Freshly back from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with lots of interesting finds and photos. But more on those experiences later - kites are the news of the day.
Last year, Mississippi Kites were confirmed as nesting in Hide-A-Way Hills (HAWH), Hocking County. The first documented Ohio nesting dates to 2007, when adults were observed feeding a recently fledged juvenile elsewhere in Hocking County. You can read some details about the inaugural nesting HERE. But we never were able to find the actual nest of the pioneering pair. So it was with great excitement that I received a call last summer from Elizabeth vanBalen Delphia, who reported Mississippi Kites that were constantly present near her and her husband Michael's house in HAWH.
Ohio Division of Wildlife photographer Tim Daniel made the trip down a few days later, in mid-August, and not only obtained stellar images of the kites, he found the nest high in the boughs of a white ash. It wasn't long after that and both young birds left the nest and became conspicuous members of the HAWH community. Perched atop lofty dead tree branches, they would constantly exhort the hard-working parents to bring yet another plump cicada.
HAWH is a gated community and locked up tight as a drum. You either have to live there, or have explicit permission from a resident to gain access. But the spectacle of young kites being attended by adults was just too good not to share, so we hatched a plan with Elizabeth and Michael to have an open house "Kite Day", which happened on August 21. You can read all about that event and see photos RIGHT HERE. Dane Adams, who kindly lets me share some of his stunning imagery from time to tiime, was there and took these STUNNING PHOTOS.
Photo: Dane Adams
Well, the kites are back in HAWH this year, and Elizabeth reports that incubation is well under way. Dane was able to visit a few days back, and sent along these photos. Above, one of the kites peers from its leafy abode.
Photo: Dane Adams
In this photo, the kites are in the act of swapping positions atop the eggs. The sexes share incubation duties, and are probably warming two eggs - a typical clutch size.
Photo: Dane Adams
This may not be the only HAWH nest. There is another pair of kites in the neighborhood, and all signs point to another nest. Elizabeth and Michael are looking, and hopefully will find it. I can attest from personal experience that Mississippi Kite nests are sometimes not the easiest things to find. They often site them high in trees, typically near the trunk, and leaf cover can render the aerie nearly invisible. Mississippi Kites are somewhat colonial in their nesting habits, especially out west, so multiple breeding pairs in HAWH would not come as a total surprise.
Anyway, Elizabeth and Michael have graciously agreed to work with the HAWH administration and establish a day in which interested birders can come witness the spectacle. We want to wait until the young kites are free-flying but still being attended to by the adults, which should be in early to mid August. At that point, the birds just can't be missed, and they are utterly unconcerned with fawning masses of people. Also, the adults can often be observed deftly snagging flying cicadas from the ether, and I'll tell you, that is an aerial feat that is hard to match.
We'll try to provide as much notice as possible of Kite Day 2011, and I'll post up details here and on the Ohio Birds Listserv.
Thanks once again to Elizabeth and Michael for their monitoring of the birds and sharing details with us. And kudos to Dane for his great work.