We had a small visitor just up the road who came in with the storms overnight. Bonaparte’s Gulls don’t usually hang out in rainwater ponds in the northern end of Carroll County…
One the birds the boys have been wanting to see, since we began birding, was the American White Pelican. I had seen them before, many years ago, and we’ve seen lots of Brown Pelicans down on the coast, but the boys never got the chance to see one, until today.
Yesterday someone reported seeing one at Carter’s Lake, so we put some gas in the truck and went to see if we could see it. We’ve had a bit of a curse with Carter’s Lake. It seems no matter what type of bird people would see there, it would be long gone before we arrived to look for it. Again, until today.
It’s not the best photo. It was made with my iPhone, using my scope lens. But you can tell it’s a Pelican, and the boys got to look at it through the scope and with binoculars, so all is well in the world now.
One year ago today, we saw the Ivory Gull for the first time. A lot has happened to our family over the course of the past year, both good and bad.
We had the opportunity to view hundreds of birds in their own habitat, not just our own backyard, and we were fortunate enough to meet many great people in the birding community along the way. We lost our house due to the mishap with the mortgage company, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying all of the beauty and mystery in the world around us.
Our family views the day we first saw the Ivory Gull as a milestone in our lives. Just as that wayward gull drifted on the winds from the Arctic Circle, we, as a family, were just drifting through life ready to land wherever the wind dropped us.
Since that day we’ve landed in a much better spot and although our visiting angel from way up north has long since passed, we think about that bird on a daily basis. We will be forever thankful that the Ivory Gull, and the blessings we have received since the day we first saw it.
I have no doubt that everything happens for a reason, our experiences today are no exception.
This afternoon we ventured down to West Point Lake to try and locate a Black-Legged Kittiwake that was reported two days ago. It’s funny, because we ventured down to see the Ivory Gull two days after it was first reported as well.
When we arrived at the dam, I realized we had arrived at nearly the same time we first arrived to see the Ivory Gull. Talk about a flood of memories. I never thought we would be there, in that same place, exactly one year to the minute looking for another rare / accidental bird from the gull family!
As we pulled up, we saw Lorna West from Alabama, who was gracious in pointing out two White Winged Scoters that were quite close to the shoreline.
We ventured onto the dam (which is closed for renovation or some other kind of work) on foot to see if we could locate the Black-Legged Kittiwake.
I thought I had spotted it near the boom a couple times, but I couldn’t get a clear view of the bird in question and it took flight with a bunch of Ring Billed Gulls before I could confirm it. When the gulls took flight, I lost it in the crowd. We kept watching for a few minutes, then decided to check out the area below the dam to see if it had landed on the back side of the dam.
We came up empty with our search so we decided to check the boom area again, this time from the parking lot on the east side of the dam.
I started setting up my scope and before I could pull the lens cap off, our oldest son Josh spotted the bird. It was flying directly overhead and was gone again before I could grab my camera.
We kept watch for a while, keeping an eye on the birds in the air rather than those in the water. It turns out, we did the right thing, because just moments later the Black-Legged Kittiwake flew directly towards us, coming from the west side of the dam.
It flew in, circled a few times, made a quick dive to the water, and then flew off down river.
We saw it again one more time as the sun was getting lower in the sky, and after a few more looks we decided to head home.
As we made the trek home, I couldn’t help but remember the events from a year ago, all of the birds we’ve seen since then, and most of all, the many wonderful people we’ve met since that cold January day when we decided to look for a visiting angel from way up north.
What a year it has been!
Ahh, I feel much better now. Through the Georgia birding grapevine we heard there were some Franklin’s Gulls at West Point Lake today. We couldn’t resist the temptation to drive down and check them out.
We spotted them almost immediately, but the star of our day was a beautiful Bald Eagle that flew in and landed just 30-40 feet from where we were standing.
I never get tired of seeing Bald Eagles. Today was just the day I needed to get back into a “normal” birding routine.
It’s been a while since I have been able to get outside with the camera, but here are some photos from the last trip we took to the E.L. Huie ponds in August.
Now that we’re moved in, and mostly settled, I hope to get back into the photographic groove.
We had such a good time last weekend in Glennville, we decided to venture down to view the Swallow-Tailed Kites one more time. Last weekend, there were just six of us observing the birds. This weekend we had quite a few more.
After meeting at the Little Rock Baptist Church, Gene Wilkinson led us all about a half mile away to observe the arrival of the Swallow-Tailed Kites. It didn’t take long before the first kite came soaring into view.
The Swallow-Tailed Kites are one of the most graceful birds to watch, as they soar high on the wind, dive down toward their prey, and then glide peacefully just feet off the ground eating their catch.
Within minutes, we had 20 Swallow-Tailed Kites flying over the field.
There were plenty of June bugs popping all over the field, and the kites had a field day chasing them down.
At one point they birds were flying directly overhead and I thought for a moment they may drop their lunch right on top of our heads.
We spent about 2 hours watching these magnificent birds perform their acrobatic stunts, and then we ventured down the road to Jekyll Island again. This time we arrived at low tide and we were able to observe many more birds than we did last weekend.
We got a few photos, but many of the birds were so far offshore we could only see them in the scope.
After spending some quality time at the beach, and visiting with Josh Spence, who we just happened to run into at Gould’s Inlet, we began our journey home again.
All in all it was a wonderful day, just as we had hoped. We got to see the magnificence of the Swallow-Tailed Kites again, but the highlight was adding eight, yes eight, life birds to our lists.
It will be a while before we can make it back down there, but we’re already looking forward to birding the Georgia Coast this fall.
As I mentioned yesterday, we were on the road by 4:45 yesterday morning.
Our journey would take us 4 and a half hours toward the Southeast to Glennville, Georgia. The boys handled the drive very well, considering none of them got more than 3 hours sleep because they were so excited about making the trip. We arrived at the location to view the Swallow-Tailed Kites just after 9, and met up with the infamous Mark McShane.
It didn’t take long before the first Swallow-Tailed Kite arrived to start feasting on June bugs.
The excitement grew as more and more of these magnificent birds arrived. I was so taken by their beauty, I almost forgot to snap photos. In fact, I didn’t get nearly as many photographs as I had hoped. I wasn’t focusing on lighting or the fact that there were nearly five dozen birds soaring above our heads.
As I loaded the photos from the trip onto the computer, I noticed that I didn’t get any “flock photos” to speak of. I have several photos that show 4-5 birds, but none that showed the enormous number of birds flying around. Our oldest son got some video that I will be processing sometime this week, so hopefully he got some good shots of the birds together.
It was awesome watching them soar high above in the sky, then dive straight down until they were about one foot off the ground, only the turn at just the right moment and grab the June bugs. As they soared across the grass they were feeding on the wing, never stopping for a second.
A few hours later, they were gone again. They show up around the same time each morning and disappear to parts unknown a few hours later. Today’s trip was one of those “you have to do this once in your lifetime” moments, although I can see us making a return trip again very, very, soon.
Not long after the Swallow-Tailed Kites arrived, a few Mississippi Kites joined the feast.
You wouldn’t know it from my photograph, but the Mississippi Kites are much smaller than their feasting counterparts.
When it was obvious that the Swallow-Tailed Kites had departed for the day, we ventured down the road toward Brunswick, Georgia. The boys and I had never been there, and it was the perfect opportunity to see a few more birds.
We arrived at high-tide, so we didn’t get the chance to see too man shorebirds, which serves us right because Gidget was sitting at home while we were on the beach.
We watched Brown Pelicans fly up and down the shoreline, diving into the water, as if no one else was there.
After a few hours exploring the Brunswick area, we fueled up the truck and made the trip home.
We walked in the door at 9:15, 16 and a half hours later. It was exhausting, but it was fun, and we’re already planning our next trip so Gidget can go with us.
The boys traveled well, and took a lot of time to research the birds we were going to see, making sure I knewexactly what to look for. Their love for birds and nature is amazing, and I have no doubt that our sons are going to do great things in their lifetime.
I have some more photos up over on my Flickr pages, so make sure you check those out. If you find anything you like let me know, as I do sell prints, but these are not up in the OptiBytes shop just yet.
Today was one of the best days ever. I am completely exhausted, but it was worth every single moment of the trip.
We met up with Mark McShane, of the Near Georgia Report, and observed between 55 and 75 Swallow-Tailed Kites diving, swooping, and foraging on June bugs on the fly. After enjoying the Kite spectacle, the boys and drove down to Brunswick, Georgia to check out the birds hanging out on the coast.
We left the house at 4:45 this morning and walked in the door at 9:15 this evening. I suppose exhausted is an understatement.
I am too tired to process all 300 photos from the trip, but here’s one to whet your appetite.
Tomorrow is going to be a big day.
We’re taking a short trip down to Glennville, Georgia to observe a flock of Swallow-Tailed Kites that will be foraging on June bugs. Each year the Swallow-Tailed Kites forage as a flock as they fatten up before their migration to South America.
We’ll be driving several hours (each way) to see this rare occurrence, and we’re all so excited we can hardly stand it.
Of course, this one of my latest photos of a Great Egret, not a Swallow-Tailed Kite, but I should have some decent photos of the Kites to post by Monday.