Well it’s certainly possible!
On June 1st, a report was made on the OS Birds List-serv (Otsego-Schoharie Counties in NYS) about a Mississippi Kite being seen in the Town of Root, Montgomery County, New York (The Town of Root, you may recall had a Northern Hawk Owl a few years ago).
Now I will freely admit I was skeptical of this report. The next day, the same people posted they saw the bird again and this time took some photos and posted them on the OS Bird yahoo site (must be a member to view), I viewed the photos and sure enough, it was clearly an adult Mississippi Kite!
At this point, word began to spread more and there was at least some attempt to relocate the bird, without any success. Not even the original spotters saw the bird.
Fast foward nearly 4 weeks and on June 27, the same people who first spotted the bird reported the bird once again in the same tree the 1st spotted it in. After this report, Danika and I had no plans for Sunday and decided to go check it out, turns out we were not alone.
Montgomery County is still very much agricultural, located in the Mohawk Valley, the landscape is a lot of rolling hills, wide open vistas and lots of farms. This county is one of the most reliable spots in NYS Region 8 for both Upland Sandpiper and Grasshopper Sparrow.
Since raptors don’t get up at the break of dawn, we saw no need to either and slowly made our way to the location, birding of course along the way. Late June of course is the middle of the breeding season and we found nothing unexpected that occurs in hedgerows and field edges. Stuff like Brown Thrasher, Indigo Bunting, Common Yellowthroat, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Kingbird, Common Grackle, Baltimore Oriole, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Bobolink, American Kestrel, Killdeer, Yellow Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Northern Flicker, 55 Species in all for the day.
We arrived in the area, armed with nothing more than the name of the road the kite was seen on. We drove down Mapletown Road, scanning every tree, sky, field for anything flying. As we drove along we saw another birdwatcher pulled over to the side of the road. Were we not alone? Pushing further ahead, coming to the top of a hill, who should we find by the side of the road but the esteemed Rich Guthrie! He filled us in with some additional details, and we continued on our way.
About 1pm, Danika spotted a hawk taking off in the distance near where the bird has been seen. It is small in size (at least compared to the nearby Red-tailed Hawk and Turkey Vulture), Crow sized, pointed wings, spread tail and no color visible. Now we were quite a distance away, but even the distant Red-tailed Hawk, we could clearly see a red tail! Danika managed to get it into our poor excuse for a scope, which didn’t help much other than we could clearly see extensive white on the top part of the bird secondaries. Consulting Sibleys (something I loath to do) this fit perfectly for Mississippi Kite. Of course we still had our doubts, we were about 85-90% sure of the sighting, but wanted a better look.
We headed up the road, where we found Rich again, this time joined by Kevin McGann. We informed them of what we saw (I think giving them more hope) and continued circling around the area. Lucky for Danika, on one of our tours, we managed to get some Eastern Meadowlarks singing, giving her yet another year bird.
We had stopped to try and turn a Savannah Sparrow into a Grasshopper Sparrow (we didn’t) when the phone rang. Rich and Kevin had seen not one, but TWO Mississippi Kites! Little did we know we were very close to where they were. We rushed up the road, but the birds had moved on. We spent the next hour chit-chatting and theorizing about 2 Mississippi Kites being seen in the same spot in New York in late June, and obviously birds that had been around for at least the last couple of weeks. I had just turned around, when I saw a bird gliding along the hilltop behind us. Everyone was able to get on the bird and it was clearly a Mississippi Kite! A new life bird and state bird (and county bird too!) With everyone satisfied, we split up again, Danika and I went to try for Grasshopper Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper in nearby Ames, Montgomery County (We got the Grasshopper Sparrow, but not the Pipers, although they were mowing the field I’ve normally seen them in). Before we finally headed home.
Now there will be some debate (and an obvious search) to see if this will be a confirmed nesting or simply a pair on territory. But given the fact that a pair of Mississippi Kites nested in New Hampshire last year, anything is possible. I’ll obviously have more on the subject as we learn more.