There are few reports that are as tantalizing as of a swallow-tailed kite in our area. There are only a handful, and they are almost always of fly-over birds that are headed somewhere else. But I cannot ignore the possibility of adding that species to my Mecklenburg County List no matter how long the odds of relocating kite.
So when a reliable report was made last Friday from Steele Creek Road and Shopton Road, I knew I would be out there the next day to give it a try. Any wandering species has the potential to hang around an area where ample prey is to be had. It was this possibility that drove my tiny bit of optimism.
That intersection is not good kite habitat, but a large power line cut close by seemed to me the best immediate spot to check. I gave it an hour, enjoying hearing field sparrows in full song, watching a female bluebird gathering food, briefly getting excited when a pair of broad-winged hawks soared over, and again, when a pair of red-tailed hawks showed. It was late morning, optimum time for aerial hunters like kites to be active, but my basic instincts were borne out: no kite there that day.
McDowell Prairie is not too far from that location as the kite flies, and it seemed the most logical place to attract a foraging, wandering swallow-tailed kite in the immediate area. I headed over there to continue the search. An hour and half later I still had not added that bird to my list. That’s a list tick for another day.
All serious birders and listers have experienced the dilemma: to chase or not to chase. You must weigh the chances of success against time spent in a fruitless endeavor. I’ve had plenty of similar failures but also some great successes. It really is a euphoric feeling (and one of relief) when the rare bird shows, justifying the change of daily plans and time spent. To be true, the decision to chase this bird was made easier because it was only 40 minutes away. Day or overnight chases require more of a gambling nature.
Hopefully the next chase report will yield positive results. There will be more birds to chase. We are well into the time of year where birds worth chasing will be appearing with increased frequency. Here’s to hoping for an active fall migration.