Dear Friends: I have to describe this fabulous day to you! Please bear with me.
I was birding with Mark Holmgren, who’s the “keeper” of our local White-tailed Kite scene. For years, he’s kept track of this delicate species, their nesting habitats, their success or failure with nests in Goleta, etc., So….today when we went birding, I said I’d like to do whatever he chose & he thought we should go check out some White-tailed Kites at previously known nesting/possibly nesting locations.
We started out at eastern More Mesa in heavy coastal fog. Sure enough, perched atop a cypress in the dense mist, Mark spotted two fledglings. He wasn’t sure whether they were fledged nearby or on the western portion of the mesa.
Then we headed for San Marcos Foothills, that glorious piece of property that Mark helped preserve (along with many others!) & we entered from Antone Dr. on the far eastern section, had a great time (see eBird report which isn’t finished yet) & spotted a “nesty” acting adult kite in the top of a Coast Live Oak, but who knows?
Suddenly, a message comes from Wim Van Damme, who must monitor eBird every hour, about a MISSISSIPI KITE that was seen by Jack Rogers in Solvang. He’s an out-of-towner, who posted to eBird! The description sounded good, and he was an Easterner, familiar with the species. Still, it wasn’t until John Callender forwarded a photo of the kite that was on Facebook found by Conor Scotland, that we started to get excited.
Mark and I got in the car & headed over San Marcos Pass to the place on Alisal Road where Rogers had indicated he’d seen the kite. My dog, Happy, was in the back of the car, and it had now heated up to 91 degrees. Yikes. What a change from this morning!
We parked on the side of the road in front of the Alisal (private) tennis courts. The golf course here is lovely, with many large trees growing alongside Alisal Creek. Fortunately, the road parallels the course and the creek, so we thought it looked good for a place for a kite to roost? Or? Fly around? Who knew? Nick Lethaby showed up, then left, discouraged……
Mark & I decided to get in the car & drive slowly along north of the tennis courts til we got to a place where we could see the sky. About 100 yards later I stopped and parked in the shade again, and Mark & I got out & started to walk along the road, especially along the WEST side of the road where you can look across at the golf course and see the sky.
And that was when I got LUCKY. It was my kite karma! I put my binocs up & saw a raptor with pointed wings, darker on the tips from underneath, a banded tail, a small head — it looked like the one in Jack Rogers’ photo! I screamed at Mark, and suddenly I found that Tom Turner had run up beside me. He had just pulled up in his car. Then Mark saw it, too. YAY! So thrilling to see this beautiful, strange MISSISSIPI KITE flying high above us over the green golf course, high in the sky! We watched it for 35-40 seconds ( time stood still!) and then it slowly drifted to the north and we lost it behind the trees.
David Levasheff, Jeff Hanson, Guy Tingos, and Nick (who turned around at Gaviota), and Tom were still there watching when Mark & I left.
This is my 448th county bird, you guys! I am so happy….so lucky….and it wouldn’t have happened without SO many people posting and helping me on eBird, GroupMe, Facebook, and sbcobirding….and if Jack Rogers hadn’t gotten the word out when he did! THANK YOU EVERYONE!!
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