Rare raptors draw bird lovers to Kendall
Pair of Swallow-tailed Kites have been spotted on 272, Creek Road
KENDALL – The church parking lot at the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Kendall has been drawing a crowd of people from all over the state in recent days.
There have been as many as 40 to 50 people in the lot, holding binoculars or peering through telephoto lenses.
They are chasing a “life bird,” a pair of raptors from down South. Two Swallow-tailed Kites are making a rare appearance in the state. Birding enthusiasts theorize they were knocked off their normal path from the hurricane.
The two raptors have been spotted in Kendall for the past 10 days. But they didn’t become a big draw until Sunday, when birders started sharing on social media and websites that the Swallow-tailed Kites were hanging around Route 272 (the Monroe-Orleans Countyline Road) near the Creek Road intersection.
Josh Ketry, 41, of Buffalo was in Pennsylvania on Sunday on a birding expedition when a friend texted him about the Swallow-tailed Kites in Kendall. Ketry immediately changed course and drove 3 ½ hours to Kendall. He was back Tuesday and again today.
“This is a lifer so I’m chasing it,” he said.
He has been able to photograph the two birds. They are bright white with black on their wings and back. They tend to glide in the air. Ketry said they have been observed eating cicadas and dragonflies while in Kendall.
Ketry started getting into birds about 3 ½ years ago. He enjoyed the outdoors and hiking and wanted to make it more exciting. He set a goal of seeing an owl on a hike. They it became seeing eight different types of owls.
His list has continued to grow and he has made many friends through the hobby.
“It gave me a quest,” he said. “I’m fascinated by them.”
Cornell University has many online resources to help people identify birds, and alert them to rare bird sightings. Click here to see Cornell’s entry on the Swallow-tailed Kite.
The Swallow-tailed Kites have been crowd-pleasers so far. Ketry said hundreds of people have been able to make the sighting. They two have the added draw of flying in a pair, and they haven’t just passed through the area briefly. They have stayed for more than a week, allowing birders to mobilize to try to see them.
Lisa Scheppke, 53, made the trip from Queens in New York City. She has been a birder for about a decade. She will often go a trips with friends to see birds. It is typically a solitary hobby, with long walks through trails and the woods to see the birds.
She reached Kendall last evening but missed the two Swallow-tailed Kites. She was back at 8 this morning. She was feeling discouraged until they made their first appearance of the day at about 10:45 a.m. They tend to be spotted first in the day at 11 a.m.
“They are a beautiful bird,” she said, holding her binoculars. “This is unusual too because they are a pairing.”
Scheppke, after seeing the Swallow-tailed Kites, said she was likely headed to the Montezuma Wildlife Refuge in Central New York on the way back to NYC.
Stacey Robinson left her home in the Adirondacks at 4:30 this morning and arrived in Kendall at 10:30. Fifteen minutes later the trip felt worth it when she saw the Swallow-tailed Kites. Two of her friends from Albany and Ticonderoga also drove to Kendall and urged her to make the trip.
Robinson said she has been birding the past eight years “obsessively.” She is retired as an assistant at an animal hospital. She said birders check their social media and online communities to see if there have been life bird alerts.
“Birders are very good about sharing information,” she said. “You never know when the next one is coming.”
She said the hobby has taken her throughout the region, to small towns, nature preserves and wildlife refuges.
William Norton, 24, of Hamlin only had to drive about 5 miles to get in position to see the two Swallow-tailed Kites. He has been a bird watcher since he was 16.
He said there are many different colors among birds, and they make distinctive noises.
“It’s just relaxing,” he said about the hobby. “You’re out in nature.”