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All posts for the month May, 2013

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

Kites have been flying at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve near Kennett Square, PA and they hail from Mississippi.  That’s right, two Mississippi Kites, insect-eating raptors from the southern United States, were sighted over Bucktoe this Monday evening as they cruised through the air, grabbing dragonflies and other big bugs for an aerial snack.

Two Mississippi Kites were seen flying over Bucktoe Creek Preserve during the shorebird/kite watch.  Photo by Hank Davis.

Two Mississippi Kites were seen flying over Bucktoe Creek Preserve during the shorebird/kite watch. Photo by Hank Davis.

These beautiful hawks are normally found from Texas to North Carolina and down into Florida.  However, each year, a number of them fly way north for some reason and a few lucky people get to see them.  They have even stayed to breed in the Northeast in states like New Hampshire.  Watching these graceful birds catch insects in mid-air is a special treat, and that is what the group got at Bucktoe on Monday.  Down south, these birds like to nest in towns and cities, and have become very well adapted to human landscapes like golf courses and city parks.

 

The Mississippi Kites entertained the group of birders at Bucktoe for about 20 minutes!  Photo by Hank Davis.

The Mississippi Kites entertained the group of birders at Bucktoe for about 20 minutes! Photo by Hank Davis.

A few years ago at Ashland on a walk, I remember another leader saying, “Look at that Red-tailed Hawk, no Red-shouldered Hawk, no, wait……..EVERYBODY GET ON THAT BIRD…..IT’S A MISSISSIPPI KITE!!!”  It was a pretty exciting moment.  At Bucktoe, I heard that the same thing happened and it was a great 20 minutes of kite-flying for everyone.

Larry Lewis is leading the Great Shorebird and Kite Watch at Bucktoe nightly through June 7th, from 3pm to 8:30 daily.  It is the perfect birding, picnic, social event, and many times, they see really cool stuff, like the Mississippi Kites.  What they are really looking for, however, are shorebirds heading north on their migration to points north, documenting these species as they fly over Pennsylvania airspace, which is rarely seen.  Directions can be found at here .

Come find out for yourself, and enjoy the beautiful sunsets, and the other 6 reasons that Larry gives to come out.  I thank Larry Lewis for running the watch, Kelley Nunn for spotting the Kites first, and Hank Davis for getting these gorgeous shots of them.

By Joe Sebastiani, Seasonal Program Team Leader

If you have a bird box in your yard, you might have seen some action around it lately.  I certainly have.  The feature box in our backyard was the scene of a dispute between an Eastern Bluebird and a House Wren last week.  Feathers were ruffled, there was a little wrestling and chasing, and in the end it looks like the House Wren won.  It has been busy bringing little sticks to the nest since then, with his mate monitoring the progress.

Purple Martin are back at nesting colonies throughout the area.  Later this summer, they will have nests with chicks, like the ones pictured.

Purple Martin are back at nesting colonies throughout the area. Later this summer, they will have nests with chicks, like the ones pictured.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Observing activity at bird boxes is an easy way to peer into the private lives of birds.  My wife and I are Delaware Nature Society volunteers who monitor bird boxes at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve, and we look forward to our rounds each week.  We  already have some nesting Eastern Bluebirds with eggs, a few House Wrens building nests, and Tree Swallows starting to add grass to nests.  We are also keeping tabs on any nest we find along the route, such as the Robin that is now laying eggs in her nest on our shutter.

American Robin start nesting activities in April.  The ones on my shutter are starting to incubate their eggs.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

American Robin start nesting activities in April. The ones on my shutter are starting to lay their eggs. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Recently, the Delaware Nature Society has become a Chapter for Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch Citizen Science program.  As a chapter, we hold trainings on how to find bird nests, monitor nest boxes, and how use the NestWatch database to record data on eggs, young, and nest success .  This is a really fun way to keep track of your backyard bird nests and nest boxes, and contribute your findings to science at the same time.  We report all of our bird nest activities into NestWatch, including wild nests like the Robin in our yard.  You can always access your data to keep track of the status of each nest, and the mapping feature on the website allows you to see all of your nests on one interactive map.  If you like birds, keeping records, maps, science, and helping others learn about birds, this activity is for you!

Monitoring bird boxes and finding bird nests is very rewarding.  Consider monitoring nests around your house or in a local park over the summer and enter your findings into Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch website.  Photo by Joe Sebastiani

Monitoring bird boxes and finding bird nests is very rewarding. Consider monitoring nests around your house or in a local park over the summer and enter your findings into Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch website. Photo by Joe Sebastiani

I will be conducting a NestWatch training on Thursday, May 9th, 6pm at Ashland Nature Center in Hockessin, DE.  Anyone can attend.  It is free for Delaware Nature Society members, and $5 for non-members.  Call (302) 239-2334 if you would like to attend.  This training will get you ready to monitor a nest box in your yard, or if you are motivated, to become a volunteer bird box monitor, like my wife and I.  As a matter of fact, we need bird box monitors at Ashland Nature Center and at the Red Clay Reservation in Hockessin if you are interested!