861 individuals along the route which is an improvement from last year and my second highest total in the five years I have been running the route. The overall highest represented species was once again the American Robin which was present at 72% of the stops (down from 80% last year).  The other top ten (as a percentage) are as follows: Red eyed Vireo (64%), Chipping Sparrow (54%),  Northern Cardinal (50%), Black capped Chickadee (48%), Tufted Titmouse (46%), Gray Catbird (44%), House Wren (44%), Ovenbird (40%) and Mourning Dove and Eastern Phoebe tied at 30%.  As in previous years the area along the route continues to be built out with more and more homes. 

After completing the route I headed back north and that is when the day got really interesting.  After filling up with gas I was turning onto Route 9 from George Hannum Road when I spotted a bird flying northwest fairly low that immediately struck me as unusual.  I pulled over right away and got some quick bino views as it moved west to northwest toward quabbin....a Mississippi Kite!  I snapped a few shots but sadly they were out of focus (shooting through the windshield at a bird moving past powerlines does not work well).  The flight immediately struck me as unusual- buoyant, almost bounding at times(some of that may have been due to the strong northerly wind).  The bird featured long, pointed wings, overall long tail narrower at the base, overall dark gray with lighter head.  The bird had a profile in flight that reminded me of an osprey with an almost gull winged appearance but again some of that may have been due to the strong winds.  After having the bird in the binos for about five seconds it disappeared behind a building but then popped out into view a few seconds later.  I grabbed my camera and took a few shots through the windshield during the couple seconds in was back in view.  Perhaps the same bird Evan believes he had yesterday up near Dana?  Tried checking out a few spots in the direction it was moving but no luck....Winsor Dam was very windy with lots of whitecaps (perfect conditions for a good fall waterfowl flight but not too good in mid June!)  I have included the photos I could get although they don't really help with the identification...the photos could just as well be an airplane, a thrown stick or a UFO!  I include them as they are the only ones I managed to get.  The Mississippi Kite becomes Hampshire County species #281 and species #214 for the county this year.

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