Found a needle in a haystack (a new bird)

My first sighting of a snail kite. He flew by me on the boardwalk and scooped up a snail. The pink stuff on the end of those sticks in the back are apple snail eggs. The lake was full of them. It looked like the lake had been sprinkled with Pepto Bismal.

Another snail kite flies by me really close. For once I was ready and able to get a decent shot.

He went past me while I was still shooting. Later when I cropped this up I noticed you could see his foot holding on to that snail. He took off across the lake to enjoy his snack.

Female snail kite sitting in some dead mangroves.

Another one flies by and gets a snail!

I had been hearing about some snail kites being seen at Medard park in east Hillsborough county. It’s very rare to have snail kites in this area. I have been meaning to get out there and finally had the chance at the end of September. I’m driving 45 minutes towards the center of the state thinking this is going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Looking for a rare bird in this huge park which includes a campground. I always feel like I don’t have that kind of luck. Well, I should have bought a lottery ticket on the way home. I drove around the park for a few minutes trying to decide where to start. I saw a boardwalk that crossed the lake and stopped there. Within minutes of walking on the boardwalk, a snail kite flies right over my head. Minutes later another one flies by. Then I realize a female is sitting in the mangroves close by the boardwalk. Since the apple snail population there has exploded I guess it has attracted these kites to the lake. I heard later that there were two nests across the lake and the juveniles have just fledged. Besides, the snail kites there where other cool birds there so I can’t wait to get back out there.

As I was leaving the park I saw this bird flying up high. I thought it might be a snail kite but when I got home and cropped it up I noticed it looked different. I went through all of the hawks, harriers and falcons in my Stokes Bird guide and couldn’t figure out what it was with that white stomach. If anyone had an idea I’d love to have an ID on it or at least somewhere to start.

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